Shakuni is an important character in the Mahabharata. He has been popular for thousands of years. There are several legends connected with him. Some of the stories state that he stayed with the Kauravas in order to seek revenge. Shakuni has been part of popular culture. He can be seen in movies, plays and books. The movie ' Maya Bazaar ' ( 1957 ) shows Shakuni as a sly but stupid guy in front of Krishna and Ghatotkacha ( son of Bhima & Hidimbaa ). This Prince from Gandhara ( modern Afghanistan ) was born to Subala , the Raja of Gandhara with his capital at Takshashila.
The wily Shakuni was the well known brother of the Kaurava Queen Gandhari, the consort of the blind Dhritarashtra. He was born with a hundred people and was the youngest amongst them to state some legends. His sons were Uluka and Vrika while Achala and Vrishaka were amongst his many brothers. Shakuni is shown as an emissary of evil and also as the most vile and cunning person. He was a master in creating illusions. The dice held by Shakuni had been made with the bones of his father. It is interesting to look at the meaning of his name. Shakuni means ' a large bird ' in Sanskrit. His names include Saubala ( son of Subala ), Subalraja, Subalaputra and Saubaleya, Gandharnaresh, Gandhararaja, Gandharapati, Parvatiya ( the one from the mountains ) and Kitava, the gambler.
The smart Shakuni shares his name with some more epic characters and they are a serpent, a Rishi, a son of Ikshavu and the son of Hiranyaksha who happened to be the father of Vrikasura. Some say that his wife was Arshi. A story not found in the Mahabharata states that Gandhari was supposed to lose her husband early. Therefore her father Subala gets her married to a goat and sacrifices the animal. This was done in order to ensure that Gandhari will be safe with her human husband later. Bhishma comes to know that Gandhari had been a widow because of the beheading of the goat. He gets enraged and imprisons Subala and family.
Shakuni was the chief strategist for his nephew, Duryodhana. The nephew tried to make Shakuni the commander-in-chief towards the end of the Kurukshetra war, but Shalya was given the role. Shakuni fought well and his Gandhara army fought alongside him. In fact, he defeated Shrutasena ( son of Nakula & Draupadi ). Shakuni tried to save Jayadratha but was defeated by Nakula, the fourth Pandava. The eighteenth day of the war saw Shakuni being killed by the fifth Pandava, Sahadeva. The fifth Pandava had killed Uluka, the son of Shakuni. An angry Shakuni attacked Sahadeva and destroyed his vehicle. Sahadeva got into another chariot in order to fight with Shakuni. They had a big duel and finally Sahadeva pierced his axe in the chest of Shakuni. Sahadeva, the holder of the conch Manipushpaka had taken an oath to kill Shakuni, and he fulfilled it.
The Ashvamedhika Parva mentions that a descendent of Shakuni was ruling over Gandhara. Shakuni had made Yudhishtra gamble away his treasures, his kingdom, his brothers and wife Draupadi in a game of dice. Dhritarashtra's brother Vidura ( born to Vyasa and the maid Pratishrami ) does not like the wily Shakuni. Vidura , was Dharma incarnateThe smart Shakuni shares his name with some more epic characters and they are a serpent, a Rishi, a son of Ikshavu and the son of Hiranyaksha who happened to be the father of Vrikasura. Some say that his wife was Arshi. A story not found in the Mahabharata states that Gandhari was supposed to lose her husband early. Therefore her father Subala gets her married to a goat and sacrifices the animal. This was done in order to ensure that Gandhari will be safe with her human husband later. Bhishma comes to know that Gandhari had been a widow because of the beheading of the goat. He gets enraged and imprisons Subala and family.
Subala and his sons are just given one fistful of food each day. All of them decide to let the youngest Shakuni have it. He survives and later ensures that the clan gets destroyed as a consequence of his activity. He makes a set of traditional Indian dice with the bones of his father. This is used by him to win at all times. Shakuni's ability to create illusions is second to none. The Gandharan was said to be an incarnation of Dwapara Yuga. Shakuni was very close to Duryodhana. The destruction of the Kuru clan because of the intrigues of a maternal uncle cast a shadow on the relationship between a maternal uncle and a nephew.
The temple for Shakuni is located in the tiny village called Pavithreswaram ( Kottarakkara Taluk, Kollam District ) in Kerala. A huge granite stone is found under a tree and it is worshiped as the seat of Shakuni. He is seen as one who is meditating on Lord Shiva. The temple is called Malanada Maladeva temple. Well, in popular culture, Shakuni has been portrayed in books, plays, movies and tele serials. He has been found in cartoons too.
Indic Author Ranjith Radhakrishnan has penned the story of Shakuni in the book ' Unsung Valor ' by Indica. The book was curated by the famous author Saiswaroopa Iyer. Ranjith has described Shakuni quite well in his narration. Shakuni states that his dice are men with their wishes, hopes , sorrows, thoughts and ideals becoming pieces in the game. He had played them all - the blind and avaricious Dhritarashtra, ambitious and insecure Duryodhana, terribly vowed and duty bound Bhishma, talented but vain glorious Karna, Dharma bound and righteous Vidura. The only exception being Krishna for he was unplayable and unreadable. Everyone else had been caught in the web spun by him. He had done so deftly but Krishna entered the web ; turned and melded it to put himself at the center.
Ranjith Radhakrishnan has crafted his chapter well. He states that Krishna understood men, their motivations, their inner demons that drove them and was supremely adept at the game. He seemed to inspire men to greater heights, give them hope, aspirations, comfort and succor. He elevated them somehow and how he did it was beyond the comprehension of Shakuni. Krishna was akin to a shard of lightning embedded in his brain; a clap of thunder befuddling his instincts, and Shakuni was at a loss, not knowing what to do. Krishna was unfathomable. he had advised his eldest brother, the blind Dhritarashtra to act with wisdom by handing over Indraprastha back to the Pandavas. This advice is tabled under the title ' Vidura Neeti '. Shakuni was in a way responsible for the negative outcome. Dhritarashtra does not want to come in the way of Duryodhana and war becomes inevitable. The Kauravas lose everything thereafter.
Bhaghwan Sri Krishna, the Lord of the Universe upheld Dharma in order to make Bharat, the Mahabharata.
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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