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THE GAME OF DICE

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Mythology says that the dice used by Shakuni were made from his father's thigh bones and hence generated any desired number. Unaware of this fact the Pandava's were defeated in the gambling match with the Kauravas.

The Game Of Dice
Vidura went to Indraprastha with a very heavy heart to invite Yudhisthira. Meanwhile Dhritarashtra called Duryodhana to his side and said, "I want you and Pandavas to be friendly and affectionate with bonds of mutual brotherhood. You can perform a sacrifice greater than Rajasuya. Our architects have constructed the most up to date assembly hall. Wealth procured by wrong means will not last long. I want you not to indulge in the vicious vice of gambling." Duryodhana replied, "The game of dice is the sacred sacrifice for me. I want to possess the matchless Maya Sabha by hook or crook. Game of dice is as old as creation and had been a vedic past time. It is said in the Puranas that celestial beings achieve self realization through the game of dice. A prince is expected to conquer all his enemies by all means. The end justifies the means. If the valiant enemy can be vanquished by peaceful and non violent means without spilling sacred human blood, it is certainly a more desirable way. The king of the Gods, Indra, killed Namuchi, certainly not by righteous means. Even slight indisposition, if neglected with indifference, may grow into a mortal disease. You have made the Pandavas unnecessarily great and I am reaping the consequences. We must nip them in the bud. Delay is dangerous." Dhritarashtra felt very unhappy at the disastrous determination of his son. He felt helpless at the inexorable march of destiny.

Dharamaputra received Vidura, equal in wisdom to Brihispati the preceptor of Indra- the King of Gods- with respect and reverence. Vidura frankly explained the purpose of his visit to Yudhisthira and extended the invitation to the Pandavas, of course on behalf of Dhritarashtra, to come, to Hastinapura, adding by way of caution that he personally disliked the disastrous game of dice. Dharamaputra was placed on the horns of a dilemma – to go or not to go was the question. The Kauravas cooperated with the Pandavas in the performance of Rajasuya. An invitation from Dhritarashtra according to Yudhisthira was tantamount to a mandate. It was against the prevailing etiquette for a kshatriya to decline the invitation for a game of dice. So Yudhisthira accepted the invitation and went to Hastinapura, followed by his brothers, Draupadi and Dhaumya and bowed to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari and other elders. Gandhari surrounded by her daughters-in-law, Bhanumati and others shone like the Rohini constellation. Next day the Pandavas were taken round the newly constructed assembly hall and Yudhisthira extolled its exquisite workmanship and elegance.


Duryodhana & sakuni
When everybody was seated happily in the new assembly hall constructed at the behest of Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana proposed to Yudhisthira a friendly match of dice to while away the time. Dharmaputra said, "Game of dice is a sinful preoccupation and princes should never be addicted to it. Invariably it leads to immoral practices and any victory gained by immorality will lead to ultimate ruin." Dharmaputra with a sense of prophetic premonition quoted Devala who said that success achieved by fraudulent practices in war or dices was not permanent. But Sakuni contradicting Yudhisthira, said, " Everything is fair in war and dices. Game of dice is a hoary practice with the royal famiies. If you lack self confidence, Dharmaputra , you need not play. As you have acquired reputation as an adept at the game of dice Duryodhana has invited you." Duryodhana intervened and said to Yudhisthira "In fact the game is arranged in honour of your visit for your pleasure." Yudhisthira said, "Alright I shall play." Duryodhana said, "I do not know even the alphabet of the great game. But by uncle Sakuni who is a match to you will play on my behalf."

At the outset the game of the dice started as a friendly match and Yudhisthira won the first round. Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Asvatthama and others were provided with special seats and they watched the proceedings with interest and exhilaration. When the next round was about to begin Sakuni said, "Let there be some bet, the game looses all pep without wager." Duryodhana intervened to say ,"I will accept full responsibility for any bet which my uncle Sakuni makes. In fact he is my proxy and is playing only on my behalf."

