LOSS OF FREEDOM AND YUDHISHTIRA'S EXILE
Duryodhana asked Vidura to produce Draupadi, the beloved wife of the Pandavas, in the assembly so that she might sweep the house and stay along with other servants (dasis) as her conduct was bad. He accused her indirectly of having been no better than a prostitute as she lived as the wife of five persons. Vidura reprimanded him and said that in his opinion Draupadi could not become one with the traits of a dasi, for Yudhishtira had lost his right to act independently (svatantra) when he bet on her. Vidura using adages liberally to put forth his arguments and counsel forcefully complained that Duryodhana, the son of Dhrtarashtra was not realising the enormity of the sin he was committing. He foresaw a huge catastrophe that would carry away all. He lamented that the counsel of friends, which was highly beneficial, was not being listened to and that greed was reigning supreme.
Duryodhana ignored Vidura with contempt and asked his charioteer and confidential messenger (pratikami) who enjoyed immunities in both capacities and was not afraid of the Pandavas to fetch Draupadi. The charioteer went to Draupadis chamber and told her that Duryodhana had won her and that she should go to the house of Dhrtarashtra and work as a servant there. The chronicler notes that the messenger addressed her as Yajnaseni, as one who appeared at the sacrifice performed by Drupada as a warrior-girl. Draupadi wondered whether any prince would place his wife as bet and whether he was intoxicated by the mood of gambling. She asked him whether Yudhishtira had nothing else to bet on. Pratikami replied that only after losing his brothers and then himself, the Pandava chief placed her as bet. Draupadi then asked him to find out in the open assembly from that gambler whether he lost himself first or her first. After that he could escort her there. She would go only after knowing the view of the king (raja).
The messenger returned to the assembly of administrators and kings and told the Dharmaraja who was seated in the midst of kings that Draupadi asked him with what independence (svatantra) he lost her and whether he lost him first or her first. Yudhishtira became diffident and remained mute while Duryodhana said that Pancali should come there personally and ask that question so that they could all hear her words and those of Yudhishtira.
Draupadi: Executive has no right to requisition the presence of a noble
The messenger went back to Draupadi and told the princess that the members of the assembly invited her and that he thought that the Kauravas had a doubt. He said that Duryodhana did not appreciate her dignified query and thought of taking her (forcibly) to the assembly. Draupadi wondered whether Brahmadeva, the chief of the constitution bench, had issued that order for her being produced in person. The assembly of kings and administrators who were only members of the executive did not have the right to requisition the presence of a peer. [It is not sound to interpret the term, Brahmadeva, as implying God who determined the destinies of men.]
She realised that both the elderly and the children reacted weakly to heat and cold, that is, to variations in nature and were unable to stand steadfast. She said that in the social world (of commonalty) dharma alone was considered to be supreme. She implied that even the provisions of the constitution, brahma, which covered the relations among the different social cadres, could not overrule the social laws, dharma, that were the product of considered deliberations and were binding on all.
Constitution, Brahma and rights of an individual
She wondered what warranted the interference of Brahmadeva in the issue pertaining to the rights of a non-independent person to stake the career of a free person. She held that if the people protected dharma it would protect them. She would not put forth any argument that would undermine the validity of any law (dharma). She wanted that the social laws (dharma) should not lose their hold over the Kauravas (who had consented to abide by them) and that they should not cease to be under their purview. [Both Duryodhana and Yudhishtira were Kauravas.]
Dharmasabha was divided Brahmasabha was then not a court of appeal
Draupadi asked the messenger to convey to the members of the state assembly that her question pertained to the provisions of social and political laws (dharma) and that whatever those members who were committed to dharma and stood by the procedures and principles of justice (nyaya) conveyed to her decisively she would act on it. She implied that if the house, a dharmasabha, was divided or could not arrive at a decision she would be free to act, as she liked. At that stage, Brahmasabha was not visualised as an appellate court against the verdicts given by the dharmasabha.
The messenger conveyed her reply to the sabha. The members of the royal assembly kept silent knowing that Duryodhana was adamant on producing her in the court. Yudhishtira told the king that it was not proper for others to see her then as she wore a single cloth as it was her menstrual period but she could appear before the king as he was blind and would hear her but not see her. Yudhishtira sent a trusted messenger to convey this proposal to Draupadi. Duryodhana would have no compromise and sent Duhsasana to bring her by force as Pratikami hesitated to go to her again.
As she was forcibly presented only partially clad and the members of the assembly did not censure Duhsasana for that, they too approved his vile act, she said. It denoted that the Bharata lineage had ceased to follow the principles of dharma and the kshatriyas were no longer observing good conduct, she declared. The Kauravas had transgressed the limits of dharma, it was seen by all in that assembly. She accused Drona, Bhishma and Vidura and the great king, Dhrtarashtra of lacking the power of right judgement (viveka) and consequently overlooking the monstrous sin.
However, except for Duryodhana, Duhsasana and Sakuni all others in that assembly grieved on her being dragged. Bhishma explained that he was not able to answer her question correctly as two distinct issues were involved. One who did not have the independence to act on ones own initiative (asvatantra) could not stake anothers property. The second factor was that a woman was subject to her husband. Bhishma could not understand what the implications of these two different stands presented in the social laws (dharma) were. He was sure that Yudhishtira would rather lose all the rich lands rather than give up abiding by dharma. He had personally declared that he had been won. So Bhishma was helpless. Yudhishtira was not coerced but tricked by Sakuni. He did not see through the deceit. Hence he did not answer her questions, Bhishma said. Was there a dilemma and if so what was it?
Draupadi asked the elders why they allowed a king who was credulous and whom they had invited to go his way unguarded when they knew that there were cheats in that assembly. Only after the cheats had all together won over the Dharmaraja, who was the eldest among Kauravas and Pandavas, that he had consented to that competition. He asked the Kaurava officials whose daughters and daughters-in-law too were present there to think over and answer her question correctly.
She pointed out to them that a house that did not have elders was not a duly constituted assembly. Those who did not speak out what was dharma did not qualify to be treated as elders. Any provision of the social laws, dharma that did not accord with the principles of satya, had to be struck down, she argued. What was associated with deceit could not be considered as being valid under the laws based on truth. Draupadi belonged to a stage when both the two principles, satya and dharma, governed the legal system. Her plight incensed Bhima. (Ch.89 Sabhaparva)
Bhimasena was annoyed with Yudhishtira for having staked Draupadi who was the wife of all the Pandavas and was not exclusively his. He threatened to burn Yudhishtiras hands but was restrained by Arjuna who asked him to abide by dharma. Yudhishtira had followed the dharma that prescribed that a Kshatriya should not hesitate to accept the challenge of his opponent. Vikarna, one of the sons of Dhrtarashtra, did not approve the treatment given to Draupadi and the failure of Bhishma and Dhrtarashtra to answer her questions. He indicted Vidura, and the two great jurists (Brahmanas) Drona and Krpa too for keeping silent. Vikarna also urged the other kings to speak out.
Karna rejects Vikarna's arguments
Vikarna told the house that hunting, drinking, gambling and engaging in sexual pleasure were said to be four bad habits that afflicted kings. A commoner (manushya) who was attached to these would have given up dharma. The social world (loka) of commoners would not accept the acts of any individual who was under the influence of these four vices. Hence the act of the Dharmaraja who was given to gambling in staking Draupadi could not be agreed to, he declared. He pointed out that she belonged to all the Pandavas and that the Dharmaraja, a Pandava, had staked her after losing his own freedom and Sakuni had suggested her being staked. Vikarna said that he did not consider that she was won. The assembly applauded him and condemned Sakuni.
Karna dismissed Vikarnas objection as an immature one and claimed that Draupadi was no better than a prostitute and had been won properly. He asked Duhsasana to ignore Vikarna and remove the clothes of the Pandavas and Draupadi to indicate that they were the slaves of the Kauravas. Draupadi remembering Vasishtas counsel to pray to Hari (the representative of the peoples of the dark horizon) when in great danger thought of her guardian, Krshna. Krshna, (who was dark), even as Krshna (Draupadi) was, was a Hari.
