Shakuni was the prince of Gandhara. Gandhari was his sister. Thus, Shakuni was Duryodhana’s maternal uncle and was his constant companion in Hastinapur.
Shakuni was fully aware of Pandava’s might and also knew of Duryodhana’s intense hatred towards them. The evil-minded Shakuni nurtured this hatred and advised Duryodhana to destroy the Pandava brothers. After the incident at Indraprastha, Shakuni went to the forlorn Duryodhana and told him, “My dear nephew! I know a way to drive the Pandavas out of Indraprastha, without any fight and without shedding any blood.” Duryodhana’s eyes lighted up in hope. He asked “Uncle, how is it possible?” Shakuni replied, “Yudhishtira
is very fond of the game of dice. You invite him for a game and I will play on your behalf. I will trick him into defeat and thus win his kingdom and his wealth for you. Do you like my plan?” Wouldn’t Duryodhana be delighted at such an opportunity? But before sending a word to the Pandavas, Duryodhana and Shakuni went to Dhrithrashtra and explained their plan of inviting Yudhishtira for a game of dice, defeating him totally and taking away all his wealth and kingdom away from him. Dhrithrashtra at first did not favour the plan. But when Duryodhana insisted on this, Dhrithrashtra out of his blind love for his son relented. Ultimately, he summoned Vidura to invite Yudhishtira for the game of dice.
Yudhishtira had vowed that as an emperor he would never indulge in such games. But since his elderly uncle had
summoned him, he went to Hastinapur along with his brothers and the royal retinue.
Duryodhana had a magnificent hall specially erected for the game. Many distinguished persons of the Kuril clan, royal teachers and officials were present
in the hall on the day of the game and a huge platform had been erected. Shakuni invited Yudhishtira to the dais to start the game upon which
Yudhishtira asked Duryodhana as to who would play with him. Duryodhana replied that his uncle Shakuni would cast the dice instead of him. Yudhishtira was confident of defeating Duryodhana in a game of dice, but felt diffident against Shakuni as Shakuni was an expert player. So, he hesitated and said, “How could Shakuni play on your behalf when it is you who have invited me to this game?” Duryodhana looking deridingly asked “Well! Are you afraid of losing to my uncle.” Yudhishtira flushed with embarrassment and said, “Duryodhana, I am not a coward, I shall play.” The hall was full and everybody knew that the game would end in a bitter way, but they could do nothing about it. At first, gold, silver and ornaments were wagered and Yudhishtira lost them in no time. One by one he pledged his servants, his chariots, horses, armies and lost them too. The fervent plea made by his brothers to stop the game did not have any effect on Yudhishtira. When he had nothing more to pledge he staked Sahadev and Nakul and Shakuni’s cunning game made him lose them too. Shakuni taunted him by saying, “Yudhishtira, after all they are your step brothers, and that is why you could stake them. I bet you wouldn’t dare offer Bhima and Arjun as stakes. Yudhishtira by that time was feeling thoroughly reckless and stung by Shakuni’s retort continued the game by offering the ever victorious Arujun and Bhima as wagers. He lost them too. Shakuni then reminded Yudhishtira about Draupadi and said, “There is a very valuable jewel in your possession. I call upon you to continue the game with your wife Draupadi as wager.” The desperated Yudhishtira pledged her too, and lost her. Shakuni stood up in the assembly and shouted that he had won the Pandavas and Draupadi and they had to become his slaves. The entire gathering was stunned. Some wept with distress. Some blamed Duryodhana for the situation. Bhishma, Drona and Krupa were worried about the consequences.
Duryodhana roared like a lion, “Draupadi will henceforth be our maid. She is at our command.” He turned towards Vidura and said “Vidura! Go and fetch her.” Vidura exclaimed “Have you become insane? You are heading towards your own destruction.” Duryodhana ignored Vidura’s caution and sent a charioteer to fetch Draupadi. He was intent on humiliating Draupadi in full view of the gathering. Draupadi refused to go to the court of Duryodhana and said, “How could a man stake his
wife after he himself had lost the game. When I do not belong to him, how could he have the right to pledge me as a pawn? I refuse to come.” Duryodhana was enraged on hearing this answer. “How dare the maid talks back like this? Duhshyasana,my brother! Bring that maid here, even if you have to drag her by the hair. This is my order.”
