The unforgettable character of Shakuni in the Mahabharata embodies a blend of cunning intelligence and vengeful intent, playing a significant role in the events leading to the Kurukshetra war. His influence, particularly on Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, was profound, rooted in a desire for retribution against Bhishma rather than sheer malevolence.
Shakuni’s connection to the Kauravas stems from his sister Gandhari’s marriage to Dhritarashtra. Initially repulsed by the alliance due to Dhritarashtra’s blindness, Shakuni and his father, Subala, felt powerless to prevent the union. Some accounts mention Gandhari being Manglik, leading to her marriage to a tree to offset the astrological flaw. Enraged by this revelation, Dhritarashtra ordered the massacre of Gandhari’s family. Imprisoned and subjected to severe maltreatment, they were given minimal sustenance. Subala, having 100 sons including Shakuni, sacrificed his share of food to ensure Shakuni’s survival, driven by a desire for vengeance. Blessed by his father, Shakuni vowed to become a skilled statesman and sought retribution against Hastinapur.
His path for revenge included manipulating Duryodhana, exploiting his impressionable nature, and fueling discord within the family. Although his attempts to eliminate the Pandavas or poison Bhima failed, Shakuni’s pivotal role emerged in the fateful game of dice. Crafted from his father’s bones, the dice allegedly harbored Subala’s soul, aiding Shakuni in ensuring the Pandavas’ repeated losses, driving them to destitution.
While actively participating in the Kurukshetra war on the Kauravas’ side, Shakuni was consumed by his vendetta, caring little for his own life. Despite some victories and defeats against other warriors, his demise came at the hands of Sahadeva, sworn to avenge Draupadi’s disrobing, thus ending Shakuni’s scheme.
Shakuni, portrayed as a malevolent figure, harbored a history of torment and revenge that consumed his being, overshadowing any sense of mercy or compassion. His character delves into the depths of a singular pursuit for payback, eclipsing any semblance of humanity within him.