Outside the Sabha Parvan narrative, there is not a single mention in the whole of Mahabharata that Yudhishthira stakes his brothers or Draupadi in the Dice Game. Outside the Sabha Parvan, there is not a single reference in the whole of Mahabharata that Yudhishthira is blamed by Draupadi or anyone for human staking. All that finds mention outside the Sabha Parvan is that, Yudhishthira loses the Dice Game, and Draupadi is considered won by Duryodhana in the Dice Game. Two things are therefore, beyond doubt in Mahabharata –
1. The Dice Game is played, and Duryodhana wins it
2. Draupadi is considered won in that Dice Game
Now, Draupadi considered “won” and her being staked at Dice Game are not the same thing.
So, let us begin our query and exploration of Mahabharata from here, to search and find whether this age-old belief has any textual validity at all!
The first objection against human staking is that it could never have happened at the Dice Game because dyuuta does not permit human staking. Manu Samhitaa states:
apraanibhir yat kriyate tal loke dyuutam ucyate /
praanibhih kriyate yas tu sa vijneyah samaahvayah // Mn_9.223 //
“When inanimate (things) are used (for staking money on them), that is called among men gambling (dyuuta), when animate beings are used (for the same purpose), one must know that to be betting (samaahvaya).”
Since Yudhishthira and Duryodhana play Dyuuta (Kautilya’s Arthashaastra 8.3 too remembers it as such), Yudhishthira’s staking of his brothers and Draupadi is improbable.
Secondly, while pronouncing the terms and conditions of the Dice Game, Duryodhana clearly says that he would play with gems and treasures – so, no question of human staking is there (aham daataasmi ratnaanaam dhanaanaam ca vishaam pate, 2.53.15a).
Thirdly, a close examination of the Dice Game, brings out the improbability of human staking even clearly.
What we know: After Yudhishthira loses all in Dice Game, he stakes himself; then one by one he stakes all his brothers, and when they are lost, he stakes Draupadi, and loses her. Then follows the narrative of her being dragged to Sabha and the so-called attempted disrobing.
Now the Doubts even in the Sabha Parvan narrative:
a) Yudhishthira first stakes Nakula (KMG Sec-64). How can that be? He should have staked Sahadeva first given the ascending order of seniority in staking as is followed in case of Kunti’s sons! Sahadeva, we know, is the youngest.
b) Yudhishthira next stakes Sahadeva. How can that be? Suppose, Yudhishthira wins after staking Sahadeva, what would have happened? Then, he would not have to stake Arjuna, Bhima, and himself. Then, he would have to live with the stigma of throwing Maadri’s sons to stake and privileging Kunti’s. Yudhishthira could not have avoided the disrepute of human-staking even if he wins. Does Yudhishthira’s Wisdom permit that? Besides, Yudhishthira’s sense of justice would not have permitted him to stake both of Madri’s sons first. If human staking really happened, then after staking Sahadeva first, Yudhishthira should have staked Arjuna – to maintain balance between Kunti and Maadrii’s sons – as we see in Yudhishthira-Yaksha Samvaada.
c) OK, for arguments sake, Yudhishthira’s brain has not been functioning properly in the heat of Dice Game, and he loses Arjuna, Bhima, and himself – now ‘serially’ – now his brain regaining semblance – and then he loses Draupadi. Why would not Shakuni, Karna et al remind him of staking Draupadi before that? “Ideally” – and given the narrative of fall of Draupadi and Pandavas during Svargaarohana, Draupadi should have been staked first, and not last. Indeed, if the Mahabharatan age really permitted wife-staking, then Draupadi would have been staked first before her husbands.
