After paying high respects to the Rishis, the kings took their leave and returned to their kingdoms. And as they left, the Pandavas in turn honored everyone according to their respective merits. In the days that followed, Krishna also left for Dvaraka.
Yudhisthira invited them to stay in Indra-prastha Duryodhana with Karna, Duhssasana and Sakuni, intending to give them special treatments in order to sweeten their envy of him. The Kuravas, fascinated by the magnificence of the fantastic Sabha that Mayadanava had built, agreed to visit it more calmly.
And the day of Vyasa’s departure also came.
“Yudhisthira,” said the sage, “be careful how you treat Duryodhana. Do not disrespect him in any way. After Sishupala’s death, omens have appeared that foretell a lot of blood, and even my guru Narada has confirmed to me that terrible times are approaching.
“The pages of the book of the history of the world will be filled with death. The will of the Lord has foreordained the destruction of all Kshatriyas on earth. The wickedness of Duryodhana and the strength of Bhima, the valor of Arjuna and the beauty of Draupadi will be the cause of an endless carnage.
“Be on the alert, then, and see to it that if this happens, it must not be because of your negligence but because of the Lord’s will.”
In the days that followed, Duryodhana visited the Sabha paying close attention. He had never seen anything like it. What splendor! What divine beauties! As he observed those wonders never seen in the world, he became more and more aware of the fact that, from nothing, the Pandavas had managed to build a fortune far greater than his own, which was a millenary legacy. Once again, the unbearable envy of all time flared up in his heart.
And fate would have it that while he was absorbed in such thoughts, he did not realize that what looked like a marble floor was actually an internal pond, and he fell into it, getting completely wet. Immediately Yudhisthira sent several servants to dry his cousin, who was full of rage, but his attentions were of no use. And Duryodhana’s abysmal luck was not over yet, in fact, while he continued his visit, believing that in the middle of a garden there was a pond, he pulled up his clothes to cross it, but then he realized that it was only the reflection created by the brightness of the gems. Then, without realizing it, he slammed into a glass door that was so transparent that it could not be seen. Furthermore, he tried to open a door that was really just an effect created by the lights.
In vain Yudhisthira forbade Bhima and Draupadi to commit any disrespect towards his cousin because having witnessed these misadventures they laughed at him in front of everyone. Duryodhana’s humiliation had been scorching; so, he retired to his room without wanting to see anything else.
During the night Duryodhana was unable to sleep, tortured by the thought of his cousins’ great fortune. By then, he was thinking of only one thing: how to destroy them, how to see them in disgrace and suffering in the most intense way possible. By that time, the hatred had become so strong that it could no longer be controlled.
The following day he returned to Hastinapura.
In the months that followed Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya, Duryodhana fell into a state of depression that worried all his friends and relatives. Sakuni had immediately understood the reasons and, not tolerating to see his nephew in that state, decided once again to intervene in his favor.
“I already know the reasons that prevent you from being in a good mood, and I, who am your uncle, want to see you happy. Do you want to get rid of your enemies once and for all? Then, listen carefully to me. You know that I have dice with magical virtues, and that I have mastered the science of throwing them in order to always win. You also know that Yudhisthira likes this game very much and he is not particularly skilled. Let’s challenge him to a game, which we will present as an innocent game and so, we will take away from the Pandavas everyting they have. Having enslaved the five brothers, you will finally have your revenge. Of course, Yudhisthira may well refuse to play against me, although I don’t think he will; one of his vows is never to retreat from any kind of challenge. I believe this can be the solution to your problems.”
“Convince your father,” continued the vile Sakuni, “to build a Sabha, and then insist on inviting your cousins to the inauguration and a dice game. If you succeed, your opponents will be ruined and all their luck will become yours.”
Duryodhana was immediately enthusiastic about the idea, and on the same day, he convinced his father to start building a Sabha in Jayanta.
As soon as Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and the other elders became aware of his intention to challenge Yudhisthira to a game of dice, they immediately understood his true aims, forseeing the disasters that could ensue into the future. No one spared any attempt to persuade Dhritarastra to stop the Sabha’s work or at least not to allow the dice challenge, but there was nothing to be done.
“This is just an innocent dice game,” Duryodhana declared candidly, “I really don’t understand the reasons for so much alarmism about a simple parlor game.”
So, the work continued, and when the great palace was completed, the blind king asked Vidura to go to Indra-prastha to invite the Pandavas.
“Tell them,” Dhritarastra said, “that to celebrate the new Sabha, my son Duryodhana wishes to play dice against them.”
Vidura was well aware that the innocent game was actually hiding a trap and was afraid that yet another attempt by Duryodhana to ruin the Pandavas, this time would cause a catastrophe. So, he replied:
“Dear brother, gambling has always been a source of discord and often hatred. There has never been good blood between your son and his cousins, so I think it is wise to avoid any situation that could cause further fractures. This game of dice it’s a bad idea. I advise you not to allow it.”
“It’s just a game between friends,” Dhritarastra retorted, “and I don’t think it can cause anything serious. Don’t worry, Vidura.”
Vidura continued to allege a thousand other reasons, but to no avail. The blind king was all too aware of his son’s intentions, but the desire to finally see him satisfied was stronger than everything, even than the feelings of justice and honesty.
With a deep sadness in his heart, Vidura left for the capital of the Pandavas.
This is a section of the book “Maha-Bharata, English Edition, Vol. 1”.
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