By Swami Harshananda
Dyuta means ‘gambling’.
Gambling with dice play, was an ancient pastime especially for kings.
Dyuta in Ṛgveda
The Ṛgveda contains the piteous laments of a gambler.
Dyuta in Mahābhārata
The notorious game of dice between Yudhiṣṭhira and Śakuni on behalf of Duryodhana, described in the Mahābhārata, is now history. It was the root-cause of the Kurukṣetra war.
Dyuta in Purāṇas and the Dharmaśāstras
In the purāṇas and the dharmaśāstras there are statements of condemnation of the gambling with dice-play. At the same time, rules to regulate it also have been described. It was perhaps necessary to control it since it existed as an unavoidable evil.
Regulation of Dyuta
- The dice pieces are made of vibhītaka wood.
- The game has to be conducted in a public place supervised by a sabhika and some expert gamblers, who will act as umpires.
- The defeated person has to pay a part of his loss to the king as tax which may be 5 to 10 per cent.
- It is the duty of the sabhika or the agents of the king to see that the stake money is paid by the losing party to the victor.
- In circumstances where the loser loses everything, becoming a beggar, the king prevents it by providing for the bare maintenance of the loser.
- The kings used to permit gambling centers as one of the methods for finding out thieves and criminals. An arranged dice-play is a ritual part of the Rājasuya sacrifice.
- Ṛgveda 10.34
- Vibhītaka wood is a kind of myrobalan.
- Sabhika is the one who gives the place and collects some rent for it.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore