Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mahabharat : Part 5 : The Dice Game.

The official dice-game between Hastinapur and Indraprashtha was laid out. Hastinapur was represented by Duryodhan, Dushshana, Shakuni and Karna, while Indraprashtha was represented by the Pandavs minus Draupadi. (She had her period and stayed secluded in her private quarter, wrapped in a bathrobe). Shakuni played on behalf Duryodhan, while Yudhisthir faced him, aided by Nakul. Shakuni used an unfair die, closing every deal in nephew Duryodhan's favor. Yudhisthir wagered every possession of his and lost them all. Addict as he was, he couldn't stop the game. Also, the emperor of India is not supposed to be scared of a mere game of dice, nor is he supposed to give up the game midway (before he is exhausted of all his belongings). He lost his wealth, the royal treasury, his officers, his soldiers, his weapons, his vehicles, public property and finally, his prosperous kingdom Indraprashtha. Bheem and Arjun tried to present him from wagering any more, but Yudhisthir persisted, hoping against hope for a reversal of fortune. Desperate to win back his losses, he transgressed all dignity and pawned his brothers, losing them all. Duryodhan even interrupted him once, saying that Yudhisthir must ask his brothers for their permission before pawning them. Finally he pawned himself, and lost. 
Duryodhan ordered his new "servants" (Pandavs) to take off their crowns, over-garments and jewellery. Bheem and Arjun seethed with anger at this insult, but Yudhisthir obeyed, true to his promise of having lost the wager. Reluctantly, his brothers followed suit. In a feeble voice, Yudhisthir requested to end the game, since he was penniless now. However, Karna reminded him that he still has his wife, Draupadi, to be pawned. The four junior Pandavs protested vehemently, but Duryodhan silenced them as their new "master". Almost losing his mind, Yudhisthir pawned Draupadi....and lost her!
Duryodhan wanted to insult Draupadi as his maid-servant, to take revenge of her "A blind man's son is also blind" taunt in Indraprashtha. He sent the doorkeeper to fetch her. Draupadi flew into rage that Yudhisthir had pawned her without her permission. She refused to appear in court. Now Dushshan reached the inner quarter of the Queen of Indrasprashtha, and dragged the bathrobe-clad menstruating Draupadi by the hair to the open court. Duryodhan addressed her as a maid-servant, and invited her to sit on his lap. Bheem flew into rage, and vowed to break Duryodhan's thigh in the battlefield. Draupadi questioned grandsire Bhishma, King Dritarashtra, Prime Minister Vidur, royal counsellor Kripacharya, and royal teacher Dronacharya at their indifference and lack of objection to such a shameful scene before and open court. Pandavs remained silent as the obedient "servants" of Duryodhan. Dritarashtra, secretly happy at his beloved son's victory, feigned helplessness. Karna called her a whore, shocking everyone. No one came to her rescue. Duryodhan ordered to strip the "whore", which Dushshan promptly began.

Krishna, busy at a war, had heard of the game of dice being organized. He also knew how addicted Yudhisthir is to the game. Determined to safeguard Draupadi against any extreme indignation, he sent her a very very long saari as a bathrobe, about 500 yards long. Krishna's (female) messenger asked her to wear it during the dice-game, even when she was in her private quarter.

As Dushshan began stripping her, Draupadi stood still, meditating on Krishna. Dushshan unwrapped and unwrapped, but was unable to exhaust her saari. The court stared dumbstruck at this unexpected 'miracle'. The Pandavs momentarily forgot their supreme insult and gazed at their wife in surprise and awe. For the triumphant Duryodhan, this was the most eye-widening, jaw-dropping experience. Karna, irritated at the assumed docility of the Pandavs, kept encouraging Dushshan to strip Draupadi, but was inwardly relieved that nothing obscene was happening. Dushshan surrendered in fatigue, with Draupadi still fully draped in her stained bathrobe. The wounded lioness Draupadi gathered herself up and was about to curse the royal family of Hastinapur, when Gandhari rushed in and calmed her down.

Shaken by Draupadi's volcanic fury, Dritarashtra finally spoke, and annulled the dice-game, much to the disappointment of Duryodhan. Yudhisthir got back all that he had lost, and the Pandavs were free to return to Indrprashtha in full dignity. However, Duryodhan demanded another dice-game, refused to regret any of his words/actions in the first dice-game. He stated that it was Yudhisthir's moral transgression to have wagered his kingdom, brothers and wife. He also threatened suicide, and Dritarashtra helplessly ordered for another game.

The unfair Shakuni defeated Yudhisthir once again, and the Emperor of India was exiled for 13 years with his brothers and Draupadi. All his political powers were stripped, and Dronacharya took over as the caretaker of Indraprashtha. Also, the finally year of the exile has to be spent incognito, failing of which would land them into another 13-year exile. Leaving mother Kunti at Uncle Vidur's house, the travelled towards Punjab.

.......to be continued.

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