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Chapter 24: The Invitation

DURYODHANA and Sakuni went to Dhritarashtra. Sakuni opened the conversation. He said: "O king, Duryodhana is wan with grief and anxiety.

You are paying no attention to his unbearable sorrow. Why this unconcern?"

Dhritarashtra who doted on his son embraced Duryodhana and said: "I do not see why you should be disconsolate. What is here that you already do not enjoy? The whole world is at your feet. When you are surrounded by all kinds of pleasures like the very gods, why should you pine in sorrow? You have learnt the Vedas, archery, and other sciences from the best of masters. As my first born, you have inherited the throne. What is left you to wish for? Tell me."

Duryodhana replied: "Father, like anybody else, rich or poor, I eat and cover my nakedness, but I find life unbearable.

What is the use of leading such a life?"

And then he revealed in detail the envy and hatred that were eating into his vitals and depriving life of its savour. He referred to the prosperity he had seen in the capital of the Pandavas that to him was bitterer than loss of his all would have been.

He burst out: "Contentment with one's lot is not characteristic of a kshatriya. Fear and pity lower the dignity of kings. My wealth and pleasures do not give me any satisfaction since I have witnessed the greater prosperity of Yudhishthira. O king, the Pandavas have grown, while we have shrunk."

Dhritarashtra said: "Beloved child, you are the eldest son of my royal spouse and me and heir to the glory and greatness of our renowned race. Do not cherish any hatred towards the Pandavas. Sorrow and death will be the sole result of hatred of kith and kin, especially when they are blameless. Tell me, why do you hate the guileless Yudhishthira? Is not his prosperity ours too? Our friends are his friends. He has not the least jealousy or hatred towards us. You are equal to him in heroism and ancestry. Why should you be jealous of your brother? No. You should not be jealous." Thus said the old king who, though overfond of his son, did not occasionally hesitate to say what he felt to be just.

Duryodhana did not at all like the advice of his father, and his reply was not very respectful.

He replied: "The man without common sense, but immersed in learning, is like a wooden ladle immersed in savoury food which it neither tastes nor benefits from.

You have much learning of statecraft but have no state wisdom at all, as your advice to me clearly shows. The way of the world is one thing and the administration of a state is quite another.

Thus has Brihaspati said: 'Forbearance and contentment, though the duties of ordinary men, are not virtues in kings.' The kshatriya's duty is a constant seeking of victory."

Duryodhana spoke thus quoting maxims of politics and citing examples and making the worse appear the better reason.

Then Sakuni intervened and set forth in detail his infallible plan of inviting Yudhishthira to play the game of dice, defeating him utterly and divesting him of his all without recourse to arms.

The wicked Sakuni wound up with saying: "It is enough if you merely send for the son of Kunti to play the game of dice. Leave the rest to me."

Duryodhana added: "Sakuni will win for me the riches of the Pandavas without a fight, if you would only agree to invite Yudhishthira."

Dhritarashtra said: "Your suggestion does not seem proper. Let us ask Vidura about it. He will advise us rightly."

But Duryodhana would not hear of consulting Vidura. He said to his father:

"Vidura will only give us the platitudes of ordinary morality, which will not help us to our object. The policy of kings must be very different from the goody maxims of textbooks, and is sterner stuff of which the test is success. Moreover, Vidura does not like me and is partial to the Pandavas.

You know this as well as I do."

Dhritarashtra said: "The Pandavas are strong. I do not think it wise to antagonize them. The game of dice will only lead to enmity. The passions resulting from the game will know no bounds. We should not do it."

But Duryodhana was importunate: "Wise statesmanship lies in casting off all fear and protecting oneself by one's own efforts. Should we not force the issue while yet we are more powerful than they are? That will be real foresight. A lost opportunity may never come again, and it is not as though we invented the game of dice to injure the Pandavas. It is an ancient pastime which kshatriyas have always indulged in, and if it will now serve us to win our cause without bloodshed, where is the harm?"

Dhritarashtra replied: "Dear son, I have grown old. Do as you like. But the line that you are taking does not appeal to me.

I am sure you will repent later. This is the work of destiny."

In the end, out-argued and through sheer fatigue and hopelessness of dissuading his son, Dhritarashtra assented, and ordered the servants to prepare a hall of games.

Yet he could not forbear consulting Vidura in secret about the matter.

Vidura said: "O king, this will undoubtedly bring about the ruin of our race by raising up unquenchable hate."

Dhritarashtra, who could not oppose the demand of his son, said: "If fortune favors us I have no fear regarding this game. If on the contrary, fortune goes against us, how could we help it? For, destiny is allpowerful.

Go and invite Yudhishthira on my behalf to come and play dice." Thus commanded, Vidura went to Yudhishthira with an invitation.

The weak-witted Dhritarashtra, overpersuaded, yielded to the desire of his son through his attachment to him in spite of the fact that he knew this was the way that destiny was working itself out.