Yudhisthira trapped in prophecy; some answers need a deeper search
Conflict often arises from a person's reluctance to act, driven by the fear that their actions may incite conflict. In attempting to avoid situations that might lead to discord, we unwittingly become caught in the trap we sought to evade. Notably, both action and inaction can be catalysts for conflict. With the foreknowledge of Vyasa's prophecy, Yudhishthira was conscious that after 13 years, his actions could potentially trigger the downfall of the formidable Kshatriyas gathered for the Rajasuya Yagna.
Numerous questions have been asked about the motive of Yudhisthira to agree to participate in the dice game with Duryodhana. Yudhisthira, the epitome of truth and justice, could have denied his participation; after all, he knew the game was evil.
Why did Yudhisthira succumb to the pressure of Duryodhana's request? He could have guided Duryodhana about the ill effects of the dice game, and Bhisma, Drona, and Vidura would have strongly supported him. Even if he decided to play, why did he not seek the permission of his brothers and wife?
These unanswered questions have subjected Yudhisthira to criticism, particularly regarding his decision to stake his brothers and their shared wife. Did he consult his brothers before risking Draupadi? Arjuna, Bhima, Nakul, and Sahadeva had an equal right to her. What about Draupadi's freedom to decide whether she was willing to be put on stake for the game? Did "the just" Yudhisthira not consider Draupadi's individual freedom? Did his sense of righteousness and Dharma not restrain him from risking the palace and treasury, which belonged to him and his brothers and the kingdom's people, who regarded their kings as protectors?
As rightly said, uneasy lies the head which wears the crown; it's worth exploring if any perspective, context or background has missed our eyes while answering for Yudhisthira. People, celestial beings, gods, and sages hailed him as the embodiment of Dharma and the most just ruler, so everyone can't be wrong. Are there any underlying reasons for Yudhisthira not being able to avoid the dice game that has been obscured?
Yudhisthira was known for easing people's suffering. Even in his hardships, he sought not for himself but for others. He underwent difficult penance to please Sun God to grant him a way to feed the scholars, Brahmans and various visitors in the forest. Robbed of all his possessions, he cried not even once for his hunger or comfort but for those who visited him. As Dharma personified, he never wanted to be the reason for injustice, harm, or bloodshed, but he became the reason for one of the biggest wars of that time, which led to massive loss of human life and the biggest of the Kshatriya rulers of that time.
Before the dice game invitation to Pandavas in Hastinapur, the Kauravas had spent quite some time at the grand Maya Sabha, a palace of illusions built by the demon Mayasura for the Pandavas. The palace was considered as magnificent as Lord Indra's palace. During this time, Yudhisthira successfully performed the Rajasuya Yagna, attracting Kshatriyas, celestials, sages, and other beings worldwide. On his visit to Pandavas, Sage Narada even imparted valuable advice on kingly duties to Yudhisthira and described the palaces of many famous celestials like Varun, Indra, Kubera, Yama and a few more.
After the Rajasuya yajna was executed successfully, the guests took leave individually. Intending to take leave of Pandavas, Sage Narad visited them in the Sabha. But before leaving, Rishi Narad said something which left Yudhisthira perplexed. Narad said that as a consequence of the Rajasuya yagna, three kinds of warnings ( atmospherical, celestial and terrestrial ) will happen. These indications are primarily unpleasant. Yudhisthira's mind was fighting a battle against the fear that was overpowering him. So after Sage Narad' left, even Maharishi Vyasa expressed his desire to take leave and travel towards Kailash with his few disciples. Yudhisthira sought the wisdom of the revered sage Vyasa to clear his doubts.
Yudhisthira, addressing Vyasa, said, "Oh, chief of men, there is a doubt in my mind, and you are the most capable of solving my doubt." Yudhisthira continued and told what Narad had told him about portents due to Rajasuya yagna. So Yudhisthira asks Vyas Rishi if the unpleasant event has ended with the death of the Chedi king - Shishupal.
Ved Vyas, rather than affirming that the unpleasant event ended with the death of Shishupal, told him that the worst was yet to come. He told Yudhisthira that 13 years from now the potent would bear mighty consequences, ending up in the destruction of all the kashtriya of the world. Vyasa further said that in due course, you would be made the sole cause for the end of all the assembled kashtriya for the Rajasuya yajna.
Yudhisthira was taken aback and alarmed by what he just heard from Rishi Vyasa. He had approached Vyasa with the hope that he would affirm his belief that the death of the chedi king was the unpleasant portent that Narad was talking about. But rather than confirming what Yudhisthira thought, he added to Narad's statement by saying that Yudhisthira would be made the cause of the end of all the famous Kshatriyas who had assemblies here.
Overwhelmed with despair and grief, Yudhisthira considered it better to die than be the cause of such calamity. Upon seeing his brother so vulnerable, Arjuna reassured him and encouraged him to act with reason.
Then, mustering some courage and thinking deeply, Yudhisthira resolved that for 13 years from now, I shall not speak a hard word to any of my brothers or any of my fellow kings or relatives. Living under the command of my relatives, I shall practice virtue exemplifying my vows. He thought that if he continued to live in this way, making no distinction between his children and others, there would be no disagreement between him and others. He believed that it was disagreement that was the cause of war in this world. So, doing what is agreeable to everyone else will help him keep war at a distance, and so he will be free from the prophecy of the Maharishi that he will be the cause of the destruction of the Kshatriya. Yudhisthira then vowed not to speak harshly to anyone, treating his children and others equally to avoid disagreements that might lead to war.
After this, Pandavas bid farewell one by one to their guests who had come for the Rajasuya Yagna. However, Duryodhana and the Kuru princes, along with Shakuni, remained at the Palace of Illusions. Duryodhana's jealousy grew as he watched the prosperity of the Pandavas. His heart burned with a desire to possess their wealth and happiness. Shakuni saw an opportunity and proposed the fateful dice game to fulfil Duryodhana's sinister plans. Despite the objections of wise counsel like Bhishma, Vidura, and Drona, King Dhritarashtra succumbed to his son's wicked ambitions. He permitted the unfortunate game of dice between the Pandavas and Kauravas.
The invitation to the dice game marked the beginning of the war prophesied by Vyasa, signalling the end of the Kaurava clan. Yudhisthira, bound by his vow to avoid disagreement and keep the Kauravas content, reluctantly participated in the unethical game despite knowing that it was rigged.