King Dhritarashtra’s question about what his sons and Pandu’s sons were doing on the battlefield, despite the apparent inevitability of the battle, reflects his inner conflict and emotional turmoil. Dhritarashtra’s character in the Mahabharata is complex, and his actions are driven by a mixture of love for his own sons, guilt over his injustices toward the Pandavas, and a desire to see the outcome of the battle.
Love for His Sons: Dhritarashtra had a strong attachment to his own sons, the Kauravas, and he was well aware that they were on the verge of a war with their cousins, the Pandavas. His concern for their well-being and his desire to ensure their success in the battle led him to inquire about their activities. Despite their wrongdoing and the unjust treatment of the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra still cared deeply for his sons.
Guilt and Conscience: Dhritarashtra was not blind to the fact that he had unjustly taken the throne of Hastinapur from the Pandavas, who were the rightful heirs. His conscience weighed heavily on him, and he felt guilty about the injustice he had done to his nephews. This guilt and inner conflict troubled him, and he was anxious about the consequences of the battle.
Desire to Determine the Fate: Dhritarashtra was uncertain about the outcome of the war, but he also wanted to see what fate had in store for his sons. He hoped that they would emerge victorious, but he also feared that the holy land of Kurukshetra might influence them to make a more virtuous decision, such as negotiating a truce. This uncertainty and desire to determine the destiny of his sons drove him to seek information about the situation on the battlefield.
In essence, Dhritarashtra’s question reflects the inner turmoil of a father who is torn between his love for his own sons, his guilt over past injustices, and his curiosity about the outcome of a war that would decide the future of his family and the kingdom of Hastinapur. His attachment to his sons and his moral dilemma are central themes in the Mahabharata, and they contribute to the complexity of his character.