The royal assembly had slowly fallen silent. The unthinkable was happening. Silence and the weight of the events about to unfold hung heavy in the air, stilling the drunken chatter in the hall. The perfumes wafting through the assembly of Hastinapur seemed to wither and die down. The Pandavas had lost the gambling match, and much more with it. They had lost their kingdom, their divine weapons, their freedom and also – this was what hurt the most – bet and lost their wife Draupadi to the Kauravas.
The enmity of the Kauravas, sons of Dhritrashtra, and Pandavas, sons of Pandu was nothing new. Dhritrashtra was born blind and hence the reins of the kingdom had been bestowed on Pandu. This festered inside Dhritrashtra and with time had grown into a big sore, helped no doubt, by the acidic sarcasm and oblique references to this injustice by his brother-in-law, Shakuni. Dhritrashtra’s marriage to Gandhari, the Princess of Gandhar, was also an unlikely match, and would not have happened without the coercive hand of Bhishma, the valiant patriarch of the Kuru Kingdom. Bhishma had convinced the king of Gandhar that the safety and prosperity of Gandhar lay in acceding to the demands of the Kuru royal family and agreeing to the marriage between his beautiful daughter Gandhari and the blind Kuru Prince Dhritrashtra. This had not gone down well with the Gandhar royal family and it was only the threat of an immediate invasion by the vastly superior Kuru forces that the king had agreed. Gandhari and Shakuni had come to Hastinapur for the marriage ceremony, and Shakuni had stayed back, never returning to Gandhar.
Gandhari, as a token of protest and to be an equal match to her blind husband, had tied a piece of cloth across her eyes and vowed to never see the world with her bodily eyes again. Shakuni, who loved his sister no end, had suffered through all this and stayed back to see that justice was done to Gandhari and her children, the Kauravas. He had always had the ear of Dhritrashtra and later, of Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas. He had made sure that Dhritrashtra and his sons never forgot what injustice had been done to them…………………………..Excerpt from ‘The Curse of Draupadi’ from the book – ‘The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures’
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