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Did Yudhishthira deserve to be King after the Kurukshetra War?

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Posted: 21 February 2018 at 6:02am | IP Logged

I am asking a very controversial question with respect to the Mahabharata.

I am aware that whenever the Pandavas get questioned for their actions in the epic, such questions get shut out with one generic answer - Krishna supported the Pandavas.

Well, Krishna supported the Pandavas DESPITE Yudhishthira staking the kingdom, his brothers, and wife (not talking about win or loss or whatever, but the action of staking itself). And Draupadi was the only one who questioned the Pandavas. So, if Draupadi could question her husbands, I think anyone else can too.

Please bear in mind that this is just my opinion. I am aware that the Kurukshetra War was fought for reasons other than avenging Draupadi's humiliation. I am also aware that the Pandavas and Draupadi were exiled after the SECOND dice game. But, this exile CANNOT be regarded as a punishment for the Pandavas owing to the events of the first dice game - when EVERYTHING happened. Draupadi ensured that they were freed from enslavement and got the kingdom back after the first dice game - even after suffering so much humiliation. But then came the second dice game, and the exile...

The exile after the second dice game had NO connection whatsoever with the first dice game.

"Sakuni then said,--'The old king hath given ye back all your wealth. That is well. But, O bull of the Bharata race, listen to me, there is a stake of great value. Either defeated by ye at dice, dressed in deer skins we shall enter the great forest and live there for twelve years passing the whole of the thirteenth year in some inhabited region, unrecognised, and if recognised return to an exile of another twelve years; or vanquished by us, dressed in deer skins ye shall, with Krishna, live for twelve years in the woods passing the whole of the thirteenth year unrecognised, in some inhabited region. If recognised, an exile of another twelve years is to be the consequence. On the expiry of the thirteenth year, each is to have his kingdom surrendered by the other. O Yudhishthira, with this resolution, play with us, O Bharata, casting the dice.'

"Sakuni answered,--'We have many kine and horses, and milch cows, and an infinite number of goats and sheep; and elephants and treasures and gold and slaves both male and female. All these were staked by us before but now let this be our one stake, viz., exile into the woods,--being defeated either ye or we will dwell in the woods (for twelve years) and the thirteenth year, unrecognised, in some inhabited place. Ye bulls among men, with this determination, will we play."

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m02/m02075.htm

As we all know, Panchali's humiliation got avenged in the Kurukshetra War.

But, what about the staking of the kingdom itself? Did Yudhishthira have any moral right to ask back the kingdom after the exile, as well as become the king after the Kurukshetra War considering the events of the first dice game - when he had staked literally everything and everyone?

The capital of the Pandavas was established at Indraprastha. But to whom did it truly belong?

Did it belong to the janta of Indraprastha who were happily flourishing under the Pandava rule? Let's face facts - The Pandavas and Draupadi put in a lot of hard work to transform a barren piece of land to the central seat of power in Aryavarta.

Or did Indraprastha belong to Yudhishthira and Yudhishthira alone - which might explain why he had no hesitation whatsoever in staking a kingdom that he thought was his personal property? 

Was it even his personal property to begin with? Let's see...

Draupadi's role in Indraprastha -

The Draupadi-Satyabhama samvaad is often cited as an example to prove that Draupadi was the ideal wife to the Pandavas. But, the samvaad ALSO talks about Draupadi's own role as the Queen of Indraprastha (and later Empress of Aryavarta) -

