Epic of the Bharatas
Book IV. Dyuta
(The Fatal Dice)
 Duryodhan came back from the Imperial Sacrifice filled with jealousy against Yudhishthir, and devised plans to effect his fall. Sakuni, prince of Gandhara, shared Duryodhan’s hatred towards the sons of Pandu, and helped him in his dark scheme.
Yudhishthir with all his piety and righteousness had one weakness, the love of gambling, which was one of the besetting sins of the monarchs of the day. Sakuni was an expert at false dice, and challenged Yudhishthir, and Yudhishthir held it a point of honour not to decline such a challenge.
He came from his new capital, Indra-prastha, to Hastina-pura the capital of Duryodhan, with his mother and brothers and Draupadi. And as Yudhishthir lost game after game, he was stung with his losses, and with the recklessness of a gambler still went on with the fatal game. His wealth and hoarded gold and jewels, his steeds, elephants and cars, his slaves male and female, his empire and possessions, were all staked and lost!
The madness increased, and Yudhishthir staked his brothers, and then himself, and then the fair Draupadi, and lost! And thus the Emperor of Indra-prastha and his family were deprived of every possession on earth, and became the bond-slaves of Duryodhan. The old king Dhrita-rashtra released them from actual slavery, but the five brothers retired to forests as homeless exiles.
Portions of Section lxv. and the whole of Sections lxix., lxxvi., and lxxvii. of Book ii. of the original text have been translated in this Book.
I. Draupadi in the Council Hall
 Glassed on Ganga’s limpid waters brightly shine Hastina’s walls!
Queen Draupadi duly honoured lives within the palace halls,
But as steals a lowly jackal in a lordly lion’s den,
Base Duryodhan’s humble menial came to proud Draupadi’s ken.
“Pardon, Empress,” quoth the menial, “royal Pandu’s righteous son,
Lost his game and lost his reason, Empress, thou art staked and won,
Prince Duryodhan claims thee, lady, and the victor bids me say,
Thou shalt serve him as his vassal, as his slave in palace stay!”
“Have I heard thee, menial, rightly?” questioned she in anguish keen,
“Doth a crownéd king and husband stake his wife and lose his queen,
Did my noble lord and monarch sense and reason lose at dice,
Other stake he did not wager, wedded wife to sacrifice!”
“Other stakes were duly wagered,” so he spake with bitter groan,
“Wealth and empire, every object which Yudhishthir called his own,
Lost himself and all his brothers, bondsmen are those princes brave,
Then he staked his wife and empress, thou art prince Duryodhan’s slave!”
Rose the queen in queenly anger, and with woman’s pride she spake:
“Hie thee, menial, to thy master, Queen Draupad’s answer take,
If my lord, himself a bondsman, then hath staked his queen and wife,
False the stake, for owns a bondsman neither wealth nor other’s life,
Slave can wager wife nor children, and such action is undone,
Take my word to prince Duryodhan, Queen Draupadi is unwon!”
 Wrathful was the proud Duryodhan when he heard the answer bold,
To his younger, wild Duhsasan, thus his angry mandate told:
“Little-minded is the menial, and his heart in terror fails,
For the fear of wrathful Bhima, lo! his coward-bosom quails,
Thou Duhsasan, bid the princess as our humble slave appear,
Pandu’s sons are humble bondsmen, and thy heart it owns no fear!”
Fierce Duhsasan heard the mandate, blood-shot was his flaming eye,
Forthwith to the inner chambers did with eager footsteps hie,
Proudly sat the fair Draupadi, monarch’s daughter, monarch’s wife,
Unto her the base Duhsasan spake the message, insult-rife:
“Lotus-eyed Panchala-princess! fairly staked and won at game,
Come and meet thy lord Duryodhan, chase that mantling blush of shame,
Serve us as thy lords and masters, be our beauteous bright-eyed slave,
Come unto the Council Chamber, wait upon the young and brave!”
Proud Draupadi shakes with tremor at Duhsasan’s hateful sight,
And she shades her eye and forehead, and her bloodless cheeks are white,
At his words her chaste heart sickens, and with wild averted eye,
Unto rooms where dwelt the women, Queen Draupadi seeks to fly,
Vainly sped the trembling princess in her fear and in her shame,
By her streaming wavy tresses fierce Duhsasan held the dame!
