Cover image source by Google and influence by Kari. Kari is the name of make-up in Kathakali. It literally means black and is donned by cruel characters.
Everybody is a villain until their story is told. Generally temples are for Gods. But not all the time it is true. India is an unique country. It celebrates god, heroes and epic characters as well. Mayamkottu Malancharuvu Malanada temple in Kollam district, Kerala, is an unique temple. Shakuni (Mahabharata’s most cunning uncle) is worshiped here. Kuravar community runs this temple mainly.
Kuravar worships Shakuni as a God and believes he is not a villain in the real sense! They believe it is the circumstances that changed Shakuni to take revenge.
Mahabharat’s Most Cunning Uncle’s Temple:
The temple houses Shakuni’s shrine. According to the popular lore, Shakuni performed austerities at this site to please Lord Shiva, and subsequently, attained Moksha. In the temple a granite is installed. Interestingly, it is believed that, Shakuni had used it as a seat for his ritual. The folklore also suggests that the Kauravas divided their weapons amongst themselves at this place. They took shelter here after travelling miles in search of the Pandavas.
Another intriguing belief is that a community claims to be the descendants of the Kauravas. And they worship Shakuni’s determination, perseverance and passion towards his goals. Shakuni is also believed to be a personification of the Dwapara Yuga. This is one of the four cyclical yugas, or eras, of the Hindu mythology.
The Making Of Villain:
There are many stories about Shakuni and his family. Many of us know about the story that Shakuni was very close to his sister Gandhari. He could not accept the fact that she had to marry a blind man and Gandhari blindfold herself for her entire life.
But there is another story, which wrenched my heart. In many folk traditions narrate the story of explaining his hatred for the Kuru household. Astrologers had foretold about newborn Gandhari that she would be a widow soon as her first husband would have a short life. Her father, therefore, got her married to a goat, and sacrificed it soon after. Technically, that made Gandhari a widow. Later Bhishma came to know about that got furious. He could not bear the fact that a widow entered his great noble household.
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The Great Injustice:
An enraged Bhishma locked Suvala and his sons in a dungeon to punish them. He ordered to feed them a fistful of rice each day. Suvala knew that the rice was not enough for everyone. It was Bhishma’s plan to kill them starving. He came up with an idea, “let the most intelligent one among us eat only. He will live and avenge the great wrong done to the family”. Shakuni, the youngest, the sharpest, was the chosen one. He was fed regularly. While the rest of them starved to death. Shakuni witnessed their pain and great sacrifice. Before dying, Suvala broke Shakuni’s ankle, so he would remember the great crime every time he limped.
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After his family’s death, Sahkuni came to live in Hastinapur with the Kauravas. He pleaded them for shelter, pretended to be a great relative, but plotted their downfall all along. Though Bhishma never liked Shakuni’s presence but never disrespected Dhritarastra’s decision. Some variants had held Duryodhan responsible for killing Shakuni’s father and brothers. Also in some variants Dhritarashtra was the main culprit, as Suvala refused his marriage proposal for Gandhari.
Shakuni’s story is a reminder to everyone not to judge people without knowing their story. even the worst of villains have a story that might explain their actions, without condoning them. The story of Gandhari marrying a goat came from a Jain retellings of the Mahabharata.
Kuravar Community And Shakuni:
There is one similarity between them. This community was placed under Criminal Tribes Act 1871 during the British rule India. As they used to trade salt and crops. They were denotified after independence in 1952. But the stigma still continues. They are best known as Gypsy community in Tamilnadu. They were been oppressed for ages by their own people. This has led to protests and resentment from the community.
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