Dharmaputra meekly accepted Sakuni’s suggestion. However the inner struggle and mental reservations of Dharmaputra to sit at the game of dice was evident in his face. Still he was willing to play. Human psychology is very complex. Victims of vicious vices are not villains. They are wisest fools and very often are quite conscious of their guilt and do not defend themselves. Dharmaputra knowing fully well the consequences of gambling accepted to take part in the game of dice impelled by his innate love for it.Sakuni is a shrewd psychologist and exploited the weakness of Dharmaputra to the fullest extent. He was a master at the game and knew all the tricks of the trade. He attained professional perfection in playing the game and no trace of sportsmanship was left in him. Dharmaputra knew full well Sakuni’s consummate craft at casting the dice. The result was a foregone conclusion. But "hope" is the soul of gambling and Dharmaputra entertained his own dreams of success like any other gambler in the world in spite of his wisdom and rectitude. The dice were in the hands of Sakuni and Dharmaputra’s first bet was the precious jewellery on his person. The dice were cast and Dharmaputra lost the bet. Again he offered the royal exchequer, the heavenly horses presented by Chitraradha, the royal elephants he received as homage from the princes at the time of Rajasuya, and the five treasures preserved in the underground cellars as contingent reserves, one after another and lost them in quick succession to the crafty manipulations of Sakuni.

Duryodhana
Vidura who visualized the logical conclusion to which the game was heading went to Dhritarashtra and told him in secrecy, "Dharmaputra is being duped by Duryodhana at the instance of Sakuni. Duryodhana is a deadly liability to the dynasty and will be the ultimate cause for its degeneration, decay and destruction. You must immediately disclaim his nefarious intrigues and disinherit with him forthwith. Dharmaputra is being deceived and deprived of all his possessions. Your son is playing with fire and trampling on cobras. Delay is dangerous." The blind King paid a deaf ear to the pleadings of Vidura as he was in no mood to accept the drastic remedy proposed by him. "You are a traitor and untrue to your salt. You are a poisonous snake in the guise of a philosopher. You ought to know that it is presumptious on your part to arrogate to yourself the right to dole out unsolicited advice to us." Vidura was pricked with humiliation. Still he said, " Prince, I have to discharge my duty towards Dhritarashtra and his sons," and added philosophically , "Innumerable persons are there at every place to proclaim pleasing propositions; infinite number of people can be found everywhere ever ready to listen to them eagerly. But it is a pitiable paradox that the nourishing naked truth can find neither worthy propounder nor a single willing listener." With these words Vidura kept quiet. Meanwhile the game of dice proceeded in its inexorable course. Sakuni continuing his wining spree and Dharmaputra hoping against hope. Dharamaputra lost all the immense wealth he gained at the time of Rajasuya as well as the mythological Maya Sabha to Sakuni’s matchless machinations.

Sakuni joked, Dharmaputra, possessions have gone but the brave persons still remain; will you continue the game." Undaunted Yudhisthira replied, "Prince Nakula, handsome son of Madri, the conqueror of the West, is my bet." Sakuni cast the dice forthwith and proclaimed, "Here you are, I have won." Yudhisthira still persisting said, "Then I offer Sahadeva, the conqueror of the South, as my wager." Again the bet was lost by Yudhisthira who looked bewildered and unnerved. Sakuni said, "Yudhisthira, I know you cannot afford to loose Bhima and Arjuna who are your two arms. Moreover you are answerable to Kunti Devi, your living mother." Dharmaputra did not like the implicit insinuation and at once said without any hesitation, "Now Arjuna, the worthy disciple of the worthy preceptor of the bow as my wager," Once again he lost the bet." History repeated itself. Sakuni said, "I hope you do not like to loose yourself." Dahrmaputra said, "You are wrong. I offer myself as the final bet." Sakuni exclaimed, " Dharmaputra you are true to your reputation. Let me reciprocate your noble gesture. If you win this time let me concede you will gain all that you have lost in all the previous bet so far." The spectators awaited the result with animated suspense. Sakuni cast the dice with studied recklessness, characteristic of a veteran who attained the zenith of professional perfection and proclaimed aloud, "Here you see, again I have won." Yudhisthira hanged down his head in shame and humiliation. There was commotion in the hall. Sakuni said, "Dharmaputra all is not lost. I think Panchali can be your wager. Don’t you count her as your possession?" Yudhisthira said, "Draupadi born of the sacrificial fire, the empress of Rajasuya, is my wager." Sakuni threw the dice and announced that Draupadi was won. Bhishma, Drona and Kripa were overwhelmed with sorrow. There was a great jubiliation in the Kaurava camp.