Sacred locks! with holy water dewed at rajasuya rite,
And by mantra consecrated, fragrant, flowing, raven-bright,
Base Duhsasan by those tresses held the faint and flying queen,
Feared no more the sons of Pandu, nor their vengeance fierce and keen,
Dragged her in her slipping garments by her long and trailing hair,
And like sapling tempest-shaken, wept and shook the trembling fair!
 Stooping in her shame and anguish, pale with wrath and woman’s fear,
Trembling and in stifled accents, thus she spake with streaming tear:
“Leave me, shameless prince Duhsasan! elders, noble lords are here,
Can a modest wedded woman thus in loose attire appear?”
Vain the words and soft entreaty which the weeping princess made,
Vainly to the gods and mortals she in bitter anguish prayed,
For with cruel words of insult still Duhsasan mocked her woe:
“Loosely clad or void of clothing, – to the council hall you go,
Slave-wench fairly staked and conquered, wait upon thy masters brave,
Live among our household menials, serve us as our willing slave!”
II. Draupadi’s Plaint
Loose-attired, with trailing tresses, came Draupadi weak and faint,
Stood within the Council Chamber, tearful made her piteous plaint:
“Elders! versed in holy sastra, and in every holy rite,
Pardon if Draupadi cometh in this sad unseemly plight,
Stay thy sinful deed, Duhsasan, nameless wrongs and insults spare,
Touch me not with hands uncleanly, sacred is a woman’s hair,
Honoured elders, righteous nobles, have on me protection given,
Tremble sinner, seek no mercy from the wrathful gods in heaven!
Here in glory, son of Dharma, sits my noble righteous lord,
Sin nor shame nor human frailty stains Yudhishthir’s deed or word,
Silent all? and will no chieftain rise to save a woman’s life,
Not a hand or voice is lifted to defend a virtuous wife?
Lost is Kuru’s righteous glory, lost is Bharat’s ancient name,
Lost is Kshatra’s kingly prowess, warlike worth and knightly fame,
 Wherefore else do Kuru warriors tamely view this impious scene,
Wherefore gleam not righteous weapons to protect an outraged queen:
Bhishma, hath he lost his virtue, Drona, hath he lost his might,
Hath the monarch of the Kurus ceased to battle for the right,
Wherefore are ye mute and voiceless, councillors of mighty fame,
Vacant eye and palsied right arm watch this deed of Kuru’s shame?
III. Insult and Vow of Revenge
Spake Draupadi slender-waisted, and her words were stern and high,
Anger flamed within her bosom and the tear was in her eye,
And her sparkling speaking glances fell on Pandu’s sons like fire,
Stirred in them a mighty passion and a thirst for vengeance dire,
Lost their empire wealth and fortune, little recked they for the fall,
But Draupadi’s pleading glances like a poniard smote them all!
Darkly frowned the ancient Bhishma, wrathful Drona bit his tongue,
Pale Vidura marked with anger insults on Draupadi flung,
Fulsome word nor foul dishonour could their truthful utterance taint,
And they cursed Duhsasan’s action, when they heard Draupadi’s plaint.
But brave Karna, though a warrior, – Arjun’s deadly foe was he, –
’Gainst the humbled sons of Pandu spake his scorn in scornful glee:
“Tis no fault of thine, fair princess, fallen to this servile state,
Wife and son rule not their actions, others rule their hapless fate,
Thy Yudhishthir sold his birthright, sold thee at the impious play,
And the wife falls with the husband, and her duty – to obey!
 Live thou in this Kuru household, do the Kuru princes’ will,
Serve them as thy lords and masters, with thy beauty please them still,
Fair One! seek another husband who in foolish reckless game
Will not stake a loving woman, will not cast her forth in shame!
For they censure not a woman, when she is a menial slave,
If her woman’s fancy wanders to the young and to the brave,
For thy lord is not thy husband, as a slave he hath no wife,
Thou art free with truer lover to enjoy a wedded life,
They whom at the swayamvara, thou had’st chose, Panchala’s bride,
They have lost thee, sweet Draupadi, lost their empire and their pride!”
