Was Shakuni Mama’s character in Mahabharat a negative character?

I guess Shakuni Mama’s character in Mahabharat is one of the most complex and highly misunderstood characters in Mahabharat. Agreed, he was deceitful and misleading but on the whole he was the person responsible for initiating the Mahabharata war which enabled Pandavas to get back their kingdom.

Shakuni was the brother of Gandhari, the wife of Dhrutharashtra and mother of Kauravas. As per Wikipedia, it seems Gandhari was married to a goat initially (without the knowledge of Dhrutharashtra) before being married to Dhrutharashtra, according to Sooth Sayers advice. Later on, when Dhrutharashtra came to know about this, he got angry and imprisoned all members of Gandhari’s family.

Shakuni was the youngest brother of Gandhari among 100 other brothers. Since all of them were sparsely fed (with one speck of rice each per day) in the prison, the family decided that at least one of them could survive and gave all the rice to Shakuni so that he could live on to take revenge.

Shakuni not only survived, but became very close to Kauravas and especially Duriyodhan. From there on, he weilded his influence on Duriyodhan and master minded the great battle of Mahabharat. He played a key part in inciting the Pandavas to play the game of dice and made them lose their kingdom and everything else to Kauravas. The dice, it seems was made of a bone from his fathers leg and would listen to Shakuni’s command. If Pandavas lost the game, it would inevitably lead to a war between Pandavas and Kauravas.

Why did he do this? Was it because he wanted Duriyodhan to have all of the kingdom and rule it?

No. He did this because he knew that Pandavas were strong enough to defeat all the Kauravas and a great war between them was the only way to do so.

So, technically he was in the side of Pandavas without their knowledge. Though he fought for the Kauravas, he knew by heart that Pandavas would win the battle and his revenge would be complete.

I am not sure what was negative about this character? Where ever the name ‘Shakuni’ appears, it appears in the wrong light and people think that he was bad and evil. He was in fact, acting his part in the grand story and was plotting against the evil Kaurava forces.

He was the King Maker. Much beyond any Kings!

What do you people think?

Destination Infinity

56 thoughts on “Was Shakuni Mama’s character in Mahabharat a negative character?

  1. nice post.
    I read that the marriage of his sister happened because of Force, no one was ready to give his daughter to blind man. From that time Shakuni decided that he will take revenge and he took the revenge.

    1. There are different versions of why the revenge was taken, but I went with the one that was available in Wikipedia. I remember reading about the rice thing and imprisonment of Shakuni’s family when I was young, but don’t remember why. If someone could refer to an authentic Mahabharata book and let us know, it would be helpful. I don’t have any in my house! :)

      Destination Infinity

        1. We should all read the Mahabharat to realise the mistakes our ancestors made and avoid making them ourselves.

          Sadly, we don’t and hence we go round and round the loop, making the same mistakes our ancestors made. We can see reflections of this in India’s foreign policy, economic (mis)managemant, political dialogue and much much more.

          Mahabharat and Ramayan are b

      1. The background story of Shakuni was not there in the Mahabharata. It was added later on presumably in some south Indian manuscripts of the Mahabharata.
        And as far as I know the story, Shakuni did not want the Pandavas to win either, he wanted the kauravas and the pandavas to fight each other to their doom as Dhrutharashtra wanted his own brothers to fight among themselves for food. So he is a negative character, just with a different type of motivation. Which just makes him a bad guy with a good reason to do the bad things.

    2. At the time of Abhimanyu’s wedding,a gift comes to Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu,a box with a mirror.The inner side had a mirror and the specialitie is instead of your reflection,you see the reflection of the person you like more.When LordKrishna opens the box to see ,he sees Shakuni. In the reflection.This shows even Lord Krishna,heart in heart liking Shakuni

    1. Is it fixed? I am not getting mails yet… Also, subscribe to your own email alerts from an email address you use frequently, to keep a track of their delivery.

      Destination Infinity

    1. I too didn’t know the reason for the revenge, but was familiar with Shakuni’s family being imprisoned. I read that somewhere when I was young.

      Destination Infinity

  2. Our epics are full of different incidences and are so deep that it is difficult to make a judgement on characters just by knowing it superficially. I have the same opinion about even RAVAN… do you think he was really evil?

    1. Well, Ravan was portrayed as evil but even within Ramayana, all his good qualities were pretty much highlighted. But I am not familiar with Ramayana much, so cannot answer without referring to the story. But the superficial analysis point is taken. Add to it the various versions – which makes it even more difficult to come to any conclusions.

      Destination Infinity

  3. No, he wasn’t such a bad guy actually.

    In fact Arjuna was a negative and unethical character, he used caste to suppress Karan and Eklavya.
    Dhritrashtra too was a negative character for imprisoning his in laws, and Gandhari for her lack of affection for her family and siblings.

