Gamblers of Mahabharata


Gambling isn't always done at a game.  Most of us "take a chance" and see what we can wrest from destiny. 
Just like us, many characters in the Mahabharata "gambled" in their life. 
Here is a list of what they staked and what they won or lost.


What was gambled



Grandsire had gambled that his step brothers and their progeny will be good rulers.

Bhishma's step brothers died without living an heir, endangering the kingdom. 
Despite Bhishma's advise, Kauravas and Pandavas tore the kingdom apart.

Bhishma and his meddling in other people's married lives

Future of the family

He lost his chance to have a family of his own.
He kidnapped princesses of Kashi, ruining their chances of happy marriages.
Amba lost out to Shalva and Vichitravirya and Bhishma.  This led to frustrated life and death for her and birth of Shikhandi.


Using his blindness to his advantage, he elicited sympathy from others and gambled that no one will attack him or his family while he stayed put on the throne.

After initial wave of sympathy, people could see through the ruse and recognised the deadly ambition of Dhritarastra. 
Everyone could see that he had no intention of vacating the throne for his nephews. 
Everyone knew the war was inevitable. 
Everyone knew, Dhritarastra’s greed and ambitions were the root cause of this genocide.


Pandu gambled that if I show sufficient faith and love for my brother Dhritarastra, he will look after my sons’ welfare.

Pandu's wife and children suffered all their lives.
Like a tiger that has tasted human blood, having enjoyed the trappings of “power”, his elder brother was unwilling to relinquish power – even to the lawful heirs. 
Even when he had lost his sons and he was old beyond reckoning, Dhritarastra continued to enjoy being the EMPEROR !

Yudhisthir - dutiful son

If I am obedient to my elders, kind to my cousins and loving to my family, everyone will reciprocate my good will towards them.


No matter what I gamble away, Bhima and Arjun will win back my kingdom for me.

* Fool’s hope !  Time and again his elders, uncle, cousins and others at Kuru court failed to behave as equitably as he had towards them.  Yet Yudhisthir kept following a failed policy of being overly kind.  By the time he paid his enemies in their own coin, it was too late to enjoy life.

* Yudhisthir's addiction to gambling cost the lives of many kshatriya families.

Yudhisthir - the king !

Arjun and Bhima can win the battle in a matter of days.

He expected the victory to be swift and at a minimal cost to his own friends and family.

* Battle took longer than he planned.  This made him upset with the two people who won his empire for him.  He keeps his bitterness till they died !

* Bloodshed of 18 days and the terrible night slaughter on the 18th day made him doubt his own right to rule.  This sadness tainted his life for the next 36 years !!!

Arjun the conqueror !

His celestial weapons would be able to help him win the war with ease !


He felt his love for his elders will be reciprocated.

* Sadly, he was too soft on Bhishma and Drona due to his relationships with them.

* Though Drona killed his son, and Ashwasthama killed all his other sons, Arjun spared Drona's son out of love for his tutor.



The eldest Kaurav gambled on the affection of his father, crookedness of his uncle Shakuni, unstinted support of his friend Karna, various like minded friends, 99 brothers and foolishness of Yudhisthir to keep him in power forever.

Several generations of warrior clans across India and beyond were wiped out through his foolish gamble that he would be able rid himself of his unwanted cousins and cheat them out their inheritance forever.


A powerful combination of son and son-in-law will help him defeat Drona, his friend turned foe and help regain his lost kingdom. .

Instead of repairing his friendship and going forward, Drupad continued to stir the poison pot of revenge, ending in the loss of his children, grand children and entire army.


Karna felt that his weapons training under Parashurama and his invincible armour were all he needed to win against all his enemies, including Arjun.  Gambling on his inpentrable skin, he did not think it necessary to train further or seek new weapons.

* Karna never thought he could be defeated.  His over-confidence was his downfall.  
* Karna
felt that with friends like Duryodhan, he could be as mean and arrogant as he wanted.  
* Karna
ended up alienating everyone apart from his core group of friends. 


* Knowing that his nephews and his brother-in-law supported his crooked ways, Shakuni continued to plot and corrupt his sister's large brood of sons.
* Shakuni thought his could cheat his way out of any given situation !

In his desire to support his nephews, he destroyed the Kuru clan and all other warrior clans of India at the time.



  To be continued....

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Krushna –

Biggest gambles were taken by the Lord himself !

* Jarasandha – who will he fight ?  Krushna, Arjun or Bhima ?  Odds were in Bhima favour, but it was touch and go !

* Telling Karna the secret of his real birth mother and his relationship to the Pandavas was a gamble of all gambles !  Promising Karna the throne of Indrapratha and even the hand of Draupadi was a truly long shot.  Odds were in favour of Karna not agreeing, but it was very tempting.  The turmoil he caused in Karna’s heart secured the lives of four brothers.

* Having given us “free will”, God gambles with us all.  Divine will, lila, is often jeopardised by humans choosing to do as they please.