The Book of Assembly Hall Questions and Answers

The Book of Assembly Hall Questions and Answers



Essay Type Questions with Answer

Q. 1.How was Draupadi humiliated in The Book of Assembly Hall?

Ans. Born of sacred tire, Draupadi, the tragic heroine of The Mahabharata seems to be walking through the fire in her life. She is married off to the five brothers without consulting her. She was anointed as queen, but very soon was put as a stake during a dice game and was lost. Unaware of all the happenings in the dice game, Draupadi was suddenly announced that she has become a maid and now she had to do the bidding of her new master. This sudden twist of fortune seems to have shocked Draupadi. She was sitting in her private chamber wearing only one piece of cloth and was having her menstruation period. She refused to accept her status as a maid and also tried to avoid going in front of so many male member in the assembly. But she was forcibly taken to the assembly by pulling her hair. Stained with the blood, bleeding and trembling Draupadi was not only taken to the assembly, but an attempt was made to disrobe her in front of everybody. Draupadi was unaware of the things that had happened in the court and was at a loss how to react to Pratikami. She says,
Why, O Pratikamin, dost thou say so?”
She also expresses surprise that a prince can stake his wife! She also asks if the king did not find anything else to stake.
Pratikami explains the sequence in which the king had lost everything; his wealth, kingdom, then his brothers, then himself and finally Draupadi. Now when Draupadi was informed that Yudhishthira had first lost himself and then staked her, she probably thinks if she can save herself by argument that if Yudhishthira had lost himself first, he had no right to stake her. Draupadi gets angry with Yudhishthira, she refers to him in a very disrespectful manner as a gambler and says to Pratikami, “O son of the Suta race, go, and ask that gambler present in the assembly, whom he hath lost first, himself, or me. Ascertaining this, come hither, and then take me with
thee. O son of the Suta race” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)

Q. 2.Why is the part named The Book of Assembly Hall?

Ans. Most of the proceedings of this Parva take place in an assembly hall, a kind of longhouse for the men in which to hold council and entertainment, and it is from such a hall that the Parva takes its title. There are two halls involved, the one at Indraprastha and the other at Hastinapura. It is Indraprastha hall that becomes a bone of contention, it is in the Hastinapura hall where it all ends.
The hall at Indraprastha was newly built by an Asura, Maya by name, who had been saved from the fire of the Khandava Forest, which concluded the Adi Parva. So magnificent was that hall that it excited the envy of Kaurava’s cousin Duryodhana, and this envy led to the game at dice on whose outcome the rest of the Mahabharata hangs. When Yudhisthira has reached the pinnacle of temporal power as the acknowledged suzerain of the entire worlds, he is challenged to the game. Why he felt he had to accept the challenge is a question that is not fully addressed in the Parva. It is sufficed to note, however, that there is a conspicuous thread in the Parva: the settlement
in Indraprastha needs a hall the hall needs validation as a royal court through the Royal consecration – it evokes the others’ envy – and brings about a game in another hall where Yudhishthira loses all Maya went to the mountain Mainaka lying on the north of Kailasa which was in the North-East region and brought a club, conch and building material composed of crystals and jewels. He presented that mighty club to Bhima and the conch named Devadatta to Arjuna and built a mansion for Dharmaraja. The son of Kunti entered that palace after performing the propitiatory rites.

