“Fake views” are views one advocates but does not really subscribe to them. The expression is used in this broad sense here. One could express fake views for a number of reasons: from enlivening a boring conversation, to protecting oneself in a situation where telling what one really believes or knows for certain would most likely put one into trouble, to getting one’s work done. In an ordinary conversation, if a fake view is presented cleverly and with sophistication, the listener would not be able to figure out whether or not it is fake, going by its content. One can only guess. Sometimes the lack of fit between the body language and the content may give the speaker’s secret away but if the speaker is an accomplished manipulator, as Sarala’s – in fact, every Mahabharata poet’s – Sakuni was, one would never know the truth. His Duryodhana never knew that Sakuni had actually worked relentlessly against him all along and was the orchestrator of his and his brothers’ destruction. Only four knew about it: Vidura, Sanjaya, Sahadeva and the Avatara. Duryodhana died without any doubt that Sakuni had not been his greatest well-wisher.

Sakuni used the fake views strategy with great effectiveness when Krishna was in the Kaurava court as Yudhisthira’s emissary for peace. When Krishna arrived, Sakuni advised King Duryodhana not to offer him a seat in his court. He argued with Bhishma and Drona and prevailed upon Duryodhana not to give anything to Krishna, when submitting to his father’s and grandfather’s advice, the Kaurava king was inclined to give him two villages. Krishna was asking for five villages for the Pandavas but Sakuni made it appear as though he was asking the same for himself. He then advised Duryodhana to attack Krishna in the court, saying that he was there all alone and could be overcome.

When Krishna arrived at Duryodhana’ court, Sakuni told King Duryodhana that Krishna, born to Yashoda and Nanda, was a mere cowherd and for that reason could not be invited to the assembly of royals. That apart, he was a great sinner, having killed, in his childhood, a woman (he had in mind, the demoness Putana) and a bull (Sandhasura). Bhishma got very angry and told him that sins committed, knowingly or unknowingly, in numerous births would disappear on seeing Krishna. Such was he. Sakuni disagreed. When the great god Shiva beheaded the cow, Kapila, the severed head got stuck to his hand, He went on pilgrimage and performed tapas but could not get rid of the head. He assumed the terrible form of Vairabha, but the severed head still remained stuck to his hand. He was deemed by the gods to be unworthy of worship. Was the cowherd Krishna greater than the great god, he asked. The low born was guilty of yet another heinous act; he had illicit relations with many cowherd women in Brindavan. On account of his caste and sinful deeds, he did not deserve a seat among the royals. Responding to Sakuni, Dussasana and many warriors of the Kaurava army tried to block Krishna’s way to the court.

It was late in the morning and Krishna was still waiting to be offered a seat. Drona told Duryodhana that he must offer Krishna a seat forthwith. An assembly where Narayana is unwelcome, is an assembly of ghouls, said Drona: jebana sabhare hade narayane na bari / nichaye janiba se sabha pichasa sabha sari (a court which does not welcome Narayana / that court is like a court of the ghouls).

“Listen, guru Drona”, said Sakuni and then he told the court the story of how king Jarasandha had not allowed Krishna and Balarama to sit in the assembly of kings once. King Bhishma of Kundi, who owed allegiance to the mighty Jarasandha, had arranged a swayambara for his daughter, Rukmini. Krishna and Balarama wanted to join the assembly but the moment Jarasandha saw them, he thundered that they must not be allowed to join the kings. They were lowly cowards and had committed many sins, he said, and on those accounts were unworthy of sitting in the company of kings. Humiliated, the brothers left. “Listen, O king,” said Sakuni to Duryodhana, “this is what had happened. You must respect the dignity of the court and not offer Krishna a seat with the royals.” “If there is such a precedent”, said Duryodhana, “how can we invite Srivatsa to the court?”

Bhishma told Duryodhana that Sakuni hadn’t told him the whole story. As Jarasandha was ranting against Krishna and Balarama, they left the place. Krishna invoked Garuda. He arrived at once. Krishna told him to break up king Bhishma’s swayambara. As Garuda flapped his mighty wings, a ferocious storm arose and so great was its impact that the kings who had assembled were all blown away. “Think, O Duryodhana,” said Bhishma, “if his vahana (carrier) could accomplish this in an instant, what Krishna himself could do.” He then reminded him of the fate of Jarasandha. Such a powerful king he was; he became Krishna’s enemy and perished untimely. He advised Duryodhana to invite Krishna respectfully to the court.  Although the Kaurava king did not say anything, the venerable Bhishma’s advice was not lost on him.

Sakuni couldn’t afford to let Duryodhana be influenced by the eldest Kuru’s advice. He had no answer to Bhishma.  So he resorted to abuse. “That one is the son of a lowly cowherd and you are childless”, Sakuni told Bhishma. “You have no wife, no son, no daughter and if one sees your face in the morning, one will face only trouble in the day. You have no right to be in the royal court. It is only out of consideration for your age, that we have tolerated your presence here”, said Sakuni. Embarrassed and humiliated, Bhishma kept quiet.

Then Drona spoke. He told Duryodhana that he must desist from dishonouring the One in whom resides the entire universe. The same One in His human Form was standing before the assembly waiting to be invited to his court. “You are the incarnation of Pannaga Narayana yourself. Does it behove of you to treat the Supreme god Narayana like this?”, the guru asked. He advised him to offer him a seat and allow them to worship him, each in his own way.

