Suyodhana becomes Duryodhana
When Duryodhana was born, his happy mother Gandhari named him Suyodhana or ‘great warrior’. However, he later preferred to be called by the name ‘Duryodhana’ or ‘he who is unconquerable. Duryodhana is believed to be an avatar of the Demon Kali.
In character, Duryodhana was a generous and righteous king. He was brave and straight-forward. In fact, Krishna was fond of him. Unlike Dridharashtra, he was neither a coward or a hypocrite. The blind-king hid his real nature under a cloak of being kind, while really, his love for his sons made him do incorrect things.
However, Duryodhana was not so. He ruled his kingdom well, and his subjects were happy under him.
But what put him on the path to destruction was his jealousy for his cousins, the Pandavas. He was jealous of their skills in sport and in fighting, and his was jealous of their popularity as well.
It was this jealousy that made him do acts that put him on the path of war – the Mahabharata.
Understanding the human condition
Rishi Mandavya was a great yogi. He lived in an ashram in the forest.
Once, robbers who had plundered the royal treasury reached his ashram, hotly chased by soldiers. In order to escape being caught, the thieves hid in the ashram with their treasure.
The soldiers reached there and asked the Rishi about the robbers and the treasure. But he was deep in yogic meditation and did not reply. The soldiers searched the ashram and found the thieves and their plunder. They also took the Rishi with them thinking that he too was a thief in the disguise of a sage.
All the thieves, and the Rishi, were put on spikes and left to die, as punishment for the crime committed. The thieves died, but the Rishi did not. He remained alive because of the power of yoga.
Other sages came there to see him, having heard of what had happened to him. The king too heard what had happened and was horrified. He went to the spot immediately and had Mandavya freed. Everyone there, including the Rishi himself, agreed that that the kind and his soldiers had merely done their duty.
But the Rishi was not satisfied. He went to Yama, the Lord of Dharma and asked him why he had been so severely punished. Yama replied, “O Rishi. You know how the Law of Karma works. Every deed we do, good or bad, will have results. Do you remember, as a child, you tortured birds and insects, by piercing them with spikes or needles?”
Mandavya said, “O Yama. You have made a big mistake in judgement. The things that children do, cannot be judged so harshly. You have not understood the human condition. So that you do, and you do not repeat this error again, you will be born on earth as a human, and will be witness to humanity and how it works.”
This is why Lord Yama was born as Vidura, half-brother to the blind Dridharashtra and Pandu. He was witness to the entire play of human behaviour and emotions. He became known for his wisdom and counsel and respected as a ‘mahatma’.
Never a submissive person, Draupadi did not hesitate to air her views to Yudhistra. She often criticised him for his decisions. She objected to his passive stance during the game of dice, saying that Dhridharashtra and his sons were far from righteous, and that to counter them, Yudhishtra did not need to use righteousness.
Bhima too, often took Draupadi’s side in such debates. The duo were often vehement and did not hide the fact that they did not agree with Yudhistra’s views.
However, they always gave in to Yudhishtra, understanding that his was a viewpoint that was superior and therefore always wiser.
In bad times
Yudhishtra and his brothers were living in the forest after losing their kingdom to the Kauravas in the game of dice.
One day, the Pandava king sat sadly, thinking that he must be the most unfortunate man in the whole world. That’s when he had a visitor, a sage called Brihadasva.
After welcoming him warmly and making him comfortable, Yudhishtra told him how he felt. He said, “O sage, there can be no one more miserable than me. I was a king, and now I am a pauper, living in the forest. I have brought my family, my brothers, my wife and my mother too, to this way of living. Can anyone be in a worse situation than me?”
The sage smiled and replied, “O Dharmaputra. Bad times is something every human being has to go through. When someone is going through a bad time, they think that they are the most unfortunate being in the world and that no one else is experiencing what they are going through. This is not true. Listen to this story…”
The sage then when on to tell him the famous and now well-known tale, of the unfortunate king called Nala, and his beautiful wife Damayanthi. He did this to help Yudhishtara understand that bad times can come suddenly and without warning; and how Nala went through all his bad experiences alone.
He told Yudhistra, “Nala had none with him during his bad times. However, your brothers, your wife and your mother are with you. You constantly meet holy people, sages, wise men, as well as friends like Krishna. Why should you be so unhappy? Like with Nala, every bad time has to end.”
Saved by Bhima and brothers
The Pandavas, after losing the game of dice, were living at the Dvaitavana forest. The Kauravas were very happy, especially when they heard reports of the difficulties the five brothers and Draupadi were facing.
Sakuni thought it would be a good idea to march to the forest and show of their grand army to the miserable Pandavas, to make them feel worse about their own situation. They took permission to do so from the blind king, Dhridharashtra, saying that the cowherds of the Dvaitavana forest were asking for their help, for protection against the wild animals.
The grand march took place, but when they reached Dvaitavana, the army found a Gandharva called Chitrasena camping there. There was a big fight, and Duryodhana was taken prisoner and chained to Chitrasena’s chariot.
When the Pandavas heard this, Bhima roared with laughter. But Yudhishtra was displeased. He told Bhima, “This is not correct. We should not be so happy at the misfortune of our enemies. Go at once with your brothers and free the man!”
Bhima had no choice but to do so. He and his younger brothers fought Chitrasena, freed Duryodhana and took him to Yudhishtra, who welcomed him like a guest. Then Yudhishtra told him, “You should not have unnecessarily attacked the Gandharva, without telling Bhisma or Drona. See, pride always comes before a fall. Now this is a good lesson for you. Go home and forget what happened.”
But Duryodhana could not forget. He left the forest burning with anger.