Bhima heard, and quick and fiercely heaved his bosom in his shame,
And his red glance fell on Karna like a tongue of withering flame,
Bound by elder’s plighted promise Bhima could not smite in ire,
Looked the painted form of Anger flaming with an anguish dire!
“King and elder!” uttered Bhima, and his words were few and brave,
“Vain were wrath and righteous passion in the sold and bounden slave,
Would that son of chariot-driver fling on us this insult keen,
Hadst thou, noble king and elder, staked nor freedom nor our queen?”
Sad Yudhishthir heard in anguish, bent in shame his lowly head,
Proud Duryodhan laughed in triumph, and in scornful accents said:
“Speak, Yudhishthir, for thy brothers own their elder’s righteous sway,
Speak, for truth in thee abideth, virtue ever marks thy way,
Hast thou lost thy new-built empire and thy brothers proud and brave,
Hast thou lost thy fair Draupadi, is thy wedded wife our slave?”
Lip nor eye did move Yudhishthir, hateful truth might not deny,
Karna laughed, but saintly Bhishma wiped his old and manly eye.
 Madness seized the proud Duryodhan, and inflamed by passion base,
Sought the prince to stain Draupadi with a deep and dire disgrace,
On the proud and peerless woman cast his wicked lustful eye,
Sought to hold the high-born princess as his slave upon his knee!
Bhima penned his wrath no longer, lightning-like his glance he flung,
And the ancient hall of Kurus with his thunder accents rung:
“May I never reach those mansions where my fathers live on high,
May I never meet ancestors in the bright and happy sky,
If that knee, by which thou sinnest, Bhima breaks not in his ire,
In the battle’s red arena with his weapon, deathful, dire!”
Red fire flamed on Bhima’s forehead, sparkled from his angry eye,
As from tough and gnarléd branches fast the crackling red sparks fly!
IV. Dhrita-rashtra’s Kindness
Hark! within the sacred chamber, where the priests in white attire
With libations morn and evening feed the sacrificial fire,
And o’er sacred rights of homa Brahmans chant their mantra high,
There is heard the jackal’s wailing and the raven’s ominous cry!
Wise Vidura knew that omen, and the Queen Gandhari knew,
Bhishma muttered “svasti! svasti!” at this portent strange and new,
Drona and preceptor Kripa uttered too that holy word,
Spake her fears the Queen Gandhari to her spouse and royal lord.
Dhrita-rashtra heard and trembled with a sudden holy fear,
And his feeble accents quavered, and his eyes were dimmed by tear:
“Son Duryodhan, ever luckless, godless, graceless, witless child,
Hast thou Drupad’s virtuous daughter thus insulted and reviled,
 Hast thou courted death and danger, for destruction clouds our path,
Can an old man’s soft entreaties still avert this sign of wrath?”
Slow and gently to Draupadi was the sightless monarch led,
And in kind and gentle accents unto her the old man said:
“Noblest empress, dearest daughter, good Yudhishthir’s stainless wife,
Purest of the Kuru ladies, nearest to my heart and life,
Pardon wrong and cruel insult and avert the wrath of Heaven,
Voice thy wish and ask for blessing, be my son’s misdeed forgiven!”
Answered him the fair Draupadi: “Monarch of the Kuru’s line,
For thy grace and for thy mercy every joy on earth be thine,
Since thou bid’st me name my wishes, this the boon I ask of thee,
That my gracious lord Yudhishthir once again be bondage-free!
I have borne a child unto him, noble boy and fair and brave,
Be he prince of royal station, not the son of bounden slave,
Let not light unthinking children point to him in utter scorn,
Call him slave and dasaputra, of a slave and bondsman born!”
“Virtuous daughter, have thy wishes,” thus the ancient monarch cried,
“Name a second boon and blessing, and it shall be gratified.”
“Grant me then, O gracious father! mighty Bhima, Arjun brave,
And the youngest twin-born brothers, – none of them may be a slave,
With their arms and with their chariots let the noble princes part,
Freemen let them range the country, strong of hand and stout of heart!”
