Open main menu

Shakuni (Sanskrit: शकुनि, lit. bird) also known as Saubala (Sanskrit: सौबल, lit. son of Subala), Gandhararaja (Sanskrit: गान्धारराज, (lit. king of Gandhara) and Subalraja (Sanskrit): सुबलराज, lit. "King of the Kingdom of Subala" was the prince of Gandhara Kingdom in present-day Gandhara, later to become the King after his father's death. He is one of the main villains in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He was the brother of Gandhari and hence Duryodhana's maternal uncle.

Shakuni is master of Dice Game.jpg
Shakuni playing dice game
RelativesGandhari (sister) Subala (father) Sudarma (mother) Arsh (wife) Uluka (son) Kauravas (nephews) Dhritrashtra (brother in law) Uluka and Vrikaasur (sons)

Portrayed as an extremely intelligent but devious man, Shakuni is often credited as the mastermind behind the Kurukshetra war. Shakuni was the greatest illusionist of that era, second only to Lord Krishna.

Shakuni had two sons named Uluka and Vrikaasur.

The original texts of Mahabharata mention Shakuni as personification of Dvapara Yuga.


Early days [1]Edit

Shakuni was born in Gandhara in modern-day Afghanistan to King Subala.

Shakuni was unhappy with his sister Gandhari's marriage to Kaurava prince Dhritarashtra[citation needed]. He was especially angry with Bhishma for bringing this proposal as he found it insulting and demeaning[citation needed], only because Dhritarashtra was blind. Bhishma had also killed his brothers and father in an apparent war (although some believe that Bhishma had imprisoned the king and princes of gandhara and starved them to death, only Shakuni had survived) . He swore to avenge this by slowly destroying Bhishma's clan[citation needed]. He achieved this by poisoning the mind of his volatile nephew Duryodhana into instigating the war with the Pandavas, which destroyed the Kuru Kingdom line. Thus, he is seen by many as one of the key persons that caused the Kurukshetra War. He was the mastermind in corrupting the relation between sons of Gandhari and Kunti which led to the great war.

Some popular versions of this story focus on Shakuni's anger over Hastinapur. Some versions of the story describe Shakuni using the bones of his dead parents to create dice that will never lose him a game, as Shakuni's father's soul enters the dice to make it roll to whatever number Shakuni wanted. Shakuni just created an illusion in front of the people he played with.

Role in the MahabharataEdit

Shakuni is perhaps best known for masterminding the infamous Game of Dice between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. A master of sorcery, Shakuni had his blessed dice which would always follow his will. Unaware of this fact, the Pandavas were defeated in the gambling match. Shakuni encourages Duryodhana, Dushasana, Karna, and the others when they taunt and humiliate the Pandavas.

Shakuni is also one of the masterminds behind the Kurukshetra War. His intentions include his desires to avenge the insult Bhishma made. Shakuni's main enmity was with Bhishma, who had brought the proposal of Gandhari and Dhritarashtra's marriage and death of his brothers and father .

He mainly worked by inciting hatred between the Kauravas and Pandavas; his plans culminated in the biggest war in Indian history. Although he often failed in his tricks against Pandavas, he never lost his faith in his ability to destroy the lineage of Kuru. A far-sighted man, his plan was much bigger than causing plight to the Pandavas; he wanted a full-scaled civil war between the kingdoms of India, which will destroy the country for generations, fulfilling his revenge. He feared nobody, except Shri Krishna, whom he considered as an obstacle, since he knew that only Krishna had the power and influence to foil his plan. Krishna was a shrewd diplomat and statesman, the only person who matched Shakuni's cunning and intelligence.

Ways in which Shakuni incited war include:

  • Advising an adolescent Duryodhana to mix poison into Bhima's food twice.
  • Hiring Purochana to kill the Pandavas in the Palace of lac.
  • The game of dice between Kauravas and Pandavas which was responsible for Draupadi's humiliatiion.
  • Before the war he advised Duryodhana to feed Shalya's army and make Shalya his indebt, making it compulsory for him to fight on the side of Kauravas

Shakuni's only saving grace is his extreme love towards his sister Gandhari. Gandhari was petrified of the dark when she was small and preferred to have well lit places all the time. Being a dutiful wife, she voluntarily blindfolded herself which meant she had to live every second of her life in absolute terror because of the darkness due to blindfold. This does not go down too well with Shakuni, who constantly advises her to take off her blindfold. Time and again, he expresses the anger he felt for the injustice that Gandhari had to go through by leading her entire life with a blindfold.


After the Game of Dice episode in the Mahabharata, the youngest of the[2] Pandava brothers Sahadeva had taken an oath to avenge Draupadi's insult and had sworn to kill Shakuni, the mastermind of the episode.

On the 18th day of the Mahabharata war, Nakula and Sahadeva attacked Shakuni, Uluka and their army. As Duryodhana and his other brothers rushed to protect their uncle, Bhima stepped in and fought the remaining Kauravas and killing many of them (except Duryodhana). Meanwhile, Nakula killed many prominent Ganadhara warriors and the bodyguards of Uluka. Sahadeva fought Shakuni and Uluka, soon Sahadeva killed Uluka. Shakuni got furious and attacked Sahadeva. He broke his chariot and bow, Sahadeva ascended another chariot and fought Shakuni ferociously. After much attacks and tackles, both of them descended their chariots with their swords and soon Sahadeva took an axe and cut shakuni's Forehead.


Temple dedicated to Shakuni at Pavithreswaram in Kollam District, Kerala

Even though Shakuni's name is associated with villainy, Hinduism sees a person in terms of Gunas. It is true that Tamasic characteristics were dominant in Shakuni but he too had Sattvic elements and this was recognized by a community in Kerala. There is an ancient temple dedicated to him at Pavithreswaram in Kollam District of Kerala. A throne believed to have been used by Shakuni is found in this ancient temple. No Puja or tantric rituals are performed at the temple. Offerings to the temple include tender coconut, silk, Palm wine, etc. The temple is maintained by the Kuravar community of the region.

It is believed that during the Mahabharata battle, Shakuni traveled across the country along with his nephews, the Kauravas. When they reached the place where the temple is situated, the Kauravas divided their weapons among them. Since then, the place came to be known as 'Pakutheswaram', which later became Pavithreswaram. The local Kuravars believe that Shakuni returned to this place after the battle and attained Moksha with the blessings of Lord Shiva and became Lord Shakuni. The subdeities of the temple include Devi Bhuvaneshvari, Kiratha Moorthi and Nagaraja. The temple festival, popularly known as Malakkuda Maholsavam, is observed in the Makaram month in the Malayali calendar. Near the Shakuni Temple is a temple dedicated to Duryodhana. The Mahabharata mentions Shakuni as the personification of Dwapar Yuga and Duryodhana as his constant companion Kali (Mbh.15.31)


  1. ^ THE MAHABHARATA: A Modern Rendering, Volume 1 By Ramesh Menon shakuni shiva bhakt&f=false
  2. ^

Further readingEdit

  • Dutt, Romesh. "Maha-Bharata, The Epic of Ancient India".
  • Dwaipayana, Vyasa. "The Mahabharata of Krishna".
  • Ganguly, Kisari. "The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa".
  • Menon, Ramesh. A Modern Rendering, The Mahabharata.
  • The Story of Shakuni, Sribd.
  • Was Shakuni Mama’s character in Mahabharat a negative character?, Destination Infinity.
  • The Mahabharata: A Synopsis of the Great Epic of India, R. Vemuri, UC Davis.
  • Mahabharat, Swargarohan.
  • Mahabharata (Veda Vyasa), Hindu Online.