When Dhritarashtra's queen Gandhari's pregnancy continued for an unusually long period of time, she beat her womb in frustration, at the envy of Kunti, the queen of Pandu who had given birth to Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava. Due to actions of Gandhari, a hardened mass of grey-colored flesh produced from her womb. Gandhari was very shocked and upset.She worshiped Vyasa,the great sage who had blessed her with one hundred sons,to redeem his words.
Vyasa divides the flesh ball into one hundred equal pieces, and puts them in pots of ghee, which are sealed and buried into the earth for one year. At the end of the year, the first pot is opened, and Duryodhana emerges.
Literally, Duryodhana means "hard to conquer". His chariot bore a flag depicting a hooded cobra.
Dark omens surround his emergence from the pot, which are construed by royal brahmins to be the warning signs of a great disaster. Dhritarashtra's half-brother Vidura tells him that when such omens surround the birth of a child, it signals the violent end of that dynasty. Both Vidura and Bhishma counsel the king to abandon the child, but Dhritarashtra is unable to do so out of love and emotional attachment to his first-born.
Duryodhana's body is said to be made out of thunder, and he is extremely powerful. He is revered by his younger brothers, especially Dushasana. Learning martial skills from his gurus, Kripa, Drona and Balarama, he was extremely powerful with the mace weapon, and the equal of Bhima, the powerful Pandava in its use
At the martial exhibition where the Kaurava and Pandava princes demonstrate their skills before their elders, their guru Drona and the people of the kingdom, a great and effulgent warrior, Karna appears and challenges Arjuna, who is considered by Drona to be the best of the warrior princes. But Karna is humiliated when Kripa asks him to ascertain his caste, as it would be inappropriate for unequals to compete.
Duryodhana immediately defends Karna, and makes him king of Anga so that he is regarded as Arjuna's equal. Karna pledges his allegiance and friendship to Duryodhana, as Duryodhana had rescued him from the source of continuing humiliation and hardship for him. Neither of them know that Karna is in fact Kunti's eldest son born to Surya.
A very intense bond of friendship develops between the two, and Duryodhana becomes very close to Karna. It is held that if there was one good quality in Duryodhana, it was his deep affection for his friend Karna.
In the Kurukshetra War, Karna is Duryodhana's greatest hope for victory. He earnestly believes that Karna is superior to Arjuna, and will inevitably destroy him and his four brothers. While devoted to Duryodhana, Karna knows that even though his skills are as good as, if not better than Arjuna's, he is incapable of killing Arjuna as he is protected by Lord Krishna. When Karna is killed, Duryodhana mourns his death intensely.
Although loved by all his family, Duryodhana and most of his brothers are seen as inferior to the Pandavas in their adherence to virtue and duty, and respect of elders. Duryodhana is mentored by his maternal uncle Shakuni, who desires the elevation of his sister's children at the expense of the Pandavas. Shakuni masterminds most of Duryodhana's plots to humiliate and kill the Pandavas.
Duryodhana is especially jealous of the Pandavas, knowing that Yudhisthira is his rival to the throne of Hastinapura. He also bore a deep hatred of Bhima, who dominates the Kauravas in sport and skill, with his immense physical power and strength.
Duryodhana attempts to murder Bhima by feeding him a poisoned feast, but Bhima survives due to his immense physical capacity and blessings from celestial Nagas. Duryodhana then plots with his evil counselor Purochana to set ablaze a house where the Pandavas were staying. Purochana is himself killed in the fire, but the Pandavas manage to escape.
When the princes come of age, Yudhisthira is given half the kingdom and made king of Indraprastha, so as to avoid a clash with the Kaurava princes over the whole Kuru kingdom. Duryodhana becomes the prince regent of Hastinapura, and owing to the age and blindness of his father, he accumulates much control and influence, managing the state affairs himself with a coterie of his advisors that include his uncle Shakuni, brother Dushasana and friend Karna.
But Duryodhana remains jealous of Yudhisthira, owing to Indraprastha's prosperity and fame exceeding Hastinapura's. When Yudhisthira performs the Rajasuya sacrifice that makes him emperor of the World, Duryodhana is unable to contain his anger, which is intensified when Yudhisthira's queen Draupadi makes fun of him when he slips into a pool of water in the court.
Knowing that the Kauravas cannot rival the Pandavas in martial power, Shakuni devises a scheme to rob Yudhisthira of his kingdom and wealth by defeating him in a game of dice, which Shakuni is an expert at and Yudhisthira a complete novice. Unable to resist the challenge, Yudhisthira gambles away his entire kingdom, his wealth, his four brothers and even his wife, in a series of gambits to retrieve one by staking another.
The first time, the king Dhritarashtra and Vidura make Duryodhana re-establish Yudhisthira. But when the plot is repeated, Shakuni sets the condition that Yudhisthira and his brothers must spend thirteen years in exile in the forest before they may receive their kingdom back. The thirteenth year must be passed incognito, or else they would be condemned to repeat the term of exile.
Duryodhana encourages his brother Dushasana to drag Draupadi into the court and strip her clothes, as she is now his property as Yudhisthira had gambled everything away to him. Dushasana attempts to strip Draupadi, who is mystically rescued by Krishna, who gives her an inexhaustible supply of sari.
