​How could Yudhishthira stake his own wife in gambling?

by Bhavin KatariaJanuary 7, 2020

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Transcribed by: Bhabesh Mishra

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: How could Yudhishthira have gambled his own wife?

Answer: When invited for gambling, Yudhishthira had no desire for gambling because he felt that it would lead to conflict or even lead into a war. However, he was goaded. Consequently, he started gambling more and more. Eventually as the gambling went on, the fever caught him also.

We may ask how a virtuous person like Yudhishthira gambled to such an extent. I would suggest we look at this in another way – even a virtuous person like Yudhishthira could get so much caught up in the frenzy of gambling. Such is the frenzy which gambling can subject a person to.

Yudhishthira of course was thinking, “I have lost so much. I have lost my weapons, jewels, kingdom, in fact lost everything. Somehow, I have to regain these things.” He was hoping that by the next gamble, his luck will turn around and he would regain. That is why, when he lost everything, he gambled Nakula and Sahadeva. After that, Shakuni goaded him and said, “It seems you love Kunti’s sons more than Madri’s. That is why you have gambled Madri’s sons, but you are not ready to gamble Kunti’s sons.” The five Pandavas were one. Although, they were stepbrothers, they were closer than most brothers are. Yudhishthira was infuriated by this accusation. He said, “You fool. We five Pandavas are like the five fingers of a hand. We are all united. How dare you create disassociation among us?” Shakuni immediately became apologetic. He changed his face and said, “Sorry, sorry. In the heat of the moment I might have spoken something, please forgive me. You are my superior in every way. Let us continue gambling.” Shakuni put on a repentant face but he got his purpose served. Then Yudhishthira staked Arjuna and lost him. He then staked Bhima and lost him too. Then he staked himself and lost himself also.

At this point he had lost everything. Now, Shakuni suggested, “You still have one thing to stake and that is Draupadi.” When the name of Draupadi was mentioned, the whole assembly erupted in agony and horror. Yudhishthira himself was shocked at the prospect. Then he thought she has no protectors now. Her husbands have become slaves and surely if I stake Draupadi, at least now I might be able to win. If I can win then I can get back what I have lost. Then we will at least have some life, otherwise what life will Draupadi have? It is not that Yudhishthira’s reasoning was right but that is how it was. Then at this particular point, he decided to gamble Draupadi.

Now if we see, the significant thing is that he gambled his brothers before he gambled himself. He gambled Draupadi afterwards. This means he actually considered Draupadi far more valuable. It was not that he gambled her casually. He was, first of all, bound by instructions of others to gamble. He was goaded by others to keep gambling to scandalous extent. He was not just caught in the fever of gambling but was in despair because he did not want to lose everything. Thus, he ended up gambling Draupadi also.

We can say from the spiritual and devotional perspective, it was all arranged in such a way that Krishna eventually rescued Draupadi. Yudhishthira’s actions were orchestrated by the Lord in such a way that He could demonstrate – “ultimately, we have no protector except Krishna”. Draupadi had five heroic husbands who had few parallels in the world. Practically no parallels. Yet such husbands were rendered helpless at that particular point. She couldn’t turn to them for help. She turned to Krishna and He helped her.

From a transcendental perspective, Yudhishthira’s actions were orchestrated by the Lord so that He could demonstrate this truth that we have ultimately no protector except Krishna. However, from the circumstantial perspective, we can understand that Yudhishthira gambled because of the instructions of his elders, goading of Shakuni, being caught in the fever of gambling and because of the desperate hope that somehow, he could undo the damage that had happened. That is how he ended up gambling Draupadi.

End of transcription.

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Bhavin Kataria

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