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Dushashana: Can a human being be pure evil?

Updated: Feb 27, 2022


Blog #22:

  • Is there such as a thing as absolute evil person or is it is just acts that we commit that can be classified as absolutely evil?

  • Are these characters born evil? Or does the society bear some culpability for what they become?

  • Why are the forces of good not able to intercede with them before they commit these vile acts?

  • Why are they not able to be inspired by the good role models around them?

  • What is it that attracts them to evil deeds? and evil actors?

  • Why do they not spend time worrying about the consequences of their actions?

  • Is their original sin their absolutely apathy and disdain for others less fortunate than them?

  • What lesson if any can they teach us about the frailty of humanity?

By Monro, W. D Illustrations by Evelyn Paul

The Mahabharata Context

The name Dushashana simply means evil rule or evil postures in Sanskrit. Dushashana was the second born prince of Queen Gandhari. Even as a child, he looked up to his elder brother Prince Duryodhana and was fiercely loyal to him. Never once pausing to question his elder brother, Prince Dushashana's unconditional loyalty, his might and persuasion over the remaining siblings emboldened and empowered Prince Duryodhana to consolidate power in the courts of Hastinapur. Prince Dushashana was the main Kaurava prince who acted out most of the dastardly acts of evil perpetrated by the Kaurava brothers. He went to the Queen's chambers to drag Queen Draupadi by her hair to the court after she was lost in a game of dice by Prince Yudhisthira. Dushashana also brazenly tried to disrobe Draupadi in full view of the court elders setting the stage for the apocalyptic war, the Mahabharata.

Prince Dushashana impatiently fired the first arrow towards the Pandava army starting the eighteen day battle. He waged a tough battle with all the Pandava brothers and tormented their armies killing many warriors. He played a crucial role in fighting Prince Abhimanyu and his son led the final brutal slaughter of the young prince by attacking him when unarmed together with others. Dushashana's fierce might made him vulnerable only to Prince Arjuna's arrows and Prince Bheema's mace. On the decisive seventeenth day, Prince Bheema finally fulfilled his terrible promise ripping away from Prince Dushashana's torso his limbs that outraged Queen Draupadi's modesty. His death was the final loss that let Prince Duryodhana realize his ambitions had failed and he would not be Emperor.

Our null hypothesis about the Prince Dushashana persona

Prince Dushashana had a few admirable attributes like strong, brave and mighty skills with the bow and mace. He was very loyal and fiercely protective of his elder brother. He was egoistic, very focussed on the execution of the tasks assigned to him. On the flip side, he was arrogant, power hungry and lacked empathy for the poor and the weak. His naked lust for power combined with his lack of a moral compass made him one of the main antagonists in this story. He believed that it was the right of his elder brother to ascend to the throne in Hastinapur and nothing could dissuade him from this conviction, even the wisdom of elders.

Dushasana's blind loyalty to his brother, his inability to listen to differing opinions and good counsel all around him, made him a force of evil. He possessed the power to persuade Prince Duryodhana to see things in a different light. However, he lacked any empathy for the other side and merely poured fuel on the fire of Duryodhana's ambitions and it reduced the dreams of the Kaurava clan to ashes.

Lessons Learned

Prince Dushashana teaches us a simple lesson. Lose one's ego to develop empathy, something he sorely lacked. There are many amongst us who believe that there is such a thing as pure evil. On this the 20th anniversary of 9/11, another horrendous crime against humanity, Prince Dushashana reminds us of what happens to those who stop observing and listening to good advice all around them and become fiercely loyal to an ideology or a cause that is misguided or evil. His brutal demise reassures us to be humble and realize that there is only one outcome for those who commit dastardly acts against the weak and the innocent. There will be no escape and the outcome for them will not be good. Worse, their legacy will be one of ignominy and shame forever. What % Dushashana do we have within us?

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