THE GAME OF DICE
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.
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.
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.
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.