Game of Dice

The day was fixed for the game of dice.

On one side sat Duryodhana, uncle Shakuni, and Dushasana while other side was occupied by Yudhisthira and his four brothers. Shakuni would throw dice for Kauravas while Yudhisthira would do the job for Pandavas.

Initially a small amount of money and jewelry was put at stake. The dice was rolled and Shakuni won the throw. Thus the game progressed on and on, every time Shakuni came up with requisite number with his magical dice. Yudhisthira was bound to lose as the game was already corrupted by Shakuni.

But as a losing gambler, Yudhisthira lost reason and discrimination. He put Indraprastha at stake!, and as expected lost that turn too. The king Yudhisthira was stripped off his kingdom and he became an ordinary citizen! Mocking him further, uncle Shakuni challenged Yudhisthira, "You have lost your kingdom and all money. It is better you say quits and leave this palace. We shall allow you to lead a life of ordinary lay person in Hastinapur."

The insulting words, in stead of dissuading Yudhisthira, further stimulated him to play and regain the lost kingdom. Hope never dies for a gambler! Yudhisthira asked Shakuni to continue the game. When asked as to what he would put at stake, Yudhisthira replied: "Bhima"!

Yudhisthira lost the count and Bhima became the servant - slave - of Duryodhana. On the similar lines Yudhisthira lost Arjuna, Nakul, Sahadeva, and at last himself to the evil designs of Shakuni. Pandavas were bereft of all rights, even those of ordinary citizens!

The whole court was stunned to see this unusual betting from so righteous a person as Yudhisthira. Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Vidura could foresee the approaching catastrophe, but could do nothing. Their appeal for restrain and reason kept hitting on the deaf ears of Kauravas. After all it was a game, a sport, which was played according to set rules; both the parties willingly participating.

Ordeal of Draupadi

At last, the desperate gambler in Yudhisthira put Draupadi at stake! Everyone, almost everyone, in court protested, but in vain. The destiny of this great Bharatavarsha -India as was called in those days - could not be changed, as if it had the tacit sanction of Almighty! Male chauvinism put a helpless lady at the mercy of crooks.

As was destined, Yudhisthira lost the dice, and with it started the dark period of Indian downfall.

Draupadi became the serving maid of Duryodhana and Kauravas. Victorious and lustful Duryodhana asked his brother Dushasana to bring Draupadi to the court. He obeyed his elder brother and brought helpless Draupadi dragging by her hair. Her protest that Yudhisthira had no right to put her at stake was not heard in the agonizing cries of the ladies in the court. Heads drooped with shame. Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Vidura could nothing. King Dhritarashtra was silent.

Cries of "shame, shame" were mingled with terrifying laughter of Duryodhana, Shakuni, and Dushasana.

Duryodhana ordered Dushasana to disrobe the lady. Bhishma objected, Dhritarashtra trembled, but the lust, pride, and blind power of victory was not prepared to listen or see sense.

Lord Krishna Comes to the Rescue

Helpless Draupadi had but one hope, one last hope to save her grace. Sri Krishna could alone, and would, save her from disgrace! She started repeating and praying for his grace, a saviour of his devotees, the Master of the Universe.

And the Lord does not wait when his devotee is in such a grave crisis. Sri Krishna provided unending lengths of cloth on the body of Draupadi.

Here, Dushasana pulled one yard of her robe -sari - and there two yards were added by the grace of Sri Krishna! The evil Dushasana went on and on, his hands aching and paralyzed with fatigue, but there was no end to the covering of Draupadi's body. At last Dushasana collapsed, completely exhausted.

"Victory to Lord Krishna", exclaimed Draupadi and fell down unconscious tears rolling down her eyes.

But still, Shakuni and Duryodhana were not to be put off. Duryodhana baring his thigh invited Draupadi to sit on it. This was the last straw on camel's back. The infuriated Bhima rose to kill Duryodhana but was prevented by Yudhisthira to act. "O brothers, we have no right to protest or fight against our master. We are all slaves of Duryodhana", said he.

At this Bhima vowed, "Listen everyone, listen O Dhritarashtra, I will kill Duryodhana by breaking open his thigh and would drink blood from the same. And moreover, O evil Dushasana, remember and tremble in the heart, for I will break open your chest and dress the hair of Draupadi with that blood." (Draupadi later vowed to keep her hair loose till Bhima fulfilled his pledge.)Second Game of Dice
Cultural shock

The scene in the royal court of immense anger, frustration, and grief. All these emotins combined together to take the form of protest against Shakuni and Duryodhana. Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Vidura all objected to this shameless humiliation of a lady of their own family, that too the queen! They appealed to Duryodhana to see sense and act with some restraint and ethics. They objected to the fixing of dice game and appealed to Dhritarashtra to restore status quo ante.