“Be it so, high-destined princess!” ancient Dhrita-rashtra cried,
“Name another boon and blessing, and it shall be gratified,
Foremost of my queenly daughters, dearest-cherished and the best,
Meeting thus thy gentle wishes now I feel my house is blest!”
 “Not so,” answered him the princess, “other boon I may not seek,
Thou art bounteous, and a woman should be modest, wise and meek,
Twice I asked, and twice you granted, and a Kshatra asks no more,
Unto Brahmans it is given, asking favours evermore,
Now my lord and warlike brothers, from their hateful bondage freed,
Seek their fortune by their prowess and by brave and virtuous deed!”
V. The Banishment
Now Yudhishthir ’reft of empire, far from kinsmen, hearth and home,
With his wife and faithful brothers must as houseless exiles roam,
Parting blessings spake Yudhishthir, “Elder of the Kuru line,
Noble grandsire stainless Bhishma, may thy glories ever shine,
Drona priest and great preceptor, saintly Kripa true and brave,
Kuru’s monarch Dhrita-rashtra, may the gods thy empire save,
Good Vidura true and faithful, may thy virtue serve thee well,
Warlike sons of Dhrita-rashtra, let me bid you all farewell!”
So he spake unto his kinsmen, wishing good for evil done,
And in silent shame they listened, parting words they uttered none,
Pained at heart was good Vidura, and he asked in sore distress:
Noble Pritha, will she wander in the pathless wilderness?
Royal-born, unused to hardship, weak and long unused to roam,
Agéd is thy saintly mother, let fair Pritha stay at home,
And by all beloved, respected, in my house shall Pritha dwell,
Till your years of exile over, ye shall greet her safe and well.”
 Answered him the sons of Pandu: “Be it even as you say,
Unto us thou art a father, we thy sacred will obey,
Give us then thy holy blessings, friend and father, ere we part,
Blessings from the true and righteous brace the feeble, fainting heart.”
Spake Vidura, pious-hearted: “Best of Bharat’s ancient race,
Let me bless thee and thy brothers, souls of truth and righteous grace,
Fortune brings no weal to mortals who may win by wicked wile,
Sorrow brings no shame to mortals who are free from sin and guile!
Thou art trained in laws of duty, Arjun is unmatched in war,
And on Bhima in the battle kindly shines his faithful star,
And the Twins excel in wisdom, born to rule a mighty State,
Fair Draupadi, ever faithful, wins the smiles of fickle Fate!
Each with varied gifts encircled, each beloved of one and all,
Ye shall win a spacious empire, greater, mightier, after fall,
And your exile, good Yudhishthir, is ordained to serve your weal,
Is a trial and samadhi, for it chastens but to heal!
Meru taught thee righteous maxims where Himalay soars above,
And in Varnavata’s forest Vyasa taught thee holy love,
Rama preached the laws of duty far on Bhrigu’s lofty hill,
Sambhu showed the path of virtue by fair Drisad-vati’s rill,
Fell from lips of saint Asita, words of wisdom deep and grave,
Bhrigu touched with fire thy bosom by the dark Kalmashi’s wave!
Now once more the teaching cometh, purer, brighter, oftener taught,
Learn the truth from heavenly Narad, happy is thy mortal lot,
Greater than the son of Ila, than the kings of earth in might,
Holier than the holy rishis, be thou in thy virtue bright!
Indra help thee in thy battles, proud subduer of mankind,
Yama in the mightier duty, in the conquest of thy mind,
 Good Kuvera teach thee kindness, hungry and the poor to feed,
King Varuna quell thy passions, free thy heart from sin and greed,
Like the Moon in holy lustre, like the Earth in patience deep,
Like the Sun be full of radiance, strong like Wind’s resistless sweep!
In thy sorrow, in affliction, ever deeper lessons learn,
Righteous be your life in exile, happy be your safe return,
May these eyes again behold thee in Hastina’s ancient town,
Conqueror of earthly trials, crowned with virtue’s heavenly crown!”
