The
theme ‘Is it my fault I am sightless?:
Unfair treatment’ explored the unfair treatment meted out to Dhritarashtra
because of his disability. Dhritarashtra was always ridiculed and considered
inferior. He was always considered to be less worthy than his brother simply
because he was disabled. Even though he was stronger, and even saved his
brother once, no one praised or appreciated him for it. Such was the prejudice
against a disable king that they chose to make an impotent man the king instead
of a disabled man.

The
second theme that emerged was ‘Making of
a figure of pity and a dependent fool’, which very slightly conveys a grim
subtext in mythological accounts of disability: that a disabled person has to
be extraordinary to earn basic respect. Most retellings of the Mahabharata
depict Dhritarashtra as a weak character – one who can be easily manipulated,
one who always seems helpless, dependent on others.

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When
Gandhari first sees Dhritarashtra, “she
had been shocked to see the man who was to marry her” and “the horror of seeing Dhritarashtra for the
first time and shuddering at his sightless eyes” was something she
remembered.

The
third theme that emerged was ‘Masquerading:
Use of cleverness and cunning to secure his position’. Dhritarashtra’s case
follows the narrative wherein ‘the masquerade may inflect private and public
space, allowing expression of a public view of disability for political ends’
(Seibers, 2004). This can be seen when Dhritarashtra said “I play a part so they can imagine it is they who are running the
kingdom”. Playing this part included him letting other people have an
illusion of power over him.

Dhritarashtra
had to masquerade because the idea of having a disabled king was quite
difficult for most people to follow, and if he didn’t let others believe that
they were the ones actually running the kingdom by influencing his decisions,
he would have been easily replaced by some other person.

The
fourth theme that emerged was ‘Familial
love for son’. At the birth of his first son Duryodhana, Dhritarashtra was
advised by Vidura, Bhishma, and the city elders to abandon the child due to bad
omens during the birth. However Dhritarashtra’s filial love stopped him.
Throughout his reign as King of Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra was torn between the
principles of dharma and his love for his son Duryodhana, and often ended up
endorsing his son’s actions merely out of fatherly love.

Every
time a parent chooses to blindly praise their child without acknowledging their
flaws, they are said to be “very much
like the blind Dhritarashtra and the blindfolded Gandhari who regard Duryodhana
very highly”. His blindness is an allegory to his carelessness as a father.
He turned a “blind eye” to the faults of his sons which led to his family’s
epic downfall.

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