Mother’s Day is here and it’s time to look at the Mothers and their roles across five generations in the Mahabharat:

  1. GANGA, the divine mother: The personification of the holy river married king Shantanu of Hastinapur. She married Shantanu on the condition that none of her actions would ever be objected and she would leave Shantanu the minute he questioned her. Ganga gave birth to seven sons and drowned them immediately after their birth. Shantanu was shocked at Ganga’s act but remained silent. When Ganga was about to drown their eighth son, Shantanu couldn’t stand the act and stopped her. Ganga narrated the tale of how the infants were cursed and that she only absolved them. Since Shantanu intervened, the eighth son lived and was named Devavrat. However, Shantanu had violated their pact. Ganga promised to return the child once he was ready to be the prince and disappeared, leaving Shantanu forever. Back in heaven, Ganga arranged for the best of education for Devavrat. He was trained in political science, justice, spirituality, and warfare to enable him to rein in future. Once Devavrat completed his education and attained divine weapons from Indra, Ganga returned him to Shantanu, as promised. As things turned out, Devavrat became Bhishma for his oaths but never became the king. All his life, Bhishma continued to find solace in his mother.
  1. SATYAVATI, the first queen mother: The daughter of a mere fisherman, Satyavati was destined to be a queen. To ensure Shantanu married Satyavati, Devavrat renounced the throne and vowed lifelong celibacy, which got him the name Bhishma. Satyavati’s son Vichitraveer did become the king of Hastinapur and married the two princesses of Kashi – Ambika and Ambalika. However, he died without fathering any children. Seeing the kingdom without an heir apparent, queen Satyavati got worried and decided to act. After Shantanu, she was technically the eldest in the royal household. She requested Bhishma to marry her widowed daughters in law and father children who could rule. Upon Bhishma’s refusal, Satyavati requested him to be the king. Yet again, Bhishma refused. Desperate to find an heir to the kingdom, Satyavati sought Vyas’s help. Before her marriage to Shantanu, Sage Parashar had requested her to conceive a child for him. The young Satyavati couldn’t refuge a sage and gave birth to Vyas who later became the most prolific sage of the era. Vyas revered his mother and promised to be available when she needed him. Satyavati did what she thought a queen mother ought to do and ensured the Kuru dynasty continued. She retired into exile after her grandchildren were ready to rule.
  1. AMBIKA and AMBALIKA, the reluctant mothers: Widowed early and childless, the Kashi princesses were not incredibly supportive of Satyavati’s idea of Vyas fathering their children. However, it was the queen’s wish and had to be fulfilled. Vyas was a sage and his looks obviously wouldn’t make him desirable to women. He had in fact warned Satyavati about the same and sought time, but Satyavati’s desperation didn’t allow that. As a result, a ghastly looking Vyas was sent to Ambika and Ambalika’s chambers to impregnate them. While, Ambika shut her eyes tight, shocked seeing Vyas’s looks, Ambalika’s complexion turned pale in fright. Vyas did what he had to but also predicted that the a blind and a weak child would be born to Ambika and Ambalika, respectively. Vyas’s word proved right when Dhritrashtra and Pandu were born. Although Pandu was younger, he was chosen as the king over the blind Dhritrashtra. This sowed the seeds of a long and dark era of politics in the Kuru dynasty. It was Vyas who suggested Ambika and Ambalika too retire into exile, along with Satyavati. 
  1. DEVAKI, the mother in distress: Away from Hastinapur, the Yadav kingdom in Mathura had its own tensions brewing under what seemed to be an orderly state. Known for his abuse of power, King Ugrasen’s son and the crown prince Kans, in a well-planned coup one day usurped the throne and imprisoned his father. Kans’s tyranny wreaked havoc in Mathura. Though evil, he loved his sister Devaki and got her married to his friend Vasudev. On the day of their wedding, a prophecy stated that Devaki’s eighth son would kill Kans and reinstate peace and justice in Mathura. Irate, Kans imprisoned Devaki and Vasudev as well. The atrocity had just begun. Upon hearing of a childbirth, Kans would head to the dungeon and smash the infant to death. A helpless Devaki could only wail and mourn. This continued and infant after infant, Kans killed seven of his nephews. The eighth son was born at midnight, amid thunderstorms. Miraculously, the guards had gone into deep slumber and Vasudev’s clutches and the prison gates had flung open. Devaki bid her new-born adieu as Vasudev carried the child to his friend Nand’s home in Gokul and exchanged his son for Nand’s new-born daughter. The next day, when Kans tried to kill the infant, the girl mysteriously disappeared and a prophecy informed Kans that his nemesis, Devaki’s eight son, was safe and will one day, end his life. 
  1. YASHODA, the loving foster mother: Krishna, as Devaki’s eighth son was named, was raised by Nand and his wife Yashoda. Yearning for child for a long time, Yashoda was overwhelmed when she realized she’d given birth to a son. Nand however informed Yashoda of all that had transpired the night earlier. Unmoved by the fact that the new-born wasn’t her own, Yashoda raised the child with much love and affection. As Krishna grew up, his mischiefs would get Yashoda lots of complaints from the villagers. Krishna would eat up all the village’s butter and break the earthen pots. Yashoda often punished Krishna for his pranks but would end up witnessing his magic. Something that convinced Yashoda that Krishna was no normal child. When in his teens, Krishna bid Yashoda adieu as his duties in Mathura demanded his attention. Yashoda, long after Krishna was gone, remained to be the mother Krishna was always close to, closer than Devaki. 