Haris were a cadre belonging to the social periphery which was granted the status of nobles during the tenure of Manu Tamasa. Manu Tamasa similarly recognised some warriors, Viras, of the forest who were close to Rudras as nobles, devas. Haris were closer to the Vasus. Adityas, Vasus, Maruts and Rudras were four groups of traditional nobles. Vena and Bharata were Viras while Prthu was a Hari. Hari was the charismatic benevolent leader (isvara) of all the three social worlds (nobility, commoners and forest society).
Draupadi was molested in the open assembly of administrators and kings and her husbands could only fret and fume and could not come to her rescue. It would appear that only a Hari, a chieftain belonging to the social periphery, came to her rescue and prevented her from being fully denuded. Bhima vowed to kill Duhsasana and drink his blood. The few who stood for proper conduct censured Dhrtarashtra for not answering the question put by Draupadi. Then Vidura who knew the rights and duties (dharmas) of all individuals and cadres and classes raising his hands to silence the agitated members of the assembly put forth his stand.
Right to life and dignity of the body
Vidura charged the members of the assembly of having violated the provisions of the socio-political legislation (dharma) by not answering the question asked by Draupadi and by not protecting her rights. It had the force of an objection raised by Agni, the civil judge of the Vedic times. None could cross the limits that the civil judge prescribed protecting the life and dignity of the body of an individual. The assembly of administrators and kings was not free to go ahead until the objections raised by her were answered. The members of the assembly were called upon to cite provisions of the laws (of the middle Vedic times) based on satya and those (of the later Vedic times) based on dharma to nullify the objections raised by Draupadi citing the protection granted by civil laws which were traditionally followed under the Indra-Agni social polity.
Draupadi had emerged from the fire (Agni) at the sacrifice performed by Yajnasena (Drupada). To be precise, she had the authority to speak on behalf of the head of the intelligentsia (samiti) and the commonalty (prthvi) and civil judge that the official designated as Agni was under the Vedic constitution. Every commoner (manushya) who was trained in his duties and vocations (yogya) and was under the jurisdiction of the civil laws that Agni, the chief of the commonalty, implemented was required to answer honestly and in tune with the laws based on truth (satya) a question that pertained to a doubt about the provisions in dharma, the new civil code of laws based on consensus.
Her questions could not remain unanswered. Vidura was keenly aware that there was an infringement of the rights of the individual and that the individuals of the social periphery (represented by a Hari) were championing the cause of Draupadi though her husbands had failed to come to her rescue. Vidura urged that those who had gone beyond lust and rage should answer her questions. Vikarna, a young lad, had replied to an extent. He was not an experienced intellectual. So others too should answer according to their intellectual calibre. If a member of the assembly who knew the provisions of the social laws, dharma, did not answer the question, he would become liable to undergo half the penalty that would be imposed on a perjurer.
Rajasabha and Devasabha
The royal assembly (rajasabha) of administrators and regional chieftains (rajas) was functioning also as a court of appeal with the assembly of nobles (devasabha) becoming defunct by the end of the Vedic times. If even after knowing those laws (dharma) a member present gave a wrong reply he would be required to undergo the full penalty prescribed. [If a member was afraid to tell the truth he should withdraw from the court.]
Vidura on the discussion between Prahlada and Angirasa
Vidura cited the discussion between Prahlada and Angirasa on this matter. It was then part of known and authenticated history. Angirasa was one of the editors of the Atharva Veda (Brahma), which incorporated the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times. The advocates of Brahma were known as Brahmavadis. They were also socio-political activists and ideologues. Brhaspati was a follower of Angirasa. Vidura belonged to the school of Brhaspati, who gave prominence to economy and polity (varta and danda) and the science of social control (lokayata).
Prahlada was a leading and respected feudal lord (asurasreshta). His son, Virocana, and Sudhanva (teacher of archery), a son of Angirasa wanted to marry the same girl. Virocana and Sudhanva quarrelled on who between the two was superior to the other. Archers had the status of gandharvas. It was an issue of between asuras and gandharvas who was superior to the other. At that stage, these two cadres ranked lower than the nobles (devas) but higher than the commoners (manushyas). [The four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras, came into existence only after the code based on dharma came into force by the end of the Vedic period.]
Both approached Prahlada and asked him to answer who of the two (ranks) was superior in accordance with the laws based on truth (satya) that were then in force. Prahlada belonged to the generation of asuras (feudal lords) that had given up resorting to arms to obtain their goals. He was afraid of Sudhanva, a great archer and hesitated to reply. [The liberal nobles, devas, who dominated the urban areas (puras) and the feudal lords, asuras, who controlled the rural areas (desa) were engaged in a prolonged struggle for power. When the Indra-Brhaspati agreement came into force they had buried the hatchet and given up arms. But this agreement did not govern the gandharvas who belonged to the middle class comprising free intellectuals (later called Brahmans) and free-lance warriors (Kshatriyas). Some were dangerous snipers.]
Sudhanva was not only a gandharva archer but also an Atharvan ideologue who held that the Brahmans (jurists) who invoked the provisions of the Atharvan constitution, Brahma, had the power to indict those who had violated its provisions, to wield Brahmadanda. It was superior to the power that the executive of the state (rajadanda) had to punish the criminals and defaulters. These latter powers were incorporated in the codes based on dharma, dharmasastras.
Sudhanva warned Prahlada that if he perjured or if he refrained from answering he would be severely punished by Indra, the head of the assembly of nobles, with his powerful weapon, vajra. Prahlada then went to Kashyapa (the head of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata) to learn the correct position about whether the disarmed feudal lords were superior or the intellectuals-cum-warriors were.
Kashyapa an authority on the inclusive federal social polity, Viraj on Dharma and Adharma
According to Prahlada, only Kashyapa (who had sponsored the concept of an inclusive federal social polity, viraj, which envisaged union without uniformity and unity despite diversity and would guarantee the autonomy, svaraj, of the units) knew the rights and duties (dharmas) of the nobles (devas) and feudal lords (asuras) and the scholars-cum-jurists (brahmanas). He requested Kashyapa to solve the dilemma with respect to the principles of social laws, dharma. What were the social cadres (lokas) to which one who did not answer a question (pertaining to dharma) or gave a wrong reply, would be assigned at present and later after probation and repentance? He asked Kashyapa to answer this question.
Kashyapa answered that one who knew the answer to the question but did not answer because of likes and dislikes (because of partiality) or because of fear would be taken into custody by Varuna and tied with (thousand) ropes (for one year). [In the Vedic social polity Varuna was the official who ensured that every one performed his duty and discharged his liabilities. He took into custody the defaulter. He was in charge of the civil prison located in a galley.] A witness who prevaricated was first given the above punishment of custody for one year and the number of ropes would be increased in the second year, indicating a more rigorous punishment. Perjury was a more serious offence than failure to depose. Hence one who knew the truth should utter that truth. The laws based on truth are thus important.
Kashyapa said that the members of an assembly who did not remove the nail of adharma that had been driven into the seat of dharma (where they sat in the dharmasabha to examine and render justice) would suffer (get pricked by that). The head of that assembly had to bear half the loss or punishment and the guilty one-fourth and the members of the assembly who failed to condemn the vile act that was to be condemned the remaining one-fourth. All the three were guilty. Kashyapa said that if the one who deserved to be censured was censured, the head of the assembly and its members would not be proceeded against but the guilty would be punished. No guilty person could be exonerated. The assembly and its chief were not empowered to pardon any guilty person or reduce the punishment.
[The statement that those who gave the wrong answer to one who asked for justice (dharma) would lose the benefits of the sacrifices (yajnas) they had made and the liberal donations that they had offered and that the previous seven generations and the succeeding seven too would be so deprived and dishonoured may be a later interpolation. This should have happened during the medieval times when there was no judiciary or king or assembly of administrators with judicial powers and only the priests and the rich social leaders were appealed to by those who were falsely accused of crimes by local officials.]
Kashyapa said that respected senior nobles (devasreshtas) had prescribed guidelines for the houses of nobles in different states. They were appealed to whenever excesses were committed by the administration at the local or central level. [Even during the times of Vidura devasabhas had become defunct in some areas.] Those who were deprived of their properties or who were denied the right to their properties because their sons had died and they had no issues or those who had become insolvent or those who were unmarried women or were widows and hence were deprived of a share in the property could appeal to this assembly of generous nobles.
