September 4, 2008
The necessity to perform a sacrifice is very often repeated throughout The Mahabharat. The Rajsuya Sacrifice, or Yagna, is a requirement for Yudhishthira if he wishes to hold an immortal place in history and “rejoice with Indra.” Superficially, a yagna is a means to please the Gods and attain prosperity by make an offering to the God of Fire. However, yagna also teaches the importance of charity and harmony. By offering one’s accomplishments to God and for the betterment of society, one can surpass all worldly limitations. One attains self purity by offering items in the fire, a symbol of purity. Yudhishtira is able to perform a yagna “full of hurdles” because he is “determined in protecting the four castes.” After having turned Khandavprasth into Indraprasth, Yudhishthira is performing the yagna to bring about wellbeing to his citizens and so he may achieve liberation by overcoming further desires.
Upon performing the Rajsuya Yagna Yudhishtira feels obligated to make decisions as an ideal king should. He is unable to refuse another game of dice as he claims “how can a dutiful king like me refuse to accept such a challenge?” However, he fails to recognize that a king does not have one dimensional duties which can be bounded by a code of honor. He leaves decisions and consequences “at the command of the Creator” because he cannot tarnish his image; however, an ideal king would not “tread the path of (his) illustrious predecessors,” in all matters for then what would be the need to have an authority holding king? The king is the declarer of justice and, often times as in Dhritrashtra’s rule, also the definition. If all kings follow the same path, there would be no change and progress. Yudhishtira mistakes taking up a challenge as the grip of destiny when it is in reality his test towards becoming the most worthy king he aspired to be with the Rajsuya Yagna. Ironically, it is the people and kingdom...