I am asking a very controversial question with respect to the Mahabharata.
I am aware that whenever the Pandavas get questioned for their actions in the epic, such questions get shut out with one generic answer - Krishna supported the Pandavas.
Well, Krishna supported the Pandavas DESPITE Yudhishthira staking the kingdom, his brothers, and wife (not talking about win or loss or whatever, but the action of staking itself). And Draupadi was the only one who questioned the Pandavas. So, if Draupadi could question her husbands, I think anyone else can too.
Please bear in mind that this is just my opinion. I am aware that the Kurukshetra War was fought for reasons other than avenging Draupadi's humiliation. I am also aware that the Pandavas and Draupadi were exiled after the SECOND dice game. But, this exile CANNOT be regarded as a punishment for the Pandavas owing to the events of the first dice game - when EVERYTHING happened. Draupadi ensured that they were freed from enslavement and got the kingdom back after the first dice game - even after suffering so much humiliation. But then came the second dice game, and the exile...
The exile after the second dice game had NO connection whatsoever with the first dice game.
"Sakuni then said,--'The old king hath given ye back all your wealth. That is well. But, O bull of the Bharata race, listen to me, there is a stake of great value. Either defeated by ye at dice, dressed in deer skins we shall enter the great forest and live there for twelve years passing the whole of the thirteenth year in some inhabited region, unrecognised, and if recognised return to an exile of another twelve years; or vanquished by us, dressed in deer skins ye shall, with Krishna, live for twelve years in the woods passing the whole of the thirteenth year unrecognised, in some inhabited region. If recognised, an exile of another twelve years is to be the consequence. On the expiry of the thirteenth year, each is to have his kingdom surrendered by the other. O Yudhishthira, with this resolution, play with us, O Bharata, casting the dice.'
"Sakuni answered,--'We have many kine and horses, and milch cows, and an infinite number of goats and sheep; and elephants and treasures and gold and slaves both male and female. All these were staked by us before but now let this be our one stake, viz., exile into the woods,--being defeated either ye or we will dwell in the woods (for twelve years) and the thirteenth year, unrecognised, in some inhabited place. Ye bulls among men, with this determination, will we play."
As we all know, Panchali's humiliation got avenged in the Kurukshetra War.
But, what about the staking of the kingdom itself? Did Yudhishthira have any moral right to ask back the kingdom after the exile, as well as become the king after the Kurukshetra War considering the events of the first dice game - when he had staked literally everything and everyone?
The capital of the Pandavas was established at Indraprastha. But to whom did it truly belong?
Did it belong to the janta of Indraprastha who were happily flourishing under the Pandava rule? Let's face facts - The Pandavas and Draupadi put in a lot of hard work to transform a barren piece of land to the central seat of power in Aryavarta.
Or did Indraprastha belong to Yudhishthira and Yudhishthira alone - which might explain why he had no hesitation whatsoever in staking a kingdom that he thought was his personal property?
Was it even his personal property to begin with? Let's see...
