Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shakuni, Prince of Gandhar - The Mahabharata Chronicles #4

He walked along the corridors of the palace, deep in thought. Things were not looking good. The Pitamah and his crony, Vidura were getting suspicious of him. He could sense the distrust; sometimes even see it in their eyes. Something had to be done before things got out of hand. Something really subtle, yet potent.

He remembered his latest meeting with them. They had admonished him again to keep away from his nephews. They had not minced any words either when they ordered him to head back to his own kingdom. He had bristled at that thought. His eyes glinted with malice. But as always, he had kept his sentiments to himself and meekly mumbled something about missing his sister too much. He had also added for good measure, that his kingdom was being well run even in his absence. And as always, Bhishma had looked straight into his eyes, with that discerning stare of his, as if he knew exactly what was going on in his mind.

He loathed the Pitamah. Ever since, his sister had been forced to marry the blind king, and she had taken upon herself the oath to bind her eyes as well, his dislike of the grand-sire had just increased. She didn’t deserve this life.

Gandhari. His sister. Princess of Gandhar. A lady of great perseverance. A true Kshatriya Princess. The determination in her was a given. It was evident in her manner of speaking, in her bearing. The way she carried herself, you could see that she was of high patronage and that it was royal blood that flowed in her veins. Wooed and courted by various princes from the surrounding kingdoms, she was a great queen in the making.

Shakuni had always admired his sister. She was his favourite and he hers. As a kid, when Hastinapura had laid siege and slaughtered the kingdom of Gandhar, his entire clan had nearly been wiped out. Brother and sister had sought out each other then and she was the one who had protected him and whispered soothing words to calm his frightened self. Years later when Bhishma had brought forth the proposal to his father for her to be wedded to Dhritharashtra, the blind king, he had ranted and raved. He had even gone to the extent of waging a war again. He did not want his sister to marry a blind king especially one from the Kuru clan, however strong and good-hearted he was. His sister however begged to differ. She had seen what had ensued the previous time her father had refused to accept Hastinapura’s conditions. Worried that she may have to witness a bloodbath again and losing too much in the prospect, she had agreed to marry the blind king. But she didn’t do so silently. Under the reasoning that she wanted to share the pain her husband was suffering, she took a red cloth and tied her eyes, to shut herself out from the world. For the rest of her life she would be so.

His sister’s action was a message to the young boy. He knew that she didn’t agree willingly. He knew that even before setting her eyes on the Kuru prince, she had blindfolded herself. He wanted to retaliate. He wanted to avenge the humiliation that his clan was undergoing at the hands of the Kuru family. He swore to bring about the downfall of the entire line of Kurus. And to ensure that they knew what the agony of seeing their loved ones suffer was.

                                                                                                                   [Pic Couresty:]

Master of sorcery, skilled dice player, black magic aficionado, and a mind-game expert, he had planted himself into the folds of the Kuru family, first as a brother who couldn’t stay apart from his sister, and then as a well-wisher to the sons of his sister – his nephews. Mastermind that he was, slowly he had poisoned the young and hapless minds of the young kids. He found himself in a fix when he realized that the kids would always follow their eldest brother. But then, Kunti had come back to the palace from the forest, with her five sons and he had gotten his golden chance. Steadily, he had created an air of uneasiness in the minds of the young Kauravas about their cousins. It had worked exceptionally well and much more than he had expected. The rest of Gandhari’s sons had just followed. And thus an everlasting animosity was born.

Over the years he had slowly instigated the cousins vehemently against each other much to the displeasure of the family elders and sometimes even his sister. However, the thirst for revenge was stronger than ever and he was unshaken in his quest. He always made sure that none could squarely place the blame on him for any mishap and had always stayed in the background ministering his intentions through the Kaurava brothers.

Standing at the side-lines, he had ensured that there were planned attempts on the lives of the “kind-hearted children of Pandu” and that the source of the blame always rebounded to the “malevolent children of Gandhari”. Working hard and ably, using his wiliness and sorcery, he had strengthened his hold over the 100 sons of Gandhari.  He had unhurriedly created an aura of evilness around the entire clan. It wasn’t that he liked Kunti’s sons any better. His plan was to ensure that the entire line of the Kurus perished.

But now, he could feel the Pitamah’s eagle eyes on him all the time. He knew that the old man was wary of him and always kept watch over him cagily. He needed to act soon. He needed to plan something that could strike terror in the hearts of the Kurus.

And then he got his opportunity.

He learnt that Duryodhana had been insulted at the Indraprastha palace by Draupadi and he was seething. He realized that if he planned this right, he could start something that snowball into the climax that he had always envisioned. He soothed and rubbed his eldest nephew’s shoulders all the while guaranteeing that he would have a chance at revenge soon. And imperceptibly he told Duryodhana of his strategy.

Invite the Pandavas to Hastinapura for a friendly game of dice. Let Yudhishthira play for the Pandavas while he played on behalf of the Kauravas. And then behold the scene that unfolds.

The plan was put in place. The invitations were sent out and accepted. The whole family would be gathered to see the debacle that would befall them.

It was all coming together now.

He rubbed his hands in glee. Smiled wickedly.

Threw his favoured dice into the air. The dice that never disobeyed him. The dice that he had fashioned and imbued with vengeance against the Kuru family. The dice that would wreak havoc and make a mockery of the family that he despised.

This was his chance. His ultimate gamble. The one that he knew he could never lose.

He knew the rules of the game. And he played them better than anyone else.
“Two sixes” he called out.

Two sixes fell. 

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