4:42 am - Tuesday January 19, 2021

Historical Personality

Personalities of India


Great man who shines even in the galaxy of the mighty characters of the ' Mahabharata'. Affection did not dim his wisdom. Fearlessly he walked the path of righteousness. He showed the same pathe to others.


"There are arms which, though they are not weapons, can destroy the body; an enemy cannot kill a person who understands such arms. That which can destroy snow and grass cannot burn an object, which is hiding in a hole in a big forest. A blind man cannot find his way or make out the direction; a timid man cannot acquire wealth. Understand this and be careful." These words, which sound like riddles, were spoken by Vidura. He said these words to the Pandavas. The context: when the Pandavas with there mother Kunthi went on a pilgrimage to the holy place Varanavatha, and the citizens of Hastinapura gathered on the outskirts of Hastinapura, the capital of the Kings of the Kuru dynasty, to bid good-bye to the Pandavas. Yudhishtira who understood Vidura's advice was silent. He only nodded to signify he understood.

The Meaning

Just as the words of Vidura were a riddle to many people who heard them they were a riddle to Kunthi, the mother of Yudhishtira, and to his brothers. Their curiosity was aroused. When they had gone some distance Kunthi said: "I could not follow Vidura's words. But you nodded, showing you understood. What does he mean' If there is no objection tell us." Yudhishtira replied: "Mother, this is what it means-be careful about fire and poison. There is a secret passage-find it out. Be bold. You will be benefited by it." The Pandavas and their mother could not understand why Vidura cautioned them when they were on their way to Varanavatha. However, they decided that they should be very careful in the new residence, which they were about to reach.

A Man Who Knows Righteous Conduct

The royal family of Hastinapura was closely related to Vidura. Vidura's mother was a devoted maid to the queens in the palace at Hastinapura. Ambika and Ambalika were the wives of Vichitraveerya, son of the emperor Shanthanu. By the grace of Vyasa, they gave birth to Dhritharashtra and Pandu. Vidura was born by the grace of Vyasa to the servant maid of the queens. Thus the three were brothers. Dhritharashtra was the elder uncle of the five sons of Pandu including Yudhishtira; Vidura was the younger uncle. Vidura also grew up in the palace in the company of Dhritharashtra and Pandu. He also spent his entire life as Dhritharashtra's companion and trusted friend. Although the three, Dhritharashtra, Pandu and Vidura, were born by the grace of sage Vyasa, they were different by nature. Dhritharashtra who was born blind was a hypocrite and was selfish; he was not much devoted to righteous conduct. But Pandu was scrupulous in following righteous conduct; he was loved by his subjects; and he was a brave man. Vidura was very Godfearing. He knew what was moral and righteous. And he followed the path of virtue. He spoke out what he thought was right without fear or favor. On account of this, the hypocrites Dhritharashtra and his sons, the kauravas, disliked Vidura. But because the people respected Vidura. Highly they allowed hon to be their companion; the Kauravas were unwilling to condemn and oppose him in public. As long as he was alive Pandu treated Vidura with great respect; and so did his sons after Panclu's death. Vidura also had great affection for the Pandavas. When Pandu died all his five sons were little boys. That they should not come to grief at the hands of their cousins, the Kauravas, and that they should grow up to be strong and live gloriously was Vidura's wish. So Vidura was actively interested in the welfare of the Pandavas. He thought it was his duty to save them from the cunning plots of the Kauravas.

'Mangala Mandira'

