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Bhanumathi : Wife of Duryodhna

All of us are well aware of the wives of the Pandava brothers, at least Draupadi for sure and to a lesser extent Bhima’s wife Hidimba [Link to earlier posts with her stories, Link 1, Link 2] and Arjuna’s wife Subhadra, the mother of the ill-fated Abhimanyu [Link to earlier posts with his stories, Link1, Link 2]. But, how many of us have ever spared a thought to whether Duryodhana was married, whether he had a wife. This post shall try and provide a few more details of this forgotten wife of Duryodhana.

Duryodhana was married to Bhanumathi, the daughter of Bhagadatta, the king of Pragjyotishya. While not much more is known about her, some versions of the Mahabharata state that Bhanumathi was one person who raised severe objections to Draupadi’s treatment after the game of dice when Duhshasana tried to disrobe her in the Kaurava court. Legend has it that Draupadi’s temper was ferocious and fearing that this foul temper of hers would cause immediate destruction to Duryodhana and his brothers, Bhanumathi is said to have come running to Draupadi’s aid and requesting Duryodhana to stop this humiliation meted out to her.

Another incident where Bhanumathi finds a mention in this great epic is to provide an example of some of Duryodhana’s positive traits. Apparently in one instance, Bhanumathi and Karna were playing a game of dice where the stakes were substantial materially. As the game progressed, it became evident that Karna was winning.

Just then Duryodhana entered the chamber where Karna had his back to the door and could not see him come in. Seeing her husband come in, Bhanumathi stood up as a mark of respect as was the norm for a married woman. Karna, however, mistook her to be trying to escape the embarrassment of certain defeat in the game, and snatched at her drape which was embedded with pearls.

The thread of the drape snapped and all the pearls fell to the floor. Bhanumathi was quite stunned and did not quite know how to react to the situation. For all practical purposes, Duryodhana had every reason to misunderstand her and Karna’s behavior which looked extremely offensive and insensitive. Sensing her discomfort, Karna turned around to see what she was looking at and immediately noticed his friend walking into the chamber. He was also shocked as he realized what the scene would look like to Duryodhana. He mentally prepared himself for the inevitable consequences knowing fully well that the scene would enrage his friend beyond control.

However, what happened next is mentioned as an example of one of the few positive traits of Duryodhana.

The only question that Duryodhana asked Bhanumathi was “Should I just collect all the beads or should I go ahead and string them as well?”

Both his wife and his best friend had misjudged his reaction to the perceived situation. Duryodhana had a lot of implicit trust and faith, both in his queen and in his best friend. Not for one split second did he suspect either of them of doing anything wrong. Such was his faith in his wife and friend.

This incident is cited every once in a while as an example of how loyal Duryodhana was to his relationships. Not a story we hear very often about the Mahabharata or about the Kaurava prince, do we?

What I personally found very interesting is that despite the fact that this great epic is 100,000 verses long and has been rewritten multiple times by various authors, none of them deemed it necessary to include the character of Duryodhana’s wife. While the epic talks about how Dhritarashtra and Gandhari grieve for all their sons killed in the way, I was left wondering how Bhanumathi reacted when her husband was deceitfully killed by Bhima during the gadhayudha.

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