Formerly, eight thousand Brahmanas were daily fed in the palace of Yudhishthira from off plates of gold. And eighty thousand Brahmanas also of the Snataka sect leading domestic lives were entertained by Yudhishthira with thirty serving-maids assigned to each. Besides these, ten thousand yatis with the vital seed drawn up, had their pure food carried unto them in plates of gold. All these Brahamanas that were the utterers of the Veda, I used to worship duly with food, drink, and raiment taken from stores only after a portion thereof had been dedicated to the Viswadeva. The illustrious son of Kunti had a hundred thousand well-dressed serving-maids with bracelets on arms and golden ornaments on necks, and decked with costly garlands and wreaths and gold in profusion, and sprinkled with sandal paste. And adorned with jewels and gold they were all skilled in singing and dancing. O lady, I knew the names and features of all those girls, as also what they are and what they were, and what they did not. Kunti's son of great intelligence had also a hundred thousand maid-servants who daily used to feed guests, with plates of gold in their hands. And while Yudhishthira lived in Indraprastha a hundred thousand horses and a hundred thousand elephants used to follow in his train. These were the possessions of Yudhisthira while he ruled the earth. It was I however, O lady, who regulated their number and framed the rules to be observed in respect of them; and it was I who had to listen to all complaints about them. Indeed, I knew everything about what the maid-servants of the palace and other classes of attendants, even the cow-herds and the shepherds of the royal establishment, did or did not. O blessed and illustrious lady, it was I alone amongst the Pandavas who knew the income and expenditure of the king and what their whole wealth was. And those bulls among the Bharatas, throwing upon me the burden of looking after all those that were to be fed by them, would, O thou of handsome face, pay their court to me. And this load, so heavy and incapable of being borne by persons of evil heart, I used to bear day and night, sacrificing my ease, and all the while affectionately devoted to them. And while my husbands were engaged in the pursuit of virtue, I only supervised their treasury inexhaustible like the ever-filled receptacle of Varuna. 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03231.htm


Roles of Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva during the Rajsuya yagya -

The epic states that Narada muni paid a visit to the Pandavas and suggested the idea of conducting the Rajsuya yagya

O king of the Kuru race, O son of Kunti, thy father Pandu, beholding the good fortune of Harischandra and wondering much thereat, hath told thee something. Knowing that I was coming to the world of men, he bowed unto me and said,--Thou shouldst tell Yudhishthira, O Rishi, that he can subjugate the whole Earth inasmuch as his brothers are all obedient to him. And having done this let him commence the grand sacrifice called Rajasuya. He is my son; if he performeth that sacrifice, I may, like Harischandra, soon attain to the region of Indra, and there in his Sabha pass countless years in continuous joy. I told him in reply,--O King, I shall tell thy son all this, if I go to the world of man. I have now told thee what he said, O tiger among men. Accomplish then, O son of Pandu, the desires of thy father. If thou performest that sacrifice, thou shall then be able to go, along with thy deceased ancestors, into the same region that is inhabited by the chief of the immortals. It hath been said,--O king, that the performance of this great sacrifice is attended with many obstacles. A class of Rakshasas called Brahma Rakshasas, employed in obstructing all sacrifices, always search for loop-holes when this great sacrifice is commenced. On the commencement of such a sacrifice a war may take place destroying the Kshatriyas and even furnishing occasion for the destruction of the whole Earth. A slight obstacle may involve the whole Earth in ruin. Reflecting upon all this, O king of kings do what is for thy good. Be thou watchful and ready in protecting the four orders of thy subjects. Grow, thou in prosperity, and enjoy thou felicity. Gratify thou the Brahmanas with gifts of wealth. I have now answered in detail all that thou hast asked me. With thy leave I will now go to the city (Dwaravati) of that Dasarhas."

Vaisampayana said,--'O Janamejaya, having said this unto the son of Pritha, Narada went away, accompanied by those Rishis with whom he had come. And after Narada had gone away, king Yudhishthira, O thou of the Kuru race, began to think, along with his brothers, of that foremost of sacrifices called Rajasuya.'

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m02/m02012.htm

As we all know, Bhima killed Jarasandha as part of commencing the subjugation of kings for the purpose of the Rajsuya yagya. 

After that, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva went on their own individual yatras to subjugate the kings in each of the four directions so as to ensure that the whole of Aryavarta came under Yudhishthira's rule.

"Thus addressed, Arjuna, surrounded by a large host, set out in that celestial car of wonderful achievements he had obtained from Agni. And Bhimasena also, and those bull among men, the twins, dismissed with affection by Yudhishthira the just set out, each at the head of a large army. And Arjuna, the son of the chastiser of Paka then brought under subjugation that direction (the North) which was presided over by the Lord of treasures. And Bhimasena overcome by force the East and Sahadeva the South, and Nakula, O king, acquainted with all the weapons, conquered the West.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m02/m02025.htm

The yatras of each of these four Pandavas is described in greater detail in the epic.

Now, comes the most important question If all this hard work was put in by Draupadi, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva to look after Indraprastha and conquer the whole of Aryavarta, what was Yudhishthira's role in all of this?

Surprise, surprise - NOTHING.

It is clearly stated that while his brothers were hard at work conquering kingdoms, Yudhishthira was basically doing timepass (no, really).

