Last night, I overheard my 13-year-old nephew grumbling on the phone.
Conversation summary: “Pataa nahi yaar, I don’t know why he is always trying to find fault in me. He is like Shakuni Mami.” and he burst out in laughter…
Two things struck me. This boy knew about Shakuni, and he knew him as evil. Somehow, his unflattering opinion of me didn’t register.
He knew him as evil because history books say so, and history was written by men, men who survived the battle of Mahabharata to tell their own version. Had the Pandavas been defeated, Kauravas would have narrated it differently.
I have met quite a few historians and they tell me Shakuni has been the most misunderstood man of the Mahabharat.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Mahabharata was a sensation. It was a cult serial. On Sundays, streets were deserted because everyone was glued to their television sets. Shakuni became the symbol of everything that is wrong and unfair.
I believe differently. I dug deep to understand the psychology of the ‘limping figure.’
A small peek into history
Shakuni was the brother of Gandhari, the wife of Dhritarashtra and mother of a band of 100 brothers, the Kauravas. Before being married to the blind king, Gandhari was apparently married to a goat. Later, when Dhritarashtra came to know about it, he got angry and in a fit of fury, imprisoned all the members of Gandhari’s family.
Shakuni was the youngest brother of Gandhari among 100 other brothers. Since all of them were sparsely fed with one speck of rice each per day in the prison, the family decided that at least one of them could survive and gave all the rice to Shakuni so that he could live on to take revenge.
Shakuni mama was truly an epitome of brilliance and intelligence. The speculations about the dice being made up of his father’s bone do not hold true. In reality, Shakuni’s dice was made of Ivory and the reason it was considered magical was because he was an illusionist. He created an illusion in front of the Pandavas and the others, that the Kauravas won and the Pandavas lost.
Although he was perceived to be a villain in Mahabharata, he had some good qualities, acknowledged by the Kuravar community in Kollam district, Kerala. There is an ancient shrine dedicated to Shakuni Mama.
Surprisingly, he was a shivaite. He offered his prayers to Lord Shiva, the destroyer.
Shakuni triggered history’s greatest war and played his hand brilliantly. He knew Pandavas were stronger and the Kauravas didn’t stand a chance. Technically, therefore, he was on Pandavas’ side, without their knowledge. His main motive was to avenge his mother’s humiliation.
Praneet, the ex Bigg boss season 8 contender, who also gained popularity by playing the challenging character of Shakuni on Star Plus, says, “This is a role of a lifetime for me. I’m really fortunate to play Shakuni as he is the one character among Krishna, Bhishma and himself who fought for other’s cause and not for themselves in Mahabharata.
Another legend has it that the ancestors of Hastinapur ruined the entire clan of Gandhara, reason why Shakuni pledged to end the entire Kaurava line.
He was a true hero who had unconditional love for his sister. He went against his father, mother and the entire world just for his sister. He was neither a devil nor an angel.