Mahabharata is not just a tale of wars or even the Bhagavad Gita. It is more than just a story of clash between two members of a clan. It is a tale of personalities and story of different characters as well as human nature. Each of us would have a favourite character from this great Itihasa; someone we admire and look up to. Most of you would have either said ‘Arjun’ or ‘Krishna’ and a few would have identified with ‘Pitamaha Bhishma’. But there is one person in this entire epic who is not spoken of much yet his contribution is immense. The character that I find most fascinating is ‘Vidur’, the Prime Minister and half-brother of Maharajas Dhritarashtra and Pandu.
He was a shishya of Bhisma, just like his half-brothers and was taught politics as well as administration by his Guru. He was not only intelligent but also an able administrator. He was the representative of ‘Dharma’, loosely translated into truth. It was his ability to speak the truth with authority that made him an able counsellor to both his brothers when they occupied the throne of Hastinapur. Vidur always sided with ‘righteousness’ and that is the reason why he insisted that Pandu be crowned king instead of ‘blind’ Dhritarashtra. It was this very same principle which made him prevail over Dhritarashtra to make Yudhistir the Yuvraj instead of his son Duryodhan.
He took a vow and refused to participate in the Mahabharata war after being coaxed into takings such an oath by Shri Krishna. The story behind this vow is that when Shri Krishna stayed at Vidur’s place, Duryodhan was infuriated, because he considered it an insult to himself. He kept on insulting Vidur, despite the requests of elders present in the court. When things went beyond control Shri Krishna casually remarked that the misdemeanor of Duryodhan would make Vidur pledge not to fight the war on the side of Kauravas. Taking heed of Shri Krishna’s words, Vidur broke his bow and vowed not to participate in the war on the side of Kauravas. His morals did not allow him to fight the war from the Pandava side either and hence he did not participate in the war. Vidura was a bhakt of Shri Vishnu. His bow, named Govardhan, was presented to him by Shri Vishnu. The one who wielded this bow was believed to be invincible and not even Arjun’s Gandiva could stop him. Shri Krishna knew the might of Vidura’s bow and hence, goaded the latter into taking such a pledge. If it hadn’t been for Duryodhan’s arrogance Vidura certainly would have fought the war on behalf of Kauravas and defeating him would have been impossible for the Pandava army.
Legend has it that it was Dharmaraja Yama himself who had taken birth as Vidur to live out a Rishi’s curse. I admire him not only for his honesty and straightforwardness but also his foresight and ability to call a ‘spade a spade’. His policies with regard to politics and administration were written down by him as Vidur Neeti, which is possibly a precursor to Chanakya Neeti. He was a political genius and a master in the art of outwitting enemies. He knew the importance of having a loyal spy network that would help him keep one step ahead of his enemies and conspirators. Vidur was a genius in more ways than one and a humble person who never feared to speak the truth. He was an ideal example of how a minister should behave and conduct himself. There is a lot to learn from this noble soul who was overshadowed by other greats of that era.