When Vidura came to know that Dhritharashtra and his children had planned to send the Pandavas and their mother from Hastinapura to Varanavatha, he suspected that there was some deception. That was why he cautioned the Pandavas in words which others could not understand. In Varanavatha a new palace had been built for the Pandavas. It was named 'Mangala Mandira'. Duryodhana the son of Dhritharashtra, had ordered that the palace should be built; it was spledidly furnished for a life of luxury. When the Pandavas occupied Mangala Mandira they did not forget Vidura's warning. They examined the new palace closely. The examined the new palace closely. The building was no doubt beautiful. But the materials used were such as to burn easily, like wood, coir and lacquer. The meaning of Vidura's warning was clear to them. They realized the cruel plan hatched by the Kauravas to set fire to their house and burn them. Time passed. Vidura had expected that Duryodhana would think of setting fire to Mangala Mandira after the Pandavas had stayed there for some time and settled down comfortably. He wished to arrange for the escape of Pandavas from the palace if such a misfortune befell them. He sent an architect to the Pandavas. Unknown to anybody the architect dug a tunnel leading out of Mangala Mandira. One night Bhima himself set fire to the palace. The Pandavas escaped by the tunnel. The palace began to burn fiercely. The citizens saw this and ran to the palace. But it was impossible to put out the fire. Within a few minutes Mangala Mandira was burnt down. People thought that the Pandavas and their mother had perished in the fire. They informed Dhritharashtra in Hastinapura accordingly. On hearing this news Dhritharashtra and his children were happy that the Pandavas were dead. But outwardly they pretended grief and wept bitterly. Vidura believed that the Pandavas had not perished in the fire but had escaped through the tunnel. But he did -not know where they were and what they were doing. He was therefore anxious and worried.

The Pandavas Prosper

The Pandavas went to the 'Swayamvara' of Draupadi, the daughter of King Drupada. (At a swayamvara a girl chooses her husband.) Draupadi became the wife of the Pandavas. It was only then that Vidura came to know that the Pandavas were safe and had won honor. Vidura was happy when he got this news. The Kauravas, however, were unhappy. It was not only because of the failure of their plot to destroy the Pandavas, coupled into the suspicion that the Pandavas had come to know of their plot. They were unhappy also because the Pandavas had married Draupadi, the daughter of Drupada - a powerful king. The Kauravas were unhappy that the Pandavas had gained the support of Drupada. They discussed among themselves what they should do next. Bhishma, Drona and such elders suggested: "Let there be no hatred of the Pandavas. It is good to give them half the kingdom and to live in friendship with them." Vidura also supported that view. When everybody pressed him in this manner, Dhritharashtra agreed to the suggestion. But the task of bringing the Pandavas back to Hastinapura fell to Vidura. Everybody knew that the Pandavas would respect his word. Dhritharashtra accommodated the Pandavas in his home for a few days and looked to their comfort. Thereafter he gave them half the kingdom and sent them to Khandavaprasta. The Pandavas settled there. The region was really a thick forest. The Pandavas developed it. They built a city named Indraprasta and made it their capital. They defeated their enemies and increased their wealth. They treated their friends with courtesy and consideration and won their support. Thus the Pandavas established their supremacy among the kings and decided to perform a sacrifice called the Rajasuya Yaga. They made preparations for it and invited their elders and other relatives. Vidura was requested to be in charge of the expenses. He consented. He was very pleased that the sacrifice was performed with such pomp and without any hitch. But it had a different effect on Duryodhana. During the sacrifice Duryodhana was to receive gifts and presents offered by the subordinate princes and friends. Looking at the heaps of pearls, diamonds and gold slabs that were presented, Duryodhana grew jealous of the Pandavas. Their wealth, glory and power made him envious. As soon as he reached Hastinapura he opened his heart to his uncle Shakuni. Shakuni said, "Yudhishtira is very fond of dice. But he cannot play well. Let us invite him to play dice and win all his wealth. I know the secret of victory of dice." He and Duryodhana went to Dhritharashtra and got his permission to play the game of dice.

'Listen To Me'

