By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna
Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow
What else could Yudhishthira stake?
Yes, Shakuni asked Yudhishthira what else he could stake! Shakuni further provoked Yudhishthira by saying that he has brothers who might bring some luck to him. Yudhishthira pointed at his brother Nakula and said he would stake him.
Shakuni threw the dice while shouting “Look! Your beloved brother Nakula will be ours now!” To everyone’s surprise, or maybe not, he won, just as he said. The audience were taken by this. Then Yudhishthira called out Sahadeva and said, “This brother of mine who is scholarly and virtuous. Even though I am not supposed to stake him, I will.” “Sure,” said Shakuni and threw the dice, winning Sahadeva too.
Now that Yudhishthira had lost two of his brothers, Shakuni was afraid that he would quit the game. So he said provokingly, “In your opinion, Bhima and Arjuna are of a higher standard than your stepmom Madri’s children, right? That’s why you wouldn’t stake them.”
Yudhishthira exclaimed, “You fool are you, trying to divide us brothers? As you always live in the wrongdoings you wouldn’t understand righteousness. Here I am, staking the brother who would always save us from all odds, the great victor Arjuna. Now play.”
Shakuni threw the dice again. Yudhishthira lost Arjuna too. Now, with tears in his eyes, Yudhishthira said, “The one whom can never be defeated in a physical combat, the mighty Bhima, I stake him too.” He lost Bhima too. In this way, Yudhishthira wagered all his brothers and lost them all.
Shakuni asked again if Yudhishthira had anything else to stake? Yudhishthira stubbornly said, “Yes. If you win, I will be yours too.” “Here I am winning you,” Shakuni shouted loudly in a thundering voice, and he did win indeed.
With this Shakuni announced to the audience that the five Pandavas are now slaves to Duryodhana, himself and the Kauravas. The audience were frozen to their seats.
After losing himself, defeated Yudhishthira said to Shakuni that he had nothing more to stake. But Shakuni’s game was not over yet. He pointed out to Yudhishthira that someone belonged to him that he could stake. In fact, that someone might bring blessings, so he could gain all that he had lost. That someone he suggested was none other than Empress Draupadi, the beloved wife of the Pandavas.
Hearing this. both Vidura and Bhishma raised their voices in disapproval. Bhima and Arjuna picked up their weapons to show their rage. Finally, persuaded by Duryodhana and Shakuni, Yudhishthira wagered Draupadi, then screamed loudly in sorrow. Despite the shame and disgust among the spectators and the strong objections by Vidura, Duryodhana had overruled everyone. Only the Kauravas, Shakuni and Karna were delighted about the situation.
Duryodhana persuasively said if the Empress Draupadi was to be staked, and if Yudhishthira would win this throw, Duryodhana would return all that Yudhishthira had lost so far. Yudhishthira fell for this. as he was deeply lost in his troubled mind and clouded senses. Hoping for a miracle to happen, he staked his beloved queen, something no man would ever do. The result was nothing other than expected. Shakuni won. The whole assembly was in upheaval. Duryodhana was overjoyed when Yudhishthira lost the throw, losing Draupadi.
Duryodhana’s plot had worked. He gained, not only the other half of the kingdom, but he also owned the Pandavas as well. He was laughing like a madman, arrogantly ordering Vidura to go to the chamber of Draupadi to bring her to him. He announced to the public that Draupadi would work as a maidservant in the palace from then onward. He hurried Vidura to fetch her soon so she could start her cleaning duties.
With anger bursting out of his face, Vidura yelled, “Duryodhana, you fool, inviting death home. You don’t know how much trouble you are inviting to yourself and to the kingdom. Talking like a lunatic!” Then he addressed the assembly, “Yudhishthira, after losing himself, had no right to stake his wife Draupadi. The end for the Kauravas is nearing, as they refused to listen to the wise and good. They are paving their way to hell.”
