Dharmaraja Yudhishtira - The noble Emperor of Bharat

Tamilnadu State is famous for its Draupadi and Dharmaraja temples. They are scattered all around the Tamil-speaking parts of India. Draupadi and her husband Dharmaraja ( Yudhishtira ) are worshipped in the sanctum. Some of these temples have a fire walk (Gundam) area. The Draupadi Amman temple at Coimbatore has one of the biggest fire walks in this part of the country. Our ancient epic Mahabharata is recited in these temples. The Mahabharata is considered the fifth Veda, and there is nothing in the world that is not found in the Mahabharata. It is the story where conflict arises due to the non-adherence to righteousness. Dharmaraja or Yudhishtira stood up for what was right. His story is sure to inspire the youth of today.

Dharmaraja was the ruler of Hastinapura for 36 years, and he is credited to have performed the Rajasuya and Ashwamedha sacrifices. The Rajasuya was performed during his tenure as the ruler of Indraprastha, and the Ashwamedha was performed after the great Bharata war. He was married to Draupadi and also Devika. While he shared Draupadi with his other brothers, Devika was his other wife, who was only wedded to him. She happens to be the daughter of Govasena, the ruler of the Sivi kingdom, and this spouse of Dharmaraja begot Yaudheya with him. The Bhagavata and Vishnu Puranas talk about the other wife, Pauravi. She bore him the son Devaka.

The righteous ruler was good with his chariot, but his exclusive weapon was the lance or spear. Dharmaraja had greatly influenced by his uncle Vidura and grand-uncle Bhishma. He had undergone his education under the eminent warrior sages Kripacharya and Dronacharya. His name Yudhistira meant ' one who is steady in war. ' Long ago, Pandu ruled the kingdom of Hastinapur. He was happily married to Kunti and Madri. However, he gave up his kingship due to a curse. He had unwittingly killed a sage ( Kindima and his wife ) couple who were having a good time in the form of a deer couple. They cursed him. According to the curse, Pandu would lose his life if he ever sought a union with his wives.

A disheartened Pandu handed over the kingdom to his blind brother Dhritarashtra. This blind ruler acted under the advice of his uncle Bhishma and brother Vidura. Pandu lived in the forest, and he was happy to learn that it was possible for his wives to beget kids through Niyoga. This was a process where the lady would seek a divine soul and beget a child through his grace. Kunti acquired this knowledge while serving the great sage Durvasa. Pandu requested her to beget kids through Niyoga, and Kunti gave birth to Yudhishtira by propitiating Yamadharmaraja, Bhima by propitiating Vayu, and Arjuna by propitiating Indra. The kind Kunti made her co-wife Madri propitiate the Ashwini twins in order to beget the twins Nakula and Sahadeva.

These five boys were collectively known as the Pandavas, and they began to grow up happily in the forest. One day, Pandu was tempted to reach out to Madri, and this event ended his life. Madri left her kids in the care of Kunti and joined her husband Pandu on the funeral pyre. Bhishma came to know about the tragic end of Pandu, and he decided to bring his family to Hastinapur. Meanwhile, the Queen of Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, had given birth to 100 sons and a daughter. They were collectively known as the Kauravas, and Duryodhana was the eldest among them. His immediate younger brother Dushasana was also well known.

The 105 princes grew up under the tutelage of Bhishma, Kripa, and Vidura. Drona became their teacher later, and all of them excelled in the art of warfare. They were also extremely knowledgeable, but sibling rivalry created a number of issues. The guidance of Bhishma and Vidura, coupled with the maturity of Dharma ( Dharmaraja / Yudhishtira ), helped in sorting out a number of issues without conflict. Dharma was also known by several other names: Bharatavanshi - descendent of Bharata, Ajatashatru - one who is bereft of enemies, Dharmanandana - the son of Dharma, Panduputra - son of Pandu, Pandavagrajah - eldest among the Pandavas, Jyestakaunteya - the first son of Kunti, Saarvabhauma - Emperor of the world, Kanka - the name which was given by Draupadi during the incognito period ( 1 year ) of their 13-year exile.

Bhishma and the other elders of Hastinapur were perplexed with regard to the choice of the heir apparent. Both Yudhishtira and Duryodhana claimed the kingdom. While Duryodhana stated that he was the firstborn of the person who should have been king, Yudhishtira claimed that he was the son of the former ruler. Finally, the decision to test their qualities before declaring the name of the heir is apparent. They identified a Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra who had committed similar crimes and asked both the princes to decide on the punishment that was to be meted out to them. While Duryodhana awarded a similar punishment to all of them, the wise Yudhishtira decided otherwise. He stated that the not-so-aware Shudra would be punished, but it would be lighter when compared to the Vaishya, who in turn would get lighter punishment than the Kshatriya, while the all-knowing Brahmana would be given the bigger punishment. This impressed the elders, and they declared Yudhishtira as the heir apparent.

The heir apparent and his brothers visited Vanavrata and were made to stay in a lac palace. Shakuni's ( maternal uncle of the Kauravas ) man Purochana set fire to this Lakshagriha ( lac palace ), but the Pandavas were saved by an emissary sent by the good-hearted Vidura. The Pandavas escaped and wandered in the forests, and they finally married Draupadi. They were once again invited to Hastinapur and given Khandavaprasta. Lord Krishna helped them to create the fabled Indraprastha on the same site. It was in this city that Draupadi bore Dharma two kids, Prativindhya and Suthanu ( daughter ). The girl got married to Asvabhanu, the eldest son of Lord Krishna, through his wife, Satyabhama.