Draupadi's role in Indraprastha -
The Draupadi-Satyabhama samvaad is often cited as an example to prove that Draupadi was the ideal wife to the Pandavas. But, the samvaad ALSO talks about Draupadi's own role as the Queen of Indraprastha (and later Empress of Aryavarta) -
Formerly, eight thousand Brahmanas were daily fed in the palace of Yudhishthira from off plates of gold. And eighty thousand Brahmanas also of the Snataka sect leading domestic lives were entertained by Yudhishthira with thirty serving-maids assigned to each. Besides these, ten thousand yatis with the vital seed drawn up, had their pure food carried unto them in plates of gold. All these Brahamanas that were the utterers of the Veda, I used to worship duly with food, drink, and raiment taken from stores only after a portion thereof had been dedicated to the Viswadeva. The illustrious son of Kunti had a hundred thousand well-dressed serving-maids with bracelets on arms and golden ornaments on necks, and decked with costly garlands and wreaths and gold in profusion, and sprinkled with sandal paste. And adorned with jewels and gold they were all skilled in singing and dancing. O lady, I knew the names and features of all those girls, as also what they are and what they were, and what they did not. Kunti's son of great intelligence had also a hundred thousand maid-servants who daily used to feed guests, with plates of gold in their hands. And while Yudhishthira lived in Indraprastha a hundred thousand horses and a hundred thousand elephants used to follow in his train. These were the possessions of Yudhisthira while he ruled the earth. It was I however, O lady, who regulated their number and framed the rules to be observed in respect of them; and it was I who had to listen to all complaints about them. Indeed, I knew everything about what the maid-servants of the palace and other classes of attendants, even the cow-herds and the shepherds of the royal establishment, did or did not. O blessed and illustrious lady, it was I alone amongst the Pandavas who knew the income and expenditure of the king and what their whole wealth was. And those bulls among the Bharatas, throwing upon me the burden of looking after all those that were to be fed by them, would, O thou of handsome face, pay their court to me. And this load, so heavy and incapable of being borne by persons of evil heart, I used to bear day and night, sacrificing my ease, and all the while affectionately devoted to them. And while my husbands were engaged in the pursuit of virtue, I only supervised their treasury inexhaustible like the ever-filled receptacle of Varuna.
Roles of Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva during the Rajsuya yagya -
The epic states that Narada muni paid a visit to the Pandavas and suggested the idea of conducting the Rajsuya yagya
O king of the Kuru race, O son of Kunti, thy father Pandu, beholding the good fortune of Harischandra and wondering much thereat, hath told thee something. Knowing that I was coming to the world of men, he bowed unto me and said,--Thou shouldst tell Yudhishthira, O Rishi, that he can subjugate the whole Earth inasmuch as his brothers are all obedient to him. And having done this let him commence the grand sacrifice called Rajasuya. He is my son; if he performeth that sacrifice, I may, like Harischandra, soon attain to the region of Indra, and there in his Sabha pass countless years in continuous joy. I told him in reply,--O King, I shall tell thy son all this, if I go to the world of man. I have now told thee what he said, O tiger among men. Accomplish then, O son of Pandu, the desires of thy father. If thou performest that sacrifice, thou shall then be able to go, along with thy deceased ancestors, into the same region that is inhabited by the chief of the immortals. It hath been said,--O king, that the performance of this great sacrifice is attended with many obstacles. A class of Rakshasas called Brahma Rakshasas, employed in obstructing all sacrifices, always search for loop-holes when this great sacrifice is commenced. On the commencement of such a sacrifice a war may take place destroying the Kshatriyas and even furnishing occasion for the destruction of the whole Earth. A slight obstacle may involve the whole Earth in ruin. Reflecting upon all this, O king of kings do what is for thy good. Be thou watchful and ready in protecting the four orders of thy subjects. Grow, thou in prosperity, and enjoy thou felicity. Gratify thou the Brahmanas with gifts of wealth. I have now answered in detail all that thou hast asked me. With thy leave I will now go to the city (Dwaravati) of that Dasarhas."
Vaisampayana said,--'O Janamejaya, having said this unto the son of Pritha, Narada went away, accompanied by those Rishis with whom he had come. And after Narada had gone away, king Yudhishthira, O thou of the Kuru race, began to think, along with his brothers, of that foremost of sacrifices called Rajasuya.'
As we all know, Bhima killed Jarasandha as part of commencing the subjugation of kings for the purpose of the Rajsuya yagya.
After that, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva went on their own individual yatras to subjugate the kings in each of the four directions so as to ensure that the whole of Aryavarta came under Yudhishthira's rule.
"Thus addressed, Arjuna, surrounded by a large host, set out in that celestial car of wonderful achievements he had obtained from Agni. And Bhimasena also, and those bull among men, the twins, dismissed with affection by Yudhishthira the just set out, each at the head of a large army. And Arjuna, the son of the chastiser of Paka then brought under subjugation that direction (the North) which was presided over by the Lord of treasures. And Bhimasena overcome by force the East and Sahadeva the South, and Nakula, O king, acquainted with all the weapons, conquered the West.
