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The villain Shakuni (Sanskrit: शकुनि), an avatar of Dvapara,[1] the personification of Dvapara Yuga, was the brother of Gandhari in the Mahābhārata. He was portrayed as an extremely intelligent but devious old man, who was very fond of his nephew Duryodhana. He won the kingdom of the Pandavas' for his nephew, as a wager in a rigged game of dice. The dice that were used were made with Shakuni's father's thigh bones and would always do his bidding. Shakuni had a son whose name was Ulluk.

Birth

Shakuni was born to King Subala of Gandhara. His sister Gandhari was married to king Dhritarashtra. As per legend, on the advice of astrologers, to avert a calamity it was said that Gandhari was married to a goat before getting married to Dhritarashtra. And the goat had been sacrificed promptly thereafter. Technically, this made Gandhari a widow and Dhritarashtra her second husband. Many years later when her husband Dhritarashtra learns about this truth, shocked and enraged, Dhritrashtra puts Gandhari’s entire family,including king Subala in prison. In prison, they were served just one fistful of rice every day. Realizing that this was an elaborate plan to starve them to death, Gandhari’s father declared that none but his youngest son would eat the sparse food being served, so that at least one amongst them would survive to avenge the death of the rest. The youngest son of king Subala was Shakuni. He survived and swore not to rest until all of Kuru kingdom is destroyed . He used the bones of his father to make the dice with which he was able to defeat the Pandavas in the gambling match, and thus which eventually led to the war at Kurukshetra and also to the destruction of entire Kuru clan.

Chausar, the game of dice

Shakuni in Javanese Wayang

When the Pandavas were given the arid part of Hastinapura, with their great labor and effort, they managed to convert this arid and barren land into a great city called Indraprastha. Soon word of this fabulous city spread and Duryodhana himself got a chance to see the palace on the occasion of the Rajasuya Yagna performed by Yudhishthira. He mistook the water flooring of a hall of wonders for an actual concrete floor, and fell into it as a result. Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandavas, burst out laughing and insulted Duryodhana by saying that the son of a blindman can only be a blindman. Enraged, Duryodhana returned to Hastinapur. Reading his nephew's state of mind, Shakuni plotted a clever plan to strip Pandavas of Indraprastha. He invited the Pandavas to a friendly game of dice against Duryodhana, being a pastmaster of the game himself. When the game started, he stoked Yudhisthira's gambling urges by letting him win a few minor victories. Soon however, Shakuni used his skills in the game to good effect, and before Yudhishtir could be persuaded to stop playing, he had already lost all his wealth and kingdom. Then Shakuni suggested that he would return all Yudhistir had lost and more if he would put up his brothers at stake. He also taunted Yudhisthira whenever he hesitated from playing. After two more rounds of play, Yudhisthira lost his brothers and their wife, Draupadi, to Duryodhana, thus ensuring his revenge.

Shakuni took Duryodhana's side in the great war at Kurukshetra. He was killed on the battlefield by Sahadeva, one of the Pandava brothers.

References

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