    1. I guess Shakuni was just too clever. He did not have the physical strength to fight anyone but could use his brain to influence all those who did! I guess this is more of Dhritrashtra’s fault – perhaps he was blinded by his power too!

      Destination Infinity

      1. “perhaps he was blinded by his power too! ” or probably that is what is meant in the epic in the first place rather than him being actually (physically) blind! [just a thought!!!]

    2. Arjun did not ask for Eklavya’s thumb – he simply asked his teacher to make him “better” than the newcomer.
      Drona, out of his own bias for Arjun, asked for Eklavya’s thumb. This wasn’t because he was a tribal – but because he had learned something he wasn’t given permission to do so. Drona’s training syllabus for the Kuru princes was his intellectual copyright. For anyone to take that knowledge without permission is theft. Drona exacted a very heavy price for that theft. If this had happened in 21st century, he would have “sued” Eklavya for breach of copyright.

      However, Karma is Karma.

      There was a heavy price for Drona to pay for damaging Eklavya’s prospects of becoming a brilliant warrior. When Drona’s head is chopped off by Dhristadhyman, Eklavya laments that he was unable to stop Dhritadhyman with his arrows for lack of his thumb !

      Karma IS Karma.

  4. Interesting post. I did not know this. But yes I have a faint memory of a story of sacrifice where all the rice was given to someone!

    “He was in fact, acting his part in the grand story and was plotting against the evil Kaurava forces.”
    This sentence of yours raises a question in my mind: Since each one is acting their part in the grand story, should anyone be blamed at all for anything?

    1. Yes, Dhridrashtra and Kauravas could be blamed for their evil actions. But, if you are implying the very concept of free will, I don’t have an answer for that. Though we look at good and bad in different terms, perhaps both of them lead to the same destination? But these are larger questions, and difficult to answer.

      Destination Infinity

    1. Yeah, everyone cheats in Mahabharata and in Life as well. But, no one gets away with their sins on the long run. They may not be punished by the courts, but there are other ways that nature has set up to take care of each and every action.

      Destination Infinity

    2. so is Shakuni. The story mentioned in Wikipedia, the main source of talk here is not in the main text of Mahabharata. In fact I think that’s the point of the Mahabharata, It’s a story of corruption.
      How people corrupt.
      How Arjun Corrupted his fame of being the greatest archer by not giving Karna a fair chance.
      How Bhim Corrupted the rules of a club fight by breaking Duryadhan’s knees.
      And Since Yudhisthira is the Hero of the Epic ( Yes, Yudhisthira is the Hero. Not Arjun ) The grand twist of the epic is where the situation will make him lie also (Under extreme circumstances even the best of the people corrupts in order to protect what he’s being threatened of. (In Yudhisthira’s case the lives of innocent soldiers who were being butchered mercilessly by Drona).

  5. Maternal uncles are very deeply attached to their sister’s children. This is a deep bond and Hindu stories show this in negative shades.
    Kansa was definitely negative and Krishna had to kill him. Shakuni was cunning to take his own revenge and made moves. He had lots of black shades. And he had to pay for it though ….
    I feel the love of a maternal uncle towards his sister’s son is a pure one. Those who show enmity for his sister’s son is definitely evil of high order.

    1. So, you’re saying that revenge taken by Shakuni for Dridhrashtra killing his 100 brothers, is wrong? According to our present law, its wrong alright. People cannot kill others by themselves even if they are just doing it in revenge!

      One more point is, whether Duriyodhana and his brothers had any part in the killing of Shakuni’s brothers. I guess not much, but I am not sure on this part. Perhaps, Shakuni should have taken his revenge directly on Dridhrashtra and not on his nephews?

      You make a valid point, there.

      Destination Infinity

  6. That’s one thing I love about the Mahabharat – the characters are real and so many shades of grey. It is a depiction of human failings and motives. May be it really happened, its too life like.

    I too have read a similar story – so I guess its right

    1. Even if it did not happen exactly as the story portrays, it sounds too real doesn’t it? I have also wondered about this – how can a story get more real? If at all it is a story, that is.

      Destination Infinity

  7. Oh wow!! I had no idea that this was Shakuni’s background. And no , he doesn’t sound like a bad guy at all. I can point twenty other so-called “good” guys in the epic who can labelled bad by their actions….

    1. Also think of his situation – He did not have any physical strength, whatsoever. He was disliked by Dridhrashtra and he was the enemy of the state, basically speaking.

      From such a background, he grew up to such a level that Duriyodhan started listening to him and was quite under his influence! Think how much brains, tact and wit that should have taken! This guy, if he did ever exist, was a master-mind.

      Destination Infinity

    1. I don’t know much about Gandhari. I guess, if we read a detailed Mahabharata book, we will be much more clearer on this epic. The little knowledge I have, comes from Tamil non-detailed lessons back in school and my grand mother.