One who was harassed by the king and a woman who had no son to protect her and one who had been mauled by a tiger and a wife who was neglected as her husband had married again and one who had been ruined by false witnesses all suffered equally. All these persons were equally eligible for alleviation according to those respected nobles. Aristocracy protected the individuals, men or women who were exploited and harassed by the rich. Kashyapa said that a perjurer had to undergo the deprivations mentioned above. One who had seen or heard and remembered an event was a recognised witness. A witness who did not perjure would not face social ostracisation (dharma) and economic (artha) ruin, it was ensured.
The court of aristocrats protected the innocent and punished the guilty. This was the feature of the legal system during the middle Vedic times when the laws based on truth (satya) were in force. These laws were intended to ensure a just social system and a stable non-exploitative economic order. [It may be noted here that the king was not the highest court that one could appeal to. It needs to be borne in mind that the term, devasreshtas is not to be interpreted as denoting gods.]
Thereupon Prahlada told his son, Virocana, that Sudhanva was senior to him and so too Angirasa was senior to Prahlada. Sudhanvas mother was senior to Virocanas. Hence Sudhanva had a right to protect and regulate the life of Virocana, he said. As Prahlada stood by the rules prescribed in social laws, dharma, which took into account only the ages of the two contenders and those of their parents while determining the issue of seniority between the two and not the other factors like class affiliation and was not partial to his son, Sudhanva was satisfied and agreed not to take Virocana in captivity. Vidura asked the members of the assembly to think over this event and find out what was the correct reply to Draupadis query. While all other members of the assembly kept silent, Duhsasana directed that Krshna (Draupadi) be led to his house as a slave, dasi and dragged her. Viduras counsel was of no avail.
Draupadi who was being molested by Duhsasana told the members of the Kuru lineage in that assembly that she had not committed the sin of gambling and that she had not done anything prior to or subsequent to that game and that no guilt could be attributed to her. She had never been seen in public except by the kings assembled at the assembly where she chose her groom (svayamvara). Not even the wind and the sunrays had seen her or touched her. But the Pandavas were tolerating her being molested by Duhsasana, she complained. It would end in great misfortune for the Kurus, she said. There was no debasement worse than a chaste woman being brought before the assembly. The kings had failed to honour the ancestral dharma, she said.
Under what provision of law was she who was the wife of the Pandavas and sister of Dhrshtadyumna and friend of Krshna and a chaste woman brought before the assembly of kings, she asked. She asked the members of the Kuru lineage to declare whether she (who was born in the Kshatriya class (varna) equal to Dharmaraja and was his wife) a dasi or not a dasi. She would do as they pronounced. She would not tolerate for long her being molested by a person who was destroying the fame of the Kurus, she warned. She asked the assembled kings to declare whether in their view she had been won or not.
Thereupon Bhishma said that he had already said that even the great men (mahatmas) could not know what was the best way of life in the social world (loka) (of commonalty) according to the principles of social laws (dharma). What the strong man among the commoners (manushyas) thought as dharma (law and proper conduct) became dharma, he observed. The other view (that dharma is mightier than might and is the protector of the weak) stood on the banks of dharma unable to cross the Rubicon and overcome the above stand. Bhishma was trained by Ganga (visualised as a river). Bhishma implied that the political theory and philosophy set in motion by the ancient laws of nature, Rta, were based on the principle, might is right.
Birthrights and Servitude, Dasatva
While several other sectors of the larger society like the nobles and sages and free intelligentsia and the bourgeoisie who had opted to be governed by the laws based on truth (satya) and asserted that what was right would and should win and not raw physical might, the commoners had not yet been governed by it. The new laws based on the principles of dharma had not been unequivocal on this issue. They were subtle and difficult to understand and were of course important. They had not ruled out the concept of the might of those in the state administration ruling over the commoners determining what rights the individuals had since birth. These birthrights, which Draupadi claimed as a born Kshatriya to never being submitted to bondage (dasatva) and to equality of wife and husband in status, had not been recognised either by the early Vedic laws based on rta or by the middle Vedic laws based on satya.
The new laws, dharma, had adopted an approach in between permissiveness and absence of social control as the laws based on rta characterised, and rigorous purism and intense social and political control as noticed in the laws based on satya. Bhishma conceded that he was unable to solve the dilemma and answer the question under what circumstances one who was born a Kshatriya and never lost the right to be a free person could be taken in custody and denied her (his) right to freedom. While accusing the Kauravas of being greedy and ignorant and gong towards ruin, he said that members of the higher clans (kulas) did not depart from the path of dharma even when afflicted by sorrows. Bhishma implied that the commonalty comprising mainly of lower clans were not so tuned and committed to the path of dharma.
Dilemma of the Dharmaraja
Bhishma admired Pancali for her conduct that guarded dharma. She had said that she had never been required to appear before any man other than her husbands. He regretted that Drona and others who were elders and knew the social laws (dharma) were sitting like dead bodies and looking down in shame. Bhishma declared that in his opinion only Yudhishtira was competent and required to give a definite answer to her question. Yudhishtira was the person who had to say whether she had been won (by Duryodhana and the Kauravas) or not. (Ch.91 Sabhaparva) Duryodhana saw that none of the kings and princes spoke in favour of Draupadi who was wailing and told her that if Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva declared in front of the elders that Yudhishtira had no right over her he was willing to let her free from the status of a dasi, a woman bound to serve others. That would make the Dharmaraja a liar.
The son of Dharma who was a committed adherent of dharma and a great person (mahatma) and was equal to Indra should answer whether he had rights over her or not, Duryodhana demanded. Whether she would become free or not depended on Yudhishtiras reply, he said. He claimed that the Kauravas who had assembled there had not given a reply despite their sympathy on her sorrow because they knew the truth that her husbands had lost their fortune. The members of the assembly applauded his stand. They said that he acted according to the laws of dharma.
Bhima then said that if the Dharmaraja who was noble-minded and senior to them had not been their higher authority (adhikari) the other Pandavas would not have tolerated the action of the Kuru lineage. Yudhishtira was the authority to receive their virtues (punya) and the results of their endeavours (tapas) and over their lives. When he thought that he had lost himself it meant that they too had lost themselves. But Bhima would not allow the commoner (manushya) who walked barefoot on the earth (like an agricultural worker) who touched the tresses of Pancali to escape with life from his clutches. He was issuing a threat to Duhsasana and declaring him as being contemptible like a worker. As he was bound by Dharma and was restrained by his respect for his elder brother (Yudhishtira) and was checked by Arjuna he was experiencing that sorrow. If only the Dharmaraja permitted him he would destroy the sons of Dhrtarashtra with his bare hands, he said.
Bhima was quietened by Bhishma, Drona and Vidura. Karna told Draupadi that a slave (dasa), a son (putra) and a woman who was subordinate to others (father, husband and son) did not have the right to hold personal property. [Karna was citing the social, economic and civil laws that were then in force and which Dharmasastra had consented to let stand but enforced definite rational amendments to them.] She was the wife of a dasa. She had no guardian (natha). All the wealth of a dasa belonged to his master. So she should go and join the retinue of Duryodhana. Other orders would be issued there, he said. She told the princess that all the sons of Dhrtarashtra were her masters and not the Pandavas. He advised her to choose one as her husband who would not make her undergo dasitva, bondage by gambling and losing.
Karna recognised that Yudhishtira did not have the right to stake Draupadi but argued that she had become a dasi because she was the wife of a dasa. However such a dasi was free to give up that husband and choose another husband who was a free person. It was not wrong for one to have many husbands after becoming a dasi (prostitute) he said teasing her. Addressing her as the daughter of Yajnasena he said as all the five Pandavas had lost she became a dasi. So none of them who had lost their freedom was fit to be her husband, he argued. The Dharmaraja who had in the open assembly staked the daughter of Drupada, king of Pancala, had not thought of the purpose of his birth and life or of his prowess or manliness, Karna charged. Karna was sorry for her and was disappointed with the conduct of Yudhishtira.
Bhima who could only pour out his anger but not attack his opponents said that what he told Draupadi to do was only indicative of the servitude that the son of the charioteer was in. He said that if Yudhishtira had not staked (Draupadi and others) their enemies would not have spoken thus. On this, Duryodhana asked Yudhishtira to answer whether he thought that Krshna (Draupadi) had been won. He urged Yudhishtira to answer her question. His invitation to Draupadi to sit on his lap infuriated Bhima.