Sakuni did not argue with him; he started abusing him right away. “You are just one who lives on alms. You couldn’t maintain your wife. Although she was only seven months pregnant, you tore into her womb to extract her son. She died an untimely death because of your wicked act. You are the killer of a woman. You are a heinous sinner. We have been ignoring all this and have not objected to your presence in the court because you are the preceptor of the Kuru princes”, Sakuni told the virtuous guru.   

Bhishma spoke again. He spoke of the supreme glory of Krishna and advised Sakuni not to speak of him in degrading terms. Sakuni said that if someone was guilty of killing, no matter who he was, human or god, he was not worthy of sitting in the company of the distinguished members of the Kaurava court. Finally, it was Vidura, the wise and virtuous minister, who spoke to the king. He pleaded with him to invite Krishna to the court and listen to what he had come to say and they should then decide what they should do in that regard. King Duryodhana agreed and invited Krishna to the court and offered him a seat.  

Krishna told Duryodhana that he had come to him at Yudhisthira’s behest. The eldest Pandava had told him to plead with him for five villages in all for him and his brothers. They had suffered hardships for thirteen long years. It was his duty now to look after his cousins, he told them. He then reminded him of how the Pandavas had helped him on many occasions. The time had come for him to do things for them in return. And all he had to do was give them only five villages.

Krishna was Vidura’s guest that night. Vidura told him that Duryodhana would never agree to give five villages to the Pandavas and asked Krishna whether they would be satisfied with just one village. Krishna told him that he could not ask for fewer villages because each of the Pandavas had requested him to ask for a village for himself. He couldn’t disregard anyone’s request. So let it be nothing, he told Vidura, if not five villages, and let the Pandavas return to the forests, if their request was not granted.

Now, the same night, Bhishma and Drona went to Duryodhana and pleaded with him to show respect to Krishna, who had come as Yudhisthira’s emissary, and was asking for five villages for the Pandavas. Duryodhana said that he would give two villages to please Sri Hari. No one, neither Duryodhana nor Bhishma and Drona mentioned the Pandavas. When it came to giving, Krishna was in their mind. Krishna had come to ask; that was all that mattered for them.

Likewise, he alone figured in Sakuni’s response to Duryodhana. He told Bhishma and Drona that he did not agree with them. Krishna would be displeased, he told them, if he was denied five villages. At the same time, if they gave him one, in that one village, he would take away from them everything they had. In fact, there would be nothing left in the world that would not belong to him: yeka gramake hari se sacharachara pruthibi gheniba (in that one village, he will take away the entire world). “Listen, O king,”, said Sakuni to Duryodhana, “the doings of Narayana” and he went on to tell him about the doings of His avatara, Vamana”. In the form of a vamana, a dwarf, he had asked the noble and virtuous king Bali to give him as dana (ritual gift) only that much land that his three steps could cover. With two steps he covered the earth and the heaven and Bali had nothing to give him. He offered his head for his third step and Vamana put his third foot on his head. Thus, Sakuni told Duryodhana, the great king perished. Krishna, he told the king, was Vamana in the aeon of Truth. Like his guru, Sukracharya, who had counselled Bali not to give anything to Vamana, in the aeon of Dwapara, Sakuni was asking the Kaurava king to do likewise to Krishna. “Bali could not give Vamana land to cover his three feet”, said Sakuni to Duryodhana,” how can you even think of giving him five villages? You will have nowhere to stay if you give him just one village!”

But what is fake with these views, one would ask. Bhishma and Drona said what they believed to be the case.  The text gives no reason for scepticism. As for Sakuni, in Sarala’s retelling, he did not have to be told by anyone that Krishna was no sinner but the giver of moksa and that seeing him freed one from sins of numerous births. Yet he told Duryodhana that he was a sinner and could not be offered a place among the venerable in his court.

In the case of king Bhishma’s swayambara, he deliberately concealed facts, for which there is evidence in the text. Bhishma had charged him of not telling Duryodhana the entire story and Sakuni did not contest him. Now, what can we say about his views of Bali’s fate? From the laukika perspective, Bali perished.  

From the cosmic perspective, he was blessed. He had felt immensely gratified that the Supreme god had come to him for dana; he had said this to guru Sukracharya : ehaun ana kisa mu paibi sulabha / samasta sampada mora pache ghenu padmanabha (What better fortune can I ever have than this. / Let Padmanabha take all my wealth). Sakuni had mentioned this when he was telling Duryodhana the story of Vamana. Taking the narrative to the cosmic level, Bhishma said that Bali’s story did not end with his disappearance from the earth.  The dana made him immortal. Narayana made him the lord of the patala loka and assured him of the lordship of the swarga loka in due course.  Sakuni brought the narrative back to the laukika level.  After Bali’s departure from the mortal world, his queen offered worship to Vamana and reprimanded him severely for having killed her husband, who had most devoutly given him all he had. Sakuni was surely not unaware of what Narayana had given Bali for what He had taken from him but he chose to ignore it when he advised Duryodhana not to give anything to Krishna. It is this selectivity that shows that his views were insincere – fake.

But let us not judge him harshly. He doesn’t deserve it; he deserves our understanding. No character in Sarala Mahabharata is more unfortunate than him. He was condemned to live a life of deception. Now, he desperately wanted war for the fulfilment of his own objective of avenging his father’s and relatives’ treacherous killing by Duryodhana. He had to say what he knew was false.

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