Thus while his brothers were so employed, the exalted king Yudishthira the just stayed within Khandavaprastha in the enjoyment of great affluence in the midst of friends and relatives."

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m02/m02025.htm

Then, is it any surprise that Yudhishthira actually bothered to stake his kingdom in a game of chance? I mean, when he himself had put in absolutely no efforts to establish his kingdom as well as conquer other kingdoms, how would he have understood the amount of hard work that was put in by others (his brothers and Draupadi) to get him what he desired?

No wonder the kingdom got staked by Yudhishthira just like that.

Please don't bring in the issues of dharma and Dwapara yuga morals here.

Considering Yudhishthira agreed to play dice on account of Kshatriya dharma, does this Kshatriya dharma also permit a king (the Emperor of Aryavarta, no less) to stake his kingdom in a game of dice, and offer it to the opposition on a platter?

And all this despite Yudhishthira being fully aware that deceit was being used in the dice game.

Yudhishthira said,--"Thou hast won this stake of me by unfair means. But be not so proud, O Sakuni. Let us play staking thousands upon thousands. I have many beautiful jars each full of a thousand Nishkas in my treasury, inexhaustible gold, and much silver and other minerals. This, O king, is the wealth with which I will stake with thee!'"

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m02/m02060.htm

Yudhishthira said,--'I have my city, the country, land, the wealth of all dwelling therein except of the Brahmanas, and all those persons themselves except Brahmanas still remaining to me. With this wealth, O king, I will play with thee.'

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m02/m02064.htm

Coming to Dwapara yuga morals, if kingdoms could be won over and lost just like that at the drop of a hat, what would be the need to wage wars and conquer kingdoms at all? Please let me know if there was someone else as well during the Dwapara yuga who had actually done the same deed that Yudhishthira did.

Also, as per Dwapara yuga morals, is there no value for hard work that was put in by other people? Did all that hard work by Draupadi, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeva (to transform Khandavaprastha as the seat of power in Aryavarta) ultimately account for nothing - if it could all be given away so easily in a game of dice? 

Did the concept of "shram or "hard work get established only in the Kali yuga?

I am aware that the dice game was organized precisely to take away the possessions of the Pandavas (by hook or crook). But who asked Yudhishthira to stake his kingdom at all (deceit or no deceit)? Did either Shakuni or Duryodhana ask or even force him to stake his kingdom?

In Indraprastha, who did the hard work and who enjoyed the fruits of such labour without any effort? Who was truly in charge of Indraprastha? Did Yudhishthira have any authority to stake his kingdom considering the efforts put in by others? In my view, in addition to questioning her own staking, Draupadi should've also questioned the staking of the kingdom as well.

Additionally, did Yudhishthira have any moral authority to become king after the Kurukshetra War, considering he had, in the past, actually staked and lost EVERYTHING (including his kingdom) and EVERYONE (his brothers and wife)? 

If any king stakes his kingdom in a game of dice, what right does he have to rule over others?

At the start of Shanti Parva, Yudhishthira does this big pralaap of not wanting to become king owing to survivor's guilt and trauma on account of war casualties (which leads to a lot of placating and coaxing on everybody's part including Draupadi and Krishna).

But, the most incredulous thing is that he does NOT admit even once that he is unfit to be king as he had, at one point, dared to stake his kingdom, brothers, and wife as if the efforts of other people meant nothing to him.

So did Yudhishthira deserve to be king at all even after the war?

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Posted: 21 February 2018 at 10:01am | IP Logged
A big no from me.. I am delighted some one is there to echo my thoughts. Actually in my The Fateful Evening when Krishna and Arjun visit Indraprasth after war people question Arjun the same..how could they be staked ..along with their beloved queen of Indraprasth.
Thanks for such a thoughtful,sensible and wonderful article..Thanks a lot.


I could only say one thing that you already said ,that I expressed in my story

One who knows the hard work that goes into earning anything could know the value..but not that person for whom everything is offered on a platter...


Regards...



Lakshmi 

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Posted: 22 February 2018 at 1:32am | IP Logged
"That prince of wonderful energy and prowess, however, reflecting upon virtue and righteousness, again set his heart to find out what would be for the good of all his people. For Yudhishthira, that foremost of all virtuous men, always kind unto his subjects, worked for the good of all without making any distinctions. Indeed, shaking off both anger and arrogance,Yudhishthira always said,--Give unto each what is due to each,--and the only sounds that he could hear were,--Blessed be Dharma! Blessed be Dharma! Yudhishthira, conducting himself thus and giving paternal assurance to everybody, there was none in the kingdom who entertained any hostile feelings towards him. He therefore came to be called Ajatasatru (one with no enemy at all). The king cherished every one as belonging to his family.