Nevertheless, due to this action Bhima swears that at the end of the exile, he would break Duryodhana's thigh (as Duryodhana asked Draupadi to sit on his thigh).
During the exile, Duryodhana attempts to humiliate Yudhisthira by flashing his wealth and prowess in their forest of exile. He is however caught in a conflict with the Gandharva king Chitrasena, who captures him. Yudhisthira asks Arjuna and Bhima to rescue Duryodhana, who is humiliated. Setting his mind to die, Duryodhana pledges to fast unto death.
During his fast, Duryodhana is mystically taken to a gathering of powerful Daitya and Danava beings, who inform him that he was born as a result of their tapasya, and his mission was to destroy the purpose of the Devas and Krishna upon earth. The demonic beings assure him that powerful demons had been incarnated as his allies, making his defeat impossible. Encouraged, Duryodhana returns to Hastinapura.
Karna now embarks upon a worldwide military campaign to subjugate kings and impose Duryodhana's imperial authority over them. Bringing tribute and allegiance from all the world's kings, Karna helps Duryodhana perform the Vaishnava sacrifice to please Vishnu, and crowns himself World emperor, as Yudhisthira did with the Rajasuya.
At the end of the exile term, Duryodhana refuses to return Yudhisthira's kingdom, despite the counsel of Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and even Krishna, whom he attempted to kidnap. Although Dhritarashtra criticizes his son, he tacitly desires that Duryodhana, and not Yudhishitra remain Emperor.
Making war inevitable, Duryodhana gathers support from powerful kings and armies. The most legendary warriors - Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Ashwathama, Shalya, even though most of them were critical of him - are forced to fight for Duryodhana. He ends up amassing a larger army than his rivals.
In the war, Duryodhana repeatedly eggs on the invincible Bhishma and Drona to forward his cause, even though his main hope is Karna. He asks Drona to capture Yudhisthira alive, so that he may blackmail the Pandavas into surrender, or force Yudhisthira to gamble again. He also participates in the brutal and unethical murder of Arjuna's son Abhimanyu.
But he is repeatedly frustrated when the Pandavas succeed in downing the two Kuru legends, and is emotionally distraught when Arjuna slays over one million Kuru soldiers in one day and kills Jayadratha, the king of Sindhu over the killing of Abhimanyu. And all along, Bhima is steadily slaying his brothers, increasing his misery and bringing him closer to defeat.
Duryodhana's hopes are finally shattered when Karna is killed by Arjuna after an intense and legendary battle. After making some final desperate efforts, he flees the battlefield and hides in a lake, within which he survives by his mystic powers of yoga. He re-emerges after Ashwathama and Kripa encourage him to face his destiny with courage.
Queen Gandhari is distraught when she hears that all her sons save Duryodhana have been slain. Despite knowing that Duryodhana was wicked and his cause unrighteous, she decides to help him win. Asking him to bathe and enter her tent naked, she prepares to use the great mystic power of her eyes, blind-folded for many years out of respect for her blind husband, to make his body invincible to all attack in every portion.
But when Krishna, who is returning after paying the queen a visit, runs into a naked Duryodhana coming to the tent, he mockingly admonishes him for his intent to appear so before his own mother. Knowing of Gandhari's intentions, Krishna criticizes Duryodhana, who sheepishly covers his groin before entering the tent.
When Gandhari's eyes fall upon Duryodhana, they mystically make each part of his body invincible. She is shocked to see that Duryodhana had covered his groin, which were thus not protected by her mystic power.
When he faces the Pandava brothers and Krishna alone, Yudhisthira offers him the option of fighting any of the Pandava one-on-one. If he defeated that Pandava, Yudhisthira would hand the kingdom to Duryodhana, despite having won the wider war.
Out of pride, Duryodhana picks his archnemesis Bhima instead of any of the other Pandava brothers who would have been overwhelmed by his skill at fighting with the mace. Both possessed exceptional physical strength and had trained under Balarama in mace fighting and wrestling to the same level of prowess. After a long and brutal battle stretching many days, Duryodhana begins to exhaust Bhima.
At this point, Krishna, who is observing the fight, motions to Bhima, reminding him of his oath to crush Duryodhana's thigh. Bhima viciously attacks Duryodhana with a mace and strikes at his thigh which is not protected by Gandhari's blessing, and Duryodhana finally falls, mortally wounded.
Although Duryodhana bemoans that he was slain by unfair means, given that it was illegal to attack below the waist according to the rules of mace-fighting, Krishna points out to the dying prince that his humiliation of Draupadi, murder plots and cheating of the Pandavas and the killing of Abhimanyu did not comply with dharma or the norms of battle either. It was useless thus, for Duryodhana to hope that religious values would protect him, when he had honored them not once in his whole life.
Duryodhana dies slowly, and is cremated by the Pandavas. When Yudhisthira himself ascends to Swarga, he sees Duryodhana there upon a throne. He is angry that Duryodhana is enjoying a place in heaven despite his sins, but Indra explains to him that he had served his time in hell, and had also been a good and powerful king.