Q. 3. Comment on Dharma, Dicing and Draupadi in The Book of the Assembly Hall

Ans. Dharma in the context of the Mahabharata cannot be confined to its religious meaning. It is a concept that evades simplistic definition to encompass a number of considerations; social rituals, law and order, morality, ethics and personal virtue -all fall under its purview. Although certain principles such as compassion, non-violence and rectitude may be regarded as its base foundation it demands continual evolution so as to properly resolve morality ambiguous quandaries. The relativistic and nuanced quality of Dharma and the difficulty of its application become apparent in the Book of Assembly Hall when the Pandavas are invited to a dicing game with Kouravas. The questions that arise out of the match about inalienable rights of selfhood, the conflict between human law and the greater cosmic law and an individual’s duties to oneself and the state would be reiterated throughout the later chapters of the epic.
The malleability of the concept of Dharma is exploited by Duryodhana when he justifies his envy of the Pandavas’ success and his drive to bring them lows the ideal Kshatriya’s need to subjugate one’s rivals. With Shakuni’s help he rationalizes the use of trickery to impoverish and humiliate Yudhisthira and by extension the Pandavas once and for all. Yudhisthira on the other hand is aware of the pitfalls of accepting the invitation to dicing but is compelled to obey as such was his vow and also since it came from Dhritharashtra, his elder. Moreover the Rajsuya Consecration that he had performed demanded a ritualistic coda of dicing. Bound by his Dharma of obedience and observation of ritual, urged on by his fondness of the game and crippled by his lack of expertise in it Yudhisthira agrees to the disastrous match as if it were inevitable.
While Shakuni and his cabal reduce the Pandavas to destitution in the throes of a gambling frenzy Yudhisthira stakes and loses not only himself and his brothers but also Draupadi, their wife. A petrified audience has to bear witness to the public humiliation of the queen of Indraprastha at the hands of her royal in-laws. Draupadi however refuses to remain a passive and silent victim. She questions the validity of the wager. Learned and scholarly, she does not bargain for mercy but as a supplicant demands justice according to the precepts of law. Yudhisthira remains silent while Bhisma chooses inaction by claiming the matter too subtle to be resolved. Vikarna, one of Yudhisthira’s sons merely quibbles about the technicalities of patriarchal ownership of wives and when that may be forfeit while Vidura could only urge the King to dispense justice as otherwise it would be a crime in itself. Draupadi’s public shaming and the subsequent inertia of the court reveal the inadequacy of Kshatriya dharma. Her inquiry not only encompasses the issue of ownership and autonomy of women within the hierarchy of marriage bu…lso threatens to undo the foundation of the moral and legal authority of kings.
a Alone and friendless she gets aid not from the dharmasastris but from an unseen force that clothes her repeatedly as Dussasana attempts to render her bare. She still has to bear further indignities before unsettled by evil portents of chaos Dhritharashtra stirs to action and grants her boons to free her husbands from bondage. She denies ; third boon as ‘greed kills laws’ and thus exposes Duryodhana’s ambitions as lawful. However Draupadi’s questions about the sovereignty of the individual, remains unanswered. The Kshatriya kings had failed to rise above the temporal customs of the realpolitik; they did not comprehend how dharma circumscribed higher concerns of balance and disorder, right and wrong.
On a thematic level the Dicing episode posits dharma as cosmic balance and harmony that nonetheless inspires conflict due to its inscrutability. The subtleties and nuances of dharma would continue to pose riddles to the characters of the epic and would help evolve their ideas of proper conduct. On a diegetic level the episode deals with antithesis, for example, the victorious king is brought low by the roll of the dice, the call for justice develops into inaction, the observation of dharma reveals the adharma of custom and ambition of a better life courts death; these events of contrary aims and results help produce a greater dialectical understanding.

4 .Discuss the Mahabharata in the light of the epic tradition.

