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The epic, Mahabharata for many is not a myth or just the result of the great sage Vyasa's imagination. Instead, it is believed to be history and the characters of which once actually walked the earth. History or not, the war of Kurukshetra was one of the most horrific battles that we know of. It is so not only due to its duration and the sheer number of people slayed in it, but also due to the people involved and the multi-layered motives behind it.
Stories From The Mahabharata That You Haven't Heard Of
There is no one answer to the question what led to the war of Kurukshetra. The war was the combined result of revenge, greed, avarice, jealousy, ambition and lust of the characters involved. It can also be said that the war can be blamed more on the inaction of the learned and honourable men like Bhishma than the actions of the immoral men like Duryodhana.
Lessons To Learn From The Mahabharata Characters
Here, we shall discuss the various reasons that ultimately led to the war of Kurukshetra.
Shantanu And Satyavati
The seeds of the war had been sowed long before the birth of the Pandavas or Kauravas. It was Shantanu's lust and Satyavati's greed and ambition that robbed Devavrata (Bhishma) of the claim to the throne. Had he succeeded Shantanu, the whole war could have been avoided.
The oath he took made him the slave of Hastinapur's throne. His sense of duty and love for his brothers and their children, many times, made him forget the difference between right and wrong.
He forced Gandhari to marry the blind Dhritarashtra, inviting Shakuni's malice. He chose not to do anything when the Kauravas were led astray by Shakuni or during the game of dice and the insult of Draupadi.
Duryodhana was confident of his victory with Bhishma by his side and this made him even more eager for the war. In the end, Krishna had to shake Bhishma from his stupor by threatening to break his own vow. This goes to show that silence is not always golden.
Dhritarashtra And Gandhari
The ambitious blind king was truly blinded due to the love of his children. He could not see the atrocities done by his children and even stood by them when they committed grievous mistakes. Gandhari too had chosen to tie a piece of cloth over her eyes to block out her sight, following her husband. She knew that her brother Shakuni was misleading her sons but she still chose to do nothing about it.
He was renowned as 'Dharmaraj', the righteous one, but he had a weakness which became one of the causes of the war. He could not say no to the game of dice. He could also have chosen not to put his brothers and Draupadi at stake. Even though it was a demand of the time, it was an unacceptable thing to do. If he had just refused to take part in the game, the war could have been avoided.
Draupadi has often been pointed out as the person who caused the war of the Mahabharata. Duryodhana felt highly insulted at her comment about his father's blindness at Indraprastha. It made him want to punish Draupadi and that resulted in her being publicly disrobed. This led the Pandavas to a war to protect her dignity.
The incident can be called one of the reasons behind the war, though not the only one.
He was the greatest manipulator in the Mahabharata, perhaps only second to Krishna. He was angry that Bhishma had used threat and force to get his sister married to Dhritarashtra. He wanted revenge and the total destruction of Hastinapur. He chose to manipulate his own nephews to attain his goals. He was a shrewd strategist who was one of the reasons behind the war.
He was one of the most righteous characters in the Mahabharata. Abandoned by his mother at birth and raised as a charioteer's son, he always craved for equality, justice and glory. He never received justice and any semblance of equality was offered to him by Duryodhana. Karna was indebted to Duryodhana. Inspite of being Duryodhana's friend, he never tried to deter him from his wrong deeds; probably friendship made him blind, or he trusted his friend excessively.
Karna wanted to prove to the world his superiority over Arjuna. He desperately wanted the glory that had eluded him all his life. This, he could only gain from the war. He did not go to war just to help his friend, he had personal motives too. Karna's loyalty only gave Duryodhana more confidence in his victory.