Vidura came to know of this. He told Dhritharashtra: I do not approve of this game of dice. There will be a fight between brothers leading to disaster." But Dhritharashtra did not listen to these words. "When you, our grand-father Bhishma and I are here, nothing improper will be done. Take the chariot to Indraprasta and bring the Pandavas," said he. As Vidura did not want to disobey the orders of the elderly Dhritharashtra, he went to Indraprasta and brought the Pandavas, Draupadi and Kunthi to Hastinapura. Shakuni played on behalf of Duryodhana and won a large part of Yudhishtira's wealth. Vidura felt that if the game proceeded in this manner there would be trouble. He went to Dhritharashtra and gave him advice. He said: "You may not relish my words, as a dying man does not relish medicine. But listen to me. Duryodhana is an evil man. He is born to destroy the race of Bharata. He is a fox hiding in your house. Although you know it, you are not on your guard. Unless he is checked, the Kauravas are not safe'. For the sake of a family, one person may have to be abandoned; for one village, a family may have to be abandoned; for the country a village may have to be abandoned. Do not wish the Pandavas ill jested for the love of wealth. Do not be happy because Duryodhana is winning. When the game is over and the conflict begins it will result in total disaster. We know Shakuni's game. He is a cheat. Let him leave this place." Duryodhana was drunk with success. He grew angry at the words of Vidura. He turned to Vidura and said angrily: "Although you are one of us you wish us ill, you are like a serpent in our lap. Did we seek your advice about what is good for us Therefore, leave this place at once." Vidura did not lose his temper. Keeping in view the good of the royal family of Bharata he gave Duryodhana advice. He said: "You may get a number of people who speak what you like; but it is difficult to find people who speak what is good for you although it may appear unpleasant. True friends should not be slighted. You must heed their advice."

Disaster Did Strike

But nobody listened to Vidura. The game of dice was continued. Yudhishtira lost everything - lost his brothers also. Vidura could not contain his grief and sat down, watching in anguish. Yudhishtira lost again; he lost Draupadi whom he had staked. In the flush of triumph Duryodhana lost his head. He called Vidura who was like his father and said, "Go and bring Draupadi, the beloved wife of the Pandavas. Let her stay with our servants and sweep the house. Let us have that pleasure." When he heard these words, Vidura was not angry with Duryodhana. He felt sorry for his foolishness. He told him: "What a fool you are! You can't see the noose around your neck. You are unable to understand that you are trembling on the edge of a precipice! Will the deer, which enrages a tiger, live' These are the last days of the Kauravas. Therefore, you do not listen to words of wisdom; your greed is growing." Vidura so warned him against the impending disaster. But no one listened to him. Vidura did not bring Draupadi to the court. Duryodhana sent another messenger and had her dragged to the assembly. He and his brother Dusshasana disgraced her. Finally, Dhritharashtra had their treasures returned to the Pandavas. He pacified them and Draupadi, and sent them back with honor. The Pandavas had hardly left that place, when Duryodhana went to Dhritharashtra. He begged him: "Let us have another contest. The loser must live in exile in the forest. Get back the Pandavas." Dhritharashtra agreed to the proposal. Then Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and others vehemently opposed it. Still, he did not change his decision. The Pandavas returned. Once again there was a match. The condition was that the loser should live in the forest for twelve years and thereafter live for one year without being recognized by any one. Yudhishtira lost again. The Pandavas got ready to live in the forest. The Kauravas spoke to the fallen Pandavas and Draupadi insultingly. The Pandavas were furious. They swore that they would kill the Kauravas in a war. The very calamity which Vidura had tried hard to prevent occurred. This was because Duryodhana and his father Dhritharashtra would not listen to Vidura's advice. The Pandavas and Draupadi were going to the forest; what was to happen to the aged Kunthi' Could she accompany them to the forest and put up with all the hardships' Vidura thought over the matter. Where should Kunthi live' If she lived in Dhritharashtra's palace she would naturallybe unhappy. It would be easier to look after her well if she stayed with him, thought Vidura, and took her to his house.

A Crime To Speak Justly

To the selfish Dhritharashtra it was, in a way, pleasing that by gambling his sons took over the kingdom and wealth of the Pandavas. Still, the Pandavas were strong and adopts at war. What would happen if they, who were deceived and so overthrown, became angry and started a fight against his sons' This thought troubled him. Whenever his mind was grieved by such thoughts it was the practice of Dhritharashtra to send for Vidura and seek his suggestion. After the Pandavas left for the forest he sent for Vidura. He said: "Vidura, you know the secret of righteous conduct. You are equally interested in the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Therefore, tell me what is good for both of them; we should not be destroyed by the Pandavas; the Pandavas should not be destroyed by us. How is this possible' Tell me." In reply Vidura said: "Dhritharashtra, if you do what is righteous, your children and the Pandavas will live happily. You supported your son who followed the wrong path and you have committed a grievous fault. See that Pandavas get back whatever was taken away from them unjustly. Then everything will be set right. But your son Duryodhana will not agree to this. If he does not agree you have to punish him and send him away. Otherwise the destruction of the Kauravas is inevitable. I have told you this a number of times." When Dhritharashtra heard this he became very angry. "You always support the Pandavas; you are never with us," so he accused Vidura; "do you want me to give up my son for the sake of the Pandavas' My son is like my body. Shall I destroy my body' What sort of advice is yours! You are a crook. You have no regard for us, no respect! If you do not like to stay here, go away." So shouting, he left Vidura and went to the inner apartments.