d) OK, for arguments sake, all present in the Sabha suffer a sudden amnesia-attack before Yudhishthira loses himself; why would Shakuni suggest staking Draupadi now? If Yudhishthira is lost, everything he has (including wives – since the Paandits already has this stuff in their brain that wife is husband’s property) is already and automatically lost including Draupadi. Why then the redundant staking of Draupadi? (As we shall see, this redundancy is the main flaw in the narrative of the entire Dice Game and staking matter – and actually enlightens on the true purport of Draupadi's ‘famous’ Question)
e) OK, for arguments sake, Shakuni suggests the redundant staking to further humiliating Draupadi and to prove before Sabha that Yudhishthira being such a callous husband cannot be fit king or worthy husband of Draupadi – and Duryodhana, Karna, Duhshashana suffering from an incurable sadistic disposition approve that – but why would nobody, Dhaarmik Vikarna, Wise Vidura, Bhishma, Drona, and Dhritarashtra not point out the redundancy at this phase? What sort of collective amnesia is this? Doesn’t the Silence of all at this phase seem too much contrived?
f) During the entire staking drama, only Yudhishthira and Shakuni speak. When Shakuni suggests staking Draupadi, Yudhishthira starts describing Draupadi's Physical Beauty in the most inappropriate way – inappropriate, not only because of the timing, but also in that he seems to bask in other men’s adulterous desire for Draupadi: “she is such a woman as a man may desire for wife in respect of her fitness for the acquisition of virtue and pleasure and wealth” (tathaa syaac chiilasampattyaa yaam icchet purushah striyam, 2.58.34) – and even praises the fragrance of her sweat (aabhaati padmavad vaktram sasvedam mallikeva ca, 36). It is a clear sexual hint and entirely un-Yudhishthira-like. However, if at this point someone asks me, “yes, such is Yudhishthira’s real nature, why are you partial?” – I would not quarrel because I am not discussing here his character. At this point, I just say that this is one reason of my doubt in the staking matter.
g) Now Yudhishthira stakes Draupadi, and only after this, 'Fie!' 'Fie!' are the words that are uttered by all the aged persons that are in the assembly. “And the whole conclave was agitated, and the kings who were present there all gave way to grief. And Bhishma and Drona and Kripa were covered with perspiration. And Vidura holding his head between his hands sat like one that had lost his reason. He sat with face downwards giving way to his reflections and sighing like a snake. But Dhritarashtra glad, at heart, asked repeatedly, 'Hath the stake been won?' 'Hath the stake been won?' and could not conceal his emotions. Karna with Dussassana and others laughed aloud, while tears began to flow from the eyes of all other present in the assembly. And the son of Suvala, proud of success and flurried with excitement and repeating. Thou hast one stake, dear to thee, etc. said,--'Lo! I have won' and took up the dice that had been cast.” (trans. KMG) Strangely, none approves the staking, but none actively protests too. The ‘legal’ point (Dharmashaastrik, not Indian Penal Code) – I will address later, however, for the moment, instead of getting interested at the Body Language of all, I would rather focus on the last line – Shakuni immediately takes up the dice that has been cast (jitam ity eva taan akshaan punar evaanvapadyata, 43). How can Shakuni do that? How can Shakuni immediately take up the dice from the board without leaving it there for other’s verification? Thus, even in the Sabha Parvan narrative of human staking, this is the point of clear fraud – because the next moment, without giving anybody to think or react, Duryodhana shouts – “Come, Kshatta, bring hither Draupadi the dear and loved wife of the Pandavas. Let her sweep the chambers, force her thereto, and let the unfortunate one stay where our serving-women are.” Let us note, Duryodhana tells this to Vidura and not to Pratikamin. Why would Duryodhana address Vidura? This suggests that Vidura must have been playing some important role during the Dice Game for which Duryodhana considers him his opponent in some way. Duryodhana’s address to Vidura is thus sarcastic. None ever mentions the status of the other queens of Pandavas though they are present in Hastinaapura (e.g. 2.52.17). If Draupadi's issue is a case of ‘whether wife is husband’s property or not,’ then the other wives too cannot have separate status from Draupadi
h) Even when Duhshashana ‘drags’ Draupadi to Sabha, she says – “Dharma’s son is established in Dharma; the apt should know that Dharma is Subtle.” (dharme sthito dharmasutash ca raajaa; dharmash ca suukshmo nipunopalabhyah /vaacaapi bhartuh paramaanumaatram; necchaami dosham svagunaan visrjya; 2.60.31) If Yudhishthira has really staked her, could she say that?
