He was the one who tried to burn the Pandavas alive; but he was good. He planned the disrobing of Draupadi; but he was good. He was responsible to put an end to the lineage of Kauravas, but he was good. He was Shakuni, the maternal uncle of Kauravas – Duryodhana and his 99 brothers; and YES, he WAS good! How? That is an interesting and forgotten tale I am gonna recite today.
But before that, I apologise to you all for having kept you waiting for so long before coming with this tale. But the reason was a good one for me as I was working on my debut novel which is a romantic fiction and is out now on Amazon for you all – The Monsoon Marigolds 🙂 So read it and let me know how do you find it! *Show me some support* 😉
So let’s begin! We all are more than aware that the great Mahabharata is chiefly about the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas which ended with the end of the Kaurava clan. We all know how Shakuni, the maternal uncle of Kauravas always kept the fire of enmity between the cousin princes, lit. But little do we know that Shakuni, like many Mahabharata characters, had his own gloomy and disturbing past which tells that he wasn’t bad at all and we all would have done the very same thing he did to end the Kaurava clan.
The story begins in Gandhar, modern day Qandahar in Afghanistan, ruled by king Subal, father of Shakuni and Gandhari(named after Gandhar). King Subal had 100 sons and one daughter and Shakuni was youngest of all the brothers. Now one day, king Subal organised a Yagya, a ritual in front of sacrificial fire and had invited many sages and seers. There, arrived an astrologist who told Subal that his beloved daughter Gandhari has some bad luck in her fortune chart owing to which, her first husband won’t survive. King Subal became ultimately disturbed by it; Gandhari, the extremely beautiful princess was her much-adored child after all. To end the gloomy affair that could disturb her future, Subal came with a solution to marry her off to a goat and then sacrifice it, to be in accordance with a fact that her first husband will not live long. In that way, her second husband, who of course will be a man, will survive and she’ll have a happy married life. So he did the same and married his daughter off to a goat and sacrificed it.
(Just to let those of you know who are not very much familiar with these practises, in India, these type of marriages are done to avoid the Mangal dosh of girls who are Mangalik. The girls get married to a tree or an animal who afterwards gets sacrificed. In case they get married to an earthen pot, the pot is supposed to be broken, taking away with it the bad luck that could creep in in the life of a future husband of a girl. This is called Kumbh(earthen) Vivah(pot). (Note: I would also like to clear it here that I do not endorse any such practice and am only informing those who are not aware of these practises of the past.)
So the problem was solved and everything was alright now, at least that is what the family of Gandhari had thought.
In a turn of events, Gandhari later gets married to Dhritarashtra, the prince of Kuru clan of Lunar dynasty (Chandravansh), who was blind. The beautiful Gandhari who was known for her beauty and specifically for her beautiful eyes, blindfolds herself for whole life, just to engulf herself in the darkness that her husband had always been engulfed in, and to see and live the life the way he did. Everything was good; until Dhritarashtra got to know the fact of Gandhari’s first marriage.
The day came when Dhritarashtra got to know of the first marriage of his wife Gandhari and felt betrayed and fooled. He was the king of the mighty, invincible Hastinapur. He couldn’t bear it and imprisoned the whole family of king Subal – the king and his 100 sons. It is also said that both Dhritarashtra and Bheeshm Pitamah were involved in this imprisonment. The punishment, although, was yet to be given to the family of Subal. And it was really cruel. It was decided that the whole family king Subal, of 101 men, in the prison will get only a handful of grains per day. It was meted out in order to starve the Subal family to death as of course, one handful of grains could never suffice the hunger of 101 men. Subal realised that the end of his family was impending. He got an idea; he contemplated that only if one out of all 101 men could get that one handful of grain per day, that “one” would survive. But who will it be? Subal himself, his eldest son, or some other son? And he decided to test his sons. He wanted to know who was the sharpest one, who could live to avenge the death of his 99 brothers and his father, as Subal knew that his and his sons’ days were numbered now and they were destined to die while starving. He came up with a test. He took a bone and asked his sons one by one to insert a thread in the bone and take it out from the other side. All failed, except the youngest and brightest son of Subal, prince Shakuni. When he got his turn, he tied one end of the thread with a grain and another end with an ant, who walked through the bone and took the thread to the other side. Shakuni, the youngest prince had proved his mettle and he was chosen, not only by king Subal but probably by the destiny as well, to bring drastic turns in the History of Hastinapur and our country. As a result, he was given the grains every day and he saw all his brother die painfully, one by one. At last, his father, when he was about to die, requested to Dhritarashtra to leave the youngest prince Shakuni, and Dhritarashtra did it. (God knows whether he did right, or it was the biggest mistake Dhritarashtra ever committed).
Because on his deathbed, Subal asked Shakuni to avenge the death of his clan by Dhritarashtra. Shakuni, the young prince was embittered on the fate of his family – first, the marriage of his dear sister with a blind man, and then the painful and cruel death of his family in front of him. It is said that his father hit him hard on his leg which turned Shakuni lame. In case you have seen Mahabharata serials on TV, you must have realised that Shakuni is always seen walking with a limp. This was done by Subal to make Shakuni realise with every step in his life what his goal was. And Shakuni now had a goal – to annihilate the clan of Kauravas. It is also said that king Subal knew dark magic and had asked Shakuni to use his thigh bone to make dices which will never disobey Shakuni. Again, if you see Mahabharata, you can see how Shakuni’s dices always obeyed him like loyal slaves. The dices which made Yudhishthira, a servant in the game of dice called Chausar. The same dices that resulted in Draupadi’s disrobing and Pandava’s exile.
Now Shakuni did what he was left with, he vowed loyalty to the kingdom of Hastinapur. But he was the one who fed on the aspirations and human weaknesses of Dhritarashtra and his 100 sons. Interesting, isn’t it? Subal had 100 sons and 1 daughter. And similarly, years later, Dhritarashtra too had 100 sons – amongst which Duryodhana was the eldest one – and a daughter, Dushala. And Shakuni did the same with Dhritarashtra – he made sure that not a single son of Dhritarashtra would survive, and that too by being their most beloved Mama(maternal uncle).
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Being a person of such a sharp brain, it is hard to believe that he never recognised Pandavas strength. It is even harder to believe that he never recognised Lord Krishna, who was always with Pandavas.
And in the end, we all know what happened, not a single son of Dhritarashtra was spared by Pandavas. Even Jayadratha, husband of Dushala, Dhritarashtra’s daughter, was killed in the battle of Mahabharata.
And if you are wondering about Shakuni’s death, the prince of Gandhar who always saw pain of his loved ones, who could never forget the grotesque pictures of his family members’ death, and who never went to Gandhar to rule it after his father’s death, was killed by Sahdev, the youngest Pandava.
It is indeed inevitable that Shakuni in his life committed heinous crimes – trying to burn the Pandavas alive, planning and encouraging the disrobing of a woman, killing of Abhimanyu, and many others, but was he bad in doing so? What would you have done had you been in his place? If you had seen your family dying such a cruel death? It is up to us to decide.
Although for me, he was never a hero, but it is said that after his death, he attained heaven, because he was always goal-oriented, and whatever he did was for his family and his very beloved sister Gandhari, who HAD to marry Dhritarashtra.
Not only this, but there is also a temple dedicated to him in Pavithreswaram in Kollam district of Kerala, India.
Tell me in the comments what you think about this tale of Shakuni which is told in the folk stories and also tell me if you want me to write about or on any specific character or story of our mythology.
And once again, don’t forget to buy my book from Amazon, “The Monsoon Marigolds”! 🙂
I love you all! 🙂