Vidura told the assembly that there was a likelihood of Bhimasena proving a great threat to all. This enormous injustice (to be precise, violation of state policy, aniti) on the part of those who belonged to the Bharata lineage was the result of past misdeeds, he said. He told the son of Dhrtarashtra that bringing a woman to the assembly indicated that the limits governing gambling had been crossed. It had destroyed the safety of the fruits of their exercises (yogakshema). In other words they stood to lose all that they had earned in the past justly. He asked the Kauravas to know this law, dharma, quickly.
If dharma was violated, the assembly (sabha) that was meant to render justice would be ruined, would lose its recognition and become an illegal body. If the gambler had staked his wife before he staked himself and lost, he would have been one who had authority over her. Winning what one who was not a master of his activities (asvatantra) staked was like winning wealth in a dream, Vidura read out the law. He warned the Kauravas against departing from this law under the influence of Sakuni.
As none supported Vidura and as the other Pandavas did not say openly that Yudhishtira was not entitled to stake Draupadi after losing himself, the Kauravas incited by Karna tried to take her away by force. Draupadi appealed to Bhishma, Drona, Asvattama, Krpa, Vidura who was committed to dharma, and Dhrtarashtra the king who was also the judge in his capacity as Maharaja and to his wife Gandhari (who was observing everything) to protect her from Duryodhana. She lamented that Pandu (who was still alive and a Maharaja in retirement) and the officials, Dharma (who had the status of a devata), Indra (who headed the nobles), Vayu (who was as bhagavan, the head of a Vedic academy that was open to all) and the two Asvins (who had the status of devatas) who had sired the Pandavas did not come to her rescue.
Neo-Vedic Polity introduced by Pandu gave precedence to Dharma and Vayu over Indra
The neo-Vedic polity introduced by Pandu had given precedence to the official (Dharma) in charge of ethics, law and justice over the official (Indra) who was in charge of the treasury and the army. Next in rank was Vayu who looked after the interests of the free intelligentsia. The Asvins were in charge of the working class which had two sections, the uneducated but free class (Nasatya) and the erstwhile servile class (Dasra). But this polity was no longer in place with Pandus retirement and the Pandavas moving to Hastinapura which had a different system of administration. Draupadi found the latter ignoring dharma.
Vidura again scolded Duryodhana and Duhsasana and exhorted them not to harm Draupadi. He also appealed to Dhrtarashtra to restrain his sons and protect Draupadi but it was in vain. The incensed Pandavas vowed to wipe out every one of those Kauravas and their allies in war. Draupadi too cursed Duryodhana who continued to invite her to sit on his lap. She too joined the Pandavas (excluding Yudhishtira) in vowing revenge and mentioned who of the Pandavas would kill whom among the Kauravas and their allies. The members of the assembly kept silent but were afraid of what Arjuna might do. He never bragged they knew.
Her pronouncement though more in sorrow than in anger was virtual declaration of hostilities. She had not conceded to have been won nor had yet been pronounced a dasi. She was still free to issue directives. Her questions had not yet been answered. (Ch.92 Sabhaparva)
As Arjuna despite Yudhishtira stopping him took up his bow and prepared to fight his enemies and wipe them out, the commoners (manushyas) who were present became nervous. The kings (rajas) looked at Arjuna and Dharmaputra to know whether there would indeed be a revolt and war. The commoners (bhumi) of the agro-pastoral plains trembled on seeing Arjunas fury. The peoples and individuals (pranis) of the open space (akasa) who were at the bare existence level and were constantly on the move in search of food and work too trembled.
The chronicler implied that the larger society (comprising the settled population of the plains and the mobile population of the open space) had ceased to be guided and directed by the officials, Surya and Vayu, who were in charge of these two sectors, bhumi and akasa respectively, during the final decades of the long Vedic period and the early post-Vedic period. Administration in the forest and mountain areas (antariksham) that was guided earlier by Soma (Chandra) and non-combatants (nakshatras) had come to a standstill. Administration of the provinces in the different directions was paralysed as the state at the centre faced imminent palace revolt.
As Arjuna rose up to challenge the assembly he appeared to be the new commander-cum-administrator (Surya) of the open space (akasa). It appeared that Arjunas anger would result in total devastation (pralaya) of the existing social order. Arjuna looked like Yama, the Vedic official who imposed with a heavy hand death penalty for major violations of the orders prohibiting certain conducts (yamas). This anger of Arjuna made Bhimasena too to think of war.
The figures of speech that Vaishampayana used while describing the revolt to Janamejaya indicate that the Nagas to which cadre the Hastis of Hastinapura belonged were vicious and were liable to be killed by the law-enforcing agencies headed by Garuda, who functioned under Varuna during the Vedic times. Draupadi looked at Dhanamjaya (Arjuna) as such an enforcer of justice. The people of the city (paura) became anxious on seeing Arjunas prowess. [Arjuna and the other Pandavas had till then been away from the capital, Hastinapura and they had not seen his valour.]
Yudhishtira head of the ruling five-member oligarchy, executive and house of nobles
Yudhishtira who was Dharmaraja and headed the state at Indraprastha was not only a king heading a five-member oligarchy but also the head of the administration and of the house of nobles there. He held a position equal to that of Indra, the head of the treasury besides that of Dharma, the head of the judiciary and legislature. Arjuna held a position equal to that of Upendra, who had to assist Indra and depute for him. But Upendra could not act independently. [Vamana was Upendra in Janasthana and he took over charge when Bali who controlled the treasury was eased out. Bali was later reinstated as Indra. Not all rulers controlled the treasury personally.]
Arjuna as Upendra junior to Yudhishtira (as Indra)
As Draupadi looked to Arjuna who had conquered all the wealth for Yudhishtira and which the latter had lost in gambling, for protection of her honour, Yudhishtira restrained him even as Indra would restrain Upendra. The latter could only depute for Indra and not act independently. Indra-Upendra pattern differed from Indra-Agni and Indra-Brhaspati types of administration.
In the middle Vedic polity, Indra headed the house of nobles of the core society and Agni, its council of scholars. Indra headed the treasury and the army and presided over the joint sitting of the two houses when the king who was the head of the executive asked for funds from the central treasury to which the nobles were the main contributors. Agni was also the spokesman of the commonalty (vis). Indra and Agni were subordinate to the Prajapati who was the chief of the people and the head of the council of elders, pitaras. The Prajapati presided over the joint sitting of the two bodies, sabha of the nobles and samiti of the scholars when they met as legislature. Indra was senior to Agni and both were junior to the Prajapati. The king was junior to all the three.
The above Rgvedic polity underwent a major change in several areas with Brhaspati, a representative of the commonalty especially of its upper stratum and an economist replacing Agni, the representative of the intelligentsia and civil judge. Indra was deprived of several of his powers with the civil polity headed by Brhaspati controlling the armoury and forcing the army that was under Indra to depend on it. Indra, head of the ruling nobility and the army, could not take any decision without the consent of Brhaspati, the head of the civil polity.
Another major change took place with the introduction of the Mahadeva constitution throughout the sub-continent. Aditya was placed in independent charge of the army and the administration (kshatras) leaving Indra as only the head of the nobility (devas). The treasury (sura) was placed in the hands of Brhaspati who controlled the civil polity of the commonalty (prthvi) but the intelligentsia including the jurists, Brahmans, were represented by Agni. But all these officials and also the king who was the head of the state had to honour and follow the directives given by the Prajapati, the chief of the people. Neither the nobles (devas) nor the commoners (manushyas) wanted the king to control the treasury and the army. Distribution of powers among several authorities was insisted on.
Indra-Upendra system placed the treasury in the hands of the Indra but prevented him from drawing from it independently. Upendra, his deputy assisted him but could not draw from it without the sanction of Indra. The civil administration had no voice in controlling the treasury. Yudhishtira stopped Arjuna from going to war with the Kauravas. He advised him not to be hasty and not to ruin the fame of the Pandavas. Yudhishtira as Dharmaraja had the powers of Agni, the civil judge, and could burn the gamblers for deceit while playing dice. But he restrained his anger, as that would be a path paving the way of success for perjury. He did not want the civil laws based on the principles of truth (satya) to become defunct. He was interested in pursuing policies that would lead to the welfare (kalyana) of the social world (loka) of commoners. That objective had to be pursued and hence the civil revolt that Arjuna was launching was inadvisable, Yudhishtira said.