I will now quote some important dialogues from Mahabharata to show what actually happens in the Dice Game Sabha.
Draupadi laments before Krishna in Vana Parvan –
O Krishna, how could one like me, the wife of Pritha's sons, the sister of Dhrishtadyumna, and the friend of thee, be dragged to the assembly! Alas, during my season, stained with blood, with but a single cloth on, trembling all over, and weeping, I was dragged to the court of the Kurus! Beholding me, stained with blood in the presence of those kings in the assembly, the wicked sons of Dhritarashtra laughed at me! O slayer of Madhu, while the sons of Pandu and the Panchalas and the Vrishnis lived, they dared express the desire of using me as their slave! O Krishna, I am according to the ordinance, the daughter in-law of both Dhritarashtra and Bhishma! Yet, O slayer of Madhu, they wished to make of me a slave by force! I blame the Pandavas who are mighty and foremost in battle, for they saw (without stirring) their own wedded wife known over all the world, treated with such cruelty!” (3.13.53-58)
This is one of the most intense moments of Draupadi's anger and sorrow. She laments her suffering and humiliation, but she never for once blames Yudhishthira for staking her or other husbands. The problem in translation arises when we have a Pre-Programmed Script about Draupadi – that she is just a lamenting victimized woman who has been staked in Dice Game. However, if we discover her Active role, then the whole meaning changes.
As we find here, she does not blame Yudhishthira for staking her, though she blames the Pandavas for remaining mute spectators to her plight. This is one strong pointer that Draupadi has not been staked at all! As the Nala-Damayanti episode suggests, a wife loses automatically when the husband loses. But the Nala Damayantii narrative is of an older age, and the Mahabharatan age is far different from that. So, it is not useful to draw parallel of Nala and Yudhishthira, though there has to be some resemblance because History repeats.
When the Pandavas and Draupadi go for exile, Dhrtaraashtra tells Sanjaya:
“O Sanjaya, the glances of the distressed daughter of Drupada might consume the whole earth. Can it be possible that even a single son of mine will live? The wives of the Bharatas, uniting with Gandhari upon beholding virtuous Krishna, the wedded wife of the Pandavas, endued with beauty and youth, dragged into the court, set up frightful wail. Even now, along with all my subjects, they weep every day. Enraged at the ill treatment of Draupadi, the Brahmanas in a body did not perform that evening their Agnihotra ceremony.”
Had Yudhishthira really staked Draupadi, it would have been considered the most ill-treatment meted out to her. But neither the women of the palace, nor the subjects ever deplore that. Given the power of subjects in those days, they would not have forgiven Yudhishthira had he really staked his wife.
Later, Krishna tells Sanjaya:
“Look once more at that vilest of all their acts,--the conduct of the Kurus in the council-hall. That those Kurus, at whose head stood Bhishma did not interfere when the beloved wife of the sons of Pandu, daughter of Drupada, of fare fame, pure life, and conduct worthy of praise, was seized, while weeping, by that slave of lust. The Kurus all, including young and old, were present there. If they had then prevented that indignity offered to her, then I should have been pleased with Dhritarashtra's behaviour. It would have been for the final good of his sons also. Duhshasana forcibly took Krishna into the midst of the public hall wherein were seated her fathers-in-law. Carried there, expecting sympathy, she found none to take her part, except Vidura. The kings uttered not a word of protest, solely because they were a set of imbeciles. Vidura alone spoke words of opposition, from a sense of duty,--words conceived in righteousness addressed to that man (Duryodhana) of little sense. Thou didst not, O Sanjaya, then say what law and morality were, but now thou comest to instruct the son of Pandu! Krishna, however, having repaired to the hall at that time made everything right, for like a vessel in the sea, she rescued the Pandavas as also herself, from that gathering ocean (of misfortunes)!” (5.29.30-35)
Evidently, Krshna has nothing to say about the human staking. This dialogue is important on many other counts. I will come back to that again.
We have several clues to understand what actually happened in the Dice Game.
