In the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, Yudhisthira (Sanskrit: युधिष्ठिर, yudhiṣṭhira meaning "steady in war", from yudh meaning war, and sthira meaning steady), the eldest son of King Pandu and Queen Kunti, was king of Indraprastha and later of Hastinapura(Kuru). He was the leader of the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra War. For his piety, he was known as Dharmaraja (which may be translated as either 'righteous king' or 'king of dharma'). Some sources describe him to be an adept warrior with the spear and ratha.
Birth and upbringingPractices
Yudhisthira's father Pandu, the king of Hastinapura, soon after his marriage, accidentally shot a Brahmin and his wife, mistaking them for deer, while the couple were making love. Before he died, the Brahmin cursed the king to die the minute he engaged in intercourse with any woman. Due to this curse, Pandu was unable to father children. As additional penance for the murder, Pandu abdicated in favor of his blind brother Dhritarashtra.
Yudhisthira was conceived in an unusual way. His mother, Queen Kunti, had in her youth been granted the power to invoke the Devas by Rishi Durvasa. Each God, when invoked, would place a child in her lap. Urged by Pandu to use her invocations, Kunti gave birth to Yudhisthira by invoking the Lord of Judgement, Dharma. Being Pandu's eldest son, Yudhisthira was the rightful heir to the throne, but this claim was contested by the Dhritarashtra's son, Duryodhana.
Yudhisthira's four younger brothers were Bhima, (born by invoking Vayu); Arjuna, (born by invoking Indra); and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva, (born to Pandu's second wife Madri by invoking the Ashwini Gods). If Karna, the son of Kunti born before her marriage by invoking Surya is counted, Yudhisthira would be the second-eldest of Kunti's children.
Yudhisthira was also known as Bharata (Descendant of the line of Bharata) and Ajatashatru (One Without Enemies).
Son of Dharma
Yudhisthira's true prowess was shown in his unflinching adherence to satya (truth) and dharma (righteousness), which were more precious to him than royal ambitions, material pursuits and family relations. Yudhisthira rescued Bhima from Nahusha. He also rescued his four brothers from death by exemplifying not only his immense knowledge of dharma, but also understanding its finer implications, as judged by Dharma, who was testing him in the guise of a Crane and a Yaksha.
Yudhisthira's understanding of dharma was distinct from that of other righteous kings. He married Draupadi along with his four brothers, he had Bhima marry an outcast Rakshasi, he denounced casteism, saying a Brahmin is known by his actions and not his birth or education, thus portraying a changeable dharma that modifies itself to suit the times.
Due to his piety, Yudhisthira's chariot did not touch the ground (until his deception of Drona), to symbolize his purity, this means he was well regarded as a wise and pious man even by his enemies.
King of Indraprastha
Yudhisthira and his brothers were favored by the Kuru elders like Bhishma, Vidura, Kripa and Drona over Duryodhana and his brothers, the Kauravas, due to their devotion to their elders, pious habits and great aptitude in religion and military skills, and all the necessary qualifications for the greatest of the kshatriya order.
Yudhisthira married the Panchali princess Draupadi, who bore him a son, Prativindya.
When the Pandavas came of age, King Dhritarashtra sought to avoid a conflict with his sons, the Kauravas, by giving Yudhisthira half the Kuru kingdom (upon Bhisma's advice), albeit the lands which were arid, unprosperous and scantily populated, known as Khandavaprastha.
But with the help of Yudhisthira's cousin Krishna, a new city, Indraprastha, was constructed by the Deva architect Viswakarma. The Asura architect Mayasura constructed the Mayasabha, which was the largest regal assembly hall in the world. Yudhisthira was crowned king of Khandavaprastha and Indraprastha. As he governed with absolute piousness, with a strict adherence to duty and service to this people, his kingdom grew prosperous, and people from all over were attracted to it.
Yudhisthira performed the Rajasuya sacrifice to become the Emperor of the World (Paramount Soveirgn). His motives were not to obtain power for himself, but to establish dharma and defend religion all over the world by suppressing the enemies of Krishna and sinful, aggressive kings.
Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva led armies across the four corners of the world to obtain tributes from all kingdoms for Yudhisthira's sacrifice. At his sacrifice, Yudhisthira honored Krishna as the most famous and greatest personality. This incensed Sisupala, who proceeded to hurl several insults at Krishna and the Pandavas for selecting a "cowherd" for the great honor. When Sisupala's transgressions exceed the hundred pardons that Krishna had promised his mother, Krishna summons the sudarshana chakra to behead him. Following which, the yajna is completed successfully.
Yudhisthira was unable to refuse when Duryodhana's maternal uncle Shakuni, challenged him to a game of dice. Thanks to Shakuni's mastery of gambling, Yudhisthira lost each game, eventually gambling away his kingdom, his wealth, his brothers and finally his wife. Owing to the protests of Vidura, Bhishma and Drona, Dhritarashtra returned all these losses. However, Shakuni challenged Yudhisthira one more time, and Yudhisthira once more lost. This time, he, his brothers and his wife were forced to discharge the debt by spending thirteen years in exile, with the condition of anonymity in the last year, in the forest before they could reclaim their kingdom.
Yudhisthira was criticized by Draupadi and Bhima for succumbing to temptation and playing dice, an art he was absolutely unskilled at, making the Pandavas prey to Shakuni and Duryodhana's designs. Yudhisthira reproached himself for weakness of mind, but at the time he argued that it was impossible to refuse a challenge of any nature, as he was a kshatriya and obliged to stand by the kshatriya code of honour.
During the thirteen years, he was repeatedly tested for staunch adherence to religious values in face of adversity.
