Gambling Match of Mahabharat
“Like a stone on a sling we are hurled, seemingly helplessly, round and round in a circle by destiny. What choice a situation offers only one in a million recognizes, for as brilliant light blinds
the eye, destiny clouds our vision.”
When Yudhishtar received his cousin Duryodhan’s invitation to a gambling game he answered in an affirmative. YES, he said. He knew Duryodhan was burning with envy and wanted to humble him and his brothers. He also knew that Shakuni will play for the Kauravas, and he is a cunning trickster.
Further, Yudhishtar was clearly warned by his uncle Vidur and others that the game he was being invited to was no mere game. It had a sinister motive. His brothers told him he was walking into a snare. Yet Yudhishtar accepted the invitation saying that a kshatriya never turns down a challenge. Was it destiny? At seems destiny did have a hand in it.
Hundreds of dignitaries were invited and accommodated in comfortable specially crafted sofas around the arena. King Dhritrashtra, patriarch Bhishma, guru Vishwamitra, as well as other important leaders and members of the clan were present and seated in places appropriate to their ranks. The public too was invited to this shameful chess of destiny with pawns from the royal family.
Yudhishtar lost the first two throws, when he also lost the third; he complained that Shakuni was cheating. But he was cleverer in talking even than in cheating. Like today’s lawyers he fooled and subdued everyone. The game continued. Duryodhan’s men were suggesting stakes to the rapidly losing Pandava. He lost villages, cities, gold, his brothers, himself, and finally Draupadi.
Bhim and Arjun were furious; they muttered oaths. The elders saw what was going on. Vidur talked into the king’s ear. Bhishma was stunned. The air was ominous. Foundations of a ruinous conflict were being laid. Even the ordinary people could guess trouble.
Duryodhan was warned, “Please stop. You know the dice are loaded. If you go on cheating beyond limits antagonism will reach flash point and total destruction will follow.” Duryodhan knew this well but he was too jubilant to listen. He said, “This is a game we have played since ancient times. One side always loses. Today, thank God, we are winning. Do you want me to be sorry for that? No, I cannot be sorry, for I am glad. We are lucky the Pandava are not. What can I do?”
As we know the game ended badly. Duryodhan’s brother Dushasan and his friend Karan misbehaved to the extent of insulting Draupadi in public. Arjun and Bhim vowed in the full assembly to avenge the insults. The ground for the great Kurukshetra war was laid.
Bhishma was angry. Dhritrashtra was asked to declare the game null and void and invalidate all gains and losses. Pandava were set free. But destiny was not deterred. The Kauravas did not learn any lessons. They continued to feed the flames of discord, and in the end the big war had to be fought.
Have we learned? Thousands of years later, today, nations (and social divisions within them) are playing the same game. Powerful industrialized nations are winning and the rest are losing all the time. Obviously the dice are loaded as they were then. Otherwise, in a game of chance how can one side win all the time?
Conflicts are increasing and violence spreading like wild fire. Wise men and women caution us that due to lack of socio-economic justice the entire human race is in danger, but are we listening? Can we do something? Or is it again destiny?
January 15, 2005