Deliberation by a council of judges, Agnihotra
The populace of the expanded social world of commonalty (including the voiceless) rejoiced again as the revolt by Arjuna was aborted. But Bhima became sad. He headed the army of the Pandavas and he had been ignored. As the assembly of kings and administrators kept silent, the civil judiciary, which was deliberating (Agnihotra) in the palace of the king, Dhrtarashtra (who as Maharaja was the head of the judiciary also) over the developments, pronounced verdict against the acts of the Kauravas. [It is too inane to call it as the wailing of the jackal.] Vidura who knew social and political philosophy (was a tattvajnani) and Gandhari (the queen) and the scholars, Bhishma, Drona and Krpa thought it a verdict for good. Vidura who knew every development and Gandhari conveyed the views of the civil judiciary to Dhrtarashtra and asked him to immediately stop the proceedings of the rajasabha.
Dhrtarashtra reprimanded Duryodhana for having teased a woman and that too a duly married woman (dharma patni), Draupadi, in the assembly of the Kauravas. Dhrtarashtra was an intellectual who stood for good deeds and had come to know the truth (satya). He realised that his sons were facing danger and in their interests he pronounced his verdict. He offered to the princess of Pancala whom he lauded as one who followed dharma and was chaste and was the best of his daughters-in-law any boon she wanted from him. This offer was reparation ordered by the civil court (agnihotra). Draupadi requested that Yudhishtira who followed all dharmas and was a noble person should not be made a dasa. She wanted that ignorant children should not call her son as the son of a dasa. For, one who had not been earlier a commoner (manushya) and raised only later to the status of a king but would be but a social leader (purusha) though born as the son of a king (rajaputra) would die if he came to know that he was the son of a dasa.
The chronicler distinguishes between acommoner, manushya, and a social leader, purusha. The latter could have risen from the commonalty or been required to develop his leadership traits though born in a royal family. From the level of a commoner (manushya) engaged in economic activities to earn his livelihood, one could rise to be a king (rajan) or lose his wealth and be required to serve and obey others as a dasa. In the pre-varna social order, the intelligentsia (Brahmans) was free and Rajanyas exercised political power. The members of the commonalty (Vis), which was organised as clans and communities, had to work and earn their livelihood and pay for the maintenance of both these cadres.
The commonalty had not yet been classified as Vaisyas or Aryas, those with property and not required to work under others and servants, Shudras or Dasas. While most of the commoners (manushyas) were not free to take up any role not assigned to him by his clan or community and hence could not rise in the social ladder, a free person, a nara, could on his own merit rise to become a social leader, purusha. Such naras were not subject to control by the codes of the clans (kulas) or communities (jatis) in which they were born.
The term, purusha, also implied a political status higher than that of a king (rajan) who headed a region of a state, or a department of the state administration, or a king (maharaja) who headed the state and also its court of justice. The purusha was superior to the emperor (samrat) whom his subordinate kings accepted as a higher authority with the power to settle disputes among them through imposition of his political will. He was superior also to the viraj, the head of the federal social polity. To become such a purusha one ought to have been born as the son of a rajanya. [It is inane to translate the term, purusha, as man.]
Did this boon offered to Draupadi by Dhrtarashtra restore for Yudhishtira the status of a free king and did it ensure that his son would be entitled to succeed him as king? Yudhishtira was the son of Kunti, a Bhoja princess by an official in charge of social and civil laws, dharma, who had the status of a devata, ranking next only to a noble, deva. He was not born as a commoner. His appointment as a king (rajan) with administrative powers and duties and his subsequent rise through his (and his brothers) exploits to the status of an emperor (samrat) underlined that he had the calibre of a trained leader (purusha).
His son by Draupadi, a princess, was entitled to be treated as a rajaputra. He would be far above a commoner and could be a social and political leader (purusha) and would not be constrained to remain but a commoner and eke his livelihood by a vocation or by manual labour. If he were not to be teased as the son of a dasa (a bonded labourer) his father should have been a free person even if he were reduced to penury deprived of his wealth and powers as a king.
Dhrtarashtra offered her one more boon. This was in his personal capacity. He felt that the above permission was not adequate reparation. Draupadi then asked that Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva who had chariots and bows (to show that they were Kshatriya generals) should be free and able to decide their course of action (svatantra) instead of being bonded labourers (dasas) of others. Dhrtarashtra admiring her as one, who had great experience in life agreed to do so. He permitted her a third boon also but she declined to ask for another boon, as desire for what one did not have would destroy ones commitment to dharma (which advocated contentment) and as she was not eligible for a third boon.
She cited the convention that a Vaisya could be given one boon (one chance to recover from insolvency) and a Kshatriya two boons (to reassert his position after failures) and a king (Raja) three boons. Only a Brahman could ask for any number of favours. She did not deem herself to be the wife of a king. She was the daughter of a Kshatriya and not of a king, she implied. She submitted to the king that her husbands had become great sinners and been rescued (by his boons). She expected that thenceforth they would benefit by doing good deeds. (Ch.93 Sabhaparva)
Devala's three conditions for a commoner to have all rights
Karna continued to tease the Pandavas for having been required to be rescued by a woman, Draupadi. This vexed Bhima who asked how one could treat as his offspring the child born to a woman who had been touched by another person. He drew attention to the statement of the sage, Devala, that one had the status of a manushya, a commoner with all rights and personal dignity, only if he had offspring, santati, (proving that he was not impotent and could be depended on to fulfil his liabilities by his services or by those of his children). It was also required that he should have acquired merit through good deeds (punyakarma). The third requisite was that he should have knowledge (jnana).
Manushya and Praja: Rights
These three qualifications had to be fulfilled for one to be respected as a manushya, even as a member of the lowest of the social classes (of the Vedic period). The then socio-political system had granted such commoners (manushyas) the status of prajas (citizens, subjects), (sons, in common parlance). Not all commoners (manushyas) were granted the status of prajas whose voices were to be heard and respected by the kings and other administrators of the state. Devalas polity while granting a commoner (manushya) the right to be heard as a citizen (praja) required that he should be one who could be depended on to fulfil his obligations, should have proved his merit as one engaged in noble deeds and as a knowledgeable person. [It may be noted that Devala who was a follower of Kashyapa and an associate of Narada and Asita did not ask to whom such a commoner was born or what vocation he pursued or what sciences, vidyas, he had studied.]
Bhima wondered whether the sons of the Pandavas would be declared persona non grata, as Duhsasana had touched Draupadi. [She had evinced interest in the future of her son by Yudhishtira only. Did she not have sons by other Pandavas then or even later?] Arjuna (or was it Yudhishtira) asked him to ignore Karnas comments. Those belonging to higher ranks should not reply to what the base persons said. Those scholars who knew all sciences and had earned reputation by their own efforts remembered only the help rendered to them by others. Even if harm had been done to them they would not think about it, he said. Bhima offered to destroy all the Kauravas and their friends who had assembled there so that the Pandavas might rule over their lands. No war need be declared formally, he said. But Yudhishtira silenced him and then approached Dhrtarashtra to take leave of him. (Ch.94 Sabhaparva)
As Yudhishtira acknowledged the authority of Dhrtarashtra as the descendant of Bharata and successor to his status and powers as head of the confederation of states (cakravarti), a position higher than that of an emperor (samrat) that the former had acquired, Dhrtarashtra permitted him to return to Indraprastha and resume his governance of the state. Dhrtarashtra returned to him all the wealth he had lost in gambling, advising him to follow a path that was safe and free from troubles. He pointed out to Yudhishtira that the latter knew the subtleties of the laws based on dharmas and that he was an able intellectual and well educated and was humble before elders. The wise were modest, he said. Addressing Yudhishtira as a Bharata, he asked him to be consoled and advised him to realise that ruffians hit only those who stood still like trees and tolerated their excesses. Yudhishtira had been unduly tolerant, he implied.
