Wednesday, January 7, 2009

PDE Mahabharata: The Gambling Match

Reading Guide. The coming catastrophe now begins to take shape: just as a kshatriya (member of the royal warrior caste) cannot refuse a challenge to battle, he also cannot refuse a challenge to attend a gambling match. You may be familiar with one of the dice games that come from India: did you play Parcheesi when you were a child? This is a dice game that comes from India; the ancient Mahabharata does not provide details about the type of game that was played, modern illustrations often show a Parcheesi-like gameboard. You can read more about Parcheesi (Hindi Pachisi) at Wikipedia.

Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [800 words]

Victories | 37. The Gambling Match | Draupadi Lost

Now when Duryodhana had witnessed the triumph of the Pandavas, his heart burned with jealous rage. He envied the splendor of the palaces at Indraprastha; he envied the glory achieved by Yudhishthira. Well he knew that he could not overcome the Pandavas in open conflict, so he plotted with his brethren to accomplish their fall by artifice and by wrong.

Now Shakuni, Prince of Gandhara, and brother of Dhritarashtra's queen, was renowned for his skill as a gambler. He always enjoyed good fortune because he played with loaded dice. Duryodhana plotted with him, desiring greatly to subjugate the Pandavas, and Shakuni said, "Be advised by me. Yudhishthira loves the dice, although he knows not how to play. Ask him to throw dice with me, for there is no gambler who is my equal in the three worlds. I will put him to shame. I will win from him his kingdom, O bull among men."

Duryodhana was well pleased at this proposal, and he went before his blind father, the maharajah, and prevailed upon him to invite the Pandavas to Hastinapura for a friendly gambling match, despite the warnings of the royal counsellors.

So Vidura, who feared trouble, was sent unto Indraprastha to say, "The maharajah is about to hold a great festival at Hastinapura, and he desires that Yudhishthira and his brethren, their mother Kunti and their joint wife Draupadi should be present. A great gambling match will be played."

When Yudhishthira heard these words, he sorrowed greatly, for well he knew that dice-throwing was ofttimes the cause of bitter strife. Besides, he was unwilling to play Prince Shakuni, that desperate and terrible gambler. But he could not refuse the invitation of Dhritarashtra, or, like a true kshatriya, disdain a challenge either to fight or to play with his peers.

So it came to pass that the Pandava brethren, with Kunti, their mother, and their joint wife Draupadi, journeyed to Hastinapura in all their splendor.

On the day that followed, Yudhishthira and his brethren went together to the gambling match, which was held in a gorgeous pavilion, roofed with arching crystal and decorated with gold and lapis lazuli: it had a hundred doors and a thousand great columns, and it was richly carpeted. All the princes and great chieftains and warriors of the kingdom were gathered there. And Prince Shakuni of Gandhara was there also with his false dice.

When salutations had passed, and the great company were seated, Shakuni invited Yudhishthira to play.

Said Yudhishthira, "Having been challenged, I cannot withdraw. I fear not to fight or to play with any man. But first say who doth challenge and who is to lay stakes equally with me."

Then Duryodhana spoke, saying, "O rajah, I will supply jewels and gold and any stakes thou wilt of as great value as thou canst set down. It is for me that Shakuni, my uncle, is to throw the dice."

Said Yudhishthira, "This is indeed a strange challenge. One man is to throw the dice and another is to lay the stakes. Such is contrary to all practice. If, however, thou art determined to play in this fashion, let the game begin."

Well did the Rajah of Indraprastha know then that the match would not be played fairly. But he sat down, notwithstanding, to throw dice with Shakuni.

At the first throw Yudhishthira lost; indeed, he lost at every throw on that fatal day. He gambled away all his money and all his jewels, his jeweled chariot with golden bells, and all his cattle; still he played on, and he lost his thousand war elephants, his slaves and beautiful slave girls, and the remainder of his goods, and next, he staked and lost the whole kingdom of the Pandavas, save the lands which he had gifted to the brahmins. Nor did he cease to play then, despite the advice offered him by the chieftains who were there.

One by one he staked and lost his brethren, and he staked himself and lost also.

Said Shakuni, "You have done ill, Yudhishthira, in staking thine own self; for now thou hast become a slave, but if thou wilt stake Draupadi now and win, all that thou hast lost will be restored unto thee."

Yudhishthira said, "So be it. I will stake Draupadi."

Shakuni threw the dice, and Yudhishthira lost this the last throw. In this manner was Draupadi won by Duryodhana.

Then all the onlookers gazed one upon another in silence and wide-eyed. Karna and Duhshasana and other young princes laughed aloud.

Duryodhana rose proudly and spake unto Vidura, saying, "Now hasten unto Draupadi and bid her to come hither to sweep the chambers with the other bonds-women."

Vidura was made angry, and answered him, "Thy words are wicked, O Duryodhana. Thou canst not command a lady of royal birth to become a household slave. Besides, she is not thy slave, because Yudhishthira did stake his own freedom before he staked Draupadi. Thou couldst not win aught from a slave who had no power to stake the princess."

But Duryodhana cursed Vidura, and bade one of his servants to bring Draupadi before him.

Victories | The Gambling Match Draupadi Lost

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