Shakuni

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Shakuni
Information
Children Uluka
Relatives Gandhari (sister)

Shakuni (Sanskrit: शकुनि, lit. bird) also known as Saubala (Sanskrit: सौबल, lit. son of Subala), Gandhararaja (Sanskrit: गान्धारराज, (lit. king of Gandhara) and Subalraja(Sanskrit): सुबलराज,lit. "King of the Kingdom of Subala" was the prince of Gandhara Kingdom in present-day Gandhara, later to become the King after his father's death and one of the main villains in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He was the brother of Gandhari and hence Duryodhana's maternal uncle. Portrayed as an extremely intelligent but devious man, Shakuni is often credited as the mastermind behind the Kurukshetra war. Shakuni had a son named Uluka.

Legend[edit]

Legend has it that once while the Pandavas and Kauravas were playing together as kids, when Duryodhana calls the Pandavas 'children of whores' (Pandu never fathered the Pandavas, Kunti and Madri had their kids from 5 different Gods). Yudhishthira a.k.a Dharmaraja, the eldest Pandava retaliates by calling Duryodhana as 'the son of a widow'. Confused and hurt, Duryodhana runs to Bhishma to ask about this. Bhishma too is deeply disturbed as Dharmaraja's word was never untrue -- either he stated the truth or what he pronounced happened prophetically! So out of fear for Gandhari, Bhishma gets all horoscopes checked by the greatest astrologers of Bharata, all of whom reveal that there is nothing wrong with either Dhritarashtra's or Gandhari's horoscopes and that Dhritarashtra's life is blessedly long and that if there is any modicum of truth in what Dharmaraja has said, then a flawed horoscope of Gandhari must have been provided for her marriage. Curious, Bhishma digs into her past through his spies in Gandhara and finds out that per her actual birth horoscope, astrologers had predicted that Gandhari’s first husband would die quickly, while her second husband would live a long life. As a result, Gandhari’s parents had wedded her to a goat and immediately sacrificed it {notice the parallels to goat sacrifice in Abrahamanic faiths}. This technically made Gandhari a widow. So Dhritarashtra was in fact Gandhari’s second husband.

Bhishma gets terribly offended at this hidden treachery. As he takes his oath to protect the Kuru clan a little too seriously, even the slightest offense against his family is unacceptable. So Bhishma swears to take revenge on Gandhari’s family for hiding this dirty truth and providing a false horoscope so as to get her married into the Kuru clan to Dhritarashtra. He therefore invites Gandhari’s entire family to Hastinapur and when they reveal this truth, locks them up in a cellar. Since it is adharma to kill ones relatives, Bhishma doesn’t kill them, instead he starves them by giving them minimal amount of food. And since it is adharma for a guest to ask for more food at their in-laws place -- more a matter of pride and ego -- Gandhari’s family members silently undergo the torture.

It is then, that Gandhari’s family decide, enough is enough and they need to avenge what is being done to them. They decide that they would let one of them survive by eating all the food that is given, since there is no point in letting all of them die in vain. So they choose Shakuni, the youngest and cleverest of them all, and he is made to survive, by consuming all the food given everyday.

However, so that by eating their food, Shakuni doesn’t develop any respect for Bhishma or feel guilty about his vengeance towards the Kuru clan and so as not to forget the evil his family has been inflicted with, just before dying Shakuni’s father Saubala strikes Shakuni with his staff, with the dying words "Remember the injustice done to our family by this Kuru clan. Destroy them. Let the pain in your leg never let you forget about your revenge". Shakuni therefore limps for the rest of his life and this constantly accompanying pain in all the activities he performs ensures he keeps his vengeful goal of destroying the Kuru clan, alive.

And so, Shakuni doesn’t honestly give two hoots about who wins the Kurukshetra war. All he seeks is the mass destruction of the Kuruvansha –- as he confides in his son Uluka when the latter comes to Hastinapura before the war asking his father to return to garden-rich, pristine and peace-filled Gandhara, modern day Kandahar. The destruction Shakuni seeks would only be possible through massive blood shed on both sides. And he got it! .

Another ancient tale even goes to narrate that following the death of his entire family, Shakuni begs Bhishma for his life and manages to win the grandsire's forgiveness and release. He then travels to the Hindukush mountains in Gandhara where through severe penances he appeases lord Shiva and manages to evoke his grace and elicit a boon that the entire Kuru clan will be wiped out and that each and every family member of his clan that is killed by Bhishma through starvation, become a source of pain and grief for atleast one 'ahan'/'aharnisa' each {one unit of a day as denoted in Sanskrit, either night-time or day-time; therefore one 24 hour period has 2 ahans also known as పూట {'poota' in Telugu} -- prior to causing Bhishma's death. It is these dead brethren of Shakuni's that deck Arjuna's armory as the 100+ arrows that pierce Bhishma's body on the 10th day of the Mahabharata war! Also, Bhishma lives for a full 50 plus days -- some tales say 51 days which is a half of 101 'ahans', others 58 days which is a half of 116 'ahans' - all 4 numbers are considered holy for rituals in Hinduism -- prior to giving up his life, and thus each of these arrows, Shakuni's bloodline, manages to inflict an ahan's pain on Bhishma. Thus Shakuni manages to keep the flame of his vengence alive and succeeds in wiping out the entire Kuru clan in the war, except for the Pandavas who survive as they are not of Kuru blood, but Divyaputras {sons of gods}...

Death[edit]

After the Game of Dice episode in the Mahabharata, the youngest of the[1] Pandava brothers Sahadeva had taken an oath to avenge Draupadi's insult and had sworn to kill Shakuni, the mastermind of the episode. As sworn, Shakuni was killed by Sahadeva on the eighteenth day of the Kurukshetra war.[citation needed]

Descendants[edit]

Ambhi Kumar, king of Gandhara was a direct descendant of Bharata (of Ramayana) and Shakuni (of Mahabharata). Ambhi Kumar and Chandragupta Maurya took training and studied together at Takshila in childhood. In 326 BCE Alexander the Great receives submission of ruler of Takshila, Omphis (Āmbhi). Later Ambhi was deposed and killed by Chandragupta Maurya, the emperor of the Mauryan Empire.[citation needed]

Worship[edit]

Temple dedicated to Shakuni at Pavithreswaram in Kollam District, Kerala

Even though Shakuni's name is associated with villainy, Hinduism sees a person in terms of Gunas. It is true that Tamasic characteristics were dominant in Shakuni but he too had Sattvic elements and this was recognized by a community in Kerala. There is an ancient temple dedicated to him at Pavithreswaram in Kollam District of Kerala. A throne believed to have been used by Shakuni is found in this ancient temple. No Puja or tantric rituals are performed at the temple. Offerings to the temple include tender coconut, silk, Palm wine, etc. The temple is maintained by the Kuravar community of the region.

It is believed that during the Mahabharata battle, Shakuni traveled across the country along with his nephews, the Kauravas. When they reached the place where the temple is situated, the Kauravas divided their weapons among them. Since then, the place came to be known as 'Pakutheswaram', which later became Pavithreswaram. The local Kuravars believe that Shakuni returned to this place after the battle and attained Moksha with the blessings of Lord Shiva and became Lord Shakuni. The subdeities of the temple include Devi Bhuvaneshvari, Kiratha Moorthi and Nagaraja. The temple festival, popularly known as Malakkuda Maholsavam, is observed in the Makaram month in the Malayali calendar. Near the Shakuni Temple is a temple dedicated to Duryodhana. The Mahabharata mentions Shakuni as the personification of Dwapar Yuga and Duryodhana as his constant companion Kali (Mbh.15.31)

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]