Yudhishthira, dressed as a brahmana, joined the long queue to meet King Virata, who was receiving visitors in his court. After several days, the Pandava met one official who vetted petitions. The underlings directed people who faced problems that had ready answers to courtiers who resolved their issues. The king only heard matters which his courtiers could not resolve to the petitioner’s satisfaction.
When it was Yudhishthira’s turn, he informed the official that he was a recent visitor to the kingdom and wished to make a living as a dice player.
“You’re a brahmana. Why indulge in the darker arts?” said the official.
“There’s nothing dark about a dice game, just as a sharp blade commits no sin on its own. Both depend on the wielder, his values, and intentions,” said Yudhishthira.
“You speak well and your answer hints of some depth,” said the man. “Do you have your dice?”
Yudhishthira retrieved a pair of dice from his garment, and the man called a series of numbers. The Pandava rolled whatever number the man called. A small group gathered and exclaimed with every throw.
“What’s the matter here?”
The crowd parted and a high noble approached the table. The underling official stood up and related Yudhishthira’s wish to find gainful employment as a dice player.
“What’s your name, brahmana,” said the high noble.
“People know me as Kanka,” said Yudhishthira.
“Do you know the science of probabilities?”
“The probabilities come to live only if one rolls the dice in the same fashion,” said Yudhishthira. “A vidhuan knows the secret of controlling muscle twitches.”
“You know your science, brahmana. Your garments are poor but your bearing hints of royalty.”
“Many years ago, I stewarded in Maharaj Yudhishthira’s royal household and enjoyed the privilege of watching and learning from him. When darkness fell on Indraprastha, I left the light and had been living a life of a mendicant.”
“You’re acquainted with Maharaja Yudhishthira? You’re blessed indeed, for I have not had that privilege. Very well, Kanka. Follow me.”
The high noble brought Yudhishthira to a private apartment. Man-servants attended to the Pandava. They bathed him and rubbed fragrant oils on his skin and adorned him with fine clothing; and plied him with food and drinks. In was evening when the high noble returned.
“Come with me, Kanka. King Virata wishes to meet and hear all you have to say regarding the Pandava king and his brothers.”
They walked down a long corridor and reached an ornate double door. Before entering the royal meeting room, the high noble said,
“Keep your head low and eyes down. Do not even cast glances at the maidservants. Speak only when spoken to. And never interrupt the king or his nobles.”
Virata started with one question, and that led to many. Their meeting stretched into the early hours of the following morning. The king’ said,
“Is the Goddess of Luck with you, brahmana?”
“The soothsayers predicted that whoever I teach my craft to will enjoy the companionship of the Goddess of Luck,” said Kanka.
The king then tested the brahmana’s skills with the dice, interspersing the tests with relentless questions regarding the Kuru elders, the Kauravas, the Pandavas and the dice game that ruined and tore apart the Kuru family.
Kanka juggled his focus on manipulating the dice and responding with caution to the questions regarding his family. If the brahmana did not reveal enough, the king would suspect his claim about having worked for the Pandavas. But if he provided too much details, the king would hold it against him, as servants were expected to keep their ears shut when they went about their duties. Virata probed into matters that were common knowledge among the courtiers in Indraprastha, and Kanka provided truthful answers. When Virata’s questions delved into matters not known outside the family circle, Kanka feigned ignorance.
Yudhishthira’s performance impressed Virata. The Pandava convinced the Matsya king and his courtiers that indeed he had served as one of the royal stewards. Throughout the discourse, Virata and his nobles tested Yudhishthira’s dice skills. He passed all their tests and answered all their questions to full satisfaction.
By day break, Virata had appointed Kanka to tutor him on the intricacies of wielding and controlling the dice throw. The brahmana continued to impress the king with his vast knowledge of statecraft and strategy. And the Matsya king appointed the Pandava as an advisor and permanent member of the royal court.
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