Mahabharat Episode 25: Duryodhana – On the Road to Ruin
In this Mahabharat episode, Yudishthira’s goodness overtakes his intelligence, sending the kingdom further towards disaster. Meanwhile, Duryodhana, unwilling to serve as a collaborative king, hatches a number of poisonous plots which fail to gain support in the Kuru court.
It is not that Yudhishthira was incompetent or lacked the necessary intelligence to rule the nation, but he read too many scriptures and acquired too much bookish goodness in him, which did not allow his intelligence to function. Instead of doing what was good for the people, he did what was good for his conscience. That is why he attracted disaster continuously.
No matter how much people around him worked to bring him into a good position, he turned it into a disaster again – not with any evil intention, but out of his urge to be good. By trying to be good, Yudhishthira created a situation where many people had to risk their lives, and some lost their lives.
A good man
a good man
And a good man.
As tedious as
Only good can get.
But when life gets mean
You will want a good man.
Duryodhana’s Poisonous Plots
Duryodhana used this opportunity to plot ways to get rid of the Pandavas. Since he came to know that the Pandavas, who he had presumed dead, had reemerged, there had been only one thing on his mind – finding a way to destroy the five brothers.
He insisted on having a meeting with Dhritarashtra in the presence of Karna. Inflamed with rage, he said, “I was born to be a king. I am not going to take instructions from anyone. If you don’t let me do away with the Pandavas somehow, I will commit suicide.”
He continued by saying, “Only because they have the friendship of Drupada, they think they are strong. Let us invest in buying over Drupada, no matter what the cost. Once Drupada is on our side, there will be no one to defend them, and we can openly kill these five guys.”
Karna pointed out that Krishna was on the side of the Pandavas. And the Yadavas, who were Krishna’s men, were almost invincible in the battlefield. Karna reminded Duryodhana that at the Swayamwara, Krishna himself, Satyaki, Uddhava, and even ordinary warriors of the Yadava clan could have hit the mark. It was just that Krishna forbade them to enter the competition. Apart from that, the fact that Drupada’s daughter was married to the Pandava brothers made it even less likely that Drupada would accept a bribe from their enemies.
Duryodhana dropped this plan, but he had many others in store. He said, “They are living here in the palace – we can easily poison their food.” Dhritarashtra and Karna did not respond. Duryodhana saw that they did not appreciate this plan and moved on to the next one.
“We can hire the most beautiful women in the country, seduce all the five Pandavas, and turn Draupadi against them. There is nothing like breaking a home. If we ruin the marriage, that’s the end of them.” They did not buy into this plan either.
Then he said, “If we approach the sons of Madri, Nakula and Sahadeva, alone, I’m sure we can somehow corrupt them. If we manage to turn these two against the other three brothers, we can do them in.” The elders did not agree.
Then he said, “Krishna has a weakness for women – we can corrupt him that way. And I know that before I married Bhanumati, he had a soft spot for her. We could try something.” He went as far as planning to use his own wife as bait.
Then Dhritarashtra said, “My son, your heart is poisoned. This is not going to work. Let us think of another solution. If we kill them, people may start a revolt in Hastinapur. That will not be good for us.” He was not against killing them – he was only concerned about the feasibility. He added, “And remember, Drupada and the Panchalis have defeated the Kuru army before. If they and the Yadavas fight together against us, we stand no chance. This is not the way to go.” But Duryodhana did not give up easily. He was determined to find a way to dispose of the Pandavas.
Kuru Court Reasons with Duryodhana
Then he met with the doyens of the Kuru court – Bhishma, Drona, Kripacharya, and Vidura. Bhishma told him, “Killing your cousins is the last thing that should be on your mind. With the attempt to burn the Pandavas alive in the wax palace, you have already brought so much disrepute not only to yourself but also to your father, the king, and the whole Kuru dynasty. A man does not die when his spirit leaves the body. A man dies when his reputation is lost.
But there is still a chance for you to repair your reputation. Just allow Yudhishthira to be the king. He is a fair man; he will not rub it into you in any way. You see what he did just now – I crowned him and he gave you equal status. He will treat you as a brother. Learn to live as a brother. This can be a turning point in your life. You have to make the right decision now.”
But not only at this point, whenever there was an important decision to make, Duryodhana compulsively took the wrong turn. No matter how many of his advisors, friends, and elders suggested otherwise, he was hell-bent on taking the wrong turn anyway.
After Bhishma had given his advice, Dronacharya added, “The Pandavas are not easy to defeat, even if you use foul play. I know Arjuna – I have trained him. He is as good as I. Even blindfolded, he will be able to shoot you dead. He has that kind of capability and power within himself. Such attempts will invite death for you, for your brothers, and probably for all of us.”
Kripacharya voiced similar concerns. Vidura saw there was no point trying to convince Duryodhana. Instead, he tried to stir Dhritarashtra’s emotions. Dhritarashtra, Vidura, and Pandu grew up together. Vidura tried to evoke this connection and said, “Remember what a wonderful childhood we had! How joyful we were. And how you loved Pandu. So how can you do something to Pandu’s children? Pandu will look down on you from heaven and curse you and your children forever.”
Dhritarashtra was visibly shaken. Vidura tried to further rake up Dhritarashtra’s emotions for Pandu, but he underestimated Dhritarashtra’s ability to put on an act to conceal his deep attachment to his son. Dhritarashtra said, “Bhishma, Drona, Kripacharya, Vidura – we have the best counselors that a king can ever have. What they suggest is for the wellbeing of the Kuru dynasty. My son, you must do the right thing.”
Duryodhana Walks Out, Krishna Steps In
As the king, he could have just told him what to do, but he did not do that. He left it open. Duryodhana got up and walked out of the meeting. To simply leave while the king and the elders of the Kuru court were sitting there was an unthinkable thing, but that was what Duryodhana did. No matter what, he wanted the Pandavas to die or leave for good.
But then Krishna stepped in. From then on, Krishna assumed an active role in everything that happened. He counselled them, saying, “If they cannot all live together here, it is only fair to give the Pandavas half the kingdom. Let Duryodhana and his brothers rule in Hastinapur, and let Yudhishthira and his brothers take the other half of the kingdom and make it their own.”
To be continued...
Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published in Isha Forest Flower February 2017. Download as PDF on a “name your price, no minimum” basis or subscribe to the print version.