Vidura (left) with Dhritarashtra
Vidura (Sanskrit: विदुर, lit. skilled, intelligent or wise) is one of the central characters in the Mahabharata, a major Hindu epic. He is described as the prime minister of the Kuru Kingdom and also the uncle of Pandavas and Kauravas.
Vidura's Role in the Mahabharata
Barring Krishna, Vidura was most respected as an adviser by the Pandavas, whom he forewarned on various occasions of Duryodhana's plots to exterminate them, such as Duryodhana's plan to burn them alive in the house of wax.
Except the prince Vikarna, Vidura was the only one who protested against the humiliation of Draupadi in the Kaurava court. In that moment, Duryodhana viciously rebuked Vidura, calling him ungrateful. Dhritarashtra moved to rebuke Duryodhana for insulting Duryodhana's uncle, but, remembering Vidura saying that a blind man cannot be king, holds his tongue, and instead reprimanded Duryodhana for insulting the prime minister. It is that incident that Vidura brought up years later when he severed ties with the Kurus and sided with the Pandavas at the onset of the Kurukshetra war. Unlike Bhishma, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Karna, etc., Vidura did not have an obligation to Hastinapur or Duryodhana, but to his family. Hearing Dhritarashtra not acknowledge that relationship, Vidura felt compelled to side with dharma and the Pandavas.
According to Krishna, Vidura was considered as Dharmaraja, which means the Lord of truth. Krishna respected Vidura for his devotion to people's welfare, and his proficiency in every sphere of knowledge.
When Krishna visited Hastinapura as a peace emissary of the Pandavas, he shunned Duryodhana's offer to stay in the royal palace, preferring instead the home of Vidura, on account of him being the only neutral man in the Kaurava court. The reason Krishna stayed in Vidura's chambers for the night instead of Duryodhana's is due to the thoughts which were running through their heads and the difference between them. Duryodhana's intention was to heave luxury upon Krishna and convince him to join the Kaurava's side. Sensing this intention, Krishna refused. Krishna knew the food that Vidura presented was presented with love and affection with no ulterior motive.
In the Sanatsujatiya section of the Mahabharata, shortly before the Kurukshetra War began, Vidura invoked the sage Sanatsujata to answer Dhritarashtra's questions about death. In protest against the Kurukshetra War, Vidura resigned from the post of minister.
As Duryodhana is dying, Krishna comes to him, and the two talk about the strategic mistakes Duryodhana had made. One of these was Duryodhana's failure to recruit Vidura. Vidura's brilliant mind would have been a huge boon to the Kaurava tactics, rivaling Krishna on the Pandavas' side.
After the great battle, Yudhishthira appointed Vidura the prime minister with complete control of the government. However, following the carnage of the war and his own age, Vidura did not have the heart to govern. Soon after, he retired to the forests as an ascetic with his half-brother Dhritarashtra and his sisters-in-law Gandhari and Kunti. He undertook severe penances and was the first of the royal ascetics to die. He died on the arms of Yudhishthira, who came to visit him during his last days, and before his death, he gave his power to his nephew, citing that both were the parts of Dharmaraj. Within a month after his death, Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti perished in a forest fire.
Vidura-niti, or Vidura's Statecraft, narrated in the form of a dialogue between Vidura and King Dritrashtra, is considered the precursor in some ways of Chanakyaneeti.
Vidura is held to be a paragon of truth, dutifulness, impartial judgement and steadfast dharma. He is considered the embodiment of the inner consciousness of the Mahabharata.
In popular culture
- Parvathi Kumar, K., Wisdom Teachings of Vidura, 1997, Dhanishta
Vidur Neeti Original Text]