Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, has been spread down generations since centuries. It’s wide reach and multi-layers have also made it a point of discussion since ages. With such a vast matter, it is no surprise that it has been interpreted in various ways by different individuals.

One such interpretation that I have come across over the last few years is that a woman was responsible for the Mahabharata war, which ended up killing thousands of people. In other words, the blame of the death of such huge number of human beings is put upon on one gender.

I have come across 2 theories about this:

Satyavati’s greed gave seed to the Mahabharata war

Satyavati agreed to marry King Shantanu only if her future sons are made to sit on the throne of Hastinapur. Shantanu agrees and later his son Bheeshma takes the vow of celibacy so that he can never marry and have children who can claim their stake on the throne.

As we know, Satyavati and Shantanu’s sons turned out to be incompetent. This compelled Vedvyasa to provide their sons and their wives with three sons – Dhritrashtra, Pandu and Vidura. Pandu gets five sons – Yudishthir, Bheem, Arjun, Nakula and Sahadeva. Dhritrashtra gets 101 children [100 sons and 1 daughter who later came to be known as Kauravas].

Hence, it has been believed that Satyavati sowed the seeds for the Mahabharata war. Elaborating it, if she wouldn’t have put the condition to marry Shantanu, Bheeshma’s future sons would have ruled Hastinapur. As Shantanu and Satyavati’s sons wouldn’t have had the right over Hastinapur, the Pandavas and Kauravas wouldn’t have born and there would have been no Mahabharata war.

Counter Argument

It is true that Satyavati acted out of greed but how would she have known that her grandchildren, Kauravas, would turn out to be so evil? She can’t be held responsible for what her future grandchildren would do. Not to forget, Duryodhana and the rest of the Kauravas were jealous towards the five Pandava brothers right from their childhood and were lusting for the throne of Hastinapur.

Draupadi’s insult and vengeance ignited the Mahabharata war

During her Swayamvar, Draupadi refused to marry Karna as he was [at that time believed to be] the son of a charioteer and was hence lower in the social hierarchy. Later on, she made fun or insulted Duryodhana when he falls down in the water inside the palace.

Hence, it is believed by some that this triggered Duryodhana and he decided to invite Yudishthir for a game of dice. As the game was already fixed by Duryodhana’s scheming uncle Shakuni, it ultimately led to the vanvaas of the five Pandavas, their wife Draupadi and mother Kunti.

Counter Argument

Even if we ignore the fact that the Kauravas were evil and Draupadi shouldn’t have insulted Karna and Duryodhana, she still can’t be held responsible for the war. As stated earlier, the Kauravas wanted the end of the Pandavas right during their childhood. There is an instance of Duryodhana trying to kill the Pandavas by poisoning them but were saved in the nick of time.

It can also be argued that the war happened because Draupadi had vowed to wash her  hair with the blood of the Kauravas after their defeat in the war. But even here, she can’t be held responsible for the war because of the reason stated above.

More importantly, the Pandavas had made an offer to Duryodhana to cancel the war, keep the kingdom of Hastinapur and give just five small villages to the five Pandava brothers. The offer was made by Lord Krishna himself who gave the proposal on behalf of the Pandavas.

However, Duryodhana not only refused but also insulted Krishna. He was firm on fighting the war. So, if he was hell-bent in attacking Pandavas, the latter had to retaliate and for that they had to take part in the war.

So, as per my view, it was the negative emotion of greed held by the Kauravas that was responsible for the war of Kurukshetra.

Pinning the entire blame on just one gender is nothing but a sexist and misogynistic argument.

Picture Credit- Roopa Ganguly as Draupadi from B R Chopra’s TV serial Mahabharat