Owing to all this, the kingdom became free from disputes and fear of every kind. All the people became attentive to their respective occupations. The rain became so abundant as to leave no room for desiring more; and the kingdom grew in prosperity. And in consequence of the virtues of the king, money-lenders, the articles required for sacrifices, cattle-rearing, tillage, and traders, all and everything grew in prosperity. Indeed, during the reign of Yudhishthira who was ever devoted to truth, there was no extortion, no stringent realisation of arrears of rent, no fear of disease, of fire, or of death by poisoning and incantations, in the kingdom. It was never heard at that time that thieves or cheats or royal favourites ever behaved wrongfully towards the king or towards one another amongst themselves. Kings conquered on the six occasions (of war, treaty, &c.) were wont to wait upon him in order to do good unto the monarch and worship him ever, while the traders of different classes came to pay him the taxes leviable on their respective occupations. And accordingly during the reign of Yudhishthira who was ever devoted to virtue, his dominion grew in prosperity. Indeed, the prosperity of the kingdom was increased not by these alone but even by persons wedded to voluptuousness and indulging in all luxuries to their fill. And the king of kings, Yudhishthira, whose sway extended over all, was possessed of every accomplishment and bore everything with patience. And, O king, whatever countries the celebrated and illustrious monarch conquered, the people everywhere, from Brahmanas to swains, were all more attached to him than to their own fathers and mothers."

So, if he did timepass the during his reign all the time, then how did the above things happened? There were none like him in the Bharatavarsha worthy of being a king, other than Krishna and Balarama. Yudhishthira did not fight because he did not like violence and he had his younger brothers who fought. 

"The ruler, O child, of the city or the province where king Yudhishthira resides cannot have any misfortune. Charitable and liberal and humble and modest must the people be of the country where king Yudhishthira resides. Agreeable in speech, with passions under control, observant of truth, cheerful, healthy, pure in conduct, and skilful in work must the people be of the country where king Yudhishthira resides. The people of the place, where Yudhishthira is, cannot be envious or malicious, or vain, or proud, but must all adhere to their respective duties. Indeed, in the place where Yudhishthira resides, Vedic hymns will be chanted all around, sacrifices will be performed, the last full libations will always be poured, [22] and gifts to Brahmanas will always be in profusion. There the clouds, without doubt, pour abundant rain, and furnished with good harvest the country will ever be without fear. There the paddy will not be without grain, fruits will not be bereft of juice, floral garlands will not be without fragrance, and the conversation of men will always be full of agreeable words. There where king Yudhishthira resides, the breezes will be delicious, the meetings of men will always be friendly, and cause of fear there will be none. There kine will be plentiful, without any of them being lean-fleshed or weak, and milk and curds and butter will all be savoury and nutritious. There where king Yudhishthira resides, every kind of corn will be full of nutrition and every edible full of flavour. There where king Yudhishthira resides, the objects of all the senses, viz.,--taste, touch, smell, and hearing, will be endued with excellent attributes. There where king Yudhishthira resides, the sights and scenes will be gladdening. And the regenerate ones of that place will be virtuous and steady in observing their respective duties. Indeed, in the country where the sons of Pandu may have taken up their abode during this thirteenth year of their exile, the people will be contented and cheerful, pure in conduct and without misery of any kind. Devoted to gods and guests and the worship of these with their whole soul, they will be fond of giving away, and filled with great energy, they will all be observant of eternal virtue. There where king Yudhishthira resides, the people, eschewing all that is evil, will be desirous of achieving only what is good. Always observant of sacrifices and pure vows, and hating untruth in speech, the people of the place where king Yudhishthira may reside will always be desirous of obtaining what is good, auspicious and beneficial. There where Yudhishthira resides, the people will certainly be desirous of achieving what is good, and their hearts will always incline towards virtue, and their vows being agreeable they themselves are ever-engaged in the acquisition of religious merit."

How much he deserved to be a king, and why Krishna was not a fool to chosoe him to rule the entire Bharatavarsha?

The above lines state the answers. 


