Yuddhistra the King of Indraprashtha spoke only truth and nothing but the truth. But he had one vice. He was addicted to the game of dice. Further, he was also a Kshatriya. And no Kshatriya five thousand years ago who followed the "Kshatriya Dharma" to perfection could say no to either a game of dice or a battle. If he did so, the individual would be termed as an effeminate or a pusillanimous person and excommunicated. Such a person was made to lose his independence pawn the property and family and become a Dasa( a slave). Thus to protect his honour and that of the family; Yuddhistra had to accept the challenge thrown by Duryodhana the scion of Hastinapur and also his cousin to play a game of dice. At stake was banishment of ten years to the forest and handing over the keys of the kingdom to the victorious team.
There was hush and shush among the assemblage of several suzerains, a veritable omerta and silence prevailed as the game of dice was about to commence.
The scion of Hastinapur, Duryodhana made it plain that the dice would be rolled by his uncle Shakuni. The crafty uncle was unbeatable in the game of dice. His dice were made from the bones of his dead father. “These are my lethal weapons and a powerful army and absolutely invincible," was the refrain of Shakuni.
Pandavas were distraught as imminent defeat stared at their faces. It was also to the chagrin and consternation of senior citizens like Bhishma, Dronacharya, Vidur and Kripacharya. But the writ of Duryodhana prevailed and they were all helpless. Duryodhana's father, Drtihirastra the King of Hastinapur could barely conceal his joy and was impatiently waiting for the game to commence and waiting to pack off Yuddhistra and the Pandavas whom he barely tolerated to the forest for a period of ten years.
So the roll of dice took place and as expected the Kauravas were romping home and the Pandavas had lost everything at their disposal including Draupadi the queen. She was enslaved and dragged to the court even though she was undergoing her menstrual cycle much to the amusement of the lascivious Duryodhana. The Pandava brothers and other elders in the family could not witness the scene. It was disgusting to say the least. There was none to raise the clarion call of protecting female rights.
Interestingly Yuddhistra had not pawned his younger brother, Arjuna the fabled archer. This was his secret weapon. Now Arjuna stood between imminent ten years of exile and or a possible victory.
And in a most unexpected manner the Gandiva (bow of Arjuna) which was in the hands of Arjuna metamorphosed into a flute. Arjuna began playing the flute much to the annoyance of the Kauravas and Duryodhana the scion of Hastinapur.
As the strains of flute wafted in the estimable hall of Hastinapur, Shakuni the past master began faltering and Duryodhana lost the game. As per the rules laid down it was decided that the vanquished team was banished to the forests for a period of ten years and their kingdom was handed over to the winners that is the Pandavas.
Thus Team Yuddhistra luxuriated in victory and the entire Kaurava clan consisting of Dhritirastra, Gandhari, a hundred sons, daughter Dushala, the venerable Bhishma, the Gurus and Vidura were compelled to leave the sanctuary of Hastinapur along with Karna a close friend of Duryodhana to the forest. Yuddhistra the righteous one permitted his cousins to travel by bullock carts as their chariots and weapons were seized.
Bhishma who invariably scorned at Karna for establishing close links with Duryodhana permitted Karna to drive his bullock cart. Both Bhishma and Karna had learnt archery from Parusharama. However, Bhishma's mind was gripped with fear that the chariot would get stuck in a puddle and Karna would be unable to drive the bullock cart as he was a cursed one.
The blind Dhritarashtra was stupefied at the turn of events and his hundred sons were numbed. Bhishma and other elders however reconciled to their fate.
In a few days time, the retinue upon losing the game of dice dropped their anchorage near a lake. They were exhausted and thirsty. Duryodhana could no longer the humiliation and snuffed out his life by plunging into the lake. Some of his brother's followed suit. Dhritirastra was devastated and asked his wife to remove the cloth she wore around her eyes as it served little purpose to maintain any reverence to God's as they lost everything in their lives.
As she attempted to remove the cloth, a Yaksha perched on a tree in the forest adjoining the lake implored Gandhari not to do so as the consequences would be catastrophic.
But a shattered Gandhari who lost her kingdom and several of her sons including the eldest Duryodhana through drowning was brimful of remorse and anger and unmindful of the consequences. She removed the cloth and a blazing flame emanated from her hypnotic eyes which emblazoned the lake. A tranquil lake which was the source of life to thousands of species including humans was scorched and filled with litter, refuse, metallic substances and plastic.
The elders of the family were shocked at this obnoxious behaviour of Gandhari the pious one. Only Dhritarashtra was happy as water supply to Hastinapur and Indraprastha was chocked and interrupted. “My nephews too would suffer," was his refrain. “Now they cannot savour their triumph as the script was changed by Vasudeva," he added.
It was apocalypse now!