1. Discuss Yudhishthira’s fatal flaw in the Game of Dice.

The second section of the Mahabharata, the Sabha Parva, has the eldest of the heroic Pandava brothers, the otherwise virtuous Yudhishthira display a fatal flaw. The Pandavas had built a magnificent capital for themselves at Indraprastha and within it a grand palace and at its inauguration had invited their cousins the Kauravas. The eldest Kaurava, Duryodhana, first was smitten by extremely jealousy at the achievement of the Pandavas. This was aggravated by his observation of how charitable the Pandavas were being in sharing their glory and wellbeing. Further he felt humiliated when he was beguiled into some clumsiness in the hall of illusions within the palace, whereupon many including the younger Pandavas did not conceal their amusement at Duryodhana’s blustering.

Burning with rage and envy he opened up to his uncle Shakuni, the prince of Gaandhaara. The scheming mind of Shakuni came up with a plan for Duryodhana to settle scores with the Pandavas.

The plan was to invite the Pandavas to the Kaurava capital of Hastinapura, ostensibly to partake their hospitality as a returned favour and then to lure Yudhishthira, known for his love of the dice, into a game against the Kaurava princes.

One by one Yudhishthira put at stake prized jewels ornaments from his treasury, his brocades, vestments, his mineral and precious metal savings; then his livestock, horses, his armies, slaves, servants and courtesans, then his lands, his capital, his cherished palace and the crafty Shakuni with the roll of the dice kept winning them all. Protests from Vidura tò Duryodhana’s father, the ruling king Dhritrashtra had no effect but to evoke Duryodhana’s wrath.

Desperate to win, Yudhishthira gambled away each of his four younger brothers and finally himself. The deceitful Shakuni finally suggested he put at stake his spirited and beautiful wife Draupadi and Yudhishthira fell for the ploy. Bereft of all his possessions and even his younger brothers and spouse, Yudhishthira was shorn of his pride as well for his great virtues stood him in no stead in the face of one fatal flaw: the
irresistible enticement of the dice. After the pledged Draupadi was put through unprecedented humiliation before the full assembly, Dhritrashtra was woken to the cruel reality of his son’s evil doings right before his eyes. He returned to Yudhishthira all that he had lost in the gambling, attempted to console Draupadi burning with rage at her shame and sent back the Pandavas to their city with honour.

Yudhishthira is depicted in the epic as being lured into gambling despite knowing its dangers and ceaselessly and mindlessly increasing the stakes, forfeiting each and every one of his material and personnel assets, blinded by the hope of some chance win which never does occur. In Vidura’s words are phrased the grave hazards of gambling, which we will now look at.

2. Describe how the Pandavas left their Kingdom.

When the Pandavas were defeated, they took off their royal dress and were given deer-skins as their garments. Dussasana was very pleased with Shakuni’s victory and announced to all assembled, “The absolute sovereignty of King Duryodhana has now begun. The sons of Pandu have been defeated and our goal has now been achieved. O Draupadi, what will you gains by following these men into the forest. Now, is the time to pick a husband from among those heroes of the Kuru race. Why wait upon these poor men any longer?”

Upon hearing Duhsasana’s distasteful words, Bhima approached him like a tiger chasing a deer and boldly said, “As you are piercing my ears with these arrow like words, I will pierce your heart on the field of battle and drink your blood. O spineless person, you have won only by the cheating methods of the Gandhara King. When I return from the forest, I will make good my vow.”

Overcome with shame, none of those men could look at Yudhishthira or say anything to him. However, within their hearts they prayed for his welfare. Vidura then said, “Kunti is a princess by birth, and she should not go to the forest. I will keep her here in Hastinapura and protect her from any harm just as if she were my mother. O Yudhishthira, know that one who has been vanquished by sinful means need not be pained by such defeat. You also know every law of morality. Dhananjaya will be victorious in battle; Bhimasena will kill his enemies; Nakul will gain great wealth; and Sahadeva will obtain his goals. With learned Brahmans accompanying you to the forest, you need not fear anything. Draupadi will also assist you in your exile. You are all attached to one another and feel happiness in each others association. Go now, and we will again see you returned here safely and crowned with success.” The Pandavas then left Hastinapura much to the distress of the citizens and those relatives who loved them very much.

Vidura then replied to the King, “Yudhishthira, though robbed of his
kingdom and wealth, he has not deviated from the path of virtuous kings. He has left Hastinapura blindfolded, or else with the anger of his eyes, he would have burned the whole city to ashes. Bhima has left the city stretching his mighty arms indicating to everyone that upon his return he will destroy your sons with his prowess. And Arjuna, the son of Kunti, has left Hastinapura scattering grains of sand indicating that upon his return he will rain arrows from the might of his Gandiva bow. Sahadeva has left the city smearing his body with dirt so that none will recognize his plight and take action against your sons, O King. Nakul has left the city in the same way. Draupadi has left the city Hastinapura dressed in one cloth and her hair upbraided indicating that upon her return, her husbands will destroy the Kuru hoșt, and the wives of those who insulted her will have to dress in the same way. The learned Dhaumya has left the city walking n front of the Pandavas holding kusha grass and chanting mantras from the Sama Veda which relate to Yamaraja. This indicates that when the host of the Kurus are slain in battle, the priests of the Kurus will chant the Soma mantras for the benefit of the deceased. And also, O King, the citizens seeing the Pandavas leaving are cursing you and your family. Upon their leaving many evil omens appeared: flashes of lightning in the cloudless sky, the earth trembled, and Rahu began to devour the sun. Meteors fell from the firmament, and jackals began to howl. Birds like the crows began to shriek, indicating the destruction of the Kuru house.”

3. Examine the relevance of Druapadi’s question in The Book of the Assembly Hall.


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