|Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)|
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This episode is from [Maha:2.45-2.56].
Once the difficult Yagna was accomplished, the Pandavas sought the blessings of sage Vyasa, surrounded by his disciples. Vyasa said, "May your prosperity increase!"
Yudhishtra asked, "O great one, the sage Narada said that, before the conduct of the Rajasooya many ill omens had been seen and other alarming portents had appeared in the sky. Did they foretell the slaying of Shishupala? Have these signs dissipated with the death of the King of Chedi?"
The sage replied, "The slaying of Shishupala is but the beginning. For thirteen years, these omens shall rule the fate of the Kshatriyas. It appears that there will be cataclysmic event that will result in the destruction of many mighty monarchs."
With this warning, the sage Vyasa left for his hermitage at the foothills of the Himalayas. Yudhishtra became very worried. He called his brothers and said, "The sage has foretold that there will be great destruction among the Kshatriyas in thirteen years' time. What the Rishi has said must come to pass. Is it even possible to thwart fate? Listen to my vow! For thirteen years, I shall not speak a hard word to my brothers or to any of the kings of earth. I shall practice virtue. If I can make sure that there is no disagreement with anybody, there will be no war."
His brothers approved of his resolution. Most of those who had come to witness the Rajasooya had returned. However, Duryodhana, accompanied by his brothers and Shakuni resided in Indraprasta for some time. He spent a lot of time exploring the grand palace constructed by Maya. He beheld many celestial designs, the likes of which he had never seen before. So cunning were some of the devices that Duryodhana was thoroughly befuddled. One day, he came upon a crystal surface. Mistaking it for a pool of water, he drew up his clothes while walking over it. He felt foolish when he realized that it was solid marble. Another time, he mistook a lake of crystal water adorned with lotuses for land and fell in with all his clothes on. Seeing his predicament, Bheema and the twins laughed aloud. Draupadi, who had witnessed this comedy from a vantage point, laughed the loudest. Duryodhana felt utterly humiliated.
His trials did not end there, for in excess of caution, he kept drawing up his clothes whenever he saw anything that could remotely be water. Despite his precautions, he mistook a painting of a door for a real door and banged his head into it. When he saw another door that was really open, he went away thinking that it was closed. In this fashion, he spent most of his time in confusion.
From these humiliating experience and from witnessing the prosperity of the Pandavas first hand, Duryodhana's heart became inclined to sin. As he traveled back to Hastinapura, he reflected upon their good fortune and fame, the flame of jealousy burned bright in his heart. He became pale and he let out frequent hot sighs. So absorbed was he in thought, that he did not reply despite being repeatedly addressed by Shakuni.
Shakuni said, "Dear nephew, why are you so despondent?"
Duryodhana replied, "O uncle, in the past month, all I have been seeing is the pomp and splendor of the Pandavas. All the monarchs of the earth have sworn allegiance to him. I witnessed at first hand the result of the prowess of Arjuna and Bheema. So much are the Kings under the sway of the Pandavas that when Shishupala was slain by Krishna, none dared to object! Seeing their growing fame and prosperity, my heart burns with jealousy. What man is there in the world who can bear to see his foes in the enjoyment of prosperity and himself in destitution? Alone I am incapable of acquiring such royal prosperity, nor do I have allies that could help me to do so. I cannot live with this shame. I shall throw myself upon a flaming fire or swallow poison or drown myself! I have tried hard to destroy the Pandavas, but my efforts have come to naught. I was so thoroughly humiliated in their palace, with the menials and even Draupadi laughing at my stupidity. Dear uncle, talk to my father about my affliction, and find a way to cure my illness."
Shakuni said, "You should not be jealous of Yudhishtra. What the Pandavas are enjoying is the fruit of their labors. Dear nephew, you could not destroy them with your machinations. They have obtained Draupadi for their wife and have formed an alliance with the powerful Panchalas. What is there for you to grieve in this? Arjuna has gratified Agni and obtained divine weapons. In return for saving him from death, Maya constructed this heavenly palace for the Pandavas. Why are you so sorry for all this? You claim that you lack imperial dignity and allies. At least in the matter of allies, you are very fortunate. The incomparable Drona and Ashwatthama are well disposed towards you. How can you forget the unrivaled archer Karna, ever devoted to your interests? There are also Bhishma and Kripa who are your staunch allies. With these warriors on your side, you can conquer the whole of the earth."
Duryodhana said, "That is true. With their help, I shall conquer the Pandavas and become the undisputed ruler of the world. All that is now theirs, including that delightful assembly house, shall be mine!"
Shakuni said, "It is impossible to conquer the Pandavas in battle. Arjuna alone is capable of destroying all the warriors in the world. I have a better idea. I know a way by which Yudhishtra can be defeated. Listen to me and adopt it."
Duryodhana asked eagerly, "O Uncle, tell me, what is this plan of yours?"
His uncle said, "The eldest Pandava is very fond of playing dice, although he has no skill with it. If he is challenged to a game of dice, he cannot refuse. I have no equals in dice play on earth. Arrange a match with him. I shall play on your behalf and win his kingdom from him. You have to obtain the consent of your father before this game can take place."