'Follow The Path'

Dhritharashtra's words and behavior disgusted Vidura. He was also worried about the hardships suffered by the Pandavas in the forest. He went to the forest to meet them. When Vidura came to their hermitage the Pandavas welcomed him and made affectionate enquirer. Thereafter Vidura narrated to them the circumstances leading to his departure from Hastinapura. He told them of the exchange of words he had with Dhritharashtra. "The patient man triumphs. Whether in difficulties or in happiness one must behave in the same way with relatives; they must be treated with courtesy. Persons with such a noble nature will prosper. Conduct yourselves in this way." Thus he preached to the Pandavas. The Pandavas promised Vidura that they would follow his advice. When Dhritharashtra heard that Vidura had left Hastinapura, he was very unhappy. He lost consciousness. When he recovered, he called Sanjaya and said to him: "Vidura is my brother, my friend; not only that, he knows righteous conduct. Since he left me my mind has been disturbed. If he is not with me I cannot live. Search for him and get him here quickly." Vidura came to know that his elder brother was pinning for him and that he was miserable and returned to Hastinapura immediately. Dhritharashtra was happy at this. But Duryodhana was not pleased with Vidura's return.

What Next'

The Pandavas passed thirteen years. At the end of the period King Virata's daughter was married to Arjuna's son Abhimanyu. Their relatives like Krishna, Balarama, Drupada and friends came to meet them. How were they to get back their kingdom' This question arose.

The thought of resorting to war and killing the relatives did not appeal to Yudhishtira. Keeping this in view, some suggested that before deciding on war, negotiations should be tried. Accordingly Drupada sent his 'purohit' (religious adviser) to Dhritharashtra's court. He said clearly in the assembly where Bhishma, Dhritharashtra, Vidura, Duryodhana and such others were present: "All of you should ensure the return to the Pandavas what is justly due to them. Do not miss this opportunity. The Pandavas do not want war. But they will not hesitate to fight to get what is due to them."

Bhishma supported the view that they must treat the Pandavas as friends. But Karna, Duryodhana's bosom friend, did not agree. He said: "Let there be war!" Dhritharashtra accepted Bhishma's suggestion and sent Sanjaya to negotiate a settlement. He went to Upaplavya and met Yudhishtira. Yudhishtira repeated what he had conveyed through his purohit. And also he sent Word to Vidura: "if you want to help Yudhishtira, prevent a war."

Vidura's Precepts

It was night when Sanjaya returned from Upaplavya to Hastinapura. Still, he immediately met Dhritharashtra and told him: "The long journey has made me tired. Tomorrow I will report in the king's court what Yudhishtira told me. The guilty must be blamed. You have earned the enmity of the Pandavas and are bringing about the destruction of your subjects. I have to blame you; I have no choice." On hearing Sanjaya's words Dhritharashtra's mind was disturbed. He could not sleep even when he lay down. He sent for Vidura. He told him how Sanjaya had blamed him and said: "Please tell me what is righteous conduct and what brings us true prosperity' That may bring me peace of mind." Dhritharashtra's condition filled Vidura with pity. He recalled Yudhishtira's request to prevent war by any means. Till late in the night he gave Dhritharashtra advice on a number of subjects. His advice is well known as 'Vidura's Precepts'. First Vidura described to Dhritharashtra who is a wise man and who is an unwise man and how each type of man behaves. He made it clear that a number of persons suffer because of a sin committed by one man. The path of righteousness and honesty, he said, is the way to true prosperity. "Hanclover to the Pandavas the portion of the kingdom due to them; then you, your children and the Pandavas can live happily," he suggested. After listening to all that Vidura told him, Dhritharashtra said: "Vidura, all that you say is right. You have always been repeating these words. To my mind also your advice appears to be just. I wish to follow your advice. But, what can I do' When Duryodhana speaks to me, the whole picture changes." So did he unfold his helplessness and anxiety. Next day, in the court, Sanjaya put forth clearly Yudhishtira's opinion and the stand of the Pandavas. Dhritharashtra who heard him said: "Let there be no war with the Pandavas; let us have peace." Bhishma also supported this view. But Duryodhana did not agree. "I am bent upon fighting," he said.