Only those who forgot the harms done to them by others and overlooked their faults and noticed their good points and refrained from bearing enmity against them were noble persons, Dhrtarashtra said. They would help others without expecting any help in return. The base would use harsh words while speaking in unison. Those persons who would utter harsh words only in reply to harsh words used against them were of the middle type. The brave who belonged to the higher ranks would never use harsh words even in reply whether their opponents used harsh words directly or tacitly. [Aristocracy valued bravery as a main characteristic in its culture.] Noble persons who knew all sciences acquire knowledge of the self also and think of the good that others have done for them and not the harms that they had inflicted on them, Dhrtarashtra said. [He expected the Pandavas not to harp on the harm he and his sons had done them.]
Dhrtarashtra noticed that the pious never crossed the limits of the conduct prescribed for Aryas (who enjoyed all the rights of free citizens) and maintained a sweet temper. The chronicler noticed that though he had lost his wealth and freedom of action and become a dasa, Yudhishtira maintained the decorum and discipline and sweetness of temper that were expected of a civilised free citizen, an Arya. Dhrtarashtra tried to hide his partiality for his sons but he admired the conduct of Yudhishtira, which was in sharp contrast to that of his brothers.
Dhrtarashtra however realised that the civil laws then in vogue distinguished between a free citizen, Arya (Vaisya) who lost his wealth to another person as a bonded labourer (dasa) and had to serve the other and earn and recover his wealth, and a free worker without property (shudra) who had earlier been a bonded labourer (dasa). Dhrtarashtra however did not dwell on the legal constraints under which an Arya (whether he was a Brahman or a Kshatriya or a Vaisya) had to function. [Kautilya granted the Shudras also the status of free citizens, Aryas.] But he recognised that the Arya too had to function under certain social and cultural restraints. Yudhishtira had not violated them even under provocation, he noted with admiration.
He blessed the Pandavas and permitted them to go to Khandavaprastha. After taking fresh pledges of loyalty as all competent officials and subordinate rulers had to take on their appointment or reappointment to their posts, Yudhishtira, the Dharmaraja, took leave of Dhrtarashtra and went to Indraprastha with his brothers and wife, Krshna. [Did Dhrtarashtra refuse to recognise the new administration at the city Indraprastha and insist that Yudhishtira was the ruler only of the forest region, Khandavaprastha?]
Draupadi did not ask for the reinstatement of Yudhishtira as king or for returning to him the wealth that he had staked and lost. She had asked only for his release from servitude. The civil court, which was referred to at her request by Vidura and Gandhari and met behind closed doors, allowed this request. It also declared that Yudhishtira did not have the right to stake her. It does not appear to have declared gambling as an illegal act though it might have suspected something fishy about the manner in which he was induced to stake everything including his body and services. But there is no indication that it called for his being reinstated.
Dhrtarashtra's generosity in restoring to him his status and powers and wealth seems to be illogical and incredible, for it was he who had arranged the event overruling Vidura. His appreciation of Vidura as a highly learned intellectual might be true but his recommendation that all Kauravas (including the Pandavas) should have Vidura for their minister seems hollow. This chapter only attempts to defend him and cannot be taken at face value given his unabashed partiality for his sons and dislike for those of Pandu who had superseded him. (Ch.95 Sabhaparva)
Janamejaya wanted to know from the chronicler the reaction of the sons of Dhrtarashtra to his sending the Pandavas back with their wealth. The chronicler said that on learning from Duhsasana what Dhrtarashtra had done, Duryodhana, Karna and Sakuni confabulated and went to the king. Duryodhana reminded the king about the counsel that Brhaspati, the counsellor (purohita) of the nobles (devas), had told Indra while expounding the principles of state policy (rajaniti). Brhaspati had said that all means (upayas) should be used to kill the enemies (who had been defeated by a king). If they were left alive they would later through war or with the help of associates harm that king.
Duryodhana argued that with the wealth obtained from the Pandavas (in gambling) they should win over friends and fight against the Pandavas. This would not be a loss to them. Duryodhana claimed that the Pandavas had left severally with the understanding that they should raise troops and come back to fight the Kauravas for the insult heaped on Draupadi. He said that none of the great warriors who were on their side including Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Asvattama would be able to defeat Arjuna. He said that only Kartavirya Arjuna who had a thousand hands (as personal attendants) was equal to Arjuna who had only two hands (had no personal attendant). Dhrtarashtra (to be precise, Janamejaya) was eager to know about that great warrior.
Parabrahma, Brahmadeva, Soma: Intellectuals
Kartavirya's descent was traced to Parabrahma, the greatest of the intellectuals to whom none had access. Brahmadeva headed the academy of scholars and jurists on his behalf. The sage, Atri, was his immediate disciple. He was revered by the Vedic official, Soma (Candra), a sober intellectual and guide of the frontier society of forests and mountains (antariksham). Budha, the intellectual who guided the discrete individuals and wandering young scholars, vidyadharas, was patronised by Soma. Pururavas was the son of a Budha. He was succeeded by Ayu and Ayu by Nahusha and Nahusha by Yayati. Yadu was one of the five sons of Yayati.
The Haihayas were a branch of Yadus even as the Yadavas were. Kartavirya was the son of Krtavirya, a warrior who became a ruler and founded the Haihaya lineage. Kartavirya spent several years in tough battles and conquered many countries. He was a follower of Dattatreya, an adopted son of Atri. This sage of the forests and mountains arranged for him a big regiment of (thousand) guards. He told Kartavirya that the latter would be free to embark on conquests and increase his power but if he thought of doing anything not permitted in social, cultural and political laws (dharma) the council of wise elders would restrain him.
He was permitted to conquer the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi) following the code of kshatriyas and please his subjects (prajas), the people of the areas newly brought under his suzerainty on the basis of assurances for their consenting to abide by the laws promulgated by him. The code permitted the kshatriyas to subjugate others by force. Dattatreya told Kartavirya that though he fought against enemies and killed them in battles, one superior to him would kill him when he started a new campaign of conquest without being content with earlier successes.
Kartavirya Vs Parasurama
It may be noted here that the third son of Pandu was named as Arjuna because he was born on the day Kartavirya Arjuna died. Kartavirya stopped Ravana of Lanka from crossing the river, Narmada, and attacking his capital, Mahismati. The chronicler compares their fierce battle to the one between Indra, chief of the nobles (devas) and Sambara, chief of the feudal warlords (asuras). Kartavirya defeated Ravana and took him as a captive to Mahismati.
The sage, Pulastya, who was godfather of Ravana, went to Mahismati and prevailed on Kartavirya to release him. Reckless Kartavirya threatened to use force against those who were dependent on marine resources. Their leader (the king of the seas) requested him not to harm them and suggested that he should rather challenge the son of the great sage (maharshi), Jamadagni, who was his equal. Narada had earlier warned him against harming innocent persons.
Vaishampayana refrained from commenting on how Kartavirya took away the sages cattle. He only stated that the king along with his kinsmen ransacked the abode of that sage and harmed its inmates. This enraged Parasurama who destroyed his army and in a fierce battle killed his guards and brought him down. Parasurama killed all those kinsmen of Kartavirya who battled against him. Many kings fled and hid themselves in caves, ceasing to do their duties. They were declared as Shudras as they did not respect the immunities the Brahmans (scholars, especially jurists) had. According to the chronicler, Dravidas, Khasas, Paundras, Sabaras were earlier Kshatriyas but had been deprived of their wealth and right to rule for this reason and declared as untrained persons no better than common workers. A new generation of sober Kshatriyas was raised. This required Kshatriya women to copulate with the intellectuals, Brahmans and give birth to sober children and nurture them as administrators.
As Parasurama took this step in twenty-one states and demilitarised them, the nobles made a public declaration that could be heard by all the peoples of the janapadas, that his move (killing Kshatriyas several times) had not yielded any benefit. Rchika and other ancestors of Parasurama too asked him to give up the campaign. They told him that it was improper for him to kill those who belonged to Kshatriya communities (jatis). Parasurama who was a Brahmana should not kill the kings they said. [While the Kshatriyas who were warriors or administrators ranked lower than the Brahmans who were intellectuals, priests and jurists, the Rajanyas who were sovereign king ranked higher than the latter.]
