AT THE sight of Vidura, Yudhishthira anxiously inquired:
"Why are you so cheerless? Is it well with all our relations in
Hastinapura? Are the king and the princes well?"
Vidura acquainted him with his mission: "Everyone in
Hastinapura is well. How fares it with you all? I have come to invite you on
behalf of King Dhritarashtra to come and see the newly erected hall of games. A
beautiful hall has been erected there even like yours. The king would like you
to come with your brothers, see everything, have a game of dice and return to
Yudhishthira seemed to ask counsel of Vidura:
"Wagering games create quarrels among kshatriyas. A wise man will avoid
them if he can. We are ever abiding by your advice. What would you have us
Vidura replied: "Everyone is aware that the playing
of dice is the root of many evils. I did my best to oppose this idea. Still the
king has commanded me to invite you and I have come. You may do as you
Despite this warning, Yudhishthira went to Hastinapura
with his brothers and retinue. It may be asked why the wise Yudhishthira
responded to the invitation.
Three reasons may be given. Men rush consciously on their
ruin impelled by lust, gambling and drink. Yudhishthira was fond of gambling.
The kshatriya tradition made it a matter of etiquette and honor not to refuse
an invitation to a game of dice.
There is a third reason too. True to the vow he took at the
time Vyasa had warned him of the quarrels that would arise leading to
destruction of the race. Yudhishthira would not give any occasion for
displeasure or complaint by refusing the invitation of Dhritarashtra.
These causes conspired with his natural inclination to
make Yudhishthira accept the invitation and go to Hastinapura. The Pandavas and
their retinue stopped in the magnificent palace reserved for them.
Yudhishthira rested on the day of arrival, and after the
daily routine of duties, went to the hall of games the next morning.
After the exchange of customary greetings, Sakuni
announced to Yudhishthira that the cloth for playing the game had been spread
and invited him to it.
Yudhishthira at first said: "O king, gambling is bad.
It is not through heroism or merit that one succeeds in a game of chance.
Asita, Devala and other wise rishis who were well-versed in worldly affairs
have declared that gambling should be avoided since it offers scope for deceit.
They have also said that conquest in battle is the proper path for the
kshatriyas. You are not unaware of it."
But a part of himself, weakened by addiction to gambling,
was at war with his judgment and in his heart of hearts Yudhishthira desired to
In his discussion with Sakuni, we see this inner
conflict. The keen-witted Sakuni
spotted this weakness at once and said: "What is wrong with the game?
What, in fact, is a battle? What is even a discussion between Vedic scholars?
The learned man wins victory over the ignorant. The better man wins in every
case. It is just a test of strength or skill, that is all, and there is nothing
wrong in it. As for the result, in every field of activity, the expert defeats
the beginner, and that is what happens in a game of dice also. But if you are
afraid, you need not play. But do not come out with this worn excuse of right
Yudhishthira replied: "Well, who is to play with
Duryodhana said: "Mine is the responsibility for
finding the stakes in the form of wealth and gems to play the game. My uncle
Sakuni will actually cast the dice in my stead."
Yudhishthira had thought himself secure of defeating
Duryodhana in play but Sakuni was a different matter, for Sakuni was a
recognised expert. So he hesitated and said: "It is not, I think,
customary for one man to play on behalf of another."
Sakuni retorted tauntingly: "I see that you are
forging another excuse."
Yudhishthira flushed and, casting caution to the winds,
replied: "Well, I shall play."
The hall was fully crowded. Drona, Kripa, Bhishma, Vidura,
and Dhritarashtra were seated there. They knew that the game would end
viciously and sat unhappily witnessing what they could not prevent.
The assembled princes watched the game with great interest
and enthusiasm. At first they wagered jewels and later gold, silver and then
chariots and horses. Yudhishthira lost continually.
When he lost all these, Yudhishthira staked his servants
and lost them also. He pledged his elephants and armies and lost them too. The
dice thrown by Sakuni seemed at every time to obey his will.