Krishna tells Sanjaya quoting Karna -
“Then in that hall, while Krishna stood, the charioteer's son addressed her in the presence of her fathers-in-law saying, 'O Daughter of Drupada thou hast no refuge. Better betake thyself as a bond-woman to the house of Dhritarashtra's son. Thy husbands, being defeated, no longer exist. Thou hast a loving soul, choose some one else for thy lord.' This speech, proceeding from Karna, was a wordy arrow, sharp, cutting all hopes, hitting the tenderest parts of the organisation, and frightful. It buried itself deep in Arjuna's heart.”
Note how Krshna reports Karna’s words – “Thy husbands, being defeated, no longer exist”. What is mentioned here is defeat of her husbands, but no mention of Draupadi's being staked and lost.
Further Krshna says –
“When the sons of Pandu were about to adopt the garments made of the skins of black deer, Dussasana spoke the following pungent words, 'These all are mean eunuchs, ruined, and damned for a lengthened time.' And Sakuni, the king of the Gandhara land, spoke to Yudhishthira at the time of the game of dice the following words by way of a wily trick, 'Nakula hath been won by me from you, what else have you got? Now you should better stake your wife Draupadi'. You know, O Sanjaya, all these words of an approbrious kind which were spoken at the time of the game of dice. You know, O Sanjaya, all these words of an approbrious kind which were spoken at the time of the game of dice. I desire to go personally to the Kurus, in order to settle this difficult matter. If without injury to the Pandava cause I succeed in bringing about this peace with the Kurus, an act of religious merit, resulting in very great blessings, will then have been done by me; and the Kurus also will have been extricated from the meshes of death.” (5.29.36-40)
Here it is said that Shakuni indeed has said to stake Draupadi, but there is no mention that Draupadi has been actually staked. There is heaven and Hell difference between something said and something actually done. Not only that, this contradicts the whole Sabha Parvan narrative. Let us note carefully the words again –
'Nakula hath been won by me from you, what else have you got? Now you should better stake your wife Draupadi' (paraajito nakulah kim tavaasti; Krishnayaa tvam diivya vai yaajnasenyaa; 5.29.39c)
Here we find that Shakuni suggests Draupadi's staking after Nakula (if Nakula has been staked at all)! Even that is problematic, as we shall see.
The whole problem arises from mistranslation. KMG has Pre-Programmed Script about Draupadi's staking – so he translates “Krishnayaa tvam diivya vai yaajnasenyaa” as “Now you should better stake your wife Draupadi.” Where does the word “stake” come from?
Diivya connotes “to cast, throw, esp. dice, i.e. play, gamble” (Monier-Williams) – thus, “Krishnayaa tvam diivya vai yaajnasenyaa” is a clear equivocation, very Shakuni-like; it can mean “play Dice Game, or cast dice by Krshnaa-Yajnasenii” – the sense is: “since you man cannot play, even Nakula is defeated, let a woman play”, or it can mean “play Dice Game by gambling Draupadi” – and it is this second sense that Shakuni insists later.
This is Shakuni’s trick; he mentions Nakula, and in same breath mentions Draupadi – something like Yudhishthira himself does in iti gaja (perhaps learning from this episode) while leading Drona to believe that Ashvatthaamaa has been killed.
Shakuni’s verbal trick is evident in Sabha Parvan narrative too. What is the exact nature of Shakuni’s trick?
We get a clear idea of this in Karna’s Speech following Vikarna’s protest. Karna says - ete na kim cid apy aahush codyamaanaapi krshnayaa (28a) - no one present there has uttered even a little (in favour of Draupadi), because they believe that Draupadi has been won by Dharma (dharmena vijitaam manye manyante drupadaatmajaam, 2.61.28c).
The word codyamaanaa deserves mention; it connotes ‘incited, impelled, questioned, criticized, sharpened, and whetted,’ pointing at Draupadi's fiery Speech (not mere lamenting or crying), and another derivative of the root ‘cud’; codana is also frequently used in the sense of “Dharma’s command.”
“Won by Dharma (dharmena vijitaam)” does not necessarily mean that Draupadi has been won as a stake in Dice Game. It simply means, since Yudhishthira’s “all” is won, by Dharma then, Draupadi is included in that “all”.
