Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The Game of Dice

Mahabharata


This episode is from [Maha:2.57-2.64].

Vidura was gladly welcomed by the Pandavas, for he was their principal well wisher. After the customary greetings were exchanged, Vidura broached the subject of his visit. He said, "O King, the King of the Kurus has commanded me to enquire after your peace and prosperity, and to ask you to come to Hastinapura with your brothers to visit the newly constructed game hall. You are invited to take part in a friendly match at dice. You will meet many other famous gamblers there."

Yudhishtra said, "Sir, if we play a match of dice, we may quarrel. Gambling is frowned upon by the ancients. What do you thing that is fit for us? We will do as you suggest."

Vidura said, "I am well aware that gambling is the root of misery. Indeed, I sought to dissuade the king from it. However, blinded by affection for his son, he was adamant. A quarrel will arise regardless of whether you go or not."

The son of Dharma asked, "Besides the sons of Dhritharashtra, what other dishonest gamblers shall I meet there?"

Vidura said, "O King, there is Shakuni, the King of Gandhara, there is Vivingati, king Chitrasena, Satyavrata, Purmitra and Jaya. These gamblers are eagerly awaiting the match to showcase their skills."

Yudhishtra said, "From the looks of it, it seems that some of the most desperate and terrible gamblers, skilled in dice, with hearts full of deceit are there. Fate is strong. I have made a vow that I will not enter into a dispute with anyone for thirteen years. How can I refuse the summons of my uncle? I am sure that no good will come out of this game of dice, but there is no choice."

The Pandavas traveled to Hastinapura, accompanied by Draupadi and Vidura. Yudhishtra payed his respects to King Dhritharashtra, Bhishma, Drona and Kripa. After resting to refresh themselves from the weariness of their journey, the Pandavas entered the assembly house next morning, for the game of dice.

After everyone had assembled, Shakuni addressed Yudhishtra and said, "O King, the assembly is full. Let the die be cast and the rules of play be fixed."

The eldest Pandava replied, "Gambling is sinful. Kshatriyas should obtain glory on the battlefield, not by playing dice. Why are you so eager for this game?"

Shakuni said, "I challenge you to a game of dice. If you are afraid, if you fear that your skill might not be up to it, by all means withdraw."

Yudhishtra said, "I shall certainly play. However, what can you offer as stake that can equal the wealth that I shall be betting? You have not one tenth my possessions."

Duryodhana said, "O King, I shall supply jewels and gems and every kind of wealth on my uncle's behalf. He plays as my agent."

Yudhishtra was surprised. He said, "This is contrary to the established rules of gambling. You cannot have another man play on your behalf. However, I have been challenged, and have taken a vow of not entering into disputes. Let the play begin."

Bhishma and the other Kuru elders watched the proceedings with a heavy heart. They sensed that trouble was coming, yet felt powerless to prevent it. In the first round, both Kings staked precious jewels from their treasuries. Shakuni, well skilled at dice, past master at deceit, cast the dice and said, "Lo, I have won!"

In the next round, Yudhishtra staked the mineral wealth in his possession. The result was the same, the dice were under the spell of Shakuni and they did his bidding, and once again, he exulted, "Lo, I have won!"

Next to be staked were thousand well equipped chariots in Yudhishtra's possession. They were also lost in a trice. Yudhishtra then said, "I have a hundred thousand serving-girls, all young, and decked with golden bracelets on their wrists and upper arms, and decorated with other precious ornaments. They are all skilled in four and sixty elegant arts, including singing and dancing. They wait upon me. I stake them all."

Shakuni once again commanded the dice and shouted, "Lo, I have won!"

Yudhishtra then staked his serving-men and lost them in the same fashion. Similarly, he lost his invincible army of well trained battle elephants. Next to go were his battle horses, that had been the pride of his army. By now, the madness of gambling was fully upon the Pandava king. He staked great wealth in jewels and gold and promptly lost them all.

At this point, Vidura could no longer contain himself. He rose and addressed King Dhritharashtra. He said, "O King! I must speak my mind, even if my counsel might not be agreeable to your ears. This Duryodhana of sinful mind had, immediately after his birth, cried discordantly like a jackal. The astrologers have also foretold that he was destined to bring about the destruction of our race. O King, the ancients have said that, for the sake of a family, a single man may be sacrificed. Let Arjuna slay your son Duryodhana now, if our clan is to be saved. How can you sit here silently, while Shakuni is snatching away the wealth of your nephews by deceit? Order this match to end now, or the Pandavas will utterly annihilate all your sons in the war that is sure to follow."

Duryodhana said, "O Vidura, you are also boasting of the fame of our enemies, deprecating us. I know that deep in you heart, you are fond of the Pandavas only. Your advice has always been against the welfare of the Kurus."

Vidura turned to his King and said, "O King, your son is bent upon treading the path of destruction. An evil-hearted man can never be brought to the path of rectitude, like an unchaste wife in the house of a well-born person. O King, if you wish to hear words that are agreeable to your ears, seek the counsel of women and idiots. I have always wished for the welfare of your family. Do not enrage the Pandavas. Act fairly. I leave you now, for I can no longer bear to watch."

After Vidura had left, the game continued. Shakuni asked, "What are you going to stake next? You have already lost so much. What more do you have?"

Yudhishtra said, "I stake all my wealth, every last coin I possess, on this throw."

Shakuni smiled wickedly and cast his dice. His cry of "Lo, I have won!" informed the spectators that the Pandavas had lost all their wealth.

Next, Yudhishtra staked his kingdom and promptly lost it. He also lost all the ornaments on his person, and on the persons of his brothers. He then said, "This Nakula here, of mighty arms and leonine neck, of red eyes and endued with youth, is now my stake."

Shakuni cast the dice and said, "Lo, I have won! Prince Nakula is now our slave! Whom are you going to stake next?"

Yudhishtra, then staked Sahadeva and lost him also. Shakuni said, "O kings, it appears that you do not value the sons of Madri much. For, it has not escaped my notice that you do not stake Bheema or Arjuna. Evidently, they are dearer to you."

Yudhishtra said, "Wretch! You cannot create disunion among us brothers! I stake Arjuna, the foremost bowman in the world, next."

Shakuni won and Arjuna became a slave. Next, the King staked Bheema, and lost him also. Finally, in desperation, Yudhishtra staked himself and, losing, became the slave of Duryodhana.

Shakuni smiled cruelly and said, "O King, There is one more opportunity for you to regain your wealth. There is the princess of Panchala, your dear wife. I will stake all that I have won from you, your freedom and that of your brothers, against Draupadi!"

There was a loud gasp in the assembly at this preposterous bet. Never before had such a thing been proposed. However, by this time, Yudhishtra was too intoxicated with the game to care. He said, "I stake the incomparable daughter of Drupada. In the seven worlds, she has no equals in beauty and virtue. The princess of Panchala will be my stake in this round."

The assembly roared its disapproval of Yudhishtra's action. Bhishma and Drona were covered with perspiration, yet they made no move to stop this atrocity. Vidura, who had come back, sat with his head in his hands, eyes cast down, like someone who had lost his wits. Dhritharashtra could not conceal his joy and asked repeatedly, "Has the stake been won? Has the stake been won?" Karna, Dushasana and the cronies of Duryodhana laughed aloud, eagerly anticipating victory.

As the murmurs died down, Shakuni cast the dice, with a cruel smile playing on his lips. They did not fail him. His exclamation of "Lo! I have won, informed the assembly that the proud princess of Panchala had been lost at the stake.

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Last Modified At: Fri Dec 3 23:58:42 2004