Did Yudhisthira lie ?


Image courtesy : hushbabies.com
Image courtesy : hushbabies.com

Every once in a while you come across a personality who has the courage to do the right thing irrespective of the consequences. Yudhisthira’s insistence on following the path of righteousness was an example of such a personality.

On the 15th day of the Kurukshetra war, Drona was at his unconquerable best. Using years of experience and all his divine knowledge, he was wreaking havoc on the Pandava army. Knowing that Drona loved his son Ashwatthama dearly, he asked Bhima to kill an elephant with the same name. Obeying Krishna, Bhima killed an elephant and loudly proclaimed that he had slain Ashwatthama, so as to make Drona believe that his son was dead.

Image courtesy: urday.in
Image courtesy: urday.in

Not believing Bhima, Drona approached Yudhisthira, who was known never to lie and asked him as to whether his son was truly slain in battle to which he replied “Ashwatthama is dead, but, I am not certain whether it was a human or an elephant.

Knowing fully well that Yudhisthira would be unable to lie to Drona on his face, Krishna ensured that the second part of this sentence was completely deafened out to Drona by asking the remaining Pandava warriors to loudly blow on their conches and trumpets.

Hearing only the first part of the reply, Drona dropped down his weapons and sat down in the battlefield in meditation. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Dhristadyumna (who was ordained to take Drona’s life) beheaded Drona thus tilting the advantage in the war on the Pandavas’ side.

Image courtesy: thebravesandsmarts.com
Image courtesy: thebravesandsmarts.com

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This post has been posted for Write Tribe’s 100 words on a Saturday – 6 prompt. The prompt was to write a post with exactly a 100 words using the term “Every once in a while”, but I took the liberty of writing 250 words with the prompt.

33 thoughts on “Did Yudhisthira lie ?

  1. That is the part where there is a fine line between lying and deceit. Yudhishtir knew that Krishna intended drowning out the Kunjaraha part with conch shells and, thus, even though he did not utter a lie, he participated in a deceit. There is a beautiful version that says Yudhishtir’s chariot never touched the ground because he was such a staunch adherent of Dharma but, after this incident, it sank to the ground.

    • @Suresh, yes, I wanted to bring out that version as well in this post, but given that I had already overshot the mandate of 100 words by quite a bit, I left it out. Maybe another post with this included sometime later 🙂 And regarding your point about Yudhisthira being in the know about Krishna’s intentions, I am not too sure about that. But then, if you are saying it, I will take it at face value. Having said that it changes my entire perception about the man himself 😦

      • Jairam! If you heard the version about the chariot sinking THAT can only be in tandem with Yudhishtir participating in the deceit! The way I know of it is that Krishna says that putting his own personal dharma ahead of Raj dharma was incorrect. That it was more important to ensure the welfare of his subjects than to uphold his own vow to speak the truth. (That is an acceptable premise. Every man promises in his wedding vows to protect his wife. If, however, he is King and his wife is guilty of a crime , he had to uphold the dharma of a king ahead of his personal dharma to protect his wife. These are the things that people called dharm-sankat – a clash of two duties) Truth be told, I do not consider this as heinous compared to his having staked his brothers and wife in a dice game.

      • @Suresh, well, that is true, I hadn’t quite given it so much thought I guess.

        And Krishna’s logic makes sense, in fact most of his actions have been justified in the name of the greater good of the greater number, haven’t they? And loved your take on the term “dharm sankat”, maybe either of us can probably write a post on that term someday 😉

        And yes, Yudhisthira’s actions during the game of dice are nothing short of reprehensible, although there is a train of thought which goes that it was a king’s “duty” to play the game of dice and not to refuse an invitation to do so, and that is why he was forced to play the game. As for putting up Draupadi as wager, that is an entirely different story altogether.

  2. Yes, my mom had narrated this story so many times when I was a child insisting that sometimes what is truth for us may not necessarily be truth for another person. Very nice story.

    • @Kajal, glad that this post reminded you of an old childhood tale narrated by your mom 🙂 And yes, one man’s truth is not necessarily another’s.

  3. Aswathhama hatha Kunjaraah ! 🙂

    superb post, Sir 🙂 Loved it…. even my thatha has told me about the chariot remaining above the ground and touching the ground after this lie 🙂 And it’s more like, no man can be perfect in any way….so there had to be some moment when Dharmaputhra’s perfection with truth had to be tested !
    So many smal stories, but so much meaning embedded !

    • @Sreeja, I don’t know if I am old enough to be called “Sir” in any form 🙂

      Yes, Indian epics have so many small stories and incidents embedded in them which are full of learnings, and these posts are just a humble attempt to highlight some of them, that’s all.

  4. I am very impressed with the way you have used the prompt. I have read this story as a child but re-reading it brought alive the character yudhishtra was for us… I thoroughly enjoy mythological writings, going to read more of you now 🙂

    • @Richa, thank you so much 🙂 Welcome to the blog, enjoy all my posts on mythology which I do write quite a bit of 🙂

  5. There is so much mystery in all its events. If I can’t understand and accept much of Mahabharata, how am I to teach the kids about them? They are showing it on Star Plus now. About how Karan was born. How do I explain this to my kids? 🙂

    • @Jyothi, that’s where the power of ‘magic’ and ‘divinity’ comes in. You need to tell your kids that Kunti prayed to the Sun God and he granted her a son in the form of Karna, that’s all 🙂

    • @Menons, ‘Pandit’, not by a long shot, but interested in mythological stories, yes 🙂 Thanks for the kind words 😀

  6. Again a great retelling Jairam! Often while hearing such tales from Mahabharata (and there are many) I wonder was this all fair? The advice that Krishna gives, isn’t it deceit? This only makes the saying ‘ all is fair in love and war’ true…no?

    • @Aditi, well, in my opinion Krishna did what was right for the greater good of the greater number, so while some of his actions might have been wrong per se, in the bigger picture they made absolute sense.

  7. Just saw Suresh ji’s comments…I didn’t know about Yudhishtir’s chariot…interesting! Would love to read more about this dharm-sankat….would be great if you can take eg from this epic and narrate!

    • @Aditi, sure I will go ahead and put up a post regarding Yudhisthira’s chariot with an additional story/ies if possible, an idea just popped into my head 🙂

    • @Vaayadi Pennu, thank you so much, it really is an honor to have reminded you of something as wonderful as Amar Chitra Katha 🙂

  8. Loved this post. Maybe today is my day to visit Mahabharata and Kurukshetra as i have been reading Krishna’s Key the second time. Yudhisthira as an epitome of truth couldn’t escape from the clutches of untruth.You are born story teller 🙂

    • @Sunita, thank you so much 😀 Glad you enjoyed the post, keep looking out for more such mythological posts 🙂

  9. Nice episode from the Mahaboreata! 🙂
    I think Yudhisthira was a willing participant in the deception, even though Krishna may have planned it.
    The good part about the Mahabharata and the Ramayana is that no human being (even the avataras of Vishnu) is shown as perfect.
    BTW, is the name Yudhisthira (as in your post) or Yudhishthira (as on the Amar Chitra Katha cover)?

    • @Proactive Indian, even I am inclined to believe that Yudhisthira participated in the deceit. And since the name is a proper noun I guess it can be spelt either way 🙂

  10. As Kajal said, one man’s meat is another man’s poison and the truth that we may want to hear is not necessarily universal truth. M tired of saying that ur narration is compelling and I am urging you to come up with your own version of Mahabharatha and Ramayana.

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