Gandhari was born on to Subala, the king of Gandhar. As a maiden, Gandhari is noted for her piety and virtuous nature. Gandhari is regarded as an incarnation of Mati. She was sister of Shakuni.
Gandhari’s marriage was arranged to Dhritarashtra, the eldest prince of the Kuru kingdom. The Mahabharata depicted her as a beautiful and virtuous woman and a very dedicated wife. Their marriage was arranged by Bhishma. When she found out that her would-be husband was born blind, she decided to blindfold herself in order to be like her husband. What went through the young girl’s mind when she found out that she was to marry a blind man is not depicted in the epic. Popular narration said that the act of blindfolding herself was a sign of dedication and love. On the contrary, Irawati Karve and many modern scholars debated that the act of blindfolding was an act of protest against Bhishma as he intimidated her father into giving away her hand in marriage to the blind prince of Hastinapur.
During her maiden days, she is said to have impressed Lord Shiva through penance and received a boon to bear 100 children. However, the reason for her penance and her receiving such boon is unknown. One of the main reasons of Bhishma choosing Gandhari to be the elder daughter-in-law of the Kuru kingdom is said to be this boon, which would put an end to his worry of the throne remaining vacant.
She gets pregnant but carries the child for an unusually long period of 2 years. Later, when she hears that Kunti (queen of king Pandu, younger brother of Dhritarashtra) has given birth to the eldest of the Pandavas, she pounds on her stomach in frustration and helplessness only to result in the birth of a grey mass and not her sons. Veda Vyasa divides this into 101 parts and stores them in earthen pots to incubate for another 2 years. First to be born among these is Duryodhana, followed by 99 brothers and one sister, Dushala.
During the birth of her first son Duryodhana, many ill omen occur. Dhuryodhana started crying like a Donkey after the birth and due to this, vulture and crows started making noise. Vidhur told Dhritshashtra to kill Duryodhana as he will destroy his family but he could not do it in love for his child.
Here are the names of all the Kauravas:
Duryodhan, Dussashan, Dussah, Jalsandh, Sam, Sah, Vind, Anuvind, Dudrdharsh, Subahu, Dushpradharshan, Durmurshan, Durmukh, Dushkarn, Karn, Vivinshati,Vikarn, Shal, Satva, Sulochan, Chitr,Upchitra, Chitraksh, Charuchitr, Shrasan, Durmud, Durvigah, Vivitsu, Viktanan, Urnanabh, Sunabh, Nand, Upnand, Chitrban, Chitravarma, Suvarma, Durvimochan, Aayobahu, Mahabahu, Chitrang, Chitrkundal, Bhimveg, Bhimbal, Ugrayudh, Sushen, Kunddhar, Mahaodar, Chhitrayudh, Nishangi, Pashi, Vrindarakm, Dridhvarma, Dridhkshatra, Somkirti, Anudar, Dridhsandh, Jarasandh, Satyasandh, Sad: suvak, Ugrashrava, Kundashayi, Dushparajay, Ugrasen, Vishalaksh, Duradhar, Dridhhast, Suvarcha, Adityaketu, Bahvashi, Batveg, Suhast, Nagdatt, Agrayayi, Kavchi, Krathan, Kundi, Alolup, Bhimrath, Dridhrathashray, Raudrakarma, Virbahu, Abbey, Anadhritya, Kundabhedi, Dirgharoma, Dirghabahu, Pramathi, Pramath, Mahabahu, Vyudhorask, Kankadhvaj, Kundashi.
The Kauravas were not really righteous hence they were all mis-named because of their bad repute. Duryodhana was actually named Suyodhana, Dusshasana was actually Sushaasana, Dusshala was actually Suchala and so on.
It is believed, that Gandhari made a single exception to her blindfolded state, when she removed her blindfold to see her eldest son Duryodhana. She poured all her power into her son’s body in one glance, rendering Duryodhana’s entire body, except his loins, as strong as thunderbolt. Krishna foiled Gandhari’s plan by asking Duryodhana to cover up his privates before meeting his mother. On their decisive encounter on the eighteenth day of the Kurukshetra battle, Bhima smashed Duryodhana’s thighs, a move both literally and figuratively below the belt. Despite its popularity the story is not mentioned in the original version of the Mahabharata written by Veda Vyasa. As per Vyasa’s Mahabharata, Duryodhana, while fighting against Bhima, displayed his superior mace skills, due to which Bhima could not defeat him and had to break rules to kill him.
All of Gandhari’s sons were killed in the war against their cousins, the Pandavas at Kurukshetra, specifically at the hands of Bhima. Upon hearing the news, it is said that through a small gap in the blindfold, her gaze fell on Yudhishthira’s toe. His clean toe was charred black due to her wrath and power. When she heard the news of the death of all the sons of Pandavas (Upapandavas), she embraced the Pandavas and consoled them for their losses. Later her wrath turned to Krishna for allowing all this destruction to happen. She cursed that he, his city and all his subjects would be destroyed. Krishna accept the curse. Her curse took its course 36 years after the great war when Yadu dynasty perished after a fight broke out between Yadavas at a festival. Lord Krishna ascended to his heavenly abode after living for 126 years. The golden city of Dwarka drowned exactly seven days after his disappearance. Gandhari along with her husband Dhritarashtra, brother-in-law Vidura and sister-in-law Kunti, left Hastinapur about 15 years after the war to seek penance. She is said to have died in the Himalayan in a forest fire along with Dhritarastra, Vidura and Kunti and attained moksha.
The Mahabharata attributes high moral standards to Gandhari, although her sons are portrayed as villains. She repeatedly exhorted her sons to follow dharma and make peace with the Pandavas. Gandhari fostered a big-little sister relationship with Kunti. Famously, when Duryodhana would ask for her blessing of victory during the Kurukshetra war, Gandhari would only say “may victory find the side of righteousness”. Gandhari’s major flaw was her love for her sons, especially her first born, Duryodhana, which often blinded her to his flaws.
After the great war of Mahabharat, the grief-stricken blind king along with his wife Gandhari, sister-in-law Kunti, and half brother Vidura left Hastinapur for penance. It is believed that all of them (except Vidura who predeceased him) perished in a forest fire and attained Moksha.