For the Great War at Kurukshetra there was no one person in Sarala Mahabharata who everyone blamed as being solely or primarily responsible. For Gandhari and Dhritarastra, it was Sakuni – when the war was on. After the war, when she saw Krishna, she told him that he was solely responsible for the war since it was entirely within his powers not to allow the war to happen in the first place – no one would have gone against his words had he firmly told everyone concerned that there was to be no war. Arjuna squarely blamed Duryodhana, but the venerable Kuru elder, Bhishma, disagreed.  On the battlefield itself, when this exchange took place between them, Bhishma told him that the Pandavas’ commitment to peace was not total; had it been so, they would have given the kingdom to Duryodhana and returned to the forest. In a family, an unreasonable person is accommodated, not destroyed, he told his grandson.

In a technical sense, it was Duryodhana who started the war. The two armies were face to face, neither attacking the other. When his brother Durdasa declared that he would change sides and fight for the Pandavas and gave protection to the unarmed Yudhisthira, a furious Duryodhana ordered his army to attack Durdasa and that was how the war started. However, from this, it does not follow that he was responsible for the war.

At the same time, he could have stopped the war. In Sarala Mahabharata, it was Yudhisthira himself who made a genuine effort – the only one to do so – to avoid war. When Krishna told him on the battlefield that Arjuna was unwilling to fight, he told Krishna that he was right and then, unarmed, he went to the Kaurava side of the battlefield to negotiate peace with Duryodhana. He told him that he was not asking him now to give him five villages; all he wanted was just one. Duryodhana refused. About this exchange Gandhari surely did not know; had she known, she would not have thought that the Avatara alone could have stopped the war.

Now, who did the embodiment of Dharma on earth blame for the war? For Yudhisthira, it was Draupadi. When she fell to her death, he told the grieving Bhima that she was a sinner. By keeping her hair untied, she had instigated her husbands to take revenge. In her word and deed, she had goaded them, in a manner of speaking, to the battlefield. He also held Sahadeva responsible for much that had gone wrong. Being the knower of the past and the future, had he alerted him in time as to what was going to happen, things might have been different. But knowing everything, he would keep mum. He was a sinner, said the son of Dharma to Bhima.

Yudhisthira did not say anything about which situations he had in mind, with respect to what he had said about Sahadeva. In any case, that was neither the time nor the occasion for such things.

But let us think. When the first game of dice took place, Yudhisthira was alone in the Kaurava court. When the second game of dice took place, which led to his exile, he was not alone. In fact, that time, at Duryodhana’s instance, it was Sahadeva who rolled the dice for them both. And the two sticks this time were not Sakuni’s (see “The Second Game of Dice” in this blog, posted on May 7, 2010). Had Sahadeva alerted his eldest, the events might not have taken the turn they did.

Now, were there others in Sarala’s narrative who could have been held responsible but were not? Consider this:

This happened after the fire at the wax palace incident, in which, but for a very few, everyone knew that the Pandavas and their mother had perished. The family had performed the funeral rites. Along with the members of the Kuru family, Balarama and Krishna had wept. At that point of time, none but Vidura and Sakuni knew that Krishna’s tears were fake. But Vidura did not know that Sakuni knew that the Pandavas were safe.

Not long after the wax palace incident, Dhritarashtra decided to hand over the kingdom to Duryodhana. On earlier occasions, his proposal to do so had been resisted by the Kuru elders, who had firmly told him that Yudhisthira must be the crown prince, not Duryodhana. Now since they knew that the Pandavas were dead, they consented to the coronation of Duryodhana.

Had Vidura told them then that the Pandavas were alive, the coronation of Duryodhana would not have taken place. The Kuru elders would not have allowed it. Duryodhana would have been exposed. He would have received condemnation from the Kuru elders, the sages who used to visit Hastinapura, the Yadavas and the people of Hastinapura. Sakuni would not have been able to weave a story to protect him at that moment.

The Kuru elders would have decided to crown Yudhisthira, if not as the king, as the crown prince. In due course, he would have become the king. Duryodhana would not have been able to organize a revolt against him, let alone a war, at any time later. Who would have supported him? Maybe only Karna? None else of any significance from Aryavarta would have joined him at a battlefield against Yudhisthira.

Viewed thus, wouldn’t one say that Vidura’s silence, when he should have spoken, started a chain of events that led the Kurus to the battlefields of Kurukshetra? If Draupadi’s untied hair or Sahadeva’s silence could be viewed as responsible for the devastating war by the embodiment of virtue, whose judgement in Swargarohana Parva of the narrative has the status of the judgement of Dharma himself, why not Vidura’s silence?


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