Shakuni… a Villain or a Victim?
Shakuni best known for the infamous Game of Dice in the Mahabharata between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. He was the famous uncle who was deceitful and misleading and, in a way, the person responsible for initiating the Mahabharata war.
He was a loving brother and uncle. His brother-in-law King Dhitrashtra and his nephews trusted his intelligence. Leveraging that trust, he started poisoning the mind of his volatile nephew — Suyodhana (later known as Duryodhana) and the ascendancy of the Kuru clan began.
- He advised an adolescent Duryodhana to mix poison in his cousin brother Bhima’s food.
- He hired Purochana and designed a palace of wax to kill the Pandavas in Varnavrat.
- He orchestrated the division of the country with Duryodhana as the crown prince of Hastinapur and Khanavprastha going to the Pandavas.
- He was the brains behind the Game of Dice between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, which led to the disrobing of Draupadi (wife of the Pandavas) and finally to the declaration of war.
- He pointed out the death of Kichak (minister of King Virat) and sent Duryodhana to attack Virat and break agyatvas of the Pandavas (the 13th year of exile).
- It was on his advice that Duryodhana fed Shalya (the uncle of Nakul & Sahadev) and his army to in-debt him, so that he would have to fight for the Kauravas.
Why did he do this? Was it because he wanted his nephew Duryodhana to have the kingdom and rule over it? Or was this a plan to wreck the Kuru clan?
There are a few popular versions of stories about how he ended up staying in Hastinapur and why did he mastermind the mighty war. And after knowing some lesser-known facts about him, one can put a reason for why he did — what he did.
Shakuni, born to King Subala of Gandhara, was the youngest among his 99 brothers and sister Gandhari.
As per Gandhari’s astrological chart, her first husband would die. To avoid this misfortune, Subala married her to a goat, which was then sacrificed.
One day Bhishma came to Gandhar and proposed Gandhari’s marriage with his nephew Dhitrashtra to Subala. Gandhari, unaware of his blindness, accepted the proposal and later blindfolded herself forever.
It was only when King Subala and his family came to Hastinapur for solemnizing the marriage, did Bhisma come to know about Gandhari’s first marriage.
Displeased that his nephew was married to a widow, Bhishma devised a strategy to punish Subala and his family.
The whole family was placed under house arrest and sparsely fed. Subala realized Bhishma`s strategy to kill them all. To ensure that at least one of them could survive and live on to take revenge, Subala gave all the meals to his youngest son Shakuni.
He was even forced to eat the flesh of his dead brothers to become strong. All his 99 brothers died before him. Subala even broke Shakuni`s ankle with a walking stick so that his limp walk kept reminding him of the cruel fate that his family had met with.
Before Subala died, he instructed his only living son to take his finger bones and make a dice out of it, and that it would always listen to him.
Some lesser-known facts about Shakuni
1. He not only had 100 nephews but also 100 siblings (99 brothers and 1 sister).
2. He was not against the Pandavas. His only aim was to ruin the entire Kuru clan.
3. There is an ancient temple dedicated to him at Pavithreswaram in Kollam district of Kerela.
4. He was a devotee of Lord Shiva.
5. None of his manipulations were in the presence of Shri Krishna.
Avenging the killing of his innocent family and relatives was his duty under the social code of those days. He was in no position to challenge the mighty Kauravas and attack them to achieve his aim.
Shakuni could have left for home and ruled Gandhar, but he renounced all that and sacrificed his life as an act of atonement for his sins.
Krishna too avenged his parents’ imprisonment and murders of his seven brothers and killed his own uncle Kansa. He too used many tricks to make the Pandavas win the war. Why then are they both seen differently? The only difference was that Krishna won the war and Shakuni didn’t.
After reading the above story, my take is that no person is a born villain, circumstances make them so. They are the targets, scapegoats. If one believes in the theory of Karma, then there is no Hero or Anti-hero. Karma chooses them.
I once came across a girl at my workplace, always irritated, annoyed, frustrated and non-supportive. She would find any reason to pick up fights in the train, bus, with office staff — almost everyone. After we became friends and after I came to know her side of the story, I understood her frustration.
After her elder sister’s marriage — her mother had died. The boy she was in love with couldn’t wait for her and got married. She had an ailing father at home to take care of, not to mention she had to work to meet expenses. To cap it all off, her differently abled sister was also staying with her.
People in the bus, train and in the office used to see her as a mean person, but I saw a victim.
Have you met someone like this? Someone you don’t think is worthy to talk or be a friend with because he/she is always grumpy?
Next time if you come across a frustrated or non-supportive person, try to be more compassionate thinking maybe he/she has been a victim of the circumstances and needs more love than the others.