Shakuni’s story

After watching the Mahabharat television series, one of the questions that remained unanswered for me was ‘Why did Shakuni hate the Pandavas so much?’  That Bhishma had asked for Gandhari’s hand in marriage for Dhritrashtra (who could not become the king of Hastinapur because of his blindness) explained Shakuni’s antagonism against Bhishma.  However, only his love for Duryodhan could not justify his intense dislike for the Pandavas.  Another question that struck me was how did Shakuni control the dice?

Well, my search for these answers started with a simple Google search and I came across a very interesting wiki write-up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakuni).  Below is an extract:

As per legend, on the advice of astrologers, to avert a calamity it was said that Gandhari was married to a goat before getting married to Dhritarashtra. And the goat had been sacrificed promptly thereafter. Technically, this made Gandhari a widow and Dhritarashtra her second husband. Many years later when her husband Dhritrashtra learns about this truth, shocked and enraged, Dhritrashtra puts Gandhari’s entire family, including king Subala in prison. In prison, they were served just one fistful of rice every day. Realizing that this was an elaborate plan to starve them to death, Gandhari’s father declared that none but his youngest son would eat the sparse food being served, so that at least one amongst them would survive to avenge the death of the rest. The youngest son of king Subala was Shakuni. He survived and swore not to rest until all of Kuru kingdom is destroyed. He used the bones of his father to make the dice with which he was able to defeat the Pandavas in the gambling match, and thus which eventually led to the war at Kurukshetra and also to the destruction of entire Kuru clan. His father twisted his one leg to give him a permanent limp as a constant reminder of revenge.

I find this piece interesting for a number of reasons.  Before I list out the reasons, I must add that this piece fascinates me not because I think that this provides the explanations to my questions but to the contrary, because it is so imaginative.  Now, coming to the reasons:  Gandhari’s wedding to the goat bears striking resemblance to the modern day practice of marrying a manglik to a tree before marriage to a non-manglik.  I have never before come across an actual reference of a manglik wedding in any of the Hindu epics (although admittedly, neither have I read the full versions nor have I actively looked for such references previously).  When and how did the practice of marrying a tree replace the practice of marrying and sacrificing a goat (here, I generalize and say practice of marrying a goat although there is only reference of Gandhari marrying one and not a series of such instances)?

Next, the extract also explains why Shakuni’s dice always obeyed his command.  The idea that he used his father’s bones to make the dice adds a very surreal twist in the story.  However, the question is how did Shakuni have the skills to get to the bones of a corpse?  Does this story hint at advanced medical techniques available in the era that the Mahabharat is said to have occurred?  The assumption here is that Shakuni didn’t just tear through his father’s skin and flesh (the ‘culture’ of the Mahabharat period would have surely frowned upon such an act).  Also, if Shakuni was in prison, why was he then freed and allowed to stay in the palace after the death of his family?  What was it that changed Dhritrashtra’s mind about Shakuni?

Overall, this extract is interesting just because it ties together some loose ends of the story in a manner that is befitting of any mythology.  The extract obviously raises even more questions than it actually answers but nevertheless, it creates a sense of the fantastic, eerie and mysterious – all qualities that are associated with Shakuni.

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6 Responses to Shakuni’s story

  1. truth and justice says:

    This is wrong man!!! dont spread wrong stories according to ved vyasa . As bheeshma asked gandhari’s hand for marraige for the blind prince dritrashtra shakuni usallyloved his sister so he stabbed his leg with a knife and took ooath that he will destroy kuru kingdom . As he hated pandav’s because as yudishta elder than the son of dridrashtra duryodhan was younger than yudishtar hence as yudishtar would become the king therefore he hated pandavs .

    the other main reason is according to ved vyasa’s poem it is said that before marraige gandhari blindfolded herself because of this he wanted atleast duryodhan son of gandhari should become the king .
    therefore shakuni hated pandav’s very much …………

  2. Dilshad Randhawa says:

    That still doesn’t make sense, it still doesn’t answer why Ghandri would marry a goat?! I’ve never heard of any women marrying a goat…..second concern is that if Shakuni wanted destruction of Kuru clan why would he support his nephew? Something is fishy somewhere. My email: Dilshad40@hotmail.com

  3. Appie says:

    I have heard this story too but with a slight variation. It’s not Dridharashtra who imprisons the Gandara king and princes but it is Pandu who does it, because he feels that his brother was cheated. To answer your two questions,
    1.Why do they release shakuni?
    Pandu imprisions the Gandhara king and the princes for 100 days agreeing to release any one who is alive after the 100 days time frame, feeding them all only a fistful of food. King subala realizing the plan is to kill all of them due to starvation, decides that only one can live with the amount of food offered and decides the worthy person to be fed. For this he tests his sons Witt by asking them to pass a thread through a very tiny hole in a long rod. Only shakuni with his clever mind would pass the test. He ties the thread on an ants body and place the ant at one end of the rod near the tiny hole and a grain of food on the other end. The ant would go through the tiny hole with the thread attached to its body and would come out through the other side. Seeing his cleverness the king decides that shakuni alone would be capable of taking a revenge against the kuru clan. Hence they feed them the food and he survives the 100 days in prison to be released.

    2.Why does Dridharashtra listen to shakuni? Why he does not expect shakuni to carry vengeance for the death of his siblings and father against the royal family?
    Once released from prison shakuni (being someone who can play on the evils residing in ones heart) identifies the greed in Dridharashtra’s heart and his desire for power and authority as king of hastinapur. Hence he vengefully fuels the desire of Dridharashtra and also convinces him that Pandu and his sons do not deserve to rule for the injustice made to the Gandhara royal family.
    He also points out that in the royal family only the eldest born son and his heirs have the right to rule and Pandu (being younger to Dridharashtra) and his sons (not rightfully heirs as they are not of the first born ruler) have no claim to the throne (which I personally find it logical :p).

  4. Sahiba Sachdev says:

    very nicely written! Besides Shakuni story, you covered the questions pretty well which actually make sense even though they are not answered but they leave an interesting point. I also wrote something related to it. Feel free to visit my post at http://sahibasachdev.com/the-everyday/mahabharata-the-curse-of-shakuni/

  5. Anonymous says:

    I heard this story from a friend and although it seemed to explain a few gaps I had the same questions that you raised. What would be interesting to know is if the original Mahabharatha has this story or is it one that was created in one of the various interpretations of the great epic.

  6. sid25 says:

    I think it was due to gandhari that dhrithrashtra freed shakuni..

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