'Be Wise At Least Hereafter'

Finally, the Pandavas sent Sri Krishna himself for negotitions. Soon after Dhritharashtra came to know that Krishna was coming, he sent for Vidura and said: "Tomorrow Sri Krishna will be here. We have to arrange a grand reception for him and make his stay comfortable. The town should be decorated. Dusshasana's house is better than that of Duryodhana. That house must be set apart for Krishna's stay. Very valuable articles must be presented to him." Vidura said: "Dhritharashtra, you are an old man; at least now, be wise, otherwise your entire family will perish. Krishna deserves the homage you wish to pay him. But you are not offering these to Sri Krishna either as an act of righteousness or out of loves. You want to gain the love of Krishna by this outward show of courtesy and want to deprive the Pandavas even of the five Villages, which they have asked for. But Krishna will not be deceived by these tricks. He loves the Pandavas with all his heart. He has come here to prevent war and save the Kauravas from disaster. Therefore pay homage to him without much show and conduct yourself according to his advice." Duryodhana said: "If we show great respect to Krishna he will think that we are afraid. If we imprison Krishna it will break the back of the Pandavas." The elders present there were unhappy at these words.

Krishna's Negotiations

Next morning when Sri Krishna was nearing Hastinapura, Bhishma, Drona and others met him outside the city and welcomed him. After he entered the city Krishna went straight to Dhritharashtra's palace saluted Dhritharashtra and enquired about his health. He treated Krishna with courtesy. Krishna next went to Vidura's home. There he was entertained as a welcome guest, with devotion, loves and regard. After dinner and rest he met Kunthi and informed her in detail about the welfare of the Pandavas. He told her, that their sufferings had ended and that soon they would be victorious-and live happily; in this way he comforted Kunthi. After supper Vidura gave Krishna his views on the situation: "Duryodhana is a fool who does not distinguish between what is righteous and what is wicked. He is short-tempered and arrogant. And he thinks that he alone is wise. He does not respect elders. I do not like the idea of your going to the king's court, where there is such a man." Krishna heard this and said: "Vidura, what you say is true. I know all this. But I have come here for negotiations. If possible I want to save the huge armies from destruction. This is morally right. Whether I succeed or fail I shall have the satisfaction of having done my duty. Even if all the followers of Duryodhana together attack me, they can do me no harm. Do not be worried about me." Next morning Krishna went to Dhritharashtra's court. Vidura accompanied him. He sat next to Krishna. The advice given by Krishna to Dhritharashtra and Duryodhana did not bear fruit. Duryodhana and his associates thought of taking into custody Krishna himself. When Dhritharashtra learnt about this wicked ruse he again sent word to Duryodhana through Vidura. "This is a foolish venture; give it up," said he. Vidura also supported Dhritharashtra's advice; he described Krishna's strength and narrated his feats. He warned Duryodhana: "Do not cross Krishna's path." But Duryodhana disregarded everybody's advice. He tried to capture Krishna but met with failure.

'Bear Your Grief'

