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Mahabharat The Dharmshastra Essay

3909 words - 16 pages

The Game of Dice
The pivotal movement in Mahabharata is the game of dice. Several questions arise: why should a
game be a part of a ceremony as solemn as Rajsuya Yagya? Even if there has to be a game why
should it be a game of dice rather than a game of skill and valor? Further, why should the whole
action turn on the outcome of this game of dice?. One reason could be that the game of dice
represents the unforeseen challenges that a king must endure during his reign. India.
Significance of a Game or a Sport
A sport or a game can be seen on at least two levels. Creation in Hinduism is regarded as
God’s ‘lila’. This ‘lila’ takes place both on the level of God and the level of man. Hence, we ...view middle of the document...

Man parallels God’s ‘lila’ by himself performing ‘lila’ through which
several issues pertaining to human life can be explored and resolved for the moment.2
At another level, a sport or a game too can be seen as a make-believe arena or even a theater
of war in which winning or losing becomes a life and death matter3. In Mahabharata, the game of dice
is an attempt to settle an issue through play that can otherwise only get resolved through a decisive
war. As Sakuni says,
The fortune over which you have been grieving after you saw it at Pandu’s son Yudhishthira’s,
I shall take it from him, let the enemy be challenged ! I shall take no risk, nor fight a battle in front of
armies; I shall throw the dice and, whole of body and wise, defeat the fools! Be sure, the dice are my
bows and arrows, the heart of dice my string, the dicing rug, my chariot! 4 The Dicing (51.1)
Why a Game of Dice
Dicing is a part of the religious and cultural history of India. Gambling has two significance
in religion. It is usually discouraged or prohibited. In Hinduism gamblers are associated with thieves,
assassins and other depraved characters. They are dangerous characters utterly devoid of
truth. Dhritrashtra himself knows the perils of dicing. He tells Duryodhana:
Enough of dicing, son of Gandhari, Vidura does not approves of it. Nor would he, in his great sagacity,
tell us aught that is in bad faith that I think Vidura is speaking ……for gambling is found to be
divisive. At a breach the kingdom perishes, therefore avoid it, son. The Dicing (46.1)
Yudhishthira too knows the dangers. When Vidura goes to invite him to the game on behalf of
Dhritrashtra, he says :
At a dicing, Steward, we surely shall quarrel.
Who, knowing this, will consent to a game? The Dicing (52.1)
Vidura is equally sure that the game will bring disaster. The most dangerous gamblers have been
assembled by Dhritrashtra but, Yudhishthira feels compelled to accept :
It is the King Dhritrashtra’s behest
So, I will not refuse, sage to go to the game
A son will always respect the father:
I shall, Vidura, do as thou tellest me.
I am not, unwilling to play Sakuni,
I were, would recklessly challenge
In that hall….Once challenged I will not refuse,
For so I have sworn for eternity. The Dicing (52.1)
Yudhishthira is well aware that he is going to his ruin:
Fate takes away our reason

As glare blinds the eye.
Man bound as with nooses
Obeys the Placer’s sway. The Dicing (52.1)
Then why does Yudhishthira knowingly go to his doom? Perhaps because it is a part of the
Rajasuya Yagya that Yudhisthira is performing and he feels he is honor bound to follow the rules and
not because he has a weakness for gambling as Sakuni would have us believe. In any case up to this
point there is no incident, which exhibits this weakness in Yudhishthira. The dice game follows the
unction and the chariot drive in the ritual. However, the question still remains why should a game and
that too a game of dice be a part of the rituals of...

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