"We then saw something that was wonderful in Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, for though very mild and soft, he then became exceedingly fierce. With eyes opened wide and body trembling in rage, the son of Kunti cut off hostile warriors in hundreds and thousands by means of his sharp shafts. Those amongst the soldiers against whom the eldest Pandava proceeded, were overthrown by him, O king, like mountain summits riven with thunder. Felling cars with steeds and drivers and standards and throwing down car-warriors in large numbers, Yudhishthira, without any assistance, began to sport there like a mighty wind destroying masses of clouds. Filled with rage, he destroyed steeds with riders and steeds without riders and foot-soldiers by thousands in that battle, like Rudra destroying living creatures (at the time of the universal dissolution)."

Yudhishthira was a good warrior, but didn't like the notion of violence and thus never fought unprovoked. Here, he fought for Dharma. He always did, exception being the dyutsabha. While everyone protected him, he gave a new life to his dead brothers. There is no question of deserving the throne for him. He was the only one who deserved it, despite committing mistakes cause he had the true repentance/pashchattap bhaav. 


Edited by KalyaniPanchali - 26 February 2018 at 1:30pm

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Posted: 25 February 2018 at 4:49pm | IP Logged
King in those days did not go on conquering missions themselves, most of the them. It was the norm to send brothers or sons in their stead, because the King was the most important person in the Kingdom, in that if he got defeated or killed, the entire kingdom was lost and bound to another King. It affected not only the royal family but the entire praja. That is why, Yudhisthira was neither the first King to 'sit back' and allow his brothers to conquer other kingdoms, nor was he the last. That was simply Raj dharma. 
Moreover, Yudhisthira was not a lazy King who 'did nothing'. He was the emperor of Aryavarta after the Rajasuya, and along with Draupadi he was immersed in the politics of running a Kingdim which he was good at. Politics and Raj neeti were his strengths, just like physical prowess was more the forte of the other Pandavas. If the other Pandavas protected the Kingdom from enemies, Yudhisthira actually did the running of it as he has a shrewd and clever mind, both of them essential for a King. Yudhisthira deserved to be a King because he was a good King. Even Duryodhana admitted that, the Kauravas and Kuru elders knew that.

As for the dyut sabha, the terms of the second dice game were that if the Pandavas served 13 years of exile, Duryodhana would return Indraprastha to them. Those were the terms. That is why the Pandavas requested their kingdom back. The Pandavas fulfilled their end of the bargain, but Duryodhana refused to fulfill his. That is why the war was started. 

As for the gambling itself, believe it or not, it actually was common for Kings back then to bet their entire wealth and even their Kingdoms in dice games. It was not an admirable thing, but it was common in that era. King Nala, an ancestor of the Kurus and the husband of Damayanti, lost his kingdom when he wagered it in dice, and the Mahabharata lists names of other Kings who did the same. Even the Kuru elders did not protest the dice game when both Duryodhana and Yudhisthira wagered their kingdoms, because politically it was not considered wrong or shocking. 

Despite the dyut sabha, Yudhisthira still deserved to be King, because he was the only one in the Pandavas with the political acumen fit for a King, and he was genuinely a good and effective King to the praja of Indraprastha. He made mistakes, but he also did good deeds too. If he bet his brothers in dice, he also brought them back to life. If he bet his kingdom, he restored the kingdom after the war and established a righteous rule which was missing for many years. People shouldn't be blinded in their bias and hatred against a character and paint him as unworthy despite the story proving otherwise.

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Posted: 26 February 2018 at 12:14am | IP Logged
For me a big no too. 
And great analysis, see in short, it was a dharma war but was Y completely white? 

Nope. 

Btw, this got me thinking. If Y didn't put Drapuadi at stake, MB wouldnt have taken place. He created the situation, and then through the reactions that followed, he became the hero. 

There are texts saying that, among all the pandavs, Y was the most white, that's why he could reach the mountain but this leaves room for interpretation. 


Could someone clarify this for me please? According to the traditions, the one who is elder, and whose dad is king should be king right? Ascribed status. Therefore, from this angle, it is hard to actually decide who was the actual rightful successor. A schold of thought saying D's dad was interim king, and Pandu was real one, then by ascribed status, Karna deserved the throne. (Read http://riddlesinmahabharat.blogspot.com/2014/09/who-was-real-successor-duryodhan-or_10.html

Now indraprash, I agree, that he staked it and thus lost it. Quite confused, if it was his in the first place.