There was a terrible war for eighteen days between the Kauravas and the Pandavas at Kurukshetra. The Pandavas had an army of seven 'Akshouhinis' and the Kauravas an army of eleven akshouhinis. (One akshouhini, comprises 21,870 elephants, 21,870 chariots, 65,610 horses and 1,09,350 foot-soldiers.) Both the armies were practically destroyed. Duryodhana and his brothers and his powerful friends like Karna died in the battle. On the side of the Pandavas also a large number of mighty warriors died. Yudhishtira had wished to avert the destruction of people; Vidura and Krishna also had tried hard to avert it. But it did take place. Dhritharashtra and Gandhari were both old people. Dhritharashtra was blind. Their hundred children and relatives were dead. Their grief was beyond description. They were in utter anguish. It was extremely difficult to console them. Vidura attempted to comfort Dhritharashtra and said: "Desire is the source of grief. Philosophy is the cure. Have control over your mind and banish sorrow. Be friendly to others. It will beget good." But no words could comfort Gandhari and Dhritharashtra. They had lost their children and grandchildren and the grief pierced their mind. Yudhishtira did all he could to assuage their pain and bring them peace of mind. After he became the king of the country he appointed Vidura as his minister. The task of looking after Dhritharashtra and Gandhari, and carrying out their wishes was entrusted to him. Vidura did this work with great devotion. Dhritharashtra and Gandhari now had a little mental peace. Dhritharashtra realized that if he had acted according to Vidura's advice from the beginning he or Gandhari would not have had to suffer such grief. He also said so.

To The Forest

After the Kurukshetra war, Dhritharashtra and Gandhari lived under Yudhishtira's care for eighteen years. Then one day Dhritharashtra sent for Yudhishtira and told him that he and Gandhari would go to the forest for tapas (prayer and meditation). Yudhishtira had to agree. When she came to know of this Kunthi also decided to accompany Gandhari and Dhritharashtra to the forest. Vidura also decided likewise. In spite of the entreaties and prayers of the Pandavas and Draupadi the four lefts for the forest. Those in the palace as well as the citizens bid them a respectful farewell. Even after they went to the forest, the Pandavas constantly thought of them. Dhritharashtra and Gandhari were a blind old man and an old woman. Kunthi was also in the evening of life. She was not as strong as she was once. How could she look after the two old people' The Pandavas were troubled by thoughts of the difficulties they might be facing in the forest. When these thoughts troubled them very much they proceeded to visit their elders in the forest. A number of citizens accompanied them. They found Kunthi, Gandhari and Dhritharashtra on the way from Dhritharashtra's ashram to the river. They all came to the ashram together. After inquiries about one another, Yudhishtira asked Dhritharashtra: where is Vidura' He is not to be seen." He replied: "Vidura is well. But he does not live with us. He lives all by himself and does severe tapas. He does not take any food. He fasts completely. He is run down very much. Occasionally he visits this place to look us up."

Tradition Of Righteous Conduct

Yudhishtira wanted to meet Vidura no matter what the difficulties. Just then somebody cried: "There goes Vidura! He was coming to this place; when he saw so many people in the hermitage, he walked away swiftly." Yudhishtira turned and looked. He up at once and ran towards Vidura. Vidura walked fast and entered a thick forest. Yudhishtira followed him. There were glimpses of Vidura now and then; sometimes he was seen in a cluster of trees and then disappeared. Yudhishtira did not want to lose sight of Vidura. So he followed him calling aloud: "Vidura! Vidura!l am Yudhishtira - Yudhishtira whom you loved. I have come here to meet you." As he thus went some distance he saw Vidura in an isolated place leaning against a tree. Yudhishtira went near and saw him. Vidura's body was emaciated. The veins were showing. His hair was matted. There was a splinter of wood in his mouth. He had no clothes on. His body was covered with dust. Yudhishtira went closer and said: I am Yudhishtira." Vidura who had taken a vow not to speak to anybody, glanced at Yudhishtira and signalled to him to stop where he was. Then he began to look into Yudhishtira's eyes. As he stared it appeared to Yudhishtira that the extraordinary power earned by Vidura was entering his own body! He felt that new strength and radiance had entered his body. Yudhishtira recovered from this trance and looked at Vidura. Vidura's body stood motionless. But life was extinct. Among the colorful characters in the 'Mahabharatha' Vidura occupies a unique place. Vidura was a great man without a flaw. He was a perfectly pure man. He was the very embodiment of righteous conduct. He never did what was not righteous. He never hesitated to say, clearly and boldly, without fear or favor, what in his opinion was right and what was wrong. This was his greatness. It was right that the essence of the righteous life of Vidura should, on his death, have been transmitted to Yudhishtira who was righteous like him; it signifies that the ancient tradition of righteousness has been flowing uninterrupted.



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