If there was one particular incident in the Mahabharatha which could be termed as changing the very nature of the story it would probably be the Sabha Parva, where Yudhishtara played dice with Shakuni and lost his kingdom and everything else. Until this point in the story, the Pandavas and the Kauravas were just two groups within a family who were vying for the throne of Hastinapur.
Strangely enough, in this decisive parva, neither the Pandavas, nor the elders of the Kaurava assembly speak much. The actually talking is done by Draupadi and one another person....a Kaurava who spoke in favour of Draupadi.
Read on the story of one such unsung hero in the Mahabharatha...
The ill-fated dice game was going on in the court of Hastinapur. The elders were watching the game fearfully as Shakuni rolled the dice with confidence. Yudhishtara, was heavily losing and was steadily getting reckless.
As the game went on Yudhishtara lost his brothers one by one. In the end Yudhishtara even lost himself as a slave to the Kauravas...But the game was not over....not yet.....
Shakuni looked tauntingly at Yudhishtara. ‘You have lost even yourself, son of Pandu!'
Yudhishtara squirmed unable to meet the eyes of anyone in the court, not believing what he had done....
Shakuni paused studying the former king of Indraprastha and continued with a dangerous smile on his lips. '....However there is one thing you still have! Probably if you stake that, there is a chance you may win yourself back!’ he said softly.
‘What do I have?’ Yudhishtara asked.
‘The beautiful Krishna, the princess of Panchala!’ Shakuni whispered.
Though Shakuni spoke softly, every single person in the assembly heard him. There was not a single breath in the assembly as people watched dumbfolded the spectacle which unfolded before them.
Yudhishtara blinked as Shakuni mentioned Draupadi's name. Draupadi, the princess of Panchala, his wife....their wife....the queen of Indraprastha....Too many thoughts passed through Yudhishtara's head.
Not daring to look at any of his brothers, he nodded his head fearfully. ‘I will bet the dark Princess Krishna!’ He said hoarsely.
The elders of the court – Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and Kripa were looking shocked unable to believe the level Yudhishtara had descended into. But not one person spoke….Not one…
King Dhirdarashtra listened with astonishment as Yudhishtara announced that he was going to stake Panchali. His keen ears followed the sound of the dice as Shakuni cast it. King Dhirdarashtra regretted his blindness as he called, 'Was the game won?'
King Dhirdarashtra was even more angry as he realized that no one answered his question. Normally adept at hiding his feelings, he was unable to do so anymore as he called shrilly again, ‘WAS THE GAME WON?’
‘Yes! It is!’ was all Shakuni said onto the eerily silent court.
‘HA!’ Duryodhana let out a shout and looking viciously at the Pandavas and then at Vidura, who had collapsed on the floor, looking incapable of getting up. ‘Get that woman here! She is going to sweep these chambers and stay where our servants stay! Go get her!’
Vidura looked at Duryodhana slowly willing himself to speak normally. ‘Carried away by the game, Yudhishtara has failed to understand that he no longer had Krishna! He lost himself!’ he said his voice raising shrilly. ‘After that Yudhishtara, no longer has any rights on the dark Panchali!’
Duryodhana smiled smugly, ignoring Vidura's remarks as usual, when Vidura shouted. ‘You wretch! You foolish wretch! Do not do this! You take one more step and you are inviting your doom! And you will drag the entire Kuru household with you!’
Duryodhana looked dangerously at Vidura and then turned to the Pratikamin. ‘Go! Get her!’
The Pratikamin looked fearfully at the Pandavas when Duryodhana shouted. ‘You have nothing to fear from these slave Pandavas! Vidura….’ Duryodhana said looking at Vidura. ‘…he is just raving! He cannot do anything!’
The Pratikarmin slowly nodded his head as he went to Draupadi's room. 'You are wanted in the Kuru Sabha! The King has lost you in a game of dice!' he said without any preamble.
Draupadi blinked, her mind unable to process anything the man had said. 'WHAT?' she asked faintly.
The man repeated his words.
'Did the king have nothing else to play with, that he staked me in the game?' demanded Draupadi flustered.
The Pratikarmin looked at the furious red face of the Queen of the Pandavas and almost faltered. 'He has lost everything in the game of dice, Princess! He even lost himself and in the end, he staked you too!'
Draupadi looked numbly at the man, unable to believe the insanity of the entire situation. She the queen of Indraprastha, the most prosperous kingdom in the world, the kingdom which rivalled Indra's Amravathi....And she was staked in a game of dice.....Draupadi shook her head trying to make sense of something....
Slowly Draupadi's resolute nature took over as she looked at the Pratikarmin with cool eyes, her heart thundering with fear. 'Go to the Kuru assembly and ask a question! In the game of dice, did the king lose himself or lose me first?'
The Partikarmin hesitated. He was here under the orders of Prince Duryodhana to bring the Princess to the assembly. From experience, the Pratikarmin knew exactly how furious the Prince would be when he went to the court alone....
He was about to open his mouth when the fire-born princess looked at him. 'I NEED THE ANSWER!'
The Pratikarmin quavered at the look of anger in Panchali's eyes and decided that he might as well brave Prince Duryodhana's anger and made way to the Kuru assembly alone.
There slowly, hesitatingly, he asked the Kuru assembly Draupadi's question.