Duhshyasana was wicked. He went quickly to Draupadi’s chamber, caught her by her long black hair and dragged her to the assembly. Draupadi was extremely angry. She argued that she could not be staked as a pawn as Yudhishtira had lost his freedom to stake her much earlier. She appealed to the elders like Bhishma, Drona, Kama and Dhrithrashtra not to allow such a misdeed. Duryodhana had exceeded the limits of decency. Totally ignoring what was right and what was wrong, and also ignoring that the assembly consisted of male members and the elders, Duryodhana instructed Duhshyasana to seize Draupadi’s garments and disrobe her. The gathering was aghast. How could anybody tolerate a lady being thus insulted? Even Dhrithrashtra had not anticipated that the matter would be carried out so far. He begged his son, “Oh! My dear son, do not resort to such acts and bring disrepute to the Kaurava’s clan.” Bhishma and Drona were full of grief that they had to witness such a scene. But, Duryodhana was adamant. He ordered his brother to pull out Draupadi’s sari. The helpless Draupadi trembled with fear like a poor fawn stricken by a tiger. None among the gathering could protect her. Her five husbands who were described as the mighty ones were now Kaurava’s slaves. At that moment, she could onlv think of
Divine Intervention and prayed to Lord Krishna to come to her help. As Duhshyasana tried to disrobe Draupadi, another garment would appear on her and soon a heap of garments were piled up in the assembly.
Duhshyasana pulled and pulled her garments and there seemed to be no end to them. He was so tired that he had to give up. While the assembly watched this miracle, the frustrated Duryodhana walked out of the assembly.
Draupadi slowly opened her eyes. The Pandavas stood in one corner bowing their heads in shame. It was Bhima who broke the deathly silence. He swore, “Sooner or later I shall rend the breast and drink the blood of Duhshyasana”. Draupadi also swore that till Duhshyasana was killed, she would not tie up her hair. Nature also seemed to protest against such a shameful act. Suddenly the earth seemed to quiver. There were several evil omens. Rain also poured out of its fury.
Dhrithrashtra called Draupadi to his side and attempted to soothe her by saying, “Child, My son has erred. Whatever you want, I will grant to you as an atonement for his mistakes”. Draupadi a devout wife, wanted her husbands to be freed from bondage, she also asked for return of the weapons. Dhrithrashtra was even prepared to give back Indraprastha to them. But, self-respect would not make Draupadi to accept the kingdom from her enemies. She refused this offer.
The Pandavas left the cursed hall stunned by the turn of events. Draupadi followed them.
Duryodhana was extremely angry when he heard that his blind father had returned all the weapons to the Pandavas and freed them from bondage. He showed his anger on his father. The poor Dhrithrashtra did not even have the courage to stop his son’s shouting. Finally, Duryodhana pressurised Dhrithrashtra to call Yudhishtira once again for the game of dice and that whoever was the loser was to go on exile to the forest for twelve years and spend the thirteenth year incognito. If they were to be recognised in the thirteenth year, they were to go into exile for another twelve years. The elders tried their level best to make Duryodhana come to his senses and not to bring any more misfortune to the Pandavas. How could Duryodhana agree when he didn’t want them alive. His sole intention was to banish them forever.
udhistira too could not resist the temptation of playing the game and win back what he had lost. So, he returned to Hastinapur and sat again for the game of dice. Needless to say, Yudhishtira lost again and had to leave for the forest.
When they set out for the forest, the citizens of Hastinapur requested them not to go. Their grief and lamentation filled the sky. When Dhrithrashtra learnt about their departure, he was filled with even more fear and anxiety. But Duryodhana was not moved. Bhishma and Drona could not even utter a word because they were under the obligation of Dhrithrashtra.
When Krishna came to know of the incident, he went to Hastinapur and fetched his sister Subhadra who was Arjun’s wife and her young son Abhimanyu to Dwaraka. When
Draupadi’s brother Dhristadyumna heard of Draupadi’s humiliation, he vowed to take revenge against the Kauravas. Kunthi stayed with Vidura.