top of page

Shalya: Do your friends counsel you before you make big consequential decisions?

Updated: Feb 27, 2022


Blog #16

  • Do you feel like you have friends you can count on in times of need?

  • Do you believe they will be on your side when you need them the most?

  • What if your friend is conflicted with some other priorities or obligations?

  • Do you always want your friends to choose you over their other obligations?

  • Would you grade your friends based on whether they chose you over their other obligations?

  • How would your friends grade your friendship and loyalty?

Mahabharata Context

King Shalya was the brother of Queen Madri the second wife of King Pandu. He was a wise leader and a great ruler of the kingdom of Madra. He was also a fierce fighter, skilled with riding horses and peerless with the mace and the spear. Hearing about the impending war, he rides out to join his nephews, the Pandavas with his army. The conniving Prince Duryodhana tricks him into accepting the enemy Kaurava army hospitality for his tired and large army. King Shalya is forced to reveal his true intentions to Duryodhana now. Having enjoyed the hospitality of Duryodhana, Shalya feels duty-bound to offer him one boon instead of his support for the war. Duryodhana ruthlessly asks King Shalya to fight for the Kauravas. Shalya reluctantly agrees to keep his boon and fight on the wrong side of Dharma much to the ire and anger of the Pandavas.

However, King Shalya conspicuously blesses Prince Yudhistira with victory before the battle commences knowing fully well only Yudhistira can defeat him with a spear. Shalya proceeds to fight with honor and dignity during the thirteen days. Shalya fights under the command of both Bhishma or Drona. Prince Duryodhana humilates King Shalya by questioning his loyalty and placing him under the command of King Karna despite Shalya's superior experience and seniority. King Shalya reluctantly becomes King Karna's charioteer being the foremost horse rider, explicitly to negate the effect of Lord Krishna as charioteer on the other side. King Shalya even advises Karna to aim his inescapable Nagastra at Prince Arjuna's chest in order to ensure victory for his side. Ironically, Karna proceeds to disobey the wise advise of Shalya and the lethal weapon misses its mark . Karna had promised Queen Kunti to fire the lethal Nagastra only once on Arjuna and the last opportunity for victory is now lost.The furious Shalya proceeds to abandon his charioteer post at a critical time ensuring Karna's death. Prince Duryodhana now anoints King Shalya as the fourth commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army. King Shalya's valiant efforts to revive the Kaurava army sagging fortunes are seen as prolonging the inevitable and costly victory. Shalya's death sadly becomes necessary for the sake of Dharma and his final spear fight with Prince Yudhistira ends in Shalya's death.

Our null hypothesis about the King Shalya

The persona of King Shalya is one of the most complex in the Mahabharata epic. There are several exemplary behaviors demonstrated by this powerful character- honesty, nobility, integrity, bravery, love for family, work ethics, etc. However this character has some weaknesses that create debate. Does this character have the right situational awareness and alertness to be in war? Shalya was noble to a fault and did not expect foul play in war. Really, what about all is fair in love and war? How naive of him!

Shalya is tricked due to his exaggerated sense of honor that is not reciprocated by the sly Kauravas. He ends up being misunderstood by both sides, all alone and in the end dies at the hands of the very man he wanted to win the battle for.

Lessons Learned

Situational Awareness is a very important attribute of intelligence. It helps better understand the context of the times we are in. Are we always aware of what others are thinking when they act kindly to us? Is there an ulterior motive behind their generosity? Failure to see these motives can lead to a lot of negative consequences?

As President Kennedy famously said, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me". King Shalya never got a second chance at fighting for on the side of Dharma. Yes, we are complex creatures and we are conflicted too but are we fighting on the side of good within us everyday? What % King Shalya do you have in you?


29 views0 comments
bottom of page