'HA!' Duruyodhana shouted with almost with delirious vengeance. 'Ask the princess to come here and ask the question herself!'
The Pratikarmin looked at Duryodhana and realized that he was almost fearing the prince as much as he feared Draupadi. But realizing that he has no choice in this matter he went back to Draupadi's chambers.
Draupadi looked at the Pratikarmin as he told them of what had happened in the Kuru Sabha, getting more and more bewildered and furious, by the minute.
She took a deep breath and looked at the Pratikarmin. 'I am a daughter-in-law of the Kuru house! Ask the elders about the morality of the issue involved in this case! Ask the elders of the assembly whether my coming to the assembly like this...(it is said that at that time, Draupadi was clad in a single piece of cloth) whether it is moral or not?'
The Prathikarmin hesitated once more, but he knew that the Princess was not going to change her mind.
He returned to the Kuru assembly and repeated her question.
No one answered.
'What shall I tell Krishna?' The Pratikarmin asked swallowing fearfully at the prospect of facing the princess without an answer.
Duryodhana looked at the Pratikarmin with disgust. He turned to Dusshasana. 'This foolish man is afraid of Bheema! Brother, you go and get her!'
Dusshasana nodded his head as he set out for Panchali.
'KRISHNA!' He roared as he entered the her chambers. 'KRISHNA!' he called out again.
When Draupadi heard Dusshasana, she realized that there was no negotiation with the man.
The man was drunk with power and arrogance and beyond negotiation...
She ran from there to the rooms of the Kaurava women. That did not stop Dusshasana. He roared angrily pulling Drauapdi to the Kuru assembly with her long hair as she screamed angrily at him. Karna laughed loudly at the treatment of Draupadi.
Draupadi was brought to the Kuru assembly and there was shocked to find the silent Pandavas sitting beside the dice game.
Draupadi angrily looked at the elders of the Kuru assembly, not believing that these great men would have allowed such a foolishness to be allowed right in front of their own eyes.
That was when she remembered that she was brought her to address a question...one question.
She looked at the grandsire angrily waiting for him to answer.
Bhishma looked down mumbling. 'I cannot decide the morality of the issue! One cannot bet what one does not have! But....I cannot decide....' The great Bhishma said.
Looking at the treatment that Draupadi was receiving at the hands of the Kauravas, Bheema looked angrily at Yudhishtara. 'Even poor gamblers do not bet their women in any games...And you...You, the just king of Hastinapur...' Bheema said sneeringly, '...you staked Panchali.....I will burn your hands for this! Your very hands which threw the dice...!' Bheema said viciously.
'Bheema!' Arjuna looked at him shaking his head. 'You never have spoken to your elder brother like this! Do not do this now....'
Bheema looked at his younger brother and seethed angrily trying his best to keep quiet.
Draupadi watched the entire scene as no one spoke...Not one.
That was when one young man came up to the court. A young man who is Karna's words was an 'immature child'. He was Vikarna, the son of Dhirdarashtra and one of the 99 brothers of Duryodhana.
Vikarna looked at the entire Kuru assembly and angrily came forward. 'How can you people allow this?' He asked the Kuru assembly looking at disgust at his own brothers and the elders of the assembly. 'How can Bhishma, Drona and Vidura, not know the answer that Draupadi has asked us? If you do not answer her question, you will all go to hell! Answer her questions, before doing anything.'
The entire assembly looked at the angry young Kaurava prince who was fighting for Draupadi. But then still no one answered.
Vikarna huffed angrily. 'Fine! You people will not answer! I will! I will answer the question that Draupadi had asked....'
The young prince said looking around. 'I am neither the oldest nor the most knowledgeable in this assembly! But I will say what I know! It is said that hunting, drinking, enjoying the company of too many women and gambling are the evils which a king may have. King Yudhishtara was addicted to one of these, which is why he acted the way he did and he staked Draupadi. When a man acts by evil, how can what he does be called as correct? Besides Draupadi is the wife of all the five Pandavas. How can Yudhistara stake her alone? And Yudhishtara staked her after he staked himself....He has no rights over her, after he lost himself....And remember that the other side cannot ask a person playing dice to stake anything. Shakuni asked for Krishna to cast as a stake! That is wrong! For all these reasons, I think that Draupadi's stake is wrong...Draupadi cannot be considered as won!'
Vikarna looked at the assembly angrily as he let out a deep breath.
The assembly applauded the young prince.
But then Karna looked furious, almost as if he had lost his senses. 'Her husbands are quiet! And who are you to talk in her favour? You talk because you are just an immature kid!' Karna said spluttering. 'Yudhishtara lost himself....after that Draupadi was his possession, she was lost then itself....And...Though Shakuni mentioned her as a stake, Yudhishtara approved it!' Karna looked viciously at Draupadi. 'A woman can have one husband! A woman who has more than one husband....she is no chaste woman....She has to be considered as won by us!'
The story goes on to how the Kuru assembly degraded itself and allowed its daughter-in-law to be humiliated.....
And so in this decisive part of the Mahabhartha, in the entire Kaurava assembly, not the Pandavas or most of the Kauravas, or the great Karna or the elders who were well-versed in Scriptures spoke....
Just one young boy spoke fearlessly. He was the only one who was willing to speak the truth without bothering about the consequences.....