If there is a character in Mahabharata who is known for his intellect that is Vidura. He was half brother to Dhritarashtra and Pandu, the Pandava princes. When Pandu was made king Vidura was his trusted advisor and when finally blind Dhritarashtra ascended the throne, Vidura continued as the prime minister of Hastinapur, ably running the kingdom. He was an honest and astute statesman and it is said that it was his destiny to follow Dharma. His rules and values were called Vidura Neeti which is said to have been the basis of Chanakya Neeti.
Hastinapur was thriving under Vidura’s able guidance till Duryadhona came of age and started meddling in the affairs of the state which eventually led to a series of unfortunate incidents and the Kurukshetra war.
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How Was Vidura Born?
Vidura was born of sage Vyasa who is also the writer of Mahabharata and his mother Sudri was the maid to the queens of Hastinapura – Ambika and Ambālika. He was half brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu. He was born out of Niyoga like his half brothers. In old times Niyoga was akin to the modern-day version of sperm donation that allowed childless women and impotent men to bear an heir to the throne.
When the king of Hastinapur Bichitravirjya died childless his mother Satyavati called Vyasa for Niyoga with the queens so that they could bear sons. Vyasa was also a son of Satyavati whose father was sage Parashara. Vyasa looked fearsome so Ambika shut her eyes when she saw him and Ambalika became pale in fear.
When Satyavati asked Vyasa what kind of sons they would bear he said Ambika would have a blind boy and Ambalika a pale or jaundiced one. Hearing this Satyavati asked Vyasa to give another son to Ambika but she was so scared that she sent her maid Sudri to him.
Sudri was a brave lady who was not scared of Vyasa at all and he was very impressed with her. Vidura was born to her.
Sadly Vidura had all the qualities of being the king but since he was not from the royal lineage he was never considered
The boon before Vidura’s birth
The great Rishi was so impressed with her that he gave her the blessing that she would no longer be a slave. The child born to her would be virtuous and would be super intelligent. He would be one of the smartest men on this earth.
His boon came true. Till his death Vidura remained an honest and able man who followed Dharma with all his heart and mind. Apart from Krishna, Vidura is the most intelligent man in the Mahabharata, who lived his life by his own rules.
Despite his intelligence, Vidura could never be king
Though Dhritarashtra and Pandu were his half brothers, since his mother was not from a Royal lineage, he was never considered for the throne.
In the three worlds – Swarga, Marta, Patal – there was no one equal to Vidura in devotion to virtue and in the knowledge of the dictates of morality.
He was also considered an incarnation of Yama or Dharma Raja, who was cursed by the sage, Mandavya, for punishing him that far exceeded the sin he had committed. Vidura served his two brothers as a minister; he was only a courtier, never the king.
Vidura stood up for Draupadi
Except for the prince Vikarna, Vidura was the only one who protested against the humiliation of Draupadi in the Kaurava court. Duryodhana did not like it at all when Vidura complained. He came down on him very hard and insulted him.
Dhritarashtra wanted to stop Duryodhana from abusing his uncle Vidura. But, suddenly he remembered that it was Vidura who did not want him to be king because of his blindness. He did not say a word then.
Years later this was the reason loyal Vidura left the side of the Kurus and joined the Pandavas to fight the Kurukshetra war. He was very hurt that Dhritarashtra did not acknowledge him as a brother. Dhritarashtra instead called him the Prime Minister and left him at the mercy of his son.
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Vidura stayed in the system and fought it
In the Mahabharata, when Krishna went to negotiate peace on behalf of the Pandavas with the Kauravas, he refused to eat in the house of Duryodhana.
Krisha ate at Vidura’s home. He was only served green leafy vegetables, that he had named ‘Vidura saag,’ and was growing in his garden because he refused to have the food in the Kaurava Kingdom.
Despite living in that Kingdom, he maintained his autonomy, and in this case, food is not just about taste and nutrition. It is also a way of giving a message. This makes cooking a very political tool as deduced by Devdutt Pattanaik.
Who was Vidura’s wife?
He was married to the daughter of King Devaka from a Sudra woman. She was a wonderful woman, and Bhishma thought she was a worthy match to Vidura.
Not only because she was intelligent, but also the fact that she wasn’t a pure royal either. Despite Vidura’s qualities, it wouldn’t have been easy to find a match for him. No royal would have allowed their daughter to marry him. A sad reality indeed for the most intelligent and righteous man on earth.
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How Vidura was wronged
Among Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura, he was the most worthy man to occupy the throne. But he was always hurt because of his lineage.
There is a very touching episode in the famous serial Dharamshetra now showing on Netflix too. It showcases an agonised Vidura asking his father sage Ved Vyasa as to who deserved the Hastinapura throne?
Dhritarashtra was blind, and Pandu was weak, he was perfect in intellect and health and the eldest. Sage Vyasa replies that Vidura deserved to be made the king. Also, Vidura asks in the same vein, why was he married to the daughter of a daasi while his brothers were married to princesses. There were no replies to this except that he was blessed that the future generations would always bow before him and consider him the guru of intellect and righteousness.
How did Vidura die?
Vidura was devastated by the carnage at the Kurukshetra was. Although Dhritrashtra appointed him the prime minister of his kingdom and wanted him to have unbridled power Vidura wanted to retire to the forest. He did not want to be part of the court anymore because he was so tired and crestfallen.
Apparently when he retired to the forest Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti also followed him. He practised extreme penance and died a peaceful death. He came to be known as Mahachochan, someone who has attained extreme ascetic qualities.
Vidura will always be remembered by later generations as the man who never left the path of Dharma despite being thrown into the most adverse situations.