Yudhishthira, A Failed Gambler | Mahabharata Paintings

Yudhishitra the failed gambler

Duryodhana was jealous about Pandava‘s wealth. In addition, he got humiliated when he fell down into water at the palace of Indraprastha. By mistake, he thought Draupadi mocked him with derision. He wanted to take revenge for this. Shakuni – his maternal uncle – consoled him. He ensured him that he can win Pandava-s with the Chinese policy of winning without firing a bullet.

Kunti’s son loves to gamble with dice, but does not know how to play. If challenged to play, that Indra among kings will not be able to refuse. I am skilled in gambling with dice, there is no one on earth, or in the three worlds, who is my equal. Challenge Kunti’s son to a game of dice. O king! O bull among men! With my skill in dice?! there is no doubt that I will win for you the kingdom and the blazing prosperity. O Duryodhana! Tell the king?? all this. And if your father permits, there is no doubt that I will vanquish him.

Shakuni to Duryodhana – The Mahabharata Set Of 10 Volumes

Shakuni consoles Duryodhana
Shakuni consoles Duryodhana

Yudhishthira had been invited to play a game of dice, a gambling for fun! It was considered as a “virtual war”. Whatever lost is lost. Yudhishthira – so called dharma – practiced adharma (sin) here. He risked insignificant things at first, later he lost everything one by one. Explaining the way he lost his wealth is not the motive of this post.

Mahabharata dice game
Mahabharata dice game

We need to understand the situation of the gambler who lost what he risked. With single game, he wanted to set right everything, he failed miserably again. At one point of time, he risks his brothers, then himself, then his wife Draupadi in the game, even though Vidura advised him to stop the game.

Mahabharata dice game
Mahabharata dice game

I like the face of Yudhishthira in the above drawing!

When he lost wife, Duryodhana summoned Pandava‘s wife and the queen of honour, Draupadi. Draupadi was mensurating then. Her question was logical. She asked if he lost him first before he lost her. If he lost him first, did he had any rights over her? Unfortunately, none of Pandava-s and Kaurava-s were logical. Kaurava-s acted out of the their suppressed wrath and Pandava-s acted with utter foolishness.

Draupadi's humiliation
Draupadi’s humiliation. Image (c) Keshav

Logical questions of Draupadi irritated Duryodhana – ‘the new possessor’ of the lady, as agreed by the son of ‘dharma‘, Yudhishthira. He asked Dushasana to bring her to court. The young Kaurava broke all the rules of women’s court, trespassed there, pulled Draupadi’s hair as hard as he can. Draupadi resisted, but she was no match to him. She tried to make him understand that she is Panchala puthri (daughter of Panchala) and daughter-in-law of their house. It did not change his mind. It was an explosive situation, everybody was in its flow. She has been pulled, dragged in front of public and brought to court with improper attire.

Draupadi's humiliation
Draupadi’s humiliation

Jeyamohan used to call it as ‘male-evil‘. It worked at its best. Duryodhana abused her to sit on his lap, as she is his slave, then. Kaurava-s told that slaves – Pandava-s and their wife – should not wear royal clothing. They made them undressed, including Draupadi. It was the greatest mistake to allow Dushasana to to disrobe Draupadi and challenged the modest of a woman, who was a queen, who was his own sister-in-law, who was a daughter in law of the greatest family of Bharatakhanda.

Draupadi dragged from her chamber
Draupadi dragged from her chamber
Draupadi's humiliation
Draupadi’s humiliation
Draupadi's humiliation
Draupadi’s humiliation

I do not believe the story of Krishna to issue the endless saree which made Dushasana to become tired. It was clean violation of modesty of woman in typical Indian way. Jeyamohan handled this piece in a more practical approach in his Mahabharata novel series, Venmurasu. It was Lakshmana – Duryodhana’s daughter – and other females of the royal family cover Draupadi with cloths by chanting the name of Krishna. ) I got into tears with much emotion when I read chapter 87 of Panniru Padaikalam novel of Venmurasu series.