The conditions of the debt required the Pandavas to disguise themselves and not be discovered during the last year of exile. Yudhisthira assumed the guise of a brahmin courtier and dice player in the Matsya Rajya of king Virata. He was named as Kank during this tenure of a Year and used to teach the King the "Dyuta" (Gambling), in which he has lost all his kingdom 13 Years ago.
Dharma: What is heavier than earth, higher than heavens, faster than the wind and more numerous than straws?
Yudhishthira: One's mother is heavier than the earth; one's father is higher than the mountains. The mind is faster than wind and our worries are more numerous than straws.
Dharma: Who is the friend of a traveler? Who is the friend of one who is ill and one who is dying?
Yudhishthira: The friend of a traveler is his companion. The physician is the friend of one who is sick and a dying man's friend is charity.
Dharma: What is that which, when renounced, makes one lovable? What is that which is renounced makes happy and wealthy?
Yudhishthira: Pride, if renounced makes one lovable; by renouncing desire one becomes wealthy; and to renounce avarice is to obtain happiness.
Dharma: What enemy is invincible? What constitutes an incurable disease? What sort of man is noble and what sort is ignoble?
Yudhishthira: Anger is the invincible enemy. Covetousness constitutes a disease that is incurable. He is noble who desires the well-being of all creatures, and he is ignoble who is without mercy.
Dharma: Who is truly happy? What is the greatest wonder? What is the path? And what is the news?
Yudhishthira: He who has no debts is truly happy. Day after day countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever. O Lord, what can be a greater wonder? Argument leads to no certain conclusion, the Srutis are different from one another; there is not even one Rishi whose opinion can be accepted by all; the truth about Dharma and duty is hid in caves of our heart: therefore, that alone is the path along which the great have trod. This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan (with such aids); this is the news.
(Source: KM Ganguly Mahabharata Translation )
An astute politician
Yudishtira was also a very good politician. He knew who his enemies and friends were. Despite all the taunts from his wife and his brothers, he would not make war upon Kauravas, he waited for the just right moment when the position of Kauravas was weakest i.e. their chief warrior Karna was deprived of all his invincible things, i.e. things that made Karna invincible. He also was good war general a lot better than Duryodhan. So Duryuadhan outnumbered Yudishtiras army by a lot, nearly 11:7, but still Duryodhan lost, because of lack of knowledge in war tactics.
He also cursed the entire womenhood of not being able hide any secrets with themseleves after he was made aware that karna was his elder brother after the holy war of "MAHABHARTA"
The War at Kurukshetra
When the period of exile was completed, Duryodhana and Shakuni refused to return Yudhisthira's kingdom. Yudhisthira made numerous diplomatic efforts to retrieve his kingdom peacefully; all failed. To go to war to reclaim his birthright would mean fighting and killing his own relations..
Retirement and Ascent to Heaven
Upon the onset of the Kali yuga and the departure of Krishna, Yudhisthira and his brothers retired, leaving the throne to their only descendant to survive the war of Kurukshetra, Arjuna's grandson Parikshit. Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas made their final journey of pilgrimage in the Himalayas.
While climbing the peaks, Draupadi, and each Pandava in reverse order of age, fell to their deaths, dragged down by the weight of their guilt for their sins. Yudhisthira reached the mountain peak, because he was unblemished by sin or untruth.
The true character of Yuddhisthira is revealed at the end of the Mahabharata. On the mountain peak, Indra, King of Gods, arrived to take Yudhisthira to heaven in his Golden Chariot. As Yudhisthira was about to step into the Chariot, the Deva told him to leave behind his companion dog, a creature not worthy of heaven to Indra. Yudhisthira stepped back, refusing to leave behind the creature who he had taken under his protection. Indra wondered at him - "You can leave your brothers behind, not arranging proper cremations for them...and you refuse to leave behind a stray dog! who was none other than Dharma himself in that form. Knowing that Yudhistra refused to leave Dharma in the form of dog. This is very obvious because he cannot enter Heaven without his self."
Yudhisthira replied, "Draupadi and my brothers have left me, not I [who left them]", and refused to go to heaven without the dog. At that moment the dog changed into the God Dharma, which was none other than himself in another Amsha, who was testing him...and Yudhisthira had passed with distinction. A version of this story appears in The Twilight Zone episode "The Hunt"
Yudhisthira was carried away on Indra's chariot. On reaching Heaven he did not find either his virtuous brothers or his wife Draupadi. Instead he saw Duryodhana and his allies. The Gods told him that his brothers were in Naraka (hell) atoning their little sins, while Duryodhana was in heaven since he died at the blessed place of Kurukshetra.
Yudhisthira loyally went to Naraka (hell) to meet his brothers, but the sights and sounds of gore and blood horrified him. Tempted to flee, he mastered himself and remained after hearing the voices of his beloved brothers and Draupadi calling out to him, asking him to stay with them in their misery. Yudhisthira decided to remain, ordering the Divine charioteer to return, preferring to live in hell with good people than in a heaven of his enemies. At that moment the scene changed. This was yet another illusion to test him on the one hand, and on the other hand, to enable him to atone for his sin of lying to Drona that his son Ashwatthama had died in the battle. Indra and Krishna appeared before him and told him that his brothers were already in Heaven, while his enemies suffered from Hell's torment in due time for earthly virtues. Krishna yet again hailed Yudhisthira for his dharma,in one of the final acts where divinity bows in front of humanity thereby bringing one of the most revered epics to an end and asking him to join his brothers in real heaven which was the abode of Indra.
King of Hastinapura Succeeded by
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