  1. GANDHARI, the righteous but helpless mother: The princess of Gandhar and an ardent devotee of Shiva, Gandhari was always known to be upright in her principles. When she learnt that she was to marry the blind prince Dhritrashtra, at the behest of Bhishma, she blindfolded herself permanently reasoning that she’d be able to better relate with her husband. Her brother Shakuni took the events as a grudge and moved to Hastinapur with his sister. Gandhari was blessed with a boon that made her mother to hundred sons and a daughter. Her sons collectively came to be known as the Kauravs. Her eldest son Duryodhan was misled and influenced by Shakuni all through his childhood and had developed severe hatred and jealousy towards his cousins, the Pandavs. Duryodhan’s ambition to be the undisputed king of Hastinapur led to a series of conspiracies against the Pandavs, all masterminded by Shakuni. Gandhari never supported Duryodhan but unlike Dhritrashtra voiced her opinions loud and clear at numerous occasions. But things were far from her control and the Kauravs and Pandavs eventually fought at Kurukshetra. Gandhari lost all her sons in the war, leaving her feeling lonely and miserable.   
  1. KUNTI, the mother of many shades: Kunti was the princess of Kuntibhoj. During a visit, Sage Durvasa was so pleased with Kunti’s hospitality that he blessed her with a boon. Kunti could chant a spell and evoke any god of her choice and the god evoked would bless her with a son. An inquisitive Kunti, without a serious thought, summoned the Sun god. Bound by the spell, Sun blessed her with a child. Fearing questions from her family, Kunti heartlessly abandoned her new-born son. Later Kunti married Pandu, the king of Hastinapur. Pandu was cursed, as a result of which he couldn’t father children. That’s when Kunti used the boon and gave birth to three sons. Madri, Pandu’s second wife too used the mantra and gave birth to two sons. Collectively, the five brothers were called the Pandavs. After Madri died, Kunti brought up her sons as her own, taking special care of them, never letting them feel the absence of their mother. On one end, Kunti abandoned her own child and on the other, took special care of her stepsons. The Pandavs grew up to be great warriors and were at the receiving end of many conspiracies from Kauravs. Throughout, Kunti preached righteousness and instilled courage, patience, and brotherhood among her sons. While the Pandavs were victorious at Kurukshetra, Kunti did have to mourn the death of her eldest son.
  1. DRAUPADI, the mother who hardly had the joys of motherhood: Draupadi wasn’t born like other ladies of her time. King Drupad of Panchal performed a ritual to obtain a warrior son. With the son, emerged a daughter who got her name from her father. Draupadi was won by Arjun in an archery contest and ended up marrying all of the five Pandavs. Something that was said to be a result of a boon she got from Shiva. Draupadi had one son with each of the five Pandavs. Each son inherited the unique quality of the father, and they were collectively called the Upapandavs. Her sons had barely entered their formative years when Draupadi accompanied her husbands into exile, leaving them at Krishna’s Dwarka. When the years of exile were over, her sons had attained youth. She had hardly spend quality time with them when the war at Kurukshetra began, where they assumed significant roles. The day the war ended, Ashwathama attacked the Pandav camp at the dead of the night. He mistook Draupadi’s sons as the Pandavs and shot lethal arrows. Though her husbands had avenged her insult and she was set to be the queen of Hastinapur, Draupadi the mother had lost it all.
  1. SUBHADRA, the guardian mother: Subhadra was the princess of Dwarka and Krishna’s sister. To ensure the Pandavs and the Yadavs sealed a strong alliance, Krishna had managed to get her married to Arjun. Explaining various battle formations to Subhadra during her pregnancy, Arjun could only describe the way to enter the Chakravyuh when Subhadra slept off. That became the reason for their son Abhimanyu’s incomplete knowledge of tackling the dreaded formation. When the Pandavs and Draupadi were in exile, Draupadi’s sons were in the loving care of Subhadra. Along with Abhimanyu, Subhadra ensured the best of education and upbringing for the Upapandavs. She treated them as her own sons and brought them up as future kings. The Kurukshetra war left Subhadra grief-stricken as her son Abhimanyu died a brutal death, trapped in a Chakravyuh.  
  1. UTTARA, the last queen mother: The princess of Matsya, Uttara was married to Abhimanyu to seal an alliance between the Pandavs and Virat. Uttara was expecting and had entered the last month of her pregnancy when the war began at Kurukshetra. She was in labour when Ashwathama, as a last resort to avenge the loss of his side, mercilessly fired a divine arrow at Uttara’s womb. The result was a stillborn baby which left the Pandavs, particularly Uttara devastated. Abhimanyu’s death wasn’t far behind and this one had left the winning side shaken. However, this grief was short-lived as Krishna, using his divine powers, revived the infant. The boy was named Parikshit and was the sole successor to the throne. The Pandavs crowned him the king before retiring into exile. Uttara saw her son and grandson Janamejaya rule and died as the last queen mother of the Kuru dynasty.

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4 thoughts on “The 11 Mothers In The Mahabharat

  1. सभी शीर्षक उत्तम व माताओं का पर्याप्त वर्णन। आप भीम पुत्र घटोत्कच की माँ हिडिंबा को तो भूल ही गए 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good compilation. I liked the title given to each mother specially Kunti. You have forgotten about the mothers of Karna and Vidura but great article.

    Liked by 1 person

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