Duryodhana was furious about Vidura’s comments and insulted Vidura, accusing him of siding with the Pandavas. He added that Vidura’s alliance was always with Pandavas, that he is afraid of them and hates him and his family. Later, he yelled at his charioteer, asking him to bring Draupadi to the court. He said to the charioteer, “You don’t fear the Pandavas, do you? Now go fetch Draupadi and bring her.”
As ordered by his master, the charioteer went to Draupadi’s chamber. He told her the unfortunate news about how Yudhishthira had fallen into the trap of gambling and lost her to Duryodhana. He also told her why he was sent.
Being the Empress, due to the great Rajasuya Yaj~na, Draupadi was shocked to hear this news. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She refused to believe that anyone on earth would stake their wife at a gambling game. “Didn’t he have anything else to stake, other than me, his wife?”
To her question the charioteer quietly answered. “Yes, Empress! He didn’t have anything other than you to stake, as he had lost everything else already.” He told her about the appalling things that had happened at the court.
This news broke Draupadi’s heart into pieces, killing every inch of her. But after all, she is the Empress Draupadi, who was born out of a yaj~na fire. She was able to console herself. With a firm and fierce voice, she said, “Oh charioteer, go and ask the man who staked me in the assembly, in front of the audience, whether he lost himself first or me, his wife, first? After getting the answer to this question, you can come and get me.”
So, the charioteer went back to the court and asked Yudhishthira, in front of all, the question from Draupadi. Yudhishthira remained like a dead man, not uttering a word, with his head hanging low. Losing his patience, Duryodhana insisted that Draupadi herself should come to the court and ask this question of Yudhishthira so the charioteer was sent back again to bring Draupadi to court.
Draupadi once again sent him back to the court, demanding that he ask the same question, but now to the whole assembly. The charioteer didn’t have any other choice but to return to the court and announce the question from the Empress to the audience at large.
Angry, Duryodhana yelled at the charioteer, calling him a coward. Duryodhana ordered his brother Dushasana to bring Draupadi to the hall, dragging her in if necessary. Dushasana was delighted to carry out the order and rushed to Draupadi’s chamber. He told her not to make any trouble, as she was already won by them so it’s only fair for her obey them, to be at their mercy and to serve them. Saying this, he started to move towards her.
Screaming loudly, Draupadi started to run towards Queen Gandhari’s chamber. Chasing her from behind, and swiftly catching her, Dushasana dragged her by the hair into the assembly hall.
Empress Draupadi was brought to the hall in this disheveled state which made the assembly stop in horror. Containing her emotions, Draupadi stood bravely with her head held high addressed the assembly in a stern voice. “How could you all in this great assembly, let all the evil master minds of gambling get together and devise this terrible plot to make Emperor Yudhishthira stake me in a gambling game? How could you agree to this shameful deed? How can a man who lost everything he had, his kingdom, his belongings, his freedom, his brothers and himself, stake anything else, let alone his wife? Did he have any right at all to keep me as the stake in the game, as I belong to all five of the Pandava brothers?”
Draupadi continued in a voice filled with fury and distress, “You Kauravas, belonging to this ancient house of the great Kuru dynasty, those of you who have wives, daughters and daughters-in-law can answer my plea.” In this way Draupadi pleaded with the Kauravas, the elders and her husbands. But none answered nor helped her.
Witnessing the state of their wife Draupadi, the Pandavas hung their heads in shame. Bhima trembled with fury. His anger towards his brother Yudhishthira was very clear on his face as well as in his words. When Bhima started uttering angry words towards Yudhishthira, Arjuna consoled him and reminded him never to lose his state. Arjuna warned him that the unrighteousness deeds of the Kauravas were provoking the Pandavas to do the same. He cautioned not to fall into that trap, as that’s what the Kauravas were plotting to do anyway.
Hearing this Bhima kept his silence. The elders sat in misery at the shameful action of the Kauravas. The only Kaurava brother who protested was Vikarna.
More to come…