Ans. The Western literary tradition recognizes the Homeric compositions – the Iliad and the Odyssey as examples of epic poetry. These long narrative poems of elevated style are centered on warlike heroes questing for eternal reputation or yearning for a lost homestead. The epics were orally transmitted works that embody the struggle of frail humanity against the anxieties of morality. Although the Sanskrit works the Ramayana and the Mahabharata may be broadly classified as epics along the lines of the Western tradition, their considerable differences from the Western epics require closer examination.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were classified in the Hindu literary tradition as ‘adikavya’ meaning the first poetic work’ and ‘itihasa’ i.e. ‘chronicle’ respectively according to J.L. Brockington in The Sanskrit Epics. The chronological nature of the Mahabharata implies that it was recited or ‘spoken’ by a sage instead of ‘sung’ as was the case for the Homeric epics. Textual evidence reveals that the extant Mahabharata is a final product of a long bardic (Celtic Tradition) tradition that had merged with religious and didactic musings with a clear Vedic heritage.
The epic, Mahabharata consists of long rhythmical prose passages and over 100,000 ‘slokas’ or couplets composed mainly in the modified ‘Anustubh’ verse form while in certain sections the ‘Tristubh’ meter is also employed as in the Bhagavat Gita. The literary style of the Mahabharata is an amalgamation of a diverse range of influences – from the prose styles of the Brahmanas, Upanishads and Puranas to the later ‘kavya’ style of poets like Kalidasa. The text employs such poetic expressions as the metaphor and the antithesis, while the more ornate and elaborate ‘alamkaras’ of the ‘kavya’ style are absent. Moreover the epic similes drawn from the Vedic corpus of gods, nature and human society follow a simple and elegant style. Critics opine that the poetic style of the Mahabharata is reflective of the three oral poetic genres of the heroic, theological and legal forms and hence its variable tones.
The elliptical style of the Mahabharata is however, belied by a sophisticated narrative style. The text employs at least three narrators Sanjaya the ‘suta’ who narrates the Kurukshetra War to the blind Dhritharashtra, the sage Vaisampayana who narrates the history of the Bharata lineage to Janamejaya and finally Ugrasrava Sauti who narrates the Mahabharata as we know it to Saunaka. The ‘story-within-story’ structure of the poem reveals the importance of the roles of the author (Vyasa appears as a character in the text) and the audience in terms of the recitation of the oral text as the latter often interjects with requests, questions etc. Unlike the Western epics, the Mahabharata does not begin in medias res as the narrative moves backwards and forwards in time with digression, didactic materials, ‘akhyanas’ and the like. The layered narration and plot seem to be modelled on recursive Vedic rituals of sacrifice. The Book of the Beginning provides concise synopsis of the latter events of the epic while also providing as original history of the Bharata dynasty.
The characters of the Bharata lineage like the ones of Homeric epics are of divine stock and their marital exploits at least partially hinge on velour and avarice. However, the narrative of the Mahabharata seems primarily concerned not with the arc of selfglorification but self-actualization through dharma. The Kurukshetra war provides the heroic tone of the epic yet the pervasive mood is more melancholic than celebratory. The consequences of war result in a devastated family despite the ‘Pandavas’ victory, the death and revelations on the battlefield sour their remaining days; even their friend Lord Krishna meets an anticlimactic end with no marital fanfare. The main object of the epic therefore is to chronicle not heroic prowess but the heroic and spiritual struggle with the vagaries of dharma or proper conduct.
Q. 5. Assess the role of Shakuni in the game of dice between Yudhisthira and Shakuni.
Ans. Shakuni was the strategist and acting key person of The Dice Game. Shakuni has a boon. The dice he holds are known to follow his words. In other words, if he asks for two 6’s, it will be two 6’s. He was the mastermind behind the dice game.He knew that,Game of dice, is the only easiest way to take over Indraprastha as no king or man would ever agree if he asked Yudhisthira to give away Indraprastha to Kaurava’s.If he calls for war, he knew Kaurava’s will lose as Yudhisthira is now, a King, has support from all kingdoms. Moreover, Pandavas are known for not losing any war and they have Lord Krishna’s support.So, he made Duryodhana to ask King to send Vidura to Indraprastha to invite Dharmaraja for the game of dice knowing that Yudhisthira, who knew that Duryodhana is mad at Draupadi, would never step back from the invite and it was an even practice in those days that a king can never refuse the invite for war or game of dice.It was a perfect stage set by Shakuni.
When Duryodhana returned from Indraprastha, Duryodhana was burning in fires of jealousy & envy. Duryodhana wanted all the luxuries & comforts Pandavas have in Indraprastha, no pleasure could satisfy him. So, Shakuni devised the plan to invite Yudhisthira on a Dice game of Gambling on Chausar.Shakuni knows that Yudhisthira although knews next to nothing about Chausar, but was highly addicted of Gambling.
Shakuni made Dhritharashtra sent request to Yudhisthira for A Dice Game. Shakuni knows that Yudhisthira is fond of Gambling, and if Dhritharashtra sent him a request for a dice duel, Yudhisthira cannot reject the offer. Shakuni plays the dice and manipulate Yudhisthira to gamble each & everything including Draupadi.
Shakuni was master of Chausar and throwing dices. He throw dices such a way that Yudhisthira don’t win any single bet. Shakuni made Yudhisthira flow in his words and game, such that Yudhisthira don’t think about consequences of nothing he is doing. Yudhisthira lose a bet, Shakuni & Duryodhana suggest him what he can bet next. When Yudhisthira lost all his money & kingdom, they suggest him to put his brothers on stake, when he lost his brothers, they suggest him to bet Draupadi. Yudhisthira thought that he will win this time and will free all his brothers and his kingdom, he never think about the consequences of betting Draupadi. As he was in such a state that he was only thinking of “Winning a bet to won everything “. and