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Posted: 26 February 2018 at 12:55am | IP Logged
Originally posted by Y12345

For me a big no too. 
And great analysis, see in short, it was a dharma war but was Y completely white? 

He made mistakes, He was a flawed character. Whatever mistakes he made, he made them out of confusion of Dharma but not with any evil intention. 

Nope. 

Btw, this got me thinking. If Y didn't put Drapuadi at stake, MB wouldnt have taken place. He created the situation, and then through the reactions that followed, he became the hero. 

Mahabharata didn't took place just because of the dyutsabha. It dates back to the day Bhishma's oath took place. And no one, but God "creates" situations. Dharma raj was not a God to do that. He didn't have the war in his mind when he staked Draupadi. He never became a hero, though he was a hero. Half of the world blames him, without understanding the situation he was put in. When did he become a hero?

There are texts saying that, among all the pandavs, Y was the most white, that's why he could reach the mountain but this leaves room for interpretation. 

He was not the most white, he was the only one among all who completed his repentance, and was detached from the world. Despite his mistakes, he made himself a pure man with repentance. That is why he reached the swarga first. But he never thought selfishly even then, that he wanted to stay in hell for his brothers and wife. That was his final test, and he passed it with flying colours. 


Could someone clarify this for me please? According to the traditions, the one who is elder, and whose dad is king should be king right? Ascribed status. Therefore, from this angle, it is hard to actually decide who was the actual rightful successor. A schold of thought saying D's dad was interim king, and Pandu was real one, then by ascribed status, Karna deserved the throne. (Read http://riddlesinmahabharat.blogspot.com/2014/09/who-was-real-successor-duryodhan-or_10.html

Karna was not a pandava, cause King Pandu wasn't aware of his existence. By that logic, it's Dharmaraj who deserved the throne. Also, he was the only one fully capable and deserving of not only Hastinapura throne, but of the Bharatavarsha's. 

Now indraprash, I agree, that he staked it and thus lost it. Quite confused, if it was his in the first place.

It was his, and that's what the norm was. He was the king. There is nothing wrong in staking a Kingdom, ethically in the Dwapara yuga.
But Gambling itself was generally (in all yugas) is adharmic. That's what Dharmaraj told to Shakuni, but following his Kshatriya Dharma and putra dharma, he had to do it. 




Edited by KalyaniPanchali - 26 February 2018 at 5:55am

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Posted: 26 February 2018 at 4:46am | IP Logged
Originally posted by Y12345

For me a big no too. 
And great analysis, see in short, it was a dharma war but was Y completely white? 

Nope. 

Btw, this got me thinking. If Y didn't put Drapuadi at stake, MB wouldnt have taken place. He created the situation, and then through the reactions that followed, he became the hero. 



The war did not happen just due to the dyut sabha and vastra haran. Many events started the brewing of it. Like KalyaniPanchali said, it began when Bhishma made his vows and gave up the throne which was rightfully his, it began when he kidnapped three princesses of Kashi and ruined the life of Amba, it began when Ambika and Ambalika were forced into sleeping with a man they did not want to, thus giving birth to a blind man and sickly man. It began when Dhritarashtra was denied the throne due to his blindness and began his jealousy. It began when Pandu, a righteous ruler, died and the question of the throne was put into dilemma. It began when the Pandavas arrived at Hastinapura and Duryodhana made attempts to kill Bhima and also then (Varnavat), thus cementing the enmity between the cousins. It began when Hasintapura was divided and Duryodhana became jealous over the success of Indraprastha. 

The dyut sabha and vastra haran were the final point which basically guaranteed the war, but even then, the Pandavas gave Duryodhana every opportunity to avoid it. They even requested a mere five villages when they deserved their rightful kingdom, Indraprastha (as I mentioned, Duryodhana had promised to give it back after the exile). Duryodhana wanted it all, and even more than that, he wanted war, so it happened. 

Also, Yudhisthira is never mentioned as white in the epic. None of the characters except for Lord Krishna were white or black. They were all gray-shaded, some more than others. The reason Yudhisthira attained heaven in the end, is because he became truly detached from human life, which is essential to reach moksha. The other Pandavas still had some attachment, which is why they died along the way. Also, Yudhisthira denied heaven for hell because his brothers and wife were in hell (which was an illusion), thus passing the test, and all six of them attained Narayana loka, the highest form of heaven, for serving Krishna their entire life. 

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