Dharma became the Emperor of Bharat after performing the Rajasuja sacrifice. This took place under the guidance of Lord Krishna, the cousin of the Pandavas. A jealous Duryodhana invited Yudhishtira for a game of dice, and he lost everything, including his wife, Draupadi, in the game. The humiliation meted out to Draupadi and decided the next course of the story. Dhritarashtra returned the kingdom, but the Pandavas were invited once again to play another game of Pachisi ( dice ). They lost the game and were sent to the forest for 13 years. They had to spend 12 years in the forest and then one year in incognito. If discovered, they would be eligible to reclaim their kingdom. The wily Shakuni had been the cause of all these difficulties.

The Pandavas lived in the forest happily. Dhaumya was their guide, and they did a lot of good while in the forest. However, the evil-minded Duryodhana decided to check out on them. He visited the forest but was captured by the Gandharvas in a tussle. It was due to the advice of Yudhishtira that his brothers ensured the release of the sadistic Duryodhana. On another occasion, Jayadratha, the husband of Duhsala (the only sister of the Kauravas ), tried to take Draupadi away but was caught in the process. It was due to the mercy of Dharma that he got released.

Dharma was extremely talented. He was a polyglot and knew a number of rare languages. The incarnation of righteousness was known for his adherence to truth, tolerance, and Viveka buddhi ( power of discrimination ). He could just burn anyone into ashes with his wrath. His very sight could do it. His awareness of this attribute of his kept him calm and composed. He had closed his eyes while coming out of the gambling room; otherwise, the entire court would have burnt to ashes. Yudhishtira had received a lot of spiritual knowledge from Lord Shiva and seers who included Vyasa, Markandeya, Parasurama, Bhrigu, Savarni Manu, Narada, Dhaumya and Asita Devala. He had killed Shalya and his brother Madrasena in the 18-day Kurukshetra war. The righteousness of Dharma ensured that his chariot stayed four fingers above the ground at all times.

Dhritarashtra was ever scared of Yudhishtira. He had told Sanjaya that the energy of Yudhishtira's righteous approach would burn the Kauravas. Dharma was known to adhere to a high level of Brahmacharya practices all his life. This had filled the blind king with alarm. He had feared Dharma the most. While an exclusive story on Yudhishtira is yet to hit the screen, a book on him has been authored by the well-known Indic author Semanti Chakraborty recently. It is a three-volume work, and the first one, ' Rise of Dharma ', is available. There is, however, a red dragon in the Iron Realms Entertainment game Aetolia, The Midnight Age named Yudhishtira.

He served Virata, the ruler of Matsya, as Kanka. Dharma taught the game of dice to Virata. The Yakshaprasna event is seminal in the life of Dharma. His brothers happened to drink water from a lake and fell down. They had refused to answer the questions posed by a Yaksha who was none other than Yamadharmaraja himself. Yudhishtira went in the last, and he answered all the 100 plus questions successfully. Finally, the Yaksha offered the life of one of his brothers. Dharma chose Nakula because he felt that a son of Madri should be alive too. A highly pleased Yamadharmaraja granted him all his brothers. He was keen to grant a boon. Each of the brothers chose something, but Dharma just wanted one thing. He did not want them to be discovered during the incognito period, and it was granted. The righteous ruler was fair.

Dharma and Draupadi used to converse often. He had told her that Dharma was to be followed for its sake and not for anything else. Draupadi was told that only they might suffer due to the trials and tribulations, but their anger could cause difficulties for others. This took place when they were in the Dwaitavana. On the first day of the war, Yudhishtira sought the blessings of the elders in the opposite camp. He welcomed the ones who wanted to join his camp, and this resulted in Yuyutsu, a son of Dhritarashtra, through his other wife, coming over to the side of the Pandavas.

On the advice of Paramatma Krishna, Yudhishtira sought the advice of Bhishma after the Kurukshetra war. This helped him to govern his lands better. The age of Kali arrived, and Lord Krishna left for Vaikunta. Yudhishtira and his brothers decided to call it a day, and they made the son of Abhimanyu and Uttara, Parikshit as the ruler with Yuyutsu as his mentor and left for the Himalayas. They fell down one by one, and finally, a dog followed him till the very end. The fabulous Pushpaka Vimanam arrived, and he was asked by Indra to ascend it without the dog. Yudhishtira refused to do so, and finally, it was revealed that the dog was none other than his own father, Yamadharmaraja.

Yudhishtira reaches heaven but does not see his family members. He gets to see the Kauravas in heaven. The worried Yudhishtira wants to meet his family, and Yamadharmaraja tells him that they are in hell. Yudhishtira decides to stay in hell with them rather than be in heaven. He is finally told that he has passed this test too, and lo, he is found in heaven with his near and dear. Yudhishtira had to undergo this tribulation because of the half lie uttered by him to his preceptor Drona during the great Mahabharata war.

The curse of Yudhishtira is one more interesting aspect. On learning that his mother, Kunti, had concealed the information relating to the birth and existence of her firstborn Karna. He cursed that henceforth, women would never be able to conceal secrets. He felt that if Kunti had told the world that Karna was her son, the war could have been avoided, and millions of lives could have been saved. She had been responsible for the great disaster.

Thus the fair play of Yudhishtira got etched in the history of Bharat. Yudhishthira's reign was symbolized by all-round prosperity, which was backed by righteousness. Contentment prevailed, and the people led a just life. All this was done while also ensuring that the country was powerful. Yudhishtira understood that eternal vigilance and adherence to Dharma were essential to maintain order in Bharat. Let us celebrate the great ruler Yudhishtira during the times to come. Vande Mataram.

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of The Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, entrepreneur, and a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.


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