- Yuddhishter - Dharamraja a leader?
Dr. Mala Sinha
This theme is divided into six parts; each part will be posted on Monday every week. There will be a poser after each part, which needs to be answered, and at the end of the series, the person who’s answers best convey the meaning of dharma will be awarded.
Yudhishtira was the true crown prince of Hastinapur. Being the eldest in the Kuru house, he should have been sitting on the throne of Hastinapur unopposed. Yudhishthira was extremely well versed in matters of dharma – a fact acknowledged by all, and for this reason he was also called Dharma.
Yudhishtira had everything – lineage, legitimacy, recognition, wisdom and good demeanor. He was actually the beloved of all. What he lacked in skills of war, weaponry and “valor”, was more than made up by his four brothers who possessed those competencies. Yudhishthira was crowned the first time as king of Khandavaprastha, which was later renamed as Indraprastha.
During this period he performed the Rajasuya yajna , an event that establishes and acknowledges the supremacy of a king among all other kings .But Yudhishthira lost everything in a dice game he had with Duryodhana - all in one day. The second time Yudhishthira ruled was after winning the battle of Kurukshetra but it was a reign filled with the sorrow of losing all his near and dear ones and the lives of thousands of others.
Pandavas were not welcome by Dhritarashtra in the Hastinapur palace. When widowed Kunti, along with her five children returned from the forest to live in Hastinapur, to give her children the upbringing befitting royal princess, only Bhishma and Vidura were truly happy. During the growing up years in the palace, there were serious attempts to kill the Pandavas but thanks to Vidura’s care and Kunti’s protection , the Pandavas were saved each time.
When the Kauravas and Pandavas became older, after many negotiations it was agreed that a half part of Hastinapur – the barren Khandavaprastha would be given to Yudhishthira, and the other half of the kingdom, including Hastinapur would be ruled by Duryodhana. Yudhishthira did not complain, and with the help of Krishna and his brothers built Kandavaprastha ias the glorious Indraprastha.
The Pandavas continued living there happily had not Yudhishthira succumbed to the bait offered by Duryodhana to play a game of dice. Duryodhana knew Dharma’s weakness for dice and used this as a tactic to trap the Pandavas. Yudhishthira lost everything and in the end he put his brothers and his beloved Draupadi at stake and lost them too. However by the boons that Dhritarashtra gave Draupadi after the debacle, she won back the freedom and kingdom for her five husbands. Yudhishthira however succumbed to the second challenge to play, and he lost everything yet again. The five Pandavas were exiled for thirteen years, in which the last year, they would have to spend incognito.
It can be argued that a Kshatriya never refuses a wager. So to accept the offer to play the game was not wrong on Yudhishthira’s part. But to allow one sided rules to prevail, knowing they are unfair is something that a leader has to stand up to. Even if Yudhishthira could not prove that the other side was cheating, he still should have used other tactics to avert defeat.
Who stopped Dharma from challenging Duryodhana to throw the dice himself instead of Shakuni– or ask for a new dice, which would possibly not be loaded? It was as if Dharma was willingly to rush into tragedy. It is also not clear what was Yudhishthira’s notion of dharma when he put his brothers and wife at stake. Lastly even if the rule book allowed this – dharma is clear that women will not be dishonored in any circumstance (offering your wife as a wager is a dishonor). Finally when the worst did occur why was Yudhishthira reluctant to punish the wrong doers, and had to be goaded by Draupadi, Bhima and Kunti to pick up arms against Kauravas?
According to the guna theory ,as elaborated in the The Bhagvada Gita, our behavior is determined by the collective working of three styles of actions ( guna) called – Satwik, Rajasic and Tamasic. Broadly Satwic enlightens, Raja leads to action and Tamasic is inertia . Leaders must have be both Satwic and Rajasic in their style , that is they must perform enlightened actions. Yudhishthira was definitely enlightened but he lacked rajas – action orientation.
He was strangely indifferent to the consequences of his actions and displayed an unwillingness to take up arms to redress adharma. This is Tamas. After the war was more or less won , the Pandavas wanted to kill Duryodhana , whom they found hiding in Dwaipayana lake and unwilling to come out to fight. When taunts did not bring him out, Yudhishthira offered that he could choose the weapon and the person to fight with , and if he won he could have the kingdom back. This was foolhardy bait, and shocked Krishna and the Pandavas. Duryodhana accepted the “ deal” and came out wanting to fight Bhima with a mace. Everyone knew that Bhima was his arch enemy, and though he was very strong , he lacked skill to wield the mace . It was Krishna’s tactical intervention that saved the situation – or else once again Yudhishthira would have lost everything that was won after a tragedy of gigantic proportion.
POSER- What positive lessons on leadership can we learn from Yudhishthira’s leadership style, that are relevant today.
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