Dhritarashtra accepted their plea and declared the results of the dice game as null and void. He was also not totally in agreement with the obnoxious behavior of his son and brother-in-law. The kingdom of Indraprastha was duly returned to Yudhisthira and his brothers and wife Draupadi were declared free from the bondage.

Uncle Shakuni and Duryodhana were, however, silently grumbling for the "lost opportunity" of putting an end to the prosperity of Pandavas. Shakuni continued to plan for the final kill. He persuaded Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra to invite Yudhisthira again for the last and final game of dice. He impressed upon the king that Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna, otherwise, were sure take revenge for their ill treatment.

In those days although, gambling was seen as sinful act by many, including Yudhisthira, a warrior and king was declared unmanly to refuse the invitation for such a game. Shakuni knew the mentality of a king gambler. He was sure Yudhisthira would still have to play the game if royal invitation is sent and proper conditions were laid.

Yudhisthira Invited Again!

Next day, as Yudhisthira and his brothers were about to leave for Indraprastha, uncle Shakuni put into effect his last hope. He invited Yudhisthira for the final game on behalf of Duryodhana and consented by Dhritarashtra. He himself put the condition for the game as, "O Yudhisthira, in this only game whosoever loses will relinquish his kingdom and go to forest exile for twelve years with additional one year of living incognito. If detected in the last year, again exile of twelve years will ensue." Yudhisthira agreed and lost the final game as well.

The Defeat and Banishment to Forest

All the five Pandavas and Draupadi put on simple dress and left for the forest. Mother Kunti being weak and old stayed back with Vidura.

The Dilemma of the Wise

Duryodhana became the de facto ruler of both Hastinapur and Indraprastha.

The agony of Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Vidura can only be imagined at the outrageous treatment meted out to Pandavas in general and Draupadi in particular. The disgrace of their own daughter-in-law left them speechless and hurt to the core. But their protests and appeals for sanity fell on the deaf ears of Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra. Dhritarashtra was too weak a father whose heart went out for the 'love' for his Duryodhana. He always looked in the narrow confines of comforts and material pleasures for his son, Duryodhana. He could not think beyond. That Duryodhana was treading the path of self-destruction by setting such an example of ignoble behaviour towards women that was sure to lead to the downfall of Bharatavarsha (Ancient name for India) in coming centuries.

The question would be asked: "Why did Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Vidura not desert the evil company of king Dhritarashtra and join the Pandavas?"

The answer to this query is being searched for all these centuries, in India and elsewhere! In part, the answer is given by Bhishma himself. He had vowed to remain loyal to the throne of Hastinapur irrespective of who occupied it. This pledge was more than anything to him. His life, non-righteous behavior of Kauravas, and sufferings of Pandavas had no value in face of his pledge.

As to Dronacharya and Vidura, they were the paid servants of king Dhritarashtra. It was essential for them to serve their master who gave them name, fame, and position. To oppose the king or to find faults with him (or his sons) was not the culture of that time. Probably, they had no say in such matters; and to revolt was to show disloyalty to the throne 'whose salt they had eaten'.

Relevance Today!

Today also we see many officers, secretaries, and servants loyal to corrupt rulers and head of the states! We see many 'righteous persons' keeping mum over irregularities and misconduct of their 'bosses'. This even includes President of America, the most prosperous, progressive, democratic and free nation state. Watergate, and ... How many of the righteous officers and secretaries resign? Almost none! If this is the case of USA, it is better not to talk about less developed countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The question of Bhishma, Dronacharya, Vidura, etc. remaining silent at the great injustice meted out to Draupadi and Pandavas will always remain unanswered.

Such incidences are not uncommon in any era or epoch. Some are dramatized, others are forgotten in the flow of time. However, they expose weakness of human nature -character. Individually, we may learn from them to rise above uncivilized behavior, but any attempt to totally 'eliminate such tendencies from the society' is bound to come to naught!

Very slowly, indeed after many centuries, the effect will show in more civilized state of human existence, I agree.

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More by :  Dr. C.S. Shah

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