Then Parasurama gave up his anger against the kings and the warriors-cum-administrators and surrendered all the lands that he had annexed to Kashyapa. Kashyapa was the chief of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata. [Jamadagni was one of its members. Parasurama was one of the seven sages during the tenure of Manu Surya Savarni who succeeded Vaivasvata. Badarayana, Asvattama, Krpa and Rshyasrnga too were its members.] Duryodhana told his father that Dhananjaya Arjuna was equal to Parasurama and Kartavirya Arjuna in war. He could not be conquered by prowess, he said. (Ch.96 Sabhaparva)
Arjuna's alliances recalled by Duryodhana
Duryodhana described to his father, Dhrtarashtra, the various exploits of Arjuna, to convince him that it was impossible to defeat Arjuna in war and that the Pandavas could be deprived of their powers and wealth only by resorting to dice and defeating him in it. He referred to the events in Pancala where Arjuna won Drupadas daughter and defeated even Karna. Arjuna won Ulupi, the daughter of the king of the Nagas, and later married the Pandya princess and then rescued the apsarases at Kumaratirtha, a place noted for the influence of Skanda and later married Subhadra after defeating Balarama, Pradyumna and others.
Duryodhana referred to the burning down of the Khandava forest by Arjuna and securing the great bow, Gandiva. During the course of this exploit, Arjuna who was but a commoner (manushya) stood against the combined might of the different cadres of traditional nobles, Rudras, Maruts, Vasus and Adityas and Saddhyas and the newer groups of nobles, Asvinidevas and Visvedevas and the free warriors, Gandharvas and won. Even Indra could not overcome him. Duryodhana also referred to Arjunas conquests in the northern region in making Yudhishtiras rajasuya sacrifice a success. He was convinced that there was none in the three social worlds (lokas) who was equal to Arjuna in prowess. Nobles (devas), feudal lords (asuras), plutocrats (yakshas), counter-intelligentsia of the periphery (pisacas), technocrats (nagas) and forest guards (rakshasas) would not dare to battle with him and so too Bhishma, Drona and other generals and archers would not fight with him.
Duryodhana noticed that the youths in every house admired Arjuna and tried to emulate him. So nervous was Duryodhana that even in the open areas he saw Arjuna. He felt that Prahlada and Bali too could not stand against Arjuna. [Many scholars admired these two asura chieftains.] Even as Marica was afraid of Rama, Duryodhana was afraid of Arjuna. He hence ruled out fighting with Arjuna. Dhrtarashtra advised him to be friendly with the Pandavas instead of trying to score over them in dice and deprive them of their lands and wealth.
Second round of Dice and rules of the game (vidhi)
Duryodhana after thinking over the kings advice suggested that they might invite the Pandavas for another round of dice but with the stipulation that the defeated party should go to the forest on exile for twelve years. Within that period, the Kauravas could mobilise a huge army and defeat the opponents if they violated the self-denial prescribed for the thirteenth year, he said. While Dhrtarashtra agreed to this proposal, Bhishma, Drona, Krpa, Vidura, Somadatta, Bahlika, Asvattama, Yuyutsu, Burisravas and Vikarna objected to it. Gandhari too requested her husband not to agree to that proposal. But Dhrtarashtra ignored her advice and directed that the Pandavas who were on their way to Indraprastha be asked to return and resume the game. (Ch.97 Sabha)
Yudhishtira felt that the rules (vidhi) of the game required that whether he won or lost he should agree to play again. [It is not sound to interpret that his fate required him to take part in gambling.] Sakuni prescribed that during the thirteenth year the defeated party should live incognito. If the condition were breached they would be required to go on exile to the forest for another period of twelve years followed by one year of life incognito. Though the members of the assembly expected him to act wisely, Yudhishtira agreed to the invitation to play and to the terms stipulated as it was the duty (dharma) of a king (raja) like him not to turn away from the challenge. Though prevented repeatedly by Bhishma and others, Yudhishtira accepted Sakunis challenge. (Ch.98 Sabhaparva)
Yudhishtira lost again and the Pandavas had to give up their state and wealth and go along with Draupadi on exile to the forest. According to Duhsasana, the Pandavas had to suffer as they were arrogant and thought that there was none in the commonalty who was superior to them. As he noted, the nobles (devas) had no place in the forests, which came under the jurisdiction of the other society. He continued to tease Draupadi and vex Bhimasena. The Pandavas were against Duryodhana, Duhsasana, Sakuni and Karna and decided to take revenge against them. Arjuna however held that only if they failed to return the kingdom and the wealth during the fourteenth year they should be killed. (Ch.99 Sabhaparva)
Yudhishtira took leave of Bhishma and other elders including Dhrtarashtra and his sons and their mother, Gandhari, and his mother, Kunti and prepared to leave for the forest. Vidura suggested that Kunti should stay back as his guest and the Pandavas agreed. He told Yudhishtira that as the latter knew according to the social and political laws, dharma, one who was defeated in an unjust way (adharma) would not suffer. Vidura pointed out that Arjuna was one who won in wars and Bhima one who killed his enemies, Nakula earned wealth and Sahadeva protected it. Dhoumya, who knew the socio-political constitution (was a brahmajnani) would guide them as they set up their government in exile from scratch. Draupadi knew the principles of both dharmasastra and arthasastra and followed dharma, Vidura said. They were always happy and were pleasant to those who saw them. He advised them to continue to love one another and to ensure that others did not disturb their unity.
Yudhishtira's earlier counsellors
He reminded Yudhishtira that his steadfastness of mind had been the cause of all his happiness. Even if his enemy were equal to Indra, he would not be his equal in this characteristic. Vidura encouraged him. He reminded Yudhishtira that Bhrgu, Meru Savarni, Vyasa, Parasurama and Paramasiva (Mahadeva) had counselled him earlier. Yudhishtira must have been introduced to these great socio-political thinkers. Bhrgu had taught him how to keep his subjects pleased. Narada would be meeting him constantly and of course Dhoumya as his political counsellor (purohita) was with him. Vidura advised him not to lose his intellect (that the sages highly praised) even in times of exigency. In knowledge he was superior to Pururavas and by his valour he conquered other kings, and in observing the rules of dharma he was better than the sages (rshis).
Officials of the early post-Vedic polity
Yudhishtira wanted to be victorious like Indra, patient like Yama, rich like Kubera and in conquering the senses like Varuna. In other words he should follow these Vedic officials in these respects, Vidura counselled. Vidura advised him to learn from the Vedic official, Apa (water, in common parlance), how to be cool and calm and to be the contributor to the livelihood of all persons, how to be patient from the official, designated as Prthvi, how to attain total glory (pratapa) from Surya and physical strength from Vayu. Vidura advised Yudhishtira to obtain the personal traits that would set him apart from other kings by his recognising the needs and orientations of other living beings (whom he would be coming in contact with during his exile), especially those at the bare existence level (pranis) and meeting them and honouring them.
The designations of the eight officials, Indra, Yama, Kubera, Varuna, Apa, Prthvi, Surya and Vayu, of the Vedic polity and their roles varied from time to time during the later Vedic times and the early Vedic times. These variations indicate the shift in emphasis necessitated by changing conditions and also reflect the views of the thinker who put forth the particular way of administration concerned. This counsel to Yudhishtira presents the structure and orientations of the polity of the integrated and expanded society that Hastinapura controlled with the outstanding pragmatist thinker, Vidura, as Indra.
This post-Prthu polity did not have Soma or Agni as one of the eight officials. This sacrifice of the gains from the intelligentsia appears to have been offset by inclusion of Kubera, the plutocrat, as well as Prthvi, the commoner in the administration. It was a politico-economic state and must have been recommended by Pracetas, who belonged to the apsara school of thought. Neither the intelligentsia of the core society nor that of the frontier society had a voice in this set-up. It however aimed at just governance by placing Yama and Varuna in high positions. It also integrated the elite with both Indra and Kubera at the helm. Prthu had replaced Kubera by Prthvi in an attempt to establish a predominantly agro-pastoral economy (of the Bhojas). Viduras polity retained both.
Other thinkers preferred to retain Soma, the sober intellectual and omit Apa, who had held an important place since the earliest times. Significant is the absence of Agni, the civil judge, who once ranked only next to Indra, the chief of the nobility. Vidura advised him to always function according to the rules even when required to resort to the laws of exigency (apaddharma) and while facing difficulties in administering the state (rajya) and in all projects meant to achieve his objectives (karya). Viduras counsel encouraged Yudhishtira, son of Pandu, who was a zealous adherent of the laws based on truth (satya).