Now, what Karna tells Vikarna gives us the most important clue to “What Actually Happened”. In fact, this speech reveals it all.
“O Dhritarashtra’s son, how do you regard Krishna as not won, when the eldest of the Pandavas before this assembly staked all his possessions? … Draupadi is included in all the possessions (of Yudhishthira). Therefore, why do you regard Krshnaa as not-won though she has been won by Dharma? Draupadi had been mentioned (by Shakuni, while casting dice for that stake of “all), and approved by the Pandavas. For what reason then do you yet regard her as not won?”
02,061.031a katham hy avijitaam krshnaam manyase dhrtaraashtraja
02,061.031c yadaa sabhayaam sarvasvam nyastavaan paandavaagrajah
02,061.032a abhyantaraa ca sarvasve draupadi bharatarshabha
02,061.032c evam dharmajitaam krshnaam manyase na jitaam katham
02,061.033a kiirtitaa draupadi vaacaa anujnaataa ca pandavaih
02,061.033c bhavaty avijitaa kena hetunaishaa mataa tava
Let us re-read that - abhyantaraa ca sarvasve Draupadi bharatarshabha (Draupadi is included in all the possessions) – evam dharmajitaam krshnaam (Therefore, she has been won by Dharma).
Karna’s speech gives us the whole clue to “What Actually Happened”.
Shakuni’s trick becomes evident. Yudhishthira’s stake is “all” (sarvasva), and just before casting dice, Shakuni mentions Draupadi's name – and before giving Yudhishthira and Pandavas any time to think and understand the import of that mention, Shakuni casts dice and claims to win “all.”
We have also seen that immediately after casting dice, Shakuni promptly removes it from the board - Shakuni immediately takes up the dice that has been cast (jitam ity eva taan akshaan punar evaanvapadyata, 2.58.43).
Now, Karna-Duryodhana-Shakuni insists on interpreting that Yudhishthira/Pandavas’ Silence at Shakuni’s Draupadi-mention as their approval in staking Draupadi included in “all.”
So, this is the Game! The Powerful insists that his interpretation is Truth – the same Reality around us. A religious priest would not read the Dharma-Grantha (Bible, Koran, Giitaa – whatsoever), or would read it superficially, and then insist his interpretation is the Truth – his interpretation is what Krishna, Jesus, or Mohammad actually say. A Marxist would not read Marx’s works in original and claim he is Marxist! This is the Game of Power we are in.
We have already read how Shakuni’s tacit Draupadi-mention evades the Pandavas’ notice in Krishna’s speech to Samjaya.
Translators generally fail to understand Shakuni’s equivocation here. Shakuni suggests “play by Draupadi,” and later insists on the interpretations that “play by Draupadi” means “play by staking Draupadi” or “play by using Draupadi as stake.”
This equivocation, misinterpretation, and Power-Play – that is the Dice Game in Kuru Sabha.
Even the Sabha Parvan narrative betrays glaring defect in the staking drama. Draupadi's “famous question” deserves special discussion; however, I will not do that here, and reserve it for a separate article. I would mention this much here that the “question” is actually a Double-Trap – and we have been missing the true import of the question.
In his Vikarna bashing spree, Karna actually falls in Draupadi's trap. By saying that Draupadi is Yudhishthira’s possession, he makes her staking redundant, because going by Kuru logic, once Yudhishthira loses himself, Draupadi should have been considered automatically lost. That even after that, they approve Draupadi’s staking is not only an acknowledgment on their part that Draupadi has a separate existence outside Yudhishthira’s possessions, but also an exercise in self-contradiction and therefore violation of law, because having approved Draupadi’s separate and individual right, how could they provoke Yudhishthira to stake her, who is no more owned by Yudhishthira! Draupadi’s famous question is actually to point out this glaring flaw.
After Yudhishthira loses himself, Shakuni sarcastically regards it ‘sinful’ that Yudhishthira has permitted himself to be won because there is wealth still left for him. This is how the Kurus fall in their own trap trying to humiliate Draupadi. What Shakuni says is actually an admission that even if Yudhishthira is slave, he still can be owner of property, that is, a slave is still “owner” of “property” - that a slave has freedom to ownership of property. Shakuni now suggests, that ‘unwon’ stake is Draupadi, and tells Yudhishthira, “Stake thou Krishna, the princess of Panchala. By her, win thyself back.”
