The Eyesight of Insight: Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Moral Blindness

Emily T. Hudson

in Disorienting Dharma

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860760
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979936 | DOI:

Series: AAR Religions in Translation

The Eyesight of Insight: Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Moral Blindness

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Chapter 3 investigates the depiction of a single character, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, as both a victim and an agent of suffering. While Dhṛtarāṣṭra has received little attention from Mahābhārata scholars, this chapter argues that he is a central character for the text’s aesthetics of suffering. The chapter examines the relationship between the characterization of the blind king, the narrative’s construction of time, and the problem of grief. It considers four instances in the epic where, with respect to these issues, the depiction of Dhṛtarāṣṭra is important: (1) Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s lament in the epic’s outermost frame in The Book of the Beginning, (2) Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s role in the failed peace negotiations in The Book of the Effort, (3) Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s articulations of grief in the frame of the battle books, and (4) Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s despair after the war and the three “arguments against grief” that he receives in The Book of the Women. In addition, the chapter considers three types of narrative strategies— estrangement, ambiguity, and temporal manipulation—and their role in the text’s “argument” about the causes of despair.

Keywords: Dhṛtarāṣṭra; time; suffering; narrative strategy; argument against grief; Saṃjaya

Chapter.  16355 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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