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.