The Rajasuya Yajna comes to a completion After the Rajasuya yajna and the elimination of King Sishupala by Sri Krishna, and Sri Krishna receiving the highest honour as part of the yajna, all the kings leave. Yudhishthira is not very happy. As the saying goes, ”All is well that ends well. ” But this has not ended well. A king has been killed. There has been a fight, showing a clear polarization of those who stand with Krishna and those who stand against him. But still, the yajna has been completed and so many gifts have been profusely given. One of the purposes of the yajna is to ensure that the wealth is taken in and given out in profusion. The economy depends on the ebb and flow of wealth.
Duryodhana’s raging envy So the Rajasuya yajna is over. One of the key turning points in the Mahabharata has happened. Duryodhana, whose envy was smouldering, has now become a full-fledged fire, because he has seen immense wealth coming in and pouring into the treasury of Yudhisthira. And now he’s the lord of the world-the chakravarthi-the last thing he had expected. And, worst of all, he has been insulted in the Mayasabha. So he goes back to Hastinapura, to his father’s place. His body begins to get emaciated. He cannot enjoy his food or his comforts. He has everything going for him but he just cannot enjoy anything. We find it so often nowadays. We have everything in our lives, but we just cannot enjoy the luxury — the outward wealth. There is no happiness. There is something is burning us inside.
The evil counselors of Duryodhana This news reaches king Dhritharashtra. He has to do something. Duryodhana is his son. And the evil counselors of Duryodhana — his uncle Shakuni, his brother Dushasana and his friend Karna, put their heads together to make plans. Karna is an evil counselor. Though he has many good qualities, association with Duryodhana has caused it. In fact, Bheeshma, at one point, says that he cannot act out of Dharma because he has had the food served by Duryodhana. That’s how sangha, association, penetrates us, whether we like it or not. So, the evil counselors of Duryodhana build up a plan. They say, ”We should defeat these Pandavas. We should take away everything that belongs to them. How do we do that?” Karna suggests, ”Let us go to war. ” But then Shakuni and the others advise, ”No, no, we can’t do that. They are powerful, and Yudhishthira has become the king of kings. We cannot defeat them at war. They have Arjuna and Bhima on their side. And, after their marriage to Draupadi, the whole of Panchaladesha is with them. The powerful Drupada, his sons and his brothers are on their side. So we need to use strategy to defeat them. ”Shakuni is good at that. So he suggests, ”Let’s play a game of dice.” What an idea! Karna is not happy with that and his blood rushes, because he is a warrior, and he wants to defeat them in war. But anyhow, all of them settle for the game of dice.
Dhritarashtra’s real blindness So they approach Dhitharashtra and get his consent. Dhritharashtra is so attached to his son, that he can easily be arm-twisted. Trivial attachment. It is not wrong, but beyond a point, his affection blinds him to Duryodhana’s faults and his adharmic deeds and he is not able to curtail his son’s actions. There has to be a fine line, there has to be detached attachment. If this fine balance is not taken care of, then things can go to extremes. So they arm-twist Dhritharashtra into agreeing to invite the Pandavas for a game of dice.
Duryodhana gives instructions to construct Jayantasabha after Mayasabha. Though it is a wonderful sabha — a huge sabha, it is nothing compared to Mayasabha. It is constructed, and the Pandavas are invited. They come over because they have to accept the invitation. It is Kshatriya Dharma. And also they have grown up with the Kauravas, under the protection of Dhritharashtra. They are his sons after all. The sons of Pandu, his brother, are his own sons — Dhritharashtra has this understanding earlier, but over a period of time, it gets clouded. And hence his actions are become extremely partial towards his own bodily sons and he does not look upon the Pandavas as his own sons. So he fails to live Dharma.
The game of dice The Pandavas and Draupadi arrive at Jayantasabha, and they are taken over. Then, the game of dice is announced. A Shubhamuhurta is fixed for the game of dice and everybody is invited. The elders of the Kuru court — Bheeshma, Drona, Kripa and Vidura, are not happy. They strongly criticize this. They advise the king against it, but Dhritharashtra does not listen, because Duryodhana would not listen. And hence it starts. Yudhishthira says, ”I’ll play. ”And Duryodhana says, ”I will have a by-runner. Shakuni will play for me. ”Shakuni will play for Duryodhana! The entire sabha strongly opposes this. But that’s how it happens. Shakuni throws his dice, and he wins every step. Yudhishthira is such a naïve player, but he is addicted. Once, he is in the heat of things, he cannot pull himself back. Once one is into something, one gets so lost in that activity that one cannot detach oneself and withdraw from it, and hence one loses everything in the process. This is what happens with Yudhishthira — his mind get clouded. With the Kauravas and Shakuni taunting him with words, Yudhishthira is constantly goaded to stake more and more of his assets, until, he loses all his wealth. Yudhishthira is a maharaja — king of kings. And all the wealth he had amassed in the Rajasuya yajna is lost in an instant. And Shakuni does not stop. Yudhishthira is forced to stake his brothers. So the Pandavas, one by one, are lost and become slaves. And finally, Yudhishthira himself becomes a slave.
The staking of Draupadi It does not end there. Shakuni further goads Yudhishthira, ”You have not lost everything. There is still one very precious possession that you have. ”Yudhishthira does not understand. Nobody understands. Shakuni says, ”What about Panchali?” The whole sabha cannot believe this is happening! Nobody can believe that this is happening in the Kuru sabha — the great Kuru lineage, long known for it’s Dharma, for its sublime ideals, and which has seen many great raja rishis. There is a huge uproar. But Yudhishthira is such a man that once asked, cannot retrace his steps. And hence, he agrees. He stakes his wife — the wife of all the Pandavas, Draupadi. He stakes the great Panchali and loses her. Nobody can believe this. But Duryodhana and Karna are excited. Karna is excited because Draupadi had insulted him at her swayamvara, telling him that she will not marry a sutaputra. Now is the time for revenge. Revenge is called sweet revenge, because when one sees the other suffering, one feels sweet. But that is only a temporary state. Long term, it produces great bitterness. But nobody understand that. One settles for short-lived pleasure and not for long lasting goodness — Dharma.