The Kaurava prince replied, "Uncle, I am not eloquent enough to convince my father. Go yourself to him and represent all these facts. Obtain his permission for arranging this game of dice."
When they reached Hastinapura, Shakuni went to King Dhritharashtra and said, "Fie on you king, for your son is wasting away of sorrow, and you do not lift a finger to help him!"
Dhritharashtra asked in a voice of concern, "Why? What is the matter with Duryodhana? I will talk to him and if it is within my power, I shall dispel his sorrow."
When summoned before his father and questioned, Duryodhana said, "I am being consumed by the fire of jealousy. The prosperity of the Pandavas is the reason for my sorrow. Compared to the riches that they possess, I find myself as destitute as a beggar. Yudhishtra supports eighty-eight thousand Brahmanas and has given them untold wealth. Besides these, he feeds thousands of visiting Brahmanas every day. At his Rajasooya sacrifice, the kings brought heaps upon heaps of jewels and gems for him. I have never seen so much wealth at one place. With the conduct of this sacrifice, he has become overlord of the world. Beholding this great prosperity of the Pandavas, my heart burns and I cannot enjoy a moment of peace."
At this moment, Shakuni interjected, "O King, even your son may achieve this prosperity! I am adept at dice, my skill is superior to all in the world. If you invite Yudhishtra for a game of dice, I shall win all his wealth, playing on behalf of Duryodhana."
Duryodhana also added his voice to this proposal.
Dhritharashtra replied, "In all matters, I follow the counsels of my brother Vidura. He will be able to judge if this proceeding would be acceptable. If he agrees, then we shall invite Yudhishtra."
Duryodhana said, "If you consult with Vidura, he will find a way to prevent the game. If my plan is not approved, I shall kill myself. When I am dead, you can be happy in the company of Vidura and enjoy all pleasures without interruption. Why do you even need me?"
Hearing these words of Duryodhana, Dhritharashtra's heart was moved. He had tried to do the right thing for the Pandavas so far, but his affection for his son was stronger than his sense of justice. He had never before done anything without consulting Vidura. Although he knew the evils of gambling, and also of the impropriety of these proceedings, he commanded his servant, saying, "Let a great gambling hall be constructed. When it is complete, report to me. Also send Vidura to me now."
When Vidura heard of the proposed game of dice, he was very much grieved. He said, "Dear brother, do not sanction this plan. Gambling leads to dispute. Act in such a way that no quarrel may arise between your sons and the Pandavas."
Dhritharashtra replied, "O Vidura, what has been ordained by the fates, shall come to pass. If the Gods are merciful upon us, there will be no dispute among the princes. My mind is made up. Go to Indraprasta and invite Yudhishtra for a game of dice."
When Vidura left for his abode, Dhritharashtra summoned his son privately and tried to reason with him. He said, "Have nothing to do with dice. Vidura, who has learnt the art of political science and morality from the great Brihaspati himself, does not speak well of them. Indeed, it is evident even to me that this game of dice will sow the seeds of dissension. And dissensions will ruin the kingdom. Therefore, O son, abandon this idea of gambling. Let your sorrow be assuaged in some other manner."
Duryodhana let out a deep sigh and said, "I am a sinful wretch, for I eat and dress as if nothing has happened, while my foes are thriving. I am rich, but the sons of Pandu are rich beyond the dreams of avarice. If I had the ability, I would slay Bheema. But such is his power that, I am sure that I would meet with the fate of Shishupala if I attacked him now. You were not there to witness the myriad humiliations I suffered at the palace of the Pandavas. Even the menials and Draupadi laughed at my predicament there! I saw countless Kings swear fealty to Yudhishtra. Indeed, I was not aware that there were so many Kingdoms on earth! Of all the costly gems and jewels paid by them in tribute, I did not recognize even half! So many were the animals - cows, elephants and swift horses given as tribute, that their hooves created countless lakes around Indraprasta! I am certain that the only way for me to obtain equivalent wealth is to steal from them by means of this game of dice. If you deny me this chance, I shall drown myself!"
Dhritharashtra said, "Dear son, do not act rashly! I am obedient to the counsels of illustrious Vidura. I shall consult with him and then decide in this matter."
The Kaurava prince said, "Vidura is always looking after the interests of the Pandavas. He will not sanction any plan to beggar them."
Dhritharashtra said, "Reflect O son, of the evils that can be caused by dice. Have not the ancients counselled against gambling, for it leads to quarrels?"
Duryodhana replied, "The ancients invented the game of dice. There is no destruction in it, it is not war, and there is no bloodshed. I see no harm in them."
Dhritharashtra tried to reason with his son, but Duryodhana was adamant. The weak-minded King then decided that fate could not be thwarted. He then summoned Vidura again and said, "Go to Indraprasta and invite the Pandavas for a game of dice."
Despite his disapproval, there was little Vidura could do. Lamenting the fate that had clouded the judgment of his weak minded elder brother, Vidura journeyed to Indraprasta.
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|Last Modified At: Tue Nov 30 22:39:36 2004||© ApamNapat, All rights reserved|