Draupadi’s famous question is actually to point out this glaring flaw. If Yudhishthira has already lost his “all”, and “all” includes Draupadi, how can she be still staked? And if she can be still staked, that means, despite having lost his “all”, Yudhishthira has not lost her; in other words, the wife is still free; in other words, the wife has always an independent position outside the husband’s “all”.
So, this is what actually happened. Yudhishthira loses “all his possession”, and after that the Kauravas insist that “all his possession” includes Draupadi too. This is the point of further legal dispute. Can a wife be considered possession? Does a wife has no say of her own?
Let us now arrange the narrative – “What Actually Happened”
1) Yudhishthira loses “all” his possessions in the Dice Game
2) The last stake is Yudhishthira staking his “all” – and Yudhishthira never intends to mean his wife and brothers by that “all” (In all probability, Yudhishthira has not been playing alone, but Nakula has been playing too – as evident from Shakuni’s words)
3) When Yudhishthira pronounces the stake or accepts the stake (“I am staking all I have”), Shakuni slyly suggests that “all” includes Draupadi along with the sarcastic equivocation that Yudhishthira should play “by Draupadi” or “with Draupadi (as stake)”
4) Yudhishthira and Pandavas could not respond to that sly suggestion, and Shakuni has already thrown the dice
5) Whether Shakuni actually wins that round is doubtful, because he removes the dice immediately after throwing it
6) Shakuni immediately declares that he has won
7) Karna immediately declares that Draupadi has been won too; perhaps this has been pre-set that as soon as Shakuni throws the dice, they would create commotion to drive home a point (- very parliamentarian, I would say!)
8) Then Duryodhana orders that Draupadi should be brought to the Sabha
9) However, Draupadi, being informed by Yudhishthira’s messenger of what has happened, herself goes to the Sabha and salvages the Pandavas. This is evident from Krshna’s words – “Krishna, however, having repaired to the hall at that time made everything right, for like a vessel in the sea, she rescued the Pandavas as also herself, from that gathering ocean (of misfortunes)!” (5.29.30-35)
10) But before that, Draupadi is verbally insulted, and then Duhshaasana manhandles her and drags her to the middle of the Sabha. This is again evident from Krshna’s words - “Dussasana forcibly took Krishna into the midst of the public hall wherein were seated her fathers-in-law. Carried there, expecting sympathy, she found none to take her part, except Vidura.” (Duhshashanah praatilomyaan ninaaya; Sabhamadhye shvashuraanaam ca krshnaam / saa tatra niitaa karunaany avocan; naanyam kshattur naatham adrshta kam cit; 5.29.33)
11) Well, there has been no attempted Draupadi-Disrobing or Draupadi-Disrobing – I have discussed that elsewhere.
Karna’s role is remembered by Krshna after Karna’s death. Showing Karna’s dead body, Krshna tells Yudhishthira –
yah sa dyuutajitaam krshnaam praahasat purushaadhamah (8.69.17a)
We have two translations here, taking the Shloka in two ways.
1) “He who announced Krshnaa won by dice (yah sa dyuutajitaam krshnaam praaha), the vilest of good men (satpurushaadhamah) – today the earth drinks that Suuta’s son’s blood” (Mahabharata 8.69.17)? (trans. Hiltebeitel and Adluri)
2) “O son of Pandu! The Earth drinketh today the blood of that Suta's son, that wretch among men, who had laughed at the dice-won Krishna.” (KMG)
Adluri-Hiltebeitel takes praahasat purushaadhamah as – praaha satpurushaadhamah. As I said, KMG being pre-programmed with the Script of Draupadi's being staked at dice, translates yah sa dyuutajitaam krshnaam praahasat as “who had laughed at the dice-won Krshna”; whereas, if praahasat connotes laughter, and is not praaha sat, as Adluri-Hiltebeitel translates, it can simply mean – “Karna laughed and announced Krshnaa as dice-won.”
