This is the first topic of discussion in the Parents Corner initiative. Do share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. It helps to understand your perspective and how you think that this topic can be best explained to a young reader.
One of the most important events in the Mahabharata, is the game of dice. Specifically the second time the Pandavas and Kauravas play the game of dice in Hastinapura and Yudhishtira bets and loses his empire, family and himself. There are multiple topics of interest here – the game and Yudhishtira’s bets itself and the disrobing of Draupadi. I will leave the second event for a different post. We will instead focus only on Yudhishtira’s weakness for the game and his inability to control his betting urges.
Let us start with the circumstances surrounding the event. Duryodhana (and Shakuni) had the simple intention of getting Yudhishtira to bet big and lose all his possessions in the game of dice. Yudhishtira knew that Shakuni would win the game when it mattered. Fully knowing that, he gave in to his vice and continued to bet everything he had. Even if we accept the argument that the game was a royal event that a King could not turn down, Yudhishtira was not committed to betting everything he had. In that case, why did he?. Did he have the right to bet his brothers and wife?. Having lost Draupadi, where was his obligation as a husband and responsibility for the well being of his wife?. These are just some of the questions that can come up for discussion.
In my opinion, I see Yudhishtira as flawed, just like everyone else. To elevate him on the basis of his fairness and morality is unfair. He is no different than his brothers and in this episode, irresponsible. I would tell my son that Yudhishtira made a mistake and he paid a big price for it. His brothers, while respectful to their elder brother, also needed to have intervened when they were made the pawn in the game. Brother as it may be, an irresponsible decision needs to be questioned and they should have. You would want people to have a backbone. Not just be obedient for the sake of being so to their brother. Finally, all the elders in the hall like Bhishma, Drona and Dritarashtra should have intervened well in advance. To blame it all on Duryodhana is to be unfair on him. Respect for elders also needs to be earned some times. And this was one such occasion.
This is just my perspective. I would recommend that parents and educators think long and hard and discuss with friends (and maybe even folks in this forum) to get a cohesive answer in place. If not with “Mahabharata for Kids”, but with Amar Chitra Katha’s version or some other rendition of the epic, the game of dice is bound to come up and needs to be explained meaningfully to the child.