An untold tale of Shakuni
PART – 1
To almost every Indian, the story of Mahabharata is synonyms. To those of you who don’t know, it’s an epic poem written by the great sage Veda Vyasa. It is the longest and the most exquisite piece of poetry that depicts the events of the great Bharata war and the tragedy that is intertwined with it. The story is majorly based on two groups of brothers the Kauravas ( bad people ) and the Pandavas ( good people). There is a feud between the two, right from their childhood and reaches its peak when the Pandavas are tricked in a gamble to lose all their wealth, kingdom and even their wife Draupathi. The climax is as to how the Pandavas defeat the Kauravas to balance justice. The entire epic has numerous branching stories that make up significant roles throughout. For comparison assume this to be a further elaborate version of the game of thrones. Just like the game of thrones the fate of many are decided by two people Krishna, the supreme god himself (Tyrion Lannister) and Shakuni ( Little Finger), one of the princes with the thoughts of vengeance. It is a book of historical records, philosophy and spirituality that is revered by all around the world for its greater values.
But my talk today shall not be of the story, but of the two characters and the contrast between the rest. When asked about to any, as to who is the most poignant of all of them, hands would go up for Kunthi, Karnan, the Pandavas, and even for Bhishma. But truly the most tragic of them all was the Gandhar siblings.
Shakuni or Saubala :
Shakuni or Saubala is the youngest of the King Subala of Gandhar province ( present-day Afghanistan) . He was a kind and a dutiful brother and loved his elder sister Gandhari dearly. He was so devout that he would risk his life every day to collect fireflies from the treacherous mountaintops for his sister and release them into her room for illumination as she was afraid of the dark. The bond between the two was truly great. Despite all this good portrayal, the family abhorred their neighbouring kingdom Hasthinapur for the injustice done to their ancestors. Under this condition, the grand regent of the Hasthinapur, Bhishma raids the kingdom and threatens to destroy every living being using his celestial powers on the request of the ultimatum sent by the queen mother Satyavati to ask for the hands of Gandhari in marriage for her blind son. This enrages Shakuni, but as a victim of circumstance they comply knowing that they can’t resist the forces standing outside their gate. Shakuni’s heart breaks, at the thought of his sister getting married to a blind man out of force and he being unable to stop this. For her part Gandhari as dutiful wife blindfolds her eyes to feel the suffering of her husband for the rest of her life. This added more fuel to the raging fire. Few years later, due to some misunderstanding Gandharis husband the king of Hastinapur, Dridrastsh arrests the entire Gandhar royals, confiscated their assets and put them in the dungeons. To worsen the conditions, Shakuni and his parents were only given a fist full of rice each to eat. They were doomed to be starved to death. Shakuni’s father knew of this and wanted to save at least one of them gave up his share and his wife’s to his son so that he may live. He but without an option had to watch his parents die. But before the death of his mother she whispered an ordain that shook him and will forever resonate through time. She had asked to take a bone from his father’s thigh and fashion him a dice to gamble as Shakuni was one of the greatest players of his time. His mother further told that whenever he rolled the dice he would have a number that he decided and passed away. She knew that without a kingdom or a place to stay he needed some sort of way to earn his living thus giving him a darkest way to earn his living. All these humiliations, frustration and losses paved way for his ultimate revenge. His only desire now was to destroy the Kuru lineage. Darkness seeped in his heart as he did the bidding of his mother. The pain of all these loses made him to break his own leg and made him a limp as a reminder to all the atrocities committed by the Kuru clan over them . After a considerable amount of time in his prison he was released by the grand regent of Hastinapur who pitted him. He gave a choice to him, either return to his kingdom or stay with them. Vengeance in his heart was greater than the earning to return his kingdom. He ordered his son Ulook to take over the kingdom. He stayed back and plotted the downfall of great empire. With this begins the story of deceit, blood and war. Later through the timeline at the 18th day of the Great War he is faced with his nephew from the Pandavas and meets his end in a gruesome manner.
A visious victim :
Throughout the story, Shakuni is always portrayed as an evil mastermind and a devious madman of sorcery. But many overlook all the details that were present evidently thought the story about him being a gentle soul.
- He loved his sister dearly and would risk his life for her happiness
- Was an obedient son to his parents and never crossed their path
- When he was mocked and hurt by his in-laws he never even once left the side of his sister and endured all of them
- His anger was only directed towards the grand regent and to no other, including the Pandavas. That’s why when Duryodhana his nephew proposed to lock up all the Pandavas into the dungeons, Shakuni swayed him to let them be banished.
- He made a lot of offering to people and was kind to others, as a proof to this there is a temple dedicated to him in Kerala, India. Many are not aware of this and it exists to this day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakuni.
All these evidence suggest that he was not a man full of evil thoughts but only a man seeking his revenge for the fall of his family and for the pitiful life of his sister whom he loved dearly. One of the accounts states that despite knowing his sure doom he entered the battle on the last day to meet his end. At one point in the battle when he was faced by his nephew Sahadeva, who questioned his morality and his thoughts of vengeance for annihilation. This made Shakuni rethink his actions and confess of his crimes to Sahadeva. He reveals his story to Sahadev and tells of the injustice done to him right from his childhood and even cries to him. All he ever wanted was justice for all that he endured, he wanted justice for his beloved sister, and he wanted justice for all the wrongdoings of Beshma in the name of dharma. Finally, he attacks Sahadev to enrage him into battle and letting go of his life.
A face of Fate:
In the end, the even the all the good that a man has done is all but reduced to dust for the single act of crime that he did. In this case, Shakuni’s vengeance ruined him. Lord Krishna on an account told the Pandavas that despite their love they are not the ones that think of him all the time but it was Shakuni who does always thinks of him day and night out of fear of flaying his plans. Similarly, he tells that after Vithura the great and Bishma the greatest knowledge resides only inside Shakuni. Though his cause was right, the path that he chose was not. No one knows what one goes through in his life to react so. There is always a second side to a story. So before you judge someone has a look from their perspective and decide the truth for yourself. Remember there is always light in darkness and darkness in light. Through this, I do not advocate or justify the actions of Shakuni, but I simply point out the possibilities that lie outside a story. Also how circumstances turn a man into an animal when things turn out for the worse. If that’s so is it right to punish a man who was fuelled to do wrong or is it wise to punish the person who fuelled it in the first place? In this case, Shakuni was not only a villain but also a victim of the events who was punished accordingly to the sins he had committed. But, what of Gandhari? , what did she do to deserve such a fate? Let’s see it in my next article….
PC: Google Images