Had Yudhishthira really violated the rules of dyuuta and staked his brothers and wife in Dice Game, he would have earned an irredeemable disrepute. He would never been considered as Dharma-Putra or Dharmaraaja Yudhishthira. However, that is not the case. Sources outside Mahabharata never attest this event.
Paaninii’s Ashtaadhyaayii (anywhere between c.a 900 BCE – 450 BCE) and Paatanjalii’s Mahaabhaashya (c.a. 350 BCE – 200 BCE) mention Yudhishthira, but do not remember this, as is to be expected because the human staking never happened. Kautilya’s Arthashaastra (c.a. 4th century BCE) mentions Duryodhana’s refusal to give half/part kingdom to Yudhishthira, and Kautilya mentions Pishuna’s praise for Duryodhana for winning Dice Game -dyuute tu jitam eva aksha vidushaa yathaa jayatsena duryodhanaabhyaam iti (8.3.41). But Kautilya refutes such winning by Dice Game – na ity kautilyah
No mention of Yudhishthira’s so-called inhuman act.
Buddhist Jaatakas, Ashvaghosha’s Buddhacarita or Lalitavistara do not mention Yudhishthira’s human staking. Even Bhaasa’s plays (3rd century BCE) that take somewhat pro-Duryodhana stance as in Urubhangam, does not mention human staking.
So, why does Ugrashravaa Sauti or some later poet introduce the human staking episode?
The purpose, I understand, is didactic. There is a famous RgVedic Suukta (10.34; see Note-1 below) known as Dice Suukta that depicts the wretchedness that addiction to Dice Game brings. The later poet thought of including that in the Mahabharata and made Yudhishthira the protagonist to make it a forceful lesson for posterity.
In the next part, I will discuss on Draupadi “famous question”.
NOTE-1: The Dice Suukta (RV- 10.34)
1. SPRUNG from tall trees on windy heights, these rollers transport me as they turn upon the table.Dearer to me the die that never slumbers than the deep draught of Mujavan's own Soma.
2 She never vexed me nor was angry with me, but to my friends and me was ever gracious. For the die's sake, whose single point is final, mine own devoted wife I alienated.
3 My wife holds me aloof, her mother hates me: the wretched man finds none to give him comfort. As of a costly horse grown old and feeble, I find not any profit of the gamester.
4 Others caress the wife of him whose riches the die hath coveted, that rapid courser:
Of him speak father, mother, brothers saying, We know him not: bind him and take him with you.
5 When I resolve to play with these no longer, my friends depart from me and leave me lonely. When the brown dice, thrown on the board, have rattled, like a fond girl I seek the place of meeting.
6 The gamester seeks the gambling-house, and wonders, his body all afire, Shall I be lucky? Still do the dice extend his eager longing, staking his gains against his adversary.
7 Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe. They give frail gifts and then destroy the man who wins, thickly anointed with the player's fairest good.
8 Merrily sports their troop, the three-and-fifty, like Savitar the God whose ways are faithful. They bend not even to the mighty's anger: the King himself pays homage and reveres them.
9 Downward they roll, and then spring quickly upward, and, handless, force the man with hands to serve them. Cast on the board, like lumps of magic charcoal, though cold themselves they bum the heart to ashes.
10 The gambler's wife is left forlorn and wretched: the mother mourns the son who wanders homeless. In constant fear, in debt, and seeking riches, he goes by night unto the home of others.
11 Sad is the gambler when he sees a matron, another's wife, and his well-ordered dwelling. He yokes the brown steeds in the early morning, and when the fire is cold sinks down an outcast.
12 To the great captain of your mighty army, who hath become the host's imperial leader, To him I show my ten extended fingers: I speak the truth. No wealth am I withholding.
13 Play not with dice: no, cultivate thy corn-land. Enjoy the gain, and deem that wealth sufficient. There are thy cattle there thy wife, O gambler. So this good Savitar himself hath told me.
14 Make me your friend: show us some little mercy. Assail us not with your terrific fierceness. Appeased be your malignity and anger, and let the brown dice snare some other captive.