Cows, sheep, cities, villages and citizens and all other
possessions were lost by Yudhishthira. Still, drugged with misfortune, he would
He lost the ornaments of his brothers and himself as well
as the very clothes they wore. Still bad luck dogged him, or rather the
trickery of Sakuni was too much for him.
Sakuni asked: "Is there anything else that you can
offer as wager?"
Yudhishthira said: "Here is the beautiful
sky-complexioned Nakula. He is one of my riches. I place him as a wager."
Sakuni replied: "Is it so? We shall be glad to win
your beloved prince." With these words Sakuni cast the dice and the result
was what he had foretold.
The assembly trembled.
Yudhishthira said: "Here is my brother Sahadeva. He
is famous for his infinite knowledge in all the arts. It is wrong to bet him,
still I do so. Let us play."
Sakuni cast the dice with the words: "Here, I have
played and I have won."Yudhishthira lost Sahadeva too.
The wicked Sakuni was afraid that Yudhishthira might stop
there. So be lashed Yudhishthira with these words: "To you, Bhima and
Arjuna, being your full brothers, are no doubt dearer than the sons of Madri.
You will not offer them, I know."
Yudhishthira, now thoroughly reckless and stung to the
quick by the sneering imputation that he held his step-brothers cheap, replied:
"Fool, do you seek to divide us? How can you, living an evil life,
understand the righteous life we lead?"
He continued: "I offer as wager the ever-victorious
Arjuna who successfully voyages across oceans of battle. Let us play."
Sakuni answered: "I cast the dice" and he
played. Yudhishthira lost Arjuna also.
The stubborn madness of unbroken misfortune carried
Yudhishthira further and deeper. With tears in his eyes, he said: "O king,
Bhima, my brother, is our leader in battle. He strikes terror into the heart of
demons and is equal to Indra; he can never suffer the least dishonor and he is
peerless throughout the world in physical strength. I offer him as a bet"
and he played again and lost Bhima too.
The wicked Sakuni asked: "Is there any thing else you
Dharmaputra replied: "Yes. Here is myself. If you
win, I shall be your slave."
"Look. I win." Thus saying, Sakuni cast the dice
and won. After that Sakuni stood up in the assembly and shouted the names of
each of the five Pandavas and loudly proclaimed that they had all become his
The assembly looked on in stunned silence. Sakuni alone
turned toYudhishthira and said: "There is one jewel still in your
possession by staking which you can yet free yourself. Can you not continue the
game cffering your wife Draupadi as wager?"
Yudhishthira despairingly said: "I pledge her,"
and he trembled unwittingly.
There was audible distress and agitation in that part of
the assembly where the elders sat. Soon great shouts of 'Fie! Fie!' arose from
all sides. The more emotional wept. Others perspired, and felt the end of the
world was come.
Duryodhana, his brothers and Karna shouted with
exultation. In that group Yuyutsu alone bent his head in shame and sorrow and
heaved a deep sigh. Sakuni cast the dice and shouted again: "I have
At once Duryodhana turned to Vidura and said: "Go and
fetch Draupadi, the beloved wife of the Pandavas. She must hence forward sweep
and clean our house. Let her come without delay."
Vidura exclaimed: "Are you mad that you rush to
certain destruction? You are hanging by a slender thread over a bottomless
abyss! Drunk with success, you do not see it, but it will engulf you!"
Having thus reprimanded Duryodhana, Vidura turned to the
assembly and said: "Yudhishthira had no right to stake Panchali as by then
he had himself already lost his freedom and lost all rights. I see that the
ruin of the Kauravas is imminent, and that, regardless of the advice of their
friends and well-wishers, the sons of Dhritarashtra are on the path to
Duryodhana was angry at these words of Vidura and told
Prathikami, his charioteer: "Vidura is jealous of us and he is afraid of
the Pandavas. But you are different. Go forth and bring Draupadi