According to one myth in Mahabharata, Yudhishthira is a former Indra incarnate in the seed of Dharma, according to another he is Dharma’s son, and yet, according to another, he is Dharma incarnate!
If Yudhishthira is Indra or Dharma-incarnate or Dharma’s son, why would he need to listen to and participate in discourses on dharma again and again; and why is it that Vyasa, Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi, Bhisma and others have to lecture Yudhishthira again and again on dharma?
Yudhishthira’s Dharma has been over-shadowed by Krishna’s Dharma, certainly not in actuality, but definitely in the fragmentary perception of Mahabharata readers and interpreters. Certainly Vyasa did not intend it. Krishna was a preacher and liver, he merged both his roles in the Kurukshetra of his Life and Battlefield. So was Vyasa; he merged his roles in the bhUbharaharaNa Project and composition of Mahabharata.
Yudhishthira never preached, never did he aspire to be ‘dharma-Ashoka’ and therefore raised high-sounding edicts; he lived, and in a way- to use Mahatma Gandhi’s words – that his Life became his living Message. If that is his shortfall, he is second to none than Krishna in this respect, for without Vyasa, Krishna would have appeared as silent; therefore, being the second-runner to Krishna, Yudhishthira is the foremost among men!
In a world dependant on Language, Yudhishthira appears silent. He is not a preacher. He answers only when asked, or charged of any excess, and such answers are so few; otherwise he is content of asking.
In the whole of Mahabharata (the Text as we have it, not the Ur) Yudhishthira asks the maximum number of questions, sometimes similar questions again and again to different persons.
The later Poet or Poets realized the silence of Yudhishthira’s dharma, and created the Yaksha episode and parts of Mahaprasthanika and the Svargarohana Parva to reveal Yudhishthira’s Dharma. Without these two episodes, Yudhishthira’s dharma would have remained so silent that in the New Age of Words and Rhetoric, the silent depth would have remained beyond comprehension like the depth of the Ocean beneath the shinny waves!
Birth of Yudhishthira Dharma
The first poetic hint of the nature of Yudhishthira’s dharma manifests in Drona’s examination.
To test the comparative excellence of all his pupils in the use of arms, one day, Drona had caused an artificial target-bird, to be placed on the top of a neighbouring tree (KMG-Adi.134/ CE-1.123.46-57). As the disciples stood, Drona told them ‘Take up your bows quickly and stand here aiming at that bird on the tree, with arrows fixed on your bowstrings; shoot and cut off the bird’s head, as soon as I give the order– mad.vaakya.ante.vimunca.ca. I shall give each of you a turn, one by one, my children.’
Drona first told Yudhishthira to take up the bow and aim at the target-bird. He did so. Then Drona told him again to behold the bird again, and Yudhishthira replied in affirmative that he did do.
But next moment, Drona again asked him, ‘What dost thou see now, O prince? Do you see the tree, the bird, myself or your brothers?‘
Yudhishthira answered, ‘I see the tree, my being, and my brothers and the bird’-