|Children Uluka and Vrikaasur||Relatives Gandhari (sister)|
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 and one of the main villains in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He was the brother of Gandhari and hence Duryodhana's maternal uncle. Portrayed as an extremely intelligent but devious man, Shakuni is often credited as the mastermind behind the Kurukshetra war. Shakuni had two sons named Uluka and Vrikaasur (Bhasmasura).
It is believed that Shakuni was the personification of Dvapara Yuga.
Role in the Mahabharata
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 a) to avenge the defeat of Gandhara by Hastinapur years before, b) to avenge the torture and murder of his father, King Subala, by Bhishma, and c) to avenge the insult Bhishma made when he insisted on Gandhari's marriage to a blind man. Shakuni's main enmity was with Bhishma, who had humiliatingly defeated and ravaged Gandhara, when Hastinapur was expanding its territories. He wanted to destroy the Kuru empire and the royal lineage itself, as a revenge for what was done to his people.
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:
Shakuni's only saving grace is his extreme love towards his sister Gandhari. Her act of voluntarily blindfolding herself does not go down too well with Shakuni, who constantly advises her to take off her blindfold and see Bhishma's destruction, but she refuses. 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 Pandava brothers Sahadeva had taken an oath to avenge Draupadi's insult and had sworn to kill Shakuni, the mastermind of the episode. As sworn, Shakuni was killed by Sahadeva on the eighteenth day of the Kurukshetra war.
Ambhi Kumar, king of Gandhara was a direct descendant of Bharata (of Ramayana) and Shakuni (of Mahabharata). Ambhi Kumar and Chandragupta Maurya took training and studied together at Takshila in childhood. In 326 BCE Alexander the Great receives submission of ruler of Takshila, Omphis (Āmbhi). Later Ambhi was deposed and killed by Chandragupta Maurya, the emperor of the Mauryan Empire.
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)