backDuryodhana and Karna disrobe and humiliate Draupadi. Karna said harsh inhumane words to Draupadi, and ordered Dussasana to disrobe her and to pull her in Dhritharashtra’s Haram. Duryodhana asked Draupadi to sit on his thighs. These incidents forced Dhritharashtra to free Pandavas, Draupadi, & give kingdom back to Yudhisthira.Pandavas were sent back to Indraprastha.If Duryodhana and Karna had not disrobed and humiliated Draupadi, Dhritharashtra would not had to return kingdom or free Pandavas, and Duryodhana would have ruled Earth for whole life with Pandavas & Draupadi as slaves.
Shakuni requested Dhritharashtra that he and Duryodhana had humiliated Pandavas badly, and Pandavas should get a fair chance to humiliate them. So, a game should be played again and whoever will lose will have to go on a 12 years exile & 1 year Agyaatvaas. Dhritharashtra sent orders to Yudhisthira to come back and have a dice game.Shakuni won this game too. Shakuni got what he had wanted 13 years exile to Pandavas and Draupadi, and kingdoms of Pandavas for Duryodhana.
It was all Shakuni who was playing from both sides in dice game, only thing he lost is due to stupidity of Duryodhana, Karna and Dussasana. But he won that again, with a condition.
Q. 6. Critically analyse the character of Yudhishthira in the light of the game of dice.
Ans. Yudhisthira is indeed one of the most mysterious characters in the epic. Though the epic alludes characters of high virtues to the emperor Yudhisthira, it’s always debatable on whether he was an innocent, honest just emperor or a clever, selfish, strategist. He stood tall to hold his family together upon the unexpected demise of their father (and mother Madri). His brothers blindly followed his orders, and he tried to avoid conflict with the Kouravas whenever possible. He easily forgave Duryodhana for the plot to kill his family in the House of lac at Varanavat. He even settled down for the barren land and forest of Khandavaprashta to avoid a conflict within the family. Despite being deprived of all his wealth and humiliated during the game of dice, he
ordered his brothers to fight for and save Duryodhana when he was made captive by Chitrasena. And during the incognito period as well, he accepted his destiny and worked literally as a jester at Virata’s court. Before the battle, he was willing to take any form of compromise to avoid a battle with his brothers and his elders. All of these show the resilience and tolerance of Yudhisthira, the Emperor.
On the other hand, there are umpteen number of instances that question the credibility of Yudhisthira’s virtues. His decision to make Draupadi the common wife of all the five Pandava brothers could always be scrutinized. He enjoyed the highest honor for the valor of his brothers. Despite this, his decision to place his brothers and wife as a stake shows that he treated them as his possessions and not as individuals who are independent in their own ways. His decision to ignore Kechaka’s insult and advances against Draupadi shows his lack of character to risk another 12 years of exile for the honor of his own wife – which Bhima was willing to risk. There are much more examples to argue in both directions, but Yudhisthira still remains as a symbol of certain virtues while lacking the courage and valor that could equal those of his younger brothers.
The modern versions of the Mahabharata are also divided in the depiction of Yudhisthira’s character. Many of the newer versions or retellings try to somehow balance between Yudhisthira the just emperor and Yudhisthira the foolish gambler. Depending on the author many of these versions might or might not stress on the administrative and intellectual skills of Yudhisthira. Also they might or might not shed focus on the black spots that leave a scar on the image of the Emperor. In many of the folklores as well as the television versions of the epic, Yudhisthira remains mostly as an insignificant executive head who gains significance only during the game of dice. The focus on his strengths and weakness (apart from gambling) are neither portrayed before the dice game, nor after this, and hence he remains just as a piece needed to complete a big jig-saw puzzle.
His addiction to gambling is probably the biggest tragic flaw in the character of Yudhisthira. The biggest question that pop up to anyone’s mind while talking about Yudhisthira’s character is why did an emperor of such high virtues play such a game of dice where his own wife was placed as a bet. On analyzing Yudhisthira’s character as well as the situations that unfolded before the game, one could see that there are multiple reasons that in fact led him to this game.
Firstly he had taken an oath not to say no nor to refuse anything, hoping in this way to avoid conflict with others, and keep the Kurus clan in peace. So when the invitation came from Dhritharashtra for a game of dice, he could not refuse. Secondly, it was the accepted norm for the royalsto accept the invitation to a game of dice/ gambling, and any refusal would be construed either as being rude, or a sign of cowardice.
Actually as per the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira vacillated a good deal before finally accepting the invitation to gamble. But, Shakuni, the master schemer as he was, knowingly exploited Yudhisthira’s weakness and also taunted him as a coward when he initially hesitated to respond. Though these factors may explain why Yudhisthira
chose to play the game of dice, these do not explain why a person of his character and caliber should become so obsessive to pledge all his wealth, kingdom, his own brothers and even his queen. It’s here that his addiction to the game becomes a bit evident.
a All philosophies unanimously agree upon the fact that every weakness, something he cannot resist, an offer he cannot refuse, however noble or ignoble, good or bad, he is. For some, this weakness is trivial, while for some, it is huge, like how people addicted to drugs suffer. Yudhisthira, whose sole aim in life is to uphold Dharma, had the one weakness which is that of the game of dice. He just cannot refuse an offer to play the game of dice and this weakness was well exploited by Duryodhana and Shakuni who made the equation a bit more complex by adding the nuances of Dharma and the undeniable invitation of the King.
In a nutshell, it was a combination of his weakness for gambling, the Kshatriya dharma and, his hesitation to deny Dhritharashtra’s invitation which forced Yudhisthira to accept the challenge to play the game of dice, even though he was fully aware of underlying traps and deceitful schemes. And this changed the destiny of the Kurus kingdom and was the trigger behind the creation of such a magnificent epic.

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The Book of Assembly Hall Questions and Answers

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