The male evil will not stop its assault on female. We see that everyday. An innocent female get a rude husband and a soft male get an impudent wife. This seems to be naked truth.

I can point out several examples for such behavior from contemporary world as well.

  • A lady chief of a party was humiliated and disrobed in Tamilnadu assembly hall by the ministers of ruling party.
  • Lakbima – a popular Sinhalese daily printed vulger cartoon about a prime minister of India and a lady chief minister of Indian state
  • Acid was thrown at A lady IAS officer for being rough and tough by another political party in Tamilnadu

So, when a woman can not be won, a male will manhandle her habitually.

Except Bhima, every one in Kuru clan – including Bhishma, Dhritarashtra, Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva kept quiet. Even after such grave incident, Yudhishthira accepted to gamble. We can understand how addicted he is. He lost it too. In turn he needs to live in exile for thirteen years. With deep distress in mind, hiding his face from his own people, the great adharmi Yudhishthira, left the city.

Pandavas in exile
Pandavas in exile

Abusing Duryodhana and Dushasana for disrobing Draupadi is not new. But do we have a soft corner for Yudhishthira to escape from this crime?

  • Did he ever realize his mistake?
    Never. Even after this incident, he agreed to gamble. He lost that game also, in turn, entire Pandava-s were forced to live in exile for thirteen years.
    Pandavas in exile
  • Did he has any rights over Indraprastha on his own?
    No. Although he is a king, he can not be a dictator. Kingdom is made of people. A gambler who risks his own people is not a good king. Calling himself as a dharma is inappropriate.
  • Did he build the city in his own money?
    No. He is a beggar. The land belongs to his ancestors. Money to build the city came from Hastinapur, Panchala and Dwaraka. He did not give it back. Rather, he lost all of them to his addiction of gambling.
  • Did he discuss with Draupadi about gambling?
  • Did he love Draupadi, at least?
    IMHO, he is not a loveable man. He expressed himself as a pure opportunistic through out Mahabharata. He tried to find justifications from veda-s or smriti-s to cover up his selfish behavior. He is not skilled archer or wrestler or he did not excel in any martial arts. Draupadi was wife of Arjuna, by right. Yudhishthira shared among all by quoting so called Dharma.
    He might have felt inferior because of these reasons. This might have forced him to take extreme decisions during gambling, to prove himself. Alas, he miserably failed.

    Mahabharata text shows he used to praise Draupadi during different discussions. They look like a mode of public conduct – nothing else. I doubt if he loved his own wife Devika. No girl will love such a bored creature!
  • Did he respect advices of Vidura?
    No. Remember – he is the reason for Pandava-s to return alive from the house of lac.
  • Did he understand the effort in building Indraprastha?
    • It took many rounds of negotiations to get a land from Hastinapur. Pandava-s could not get it. It was Krishna who lobbied for them.
    • Khandavaprastha was a dense forest. Krishna and Arjuna put their effort in converting into a habitable land. They need to go on a war with Indra before doing it.
    • If Yudhishthira put any effort to build it, he might have given a second thought, before risking it on gambling.
  • If Draupadi married Karna, would he gamble her like Yudhishthira?
    • Krishna points out (during Pandava-s exile) that she too, reasonable for her own misery. As per his opinion, a great warrior like Karna will never gamble her away. But Draupadi rejected him during his Swayamvara on the basis of caste. Draupadi chose a priest in disguise over a charioteer. Unfortunately Arjuna, the priest in disguise, shared her among his brothers and gambled her. This is convincing for us.
  • Whom do we worship? Pandava-s or Yudhishthira?
    • Draupadi is the goddess for our society.

It is not Dushasana to be blamed first, it is Yudhishthira, the gambler!

References / Gratitude:

  • The illustrated Mahabharata, Dorling Kindersley India, Penguin Random House, 1st Ed. 2017
  • The Mahabharata Set Of 10 Volumes, Bibek Debroy
  • Panniru padaikalam, Jeyamohan

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