      Destination Infinity

  8. Rajesh,

    All characters in Mahabharata are gray. They are good and bad and it is matter of perspective. For example Arjuna fired arrows at Karan when Karan did not have arms – that was against the rules. Bheema hit Duryodhan below waist line – again not part of rules but Duryodhan had special power on upper body.

    Shakuni is not a bad character as such. He orchestrated the conflict between brothers to take revenge. He was not powerful so that is the only means he could use.

    1. I do agree with that ‘all characters in Mahabharata are grey’ part. Krishna and Arjuna broke so many rules, but all that is because Kauravas broke the rule at the beginning by killing Abhimanyu by fighting against him together in the Chakrayuh when they should have fought against him one by one as per the rule.

      Destination Infinity

  9. No I dont think it was negative , he did all that for the love of his nephews .. There are so many characters that i can name in mahabharath If i name i will be in so trouble.. who used NOT so fair means to win.. Had the war been fought fairly without any so called MAGIc.. the pandavs could never have won that war..

    Each of the hero’s in the Kaurava;s army was Killed with deciept ..

    SO many characters , and also why would a husband put his wife on a game .. It starts from there …

    Bikram’s

    1. No, he didn’t do it for the love of his Nephews, but because he wanted to take his revenge by killing his nephews (Duriyodhan and brothers).

      But the other things you say are true… Pandavas didn’t fight fairly, agreed to play that game of dice, etc were wrong indeed.

      Destination Infinity

  10. I was not aware of this angle at all! All I knew was that Shakuni could never get over the fact that his sister was married to a blind man who, inspite of being the eldest prince, did not get to ascend to the throne due to his blindness. Basically, it was his love for his sister and his nephews which guided his actions. But then, what I know is based primarily on what they showed in the television serial Mahabharat ! Your post gives a whole new twist to the story as I know it!

    1. This is the other version that I found on the Internet too, but I went with the story that was in Wikipedia as I too read somewhere (when I was young) that Shakuni and his brothers were imprisoned and killed (except him, who survived).

      I don’t think it was the love for his nephews (Duriyodhan and his brothers) that guided his actions – It was disguised as love for his nephews, so that so that he can kill them all in revenge for the death of 100 of his own brothers.

      I think I need to refer to this with offline sources as well, now. Let me do it and clarify.

      Destination Infinity

  11. I don’t know DI. Till now even I used to believe that Shakuni Mama was an evil person. Now that you have presented his character in a whole new light I’ll try to get more information on it.
    :)

  12. oh i didnt know about this aspect – the Gandhari family imprisoned by Dhrutarashtra & Shakuni avenging it

    yes, the word shakuni has taken the meaning of cunning & to call someone shakuni is to insult the person

    1. Well he was cunning enough but I guess people are not able to accept the fact that a ‘cunning person’ can work against evil forces as well!

      Destination Infinity

  13. This story of imprisonment etc does not come from the Mahabharat itself – its something that’s added later by other authors. As Mahabharat is an itihas – history – things added by later authors are not authentic.

    Shakuni was a wicked character because he thought “ends justify the means.” This was his personal motto and he taught that to his nephews. In so doing, he ruined the lives of his own kin. Not only did the Kauravas die with all their friends and family, Gandhar lost its king and heir.

    Wickedness does not just hurt and harm others, it harms the perpetrator too.

    For more on Mahabharat, its lessons and its authentic sources (in Sanskrit as well as English), see the links on this site –
    http://www.pushti-marg.net/bhagwat/Mahabharata.htm

    1. Your site is nice. You have connected the events with consequences and extracted the morals quite well.

      Destination Infinity

  14. but after mahabharata shakuni ka kya hua ?shakuni ne kI koi santaan nahin thi.but mahabharata ke baad uska kya hua?

    1. Mahabharat Yudh mein Shakuni mar gaya tha na. Mahabharat ke badh woh nahi raha, par unko patha tha ki Pandavon Mahabharat yudh jeetega.

      Destination Infinity

  15. Dear Sir,
    Mahabharta is a culmination of many stories written under a common theme. Even Lord Krishna had plotted the war. Shakuni and Lord Krishna were masters of the game, rest were pawns.

    Krishna knew the plans of Shakuni but could not stop him as man has free will. The Lord can create direction but cannot control man’s freewill. Its this free will that Krishna ensured that the Pandava’s were protected. Krishna knew the truth behind Karna, even tried to dissuade him but a man that has been cast away by his mother but found support in Duryodhana.Duryodhana was made evil. He was used by his uncle because he always acted in haste without thinking.

    Mahabharata is a story where vice, jealousy, hate, love, polyandry, hatred, position, cheating, knavery, bravery, lies, strategy, masterplans were well put together to show how falliable we humans are. its a great advisory as to how events may turn out, how faith in God can thwart best laid plans etc

  16. Am a Hindu and live in Bali. I even never know that Shakuni has 100 brothers too. All I know about his revenues is he did it to Bhisma and kuru heir, ofcourse because bhisma won Ghandari for a blind prince that he can received abt that.

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