Spake Vidura to the brothers, and they felt their might increase,
Bowed to him in salutation, filled with deeper, holier peace,
Bowed to Bhishma and to Drona, and to chiefs and elders all,
Exiles to the pathless jungle left their father’s ancient hall!
VI. Pritha’s Lament
In the inner palace chambers where the royal ladies dwell,
Unto Pritha came Draupadi, came to speak her sad farewell,
Monarch’s daughter, monarch’s consort, as an exile she must go,
Pritha wept and in the chambers rose the wailing voice of woe!
Heaving sobs convulsed her bosom as a silent prayer she prayed,
And in accents choked by anguish thus her parting words she said:
“Grieve not, child, if bitter fortune so ordains that we must part,
Virtue hath her consolations for the true and loving heart,
And I need not tell thee, daughter, duties of a faithful wife,
Drupad’s and thy husband’s mansions thou hast brightened by thy life,
 Nobly from the sinning Kurus thou hast turned thy righteous wrath,
Safely, with a mother’s blessing, tread the trackless jungle path,
Dangers bring no woe or sorrow to the true and faithful wife,
Sinless deed and holy conduct ever guard her charméd life,
Nurse thy lord with woman’s kindness, and his brothers, where ye go,
Young in years is Sahadeva, gentle and unused to woe!”
“May thy blessings help me, mother,” so the fair Draupadi said,
“Safe in righteous truth and virtue, forest paths we fearless tread!”
Wet her eyes and loose her tresses, fair Draupadi bowed and left,
Ancient Pritha weeping followed of all earthly joy bereft,
As she went, her duteous children now before their mother came,
Clad in garments of the deer-skin, and their heads were bent in shame!
Sorrow welling in her bosom choked her voice and filled her eye,
Till in broken stifled accents faintly thus did Pritha cry:
“Ever true to path of duty, noble children void of stain,
True to gods, to mortals faithful, why this undeservéd pain,
Wherefore hath untimely sorrow like a darksome cloud above,
Cast its pale and deathful shadow on the children of my love?
Woe to me, your wretched mother, woe to her who gave you birth,
Stainless sons, for sins of Pritha have ye suffered on this earth,
Shall ye range the pathless forest dreary day and darksome night,
’Reft of all save native virtue, clad in native, inborn might?
Woe to me, from rocky mountains where I dwelt by Pandu’s side,
When I lost him, to Hastina wherefore came I in my pride,
Happy is your sainted father, dwells in regions of the sky,
Sees nor feels these earthly sorrows gathering on us thick and high,
Happy too is faithful Madri, for she trod the virtuous way,
Followed Pandu to the bright sky, and is now his joy and stay,
 Ye alone are left to Pritha, dear unto her joyless heart,
Mother’s hope and widow’s treasure, and ye may not, shall not part,
Leave me not alone on wide earth, loving sons, your virtues prove,
Dear Draupadi, loving daughter, let a mother’s tear-drops move,
Grant me mercy, kind Creator, and my days in mercy close,
End my sorrows, kind Vidhata, end my life with all my woes!
Help me, pious-hearted Krishna, friend of friendless, wipe my pain,
All who suffer pray unto thee and they never pray in vain,
Help me, Bhishma, warlike Drona, Kripa ever good and wise,
Ye are friends of truth and virtue, righteous truth ye ever prize,
Help me from thy starry mansions, husband, wherefore dost thou wait,
Seest thou not thy godlike children exiled by a bitter fate!
Part not, leave me not, my children, seek ye not the trackless way,
Stay but one, if one child only, as your mother’s hope and stay,
Youngest, gentlest Sahadeva, dearest to this widowed heart,
Wilt thou watch beside thy mother, while thy cruel brothers part?”
Whispering words of consolation, Pritha’s children wiped her tear,
Then unto the pathless jungle turned their footsteps lone and drear!
Kuru dames with fainting Pritha to Vidura’s palace hie,
Kuru queens for weeping Pritha raise their voice in answering cry,
Kuru maids for fair Draupadi fortune’s fitful will upbraid,
And their tear-dewed lotus-faces with their streaming fingers shade,
Dhrita-rashtra, ancient monarch, is by sad misgivings pained,
Questions oft with anxious bosom what the cruel fates ordained.