The yatras of each of these four Pandavas is described in greater detail in the epic.
Now, comes the most important question If all this hard work was put in by Draupadi, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva to look after Indraprastha and conquer the whole of Aryavarta, what was Yudhishthira's role in all of this?
Surprise, surprise - NOTHING.
It is clearly stated that while his brothers were hard at work conquering kingdoms, Yudhishthira was basically doing timepass (no, really).
Thus while his brothers were so employed, the exalted king Yudishthira the just stayed within Khandavaprastha in the enjoyment of great affluence in the midst of friends and relatives."
Then, is it any surprise that Yudhishthira actually bothered to stake his kingdom in a game of chance? I mean, when he himself had put in absolutely no efforts to establish his kingdom as well as conquer other kingdoms, how would he have understood the amount of hard work that was put in by others (his brothers and Draupadi) to get him what he desired?
No wonder the kingdom got staked by Yudhishthira just like that.
Please don't bring in the issues of dharma and Dwapara yuga morals here.
Considering Yudhishthira agreed to play dice on account of Kshatriya dharma, does this Kshatriya dharma also permit a king (the Emperor of Aryavarta, no less) to stake his kingdom in a game of dice, and offer it to the opposition on a platter?
And all this despite Yudhishthira being fully aware that deceit was being used in the dice game.
Yudhishthira said,--"Thou hast won this stake of me by unfair means. But be not so proud, O Sakuni. Let us play staking thousands upon thousands. I have many beautiful jars each full of a thousand Nishkas in my treasury, inexhaustible gold, and much silver and other minerals. This, O king, is the wealth with which I will stake with thee!'"
Yudhishthira said,--'I have my city, the country, land, the wealth of all dwelling therein except of the Brahmanas, and all those persons themselves except Brahmanas still remaining to me. With this wealth, O king, I will play with thee.'
Coming to Dwapara yuga morals, if kingdoms could be won over and lost just like that at the drop of a hat, what would be the need to wage wars and conquer kingdoms at all? Please let me know if there was someone else as well during the Dwapara yuga who had actually done the same deed that Yudhishthira did.
Also, as per Dwapara yuga morals, is there no value for hard work that was put in by other people? Did all that hard work by Draupadi, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva (to transform Khandavaprastha as the seat of power in Aryavarta) ultimately account for nothing - if it could all be given away so easily in a game of dice?
Did the concept of "shram or "hard work get established only in the Kali yuga?
I am aware that the dice game was organized precisely to take away the possessions of the Pandavas (by hook or crook). But who asked Yudhishthira to stake his kingdom at all (deceit or no deceit)? Did either Shakuni or Duryodhana ask or even force him to stake his kingdom?
In Indraprastha, who did the hard work and who enjoyed the fruits of such labour without any effort? Who was truly in charge of Indraprastha? Did Yudhishthira have any authority to stake his kingdom considering the efforts put in by others? In my view, in addition to questioning her own staking, Draupadi should've also questioned the staking of the kingdom as well.
Additionally, did Yudhishthira have any moral authority to become king after the Kurukshetra War, considering he had, in the past, actually staked and lost EVERYTHING (including his kingdom) and EVERYONE (his brothers and wife)?
If any king stakes his kingdom in a game of dice, what right does he have to rule over others?
At the start of Shanti Parva, Yudhishthira does this big pralaap of not wanting to become king owing to survivor's guilt and trauma on account of war casualties (which leads to a lot of placating and coaxing on everybody's part including Draupadi and Krishna).
But, the most incredulous thing is that he does NOT admit even once that he is unfit to be king as he had, at one point, dared to stake his kingdom, brothers, and wife as if the efforts of other people meant nothing to him.
So did Yudhishthira deserve to be king at all even after the war?
For me a big no too.
For me a big no too.