The Game Of Dice

The game of dice is one of the major turning points of the epic Mahabharata and the incident which sows the seeds of the Kurukshetra war.

The game was traditionally known as ‘Dyut’ or ‘Chausar’ which was similar to Ludo but the rules of Dyut were different as people would stake their wealth while playing making it a game that was a mixture of Ludo and gambling.

As their birthright, the Pandavas were given the barren land of Khandavaprastha which was a naga kingdom ruled by their king Takshak, the five brothers fought with him and converted the land into a beautiful kingdom called Indraprastha.

When Duryodhana visited Indraprastha he was awestruck by the beauty of the kingdom, jealousy had crept into the heart of the Kaurava prince as he had expected to mock his cousins over the fact they were the kings of a barren land but now what he saw was a beautiful kingdom, a kingdom that was far better than his own whether it was in their military defences, architecture or government.

He was taken aback when he visited the royal palace,the ‘Maya Bhavan’ or the palace of illusions which was an architectural marvel designed by the asura architect Mayasura. One of the myriad peculiarities in the palace was a beautiful garden which had in it, an illusion where the pathways looked as if they were a stream of water and the stream of water that was flowing in the garden looked like the pathway and being unaware of the reality, Duryodhana stepped into the stream and fell headlong into the water. Meanwhile, Draupadi and her maids were passing by and seeing this her maids started laughing and one of them said ‘Is a blind man’s son blind too?’Draupadi too started laughing and Duryodhana thought that it was Draupadi who had said such a disgraceful thing and enraged he left Indraprastha.

This insult was unbearable for him and he decided to retaliate against the Pandavas, especially Draupadi and invited them to Hastinapur for a game of dice. According to a long standing pact of Kshatriyas, a Kshatriya king could never say no to a game of dice and thus the Pandavas accepted the invitation unaware of the fact that they were falling into Duryodhanas devious trap.

Duryodhana had declared that Shakuni will play the game on behalf of him as not only was Shakuni a shrewd player but also the owner of magical dices that were carved out of the thigh bone of his father and those dice fell according to his wishes.

Yudhisthira began losing everything he had, his wealth, his beloved brothers and finally when he had nothing to put on stake, Shakuni advised him to put his wife Draupadi on stake as the Pandavas had always believed she was lucky for them because right after their marriage they were given the kingdom of Khandavaprastha . Thus Shakuni tricked him by saying that ‘what if by putting her on stake he wins back his lost wealth?’ and Yudhisthira does so and ends up losing her too.

Duryodhana sends a messenger to Draupadi’s chamber and asks her to come to the court as she was his slave now, when Draupadi is told about this she was horrified by what her husbands had done to her and questions Yudhisthira's deed as according to her, if Yudhisthira had staked and lost himself then he had no right over her and she was still the queen and she refused to present herself in the royal court of Hastinapur. When Duryodhana is informed about this he is infuriated by Draupadi’s refusal and commands his younger brother Dushasana to bring Draupadi to the court, forcefully if he must and Dushasana grabs Draupadi’s hair and forcefully brings her to the court, dragging her by her hair.

Once she is in the court that had mighty warriors like Grandsire Bheeshma, Guru Drona, Karna, Ashwatthama and her husbands, the Pandava brothers; Draupadi emotionally questions the legality of Yudhisthira's right over her after he had lost himself. She even questions her husbands over their passivity but they are unable to answer her.

Duryodhana tries to further insult the Pandavas and Draupadi by slapping his thigh and asking Draupadi to come and sit on it, seeing this Bheema is infuriated and vows to tear apart the very thigh of Duryodhana or become his slave for seven lifetimes, he also vows to break the very hands of Dushasana that had grabbed the hair of Draupadi.

Unaffected by Bheema’s vows Duryodhana shamelessly orders Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi, seeing all this, vikarna who was also one of the brothers of Duryodhana, interrupts and tells his brother that Draupadi’s question was not yet answered by the people present in the court and urges them to answer her, he also gives his opinion and says that she was not won rightfully by Duryodhana as after losing himself Yudhisthira had no right to stake her; besides, nobody had the right to put a woman on stake according to the Hindu scriptures whether it was a husband, a son or a god himself, he also says that Draupadi was the daughter-in-law of the kuru clan thus a shameful deed of disrobing her would not only insult her but the entire kuru clan too and he requests Duryodhana not to do so.

Karna interrupts vikarna and questions his loyalty; he says that when Yudhisthir had staked all his wealth he had lost Draupadi too, remembering his insult by Draupadi during her swayamwar Karna mocks Draupadi by calling her a whore, he says that a woman who is married to five men is a whore and such a women should might as well be disrobed thus Duryodhana commands Dushasana to disrobe her.

Seeing her husband's passivity and the fact that there was no warrior in the court that could help her from this grave insult, Draupadi prays to her best friend lord Krishna to protect her from this humiliation. A miracle occurs that is popularly attributed to Krishna, Dushasana unwraps layers and layers of her sari but is still unable to disrobe her and finally gives up due to exhaustion.

Draupadi then threatens the entire assembly that once her father king Drupad discovers the humiliation his daughter has suffered at the royal court, the Panchaal army will wreck havoc in Hastinapur. She was about to curse the kuru clan when Gandhari interrupts her and requests her not to do so, she counsels Dhritarashtra and the king fearing an attack from Panchaal grants Draupadi 3 wishes. For her first wish, Draupadi asks that the Pandavaas be freed from bondage so that her sons are not called slaves, her next wish was that all the wealth that the Pandavas have lost be restored to them, she then says that she is a Kshatriya woman and that they can only be granted 2 wishes and not 3 which are granted to a Brahmin.

Dhritarashtra obliges but Shakuni and Duryodhan object to it, Duryodhana says that he had won all the wealth and Dhritarashtra has no right to give it to the Pandavas, Shakuni and Duryodhana convince Dhritarashtra to order another round of the game and the person who loses will have to go on a 12 year exile and one year in incognito.

The Pandavas lose and are ordered to go on the exile, the condition being, if they are discovered in the year of incognito they would have to go on the 12 year exile and one year incognito again and this cycle would go on.

Seeing the injustice being done to them Draupadi vows that she will not tie her hair until she has washed them in the blood of Dushasaan, Bheema vows to avenge Draupadi by bringing Dushasana blood to her and washing her hair with it, he vows to tear Dushasana’s chest apart and drink his blood, he also vows to kill all the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra. Arjuna took the vow to kill karna as he had dared to call their wife a whore and lastly Sahdev took the vow to kill Shakuni who was the mastermind behind the vile act.

The aftermath of the game of dice was that the Pandavas were sent on the 12 year exile and one year in incognito and after completing it they return to Hastinapur in order to reprise their lost right but when Duryodhana refuses to give it yet again the Kurukshetra war breaks out where the entire kuru race is wiped out leaving behind the 5 Pandava brothers and the future of the kuru clan the unborn child of Abhimanyu in Uttara’s womb.

The game of dice is the traumatic turning point of the epic Mahabharata; it was the ground where the seeds of the cataclysmic Kurukshetra war were first sown, the vile act of Kauravas are still ridiculed in the Indian society, over the safety of Indian women and the fact that one wrong deed of the Kaurava clan of trying to disrobe and humiliate a woman lead to wiping out of their entire race, thus teaching people for generations that women are to be respected and revered and anybody who disrespects them will have to face the consequences whether it is an outsider or her own family members.

Edited By - Tanishq Bhardwaj