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The Mysterious Bond of Vidura and Yudhisthira
by Mallar Chatterjee 



The intimate relationship between Vidura and Yudhisthira has often been subjected to stirring speculations. Vidura was the step-uncle to the Pandavas and had always been their greatest support. In Hastinapura, the fatherless Pandava brothers found themselves thrown in an atmosphere laden with hostility. Vidura’s favouritism towards the Pandavas was overt and blatant, and in the process, he became the biggest bugbear to Dhritarashtra and his sons. Of all the five brothers, Vidura’s actual protégé was Yudhisthira. Yudhisthira was his dearest disciple who effectively carried his legacy forward.


The Mahabharata mentions Yudhisthira as the biological son of Lord Dharma and Vidura as an avatar of Dharma. The story of Dharma’s incarnation as Vidura is quite interesting. Once upon a time, there was a sage called Mandavya. He was mistakenly punished by a king who had Mandavya impaled on a sharp stake. When the errant king understood his mistake, he brought Mandavya down from the stake and sincerely apologized. Although Mandavya was released with due honour, a broken fragment of the stake remained in his body and he was henceforth known as “Ani” Mandavya (“Ani” means the sharp tip of a metal shaft). “Ani” Mandavya held Lord Dharma, who was the god of justice, responsible for his ordeal and asked why he had been put through the ordeal, in spite of being completely innocent. The god replied, “When you were a child, you used to tease insects by putting sharp objects into their anus. For those juvenile misdeeds, you yourself have similarly suffered today.” Dharma’s explanation left the sage livid. He took it as an extremely harsh punishment against a much lighter offence and cursed Lord Dharma that he would have to come down on the earth, being born as a human. So, Dharma had to take birth as Vidura. Vidura and Yudhisthira, both being Lord Dharma’s ansh (part), had a natural fondness for each other.


Some scholars tried to discover a deeper purport in the triangular relationship between Lord Dharma, Vidura and Yudhisthira. According to Irawati Karve, the allusion of Lord Dharma was only metaphorical and Vidura happened to be Yudhisthira’s biological father! In Ashramavasik Parva of the Mahabharata, Vidura, before his death, transmitted his physical and mental prowess to Yudhisthira in a palpable manner as if a father bequeathed his legacy to the worthy son. With Vidura’s bequest, Yudhisthira emerged stronger, wiser, braver and abler. According to Dr. Karve, this was an unmistakable act of a father – rendering his last present to his offspring! This sensational concept created a ripple and inspired imaginations of many mythologists and writers. Some believers of this theory pointed out that Yudhisthira often addressed Vidura as “Father” and used this as a tell-tale evidence in support of her claim. Dr. Deepak Chandra, a renowned Bengali novelist, depicted Vidura as Yudhisthira’s father in his novel, “Kurukshetre Dwaipayan” (“Dwaipayan at Kurukshetra”). 


Dr. Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri is one of the most distinguished mythologists who vehemently condemned the theory that Vidura could be Yudhisthira’s real father and discouraged any extrapolated adventure to establish a secret affair between Vidura and Kunti. He argued that Yudhisthira actually addressed Vidura as “Younger Father” which was, and still is, an intimate yet respectful manner of addressing one’s uncle. He firmly opined that there are no particular words or expressions in the Mahabharata that can be construed as any evidence or at least any indication of their father-son relationship.


The contrasting views on the issue showcase the conflict between an authentic, orthodox approach and a revisionist, unorthodox perspective to study and delve into cult-classics with almost similar objective of discovering the deeper purport. However, as far as this particular debate is concerned, can’t we raise a simple question? Is natural love between an uncle and a nephew so unusual that we must frantically doubt its legitimacy and search for any possibly non-existent secret? If Vidura loved Yudhisthira just because of the fact that he found manifest promise in his nephew and the latter found a doting, compassionate guardian or mentor in his step-uncle, should that in any way appear incongruous to innate human instincts? If an arcane influence of Lord Dharma did build a bridge of affection between the two souls as mentioned in the epic, do we necessarily need to demystify the inexplicable in this very way? Vidura’s organic transmission to Yudhisthira can be more aptly construed as a legacy vouchsafed by a mentor to his ideological heir, than a mandatory last grant of a dying father to his deserving son. Acharya Drona loved Arjuna way more than his own son Ashwatthama, and imparted the complete knowledge of the terrible Brahmashirastra to Arjuna while gave only its half-knowledge to Ashwatthama. And we feel noneed to scourge up any theory suspecting a father-son relation between Drona and Arjuna to explain their bonding. In some ways, Vidura-Yudhisthira relationship can be viewed as a parallel to Drona-Arjuna’s.


Instead of being so hell-bent on discovering a hair-raising secret, we may try to take a closer look at Vidura’s association with Dharma. Vidura’s biological father was Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata and mother – a Shudra woman! Vidura’s mother had made a strong impression on Vyasa. The slovenly sage was never quite a favourite with women. But Vidura’s mother gave him genuine affection. Thanks to the lady, Vyasa started becoming respectful to Shudras, if he had not already been so. A progressive intellectual, Vyasa possibly felt the need to take Shudras on board as well, instead of looking down at them or treating them as social pariahs. Was that why he deliberately lent Dharma’s association to his favourite son Vidura while authoring the epic? By adding Lord Dharma’s allusion to a person with Shudra blood (Vidura), Vyasa radically caste a bright light on the social outcasts – for the first time ever.Vidura’s outstanding qualities completely justified the legend that he was Lord Dharma’s incarnation. WhenVidura transmitted his legacy to Yudhisthira, the contribution of a Shudrato the euphoric Dharmarajya became secured. Thus in Vyasa’s progressive concept of an ideal society, Shudras were no more an anathema.


Vyasa was way ahead of his time. Possibly fearing the reactionary forces of the contemporary society, he created a haze of enigma about the Dharma-Vidura-Yudhisthira triangle behind which he cryptically recommended a society without discrimination.


Mallar Chatterjee is a Mahabharata enthusiast and has written the book, Yudhisthira - The Unfallen Pandavais an imaginary autobiography of Yudhishthira, attempting to follow the well-known story of the Mahabharata through his eyes. In the process of narrating the story, he examines his extremely complicated marriage and relationship with brothers turned co-husbands, tries to understand the mysterious personality of his mother in a slightly mother-fixated way, conducts manic and depressive evaluation of his own self and reveals his secret darkness and philosophical confusions with an innate urge to submit to a supreme soul.