The game of dice and the crescendo of Kaurava’s delight in a stormy and tempestuous atmosphere continued unabated as Yudhishtira suffered successive defeats. Victory appeared to be unknown to him. Addressing the losing Yudhishtira, Shakuni said, “Yudhishtira You have staked and lost all the wealth belonging to Pandavas. Is there anything valuable which has not been staked?”
“Bahu vittam paraajaisheehi Pandavaanaam Yudhishtira,
Aachakshwa vitttam Kounteya yadi thestyaparaajitam”
(Sabha Parva – Chap. 65)
“Soubala!” replied Yudhishtira, “I am aware that I have still got enormous wealth that cannot be counted. Why do you bother about it? Even if you stake monies amounting to several crores, I am ready to stake an equal amount. I shall offer this huge wealth and play with you.”
Shakuni had different ideas. He was keen on winning even this huge stake for Duryodhana through deceitful methods in the game of dice. Before long he accomplished his design and shouted with glee, “Yudhishtira! Even this has been won!”
“Soubala!” said Yudhishtira, “I have millions and millions of horses, cows, oxen, sheep and goats, I now stake all the animals lying from River Parnashaa to the eastern bank of River Sindhu.”
Those who were witnessing the game knew what was in store for Yudhishtira at Shakuni’s deceptive hands. Shakuni was bent on winning and he won. He proclaimed he had won.
“Barring items I have gifted to the brahmins”, said Yudhishtira, “I now stake my capital, province, country and citizens who are my own. I proceed with the game by offering this wealth.”
But Yudhishtira could not retain it. As the game was characterized by rank cheating, he could not win even a single game. Within a few minutes of the commencement of a new game, Shakuni registered his yet another win.
Yudhishtira had lost all his wealth and his people. Only the rules of subservient kingdoms and satellites remained. He remembered them and said to Shakuni, “These rulers who are adorned with precious jewellery and glorious attire and who have assembled here constitute the stake now and I go on with it.”
No one had doubts about Shakuni’s impending victory. He had seemingly mastered the art of deception in the game of dice only to see that Yudhishtira was conquered. Within a few minutes, Shakuni’s hysterical outburst”Jitham” or voice of victory frequently rent the air in Dhruthashtra’s imperial auditorium in the palace.
Yudhishtira had no longer anything to offer as stake. He looked at Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva seated behind him.
“This Nakula”, proceeded Yudhishtira, “is endowed with strength and courage, bravery of a lion, blood-shot eyes and youth, I stake him for the next game.”
“Yudhishtira!” said Shakuni, “Nakula is very dear to you. Assume I have won him too. Whom would you next choose to stake?” So saying, he went on with his relentless game. Within a short time, everyone heard his exuberant voice of win, “:Jitham!”, Yudhishtira said:
“This Sahadeva is an expert in the dispensation of justice. He has the reputation of being a scholar and an adviser. It is always highly improper to offer such a person as a stake. Despite that, I offer him for the next game.”
“Jitham mayaa Yudhishtira” said Shakuni, “the sons of Maadri – Nakula and Sahadeva – have become mine. I have won them too. But don’t you feel Bheema and Arjuna mean more to you?”
Yudhishtira did not like the tenor of the taunt, “ Ignorant one!” he replied with vehemence, “this is how you are casting unrighteous aspersions. You have neither decorum nor any decency in talking. We are all of a single mind. We are pure-hearted. We are united. Aren’t you sowing seeds of dissension among us?”
“Yudhishtira!” Shakuni seemed to climb down, “do not get angry. Drunk with the power of wealth, one treads the unrighteous path (adharma) and finds oneself in hell; unable to see a way out, one suffers stagnation. You are the most elderly among us and greater than us. Please pardon me. I appeal to you with folded hands. The gamblers talk about such stakes in the excitement and compulsions of the game but when once the game is over, they indulge in such talk and stand by the offers neither in a state of total awareness nor even in their dream.”
He could not dissuade Yudhishtira from emptying his coffers or making perilous offers. The latter offered to stake Arjuna himself and said, ”This Arjuna is capable of steering us in a boat from a possible fall into an ocean of disaster called war to land of safety. Defeat is unknown to him. Among those who wield the arrow, he is great. He is second to none among brave warriors. It is improper to stake such persons. Despite the impropriety, I offer him for the next game.”
Arjuna might have been invincible, the greatest among warriors and capable of facing hundreds of Shakunis at the same time in a battle. But he had no answer to the treachery of the tumbling pieces of dice. The pieces rolled from the hands of the master craftsman. Shakuni won again.
“Yudhishtira!” Shakuni continued to taunt him. “Savyasaachi, the great exponent of archery has also been won and is under my command. Whom would you stake next? Only Bheema remains.”
“True Soubala!” said Yudhishtira. “It is never prudent to stake such a person. However, I am constrained to stake him in order to continue the game with you. He is our commander. Single-handed he can take on anyone. His prowess and powers equal those of Indra. He is a lion. He cannot tolerate unedifying criticism and provocation. In the whole world, there is hardly anyone who can equal his bravery and fighting powers. He is a destroyer of all enemies. Such a one will constitute the stake for the next game.”
The pieces followed the commands such as “ten-ten, nine-nine” and making tingling sound rolled on to the carpet. The game came to an end with Shakuni’s declaration of another win.
“Yudhishtira!” said Shakuni, continuing his irksome encounter, “you have lost all wealth, the army of elephants, horses and the soldiers. Your younger brothers have fallen to my command. If it is your wish to continue the game, is there anything left to offer as a stake?”
“Am I not here Soubala?” Yudhishtira asked Shakuni, “I am older than all of them and loved by them. You have not yet conquered me, I therefore offer myself as the stake for this next game. If the Goddess of victory favours you, I undertake to carry out all those things which a vanquished one has to do after losing the stake.”
Yudhishtira was no doubt a paragon of virtue and righteousness. He had no enemies. There was a harmonious conglomeration in full measure of all good qualities in him. He had earned a great name, fame and fortune by successful launching of the Rajasuya Yaga. He was highly knowledgeable. But none of these attributes could stand up against Shakuni’s treacherous pieces and command them to his side. He staked himself and lost the game.