The government in exile reverted to the laws based on truth (satya)
Vaishampayana implied that Yudhishtira went on exile in his capacity as the son of Pandu, a brother and rival of Dhrtarashtra. He should cease to project himself as the son (putra) of the Vedic official, dharma, or as a king who functioned in accordance with the laws based on dharma, as dharmaraja, the head of the state executive and civil judiciary or as a samrat, emperor that he was for a brief period after performing the rajasuya sacrifice. The new government in exile headed by Yudhishtira would return to the laws based on truth (satya) lest it should be trapped in the undefined and imponderable subtleties of the laws based on dharma that Yudhishtira had tried to follow and failed to grasp.
Socio-political laws had swung from the ones based on the rights of the individual to pursue his natural propensity, Rta, that were too permissive, to the highly puritanical laws based on truth, Satya. The middle path was reached with the enunciation of the laws that upheld traditional practices of the clans and communities and regions as valid dharma and required the individuals who wanted to be free from these, to adopt the universal laws, Dharma, (which incorporated the common factors of the above), that were to be assigned to one or the other of the universal classes, varnas.
Dharma and liberal laws
But with the assertion of the sages that laws based on satya were identical with those based on dharma and that they were not antithetical to the laws that upheld natural propensities, it was imperative to make the laws based on dharmas, less rigorous and less imperative than yamas and niyamas, through the recognition of the value of the four-fold paradigm of social actionsprescription, permission, preference and proscription, and provide for the laws of exigency, apaddharma. Vidura advised him to leave behind his past career, that of a king, who accepted the challenge to gamble as the duty (dharma) of kings. (Ch.100)
Dharmaraja before leaving Hastinapura went in his earlier capacity as Dharmaputra to take leave of his mother, Kunti. He was accompanied by his wife, Krshna and was followed by his brothers and Dhoumya, his counsellor. The people (jana) regretted the fall and sorrows of their role model in conduct. The Dharmaraja, who was an outstanding purusha, social leader, was noted for the six traits, harmlessness (ahimsa), compassion (daya), resoluteness (dhrti), self-discipline, modesty and absence of egotism. His subjects grieved for his sufferings.
Yudhishtira as the head of the forest society (itarajana)
The entire social world (loka) of commonalty grieved at the sufferings of the Dharmaraja who was the head of the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi). For the commonalty (manushyas) of the plains (bhumi, prthvi), he was like the roots of a tree. These roots had got severed. For the other people (itarajana) of the forest society, he was like the branches and leaves and nuts and flowers of the tree. He was going to the forest to join and head that society, cut off from the core society of the plains.
Nobility (devas) superior to the four social classes (varnas)
Some people of the agro-pastoral janapada wanted to follow him leaving their homes and lands, but were asked to go back. It may be noted here that the social system of four varnas was first intended only for the commonalty (prthvi) of the core society. The nobility (devas) would remain a separate cadre superior to the four varnas. The forest society too was not expected to be brought under it. But in practice only the city (pura) was organised on the basis of separate dwellings and areas for the four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras. In the rural areas self-employed agriculturists who were mainly kshudrakas, a cadre that ranked in between Vaisyas who were landlords and Shudras who were workers, peopled the villages. The people of the city too felt sorry for Yudhishtira.
Kunti was sore that Krshna had not come to the rescue of the Pandavas when they were in difficulty. She wondered how they met with this danger when experts in state policy (niti) like Bhishma, Drona and Krpa and other leaders of their clan were present. She wanted Sahadeva to stay back and protect her. The other Pandavas might be compelled to abide by the stringent laws based on satya and go on exile. But Sahadeva who was an expert in social laws, dharma, should stay back to continue to protect his mother, Kunti, who was in the position of Madri who had given birth to him. Sahadeva had to go on exile to honour Yudhishtiras word. Vidura consoled Kunti and escorted her to his house while the Pandavas went to the forest on exile. (Ch.101 Sabhaparva)
Dhrtarashtra wanted to know from Vidura with what attitude the Pandavas left the city for the forest and the reactions of the people to their exile. While Vidura was explaining how the different classes (varnas) of the city were all unhappy with the way in which the Pandavas were deceived and deprived of their rights and exiled, Narada, the devarshi (a sage who guided the nobles and was an expert in the socio-political constitution, Brahma) accompanied by many legislators (maharshis) came to the hall and pronounced that the Pandavas would return after thirteen years and that for the fault of Duryodhana, the Kauravas would get destroyed at the hands of Bhima and Arjuna. He was pronouncing what would be the consequences of Duryodhanas deeds that violated the social laws (dharma) adopted by the legislators of Hastinapura and its socio-political constitution (brahma). Both permitted the injured Pandavas to hit back without any legal or constitutional restraint. The exile had freed them from all obligations to the Kuru state of Hastinapura.
House of nobles (devas) favoured the Pandavas
Then Duryodhana, Duhsasana, Karna and Sakuni surrendered their state to Drona, offering to withdraw from the administration and hoping that the state of Hastinapura would thereby be insulated against the likely reprisals. Drona (ignoring Sakuni, the deceitful gambler) told Duryodhana who was jealous (of the Pandavas), Duhsasana, Karna and other members of the Bharata lineage that they had got enmeshed in a constitutional trap. The jurists (Brahmans) had said that the Pandavas being the sons of nobles (dharma, vayu, Indra and Asvins who were all devas) death sentence could not be passed against them (for any offence including treason). They could be only exiled. Drona was committed to supporting Dhrtarashtra and his sons who had sought his protection and he would not abandon them, he promised. But the will of the nobles (daivam) was very powerful, Drona told them. None could ignore or overrule it. Drona implied that the house of nobles favoured the Pandavas and did not approve the steps taken by the king.
Drona said that the Pandavas left for the forest as the Kauravas had defeated them and as they had to abide by the social and political laws (dharma) that had called for such a withdrawal by the defeated persons. Drona hinted that it was not because they had to obey the kings orders. According to the social laws those who were guilty of major offences (other than treason) had to spend twelve years in forest expiating for the offences, observing the code of celibacy. [This was treated to be half of life sentence.] If it was a minor offence one could be required to keep away from his normal duties for twelve months.
Drona was afraid that they would take revenge. Dhrstadyumna, a great warrior and brother of Draupadi supported them. The two were given to Drupada by Agni, the official in charge of the council of intellectuals and civil judge and who had the status of a noble. Dhrstadyumna and Draupadi belonged to the nobility and Drupada was their godfather. Drona said that as he was only a commoner (manushya) he was afraid of the armed noble (deva) that Dhrstadyumna, son of his enemy, Drupada, was. He was also aware of the widespread belief that he would die at the hands of Dhrstadyumna. Drona was not bold to fight against Arjuna, though the latter was his student. He advised the king, Dhrtarashtra to come to terms (samdhi, agreement of peace) with Dharmaputra. Dhrtarashtra felt the suggestion to be wise and asked Vidura to call back the Pandavas and send them with arms, chariots and foot soldiers and with honour and all royal comforts.
Dhrtarashtras trusted observer, Sanjaya too expressed the fear that the insults heaped on Draupadi were abominable and would have very bad consequences. Dhrtarashtra acknowledged that when the deliberations of the civil judiciary (agnihotra) were becoming ominous Bhishma, Drona, Krpa, Somadatta and Bahlika left the chamber indicating that they did not want to be a party to the decisions that the king planned to take under the influence of his sons. It was only then he had offered Krshna (Draupadi) whatever boons he was empowered to grant. He had released the Pandavas from servitude and allowed them to go with their chariots and arms. Withdrawal of this permission once given was not in order, he realised.
Vidura had pointed out to Dhrtarashtra that the molesting of Draupadi had left the Pandavas very angry with him and his sons and that the Yadavas and Pancalas too were against them. It was hence advisable for the Kauravas to enter into a treaty of friendship with the Pandavas. He implied that merely returning the weapons seized was not enough. Dhrtarashtra told Sanjaya that he had failed to accept this suggestion of Vidura made in the interests of his state and in accordance with the principles of dharma and had followed the desires of his sons instead. (Ch.103 Sabhaparva)