The dice game and killing of rukmi
After the marriage of aniruddha is celebrated, rukmi plays a dice game with
balarAma. The game ends with the death of rukmi.
Let us look at the description of this event in harivaMsha (viShNuparva,
chapter 61, shlokas 17 to 57), viShNupurANa (pa~nchaM aMsh, chapter 28,
shlokas 10 to 27) and bhAgavata (tenth canto, chapter 61, shlokas 27 to 39).
Background of the dice game
The background of the game is given in detail in harivaMsha (shlokas
2-61-17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22) and viShNupurANa (shlokas 5-28-10,11 and 12)
compared to bhAgavata (shlokas 10-61-27 and 28).
pANau gR^ihIte vaidarbhyAstvaniruddhena tatra vai |
vaidarbhayAdavAnAM cha babhUva paramotsavaH ||2-61-17
After aniruddha held the hand of the maiden of vidarbhA, the yAdava-s
celebrated (the marriage) as a great festival at vidarbhA.
remire vR^iShNayastatra pUjyamAnA yathAmarAH |
The vR^iShNi-s, honoured like the deva-s, enjoyed there.
athAshmakAnAmadhipo vaiNudArirudAradhIH ||2-61-18
Then king of ashmaka, veNudAri with a benevolent intellect,
akShaH shrutarvA chANUraH krathashchaivAMshumAnapi |
jayatsenaH kali~NgAnAmadhipashcha mahAbalaH ||2-61-19
akSha, shrutarva, chANUra, kratha, aMshumAn, jayatsena, the powerful king of
pANDyashcha nR^ipatiH shrImAnR^iShIkAdhipatistathA |
ete saMmantrya rAjAno dAkShiNAtyA maharddhayaH ||2-61-20
king pANDya and the auspicious king of R^iShika - All these kings of the
southern side having great intellect,
abhigamyAbruvantsarve rukminaM rahasi prabhum |
assembled and advised lord rukmi in private.
bhavAnakSheShu kushalo vayaM chApi riraMsavaH |
priyadyUtashcha rAmo.asAvakSheShvanipuNo.api cha ||2-61-21
"You are an expert in the dice game. We also wish to play. The game of dice
is dear to (bala)rAma as well even though he is not an expert in the dice
te bhavantaM puraskR^itya jetumichChAma taM vayam |
ityukto rochayAmAsa rukmI dyUtaM mahArathaH ||2-61-22
Keeping you (as leader) in front, we wish to challenge him." Hearing this,
the great chariot fighter rukmi organized a dice game.
pa~nchaM aMsh, chapter 28, gitA press (2006) (2)
vivAhe tatra nirvR^itte prAdyumnestu mahAtmanaH |
kali~NgarAjapramukhA rukmiNuM vAkyamabruvan || 5-28-10
When the marriage of the great soul, the son of pradyumna (aniruddha)
was concluded, the chief kings, such as the king of kali~Nga told rukmi
anakShaj~no halI dyUte tathAsya vyasanaM mahat |
na jayAmo balaM kasmaddyUtenainaM mahAbalam || 5-28-11
The one with plough as weapon (balarAma) does not know the game of dice well.
Yet he is greatly concerned with it. Why don't we defeat bala, of great
power, in a game of dice itself?
tatheti tAnAha nR^ipAnrukmI balamadAnvitaH |
sabhAyAM saha rAmeNa chakre dyUtaM sa vai tadA || 5-28-12
rukmi, having power and pride, told the kings: "let it be so".
Then he started to play the game of dice with (bala)rAma in the assembly.
bhAgavata tenth canto, chapter 61
tasmin nivR^itta udvAhe kAli~NgapramukhA nR^ipAH |
dR^iptAste rukmiNuM prochurbalamakShairvinirjaya || 10-61-27
When the marriage was concluded, the chief kings such as the king of kali~Nga
told rukmi, boasting: you should defeat bala(rAma) with dices.
anakShaj~no hyayaM rAjannapi tadvyasanaM mahat |
ityukto balamAhUya tenAkShai rukmyadIvyata || 10-61-28
He does not know the game of dice well. Yet he is greatly concerned with it.
With these words, bala(rAma) was called and rukmi began playing dices with
In harivaMsha, a group of kings (who are named) including the king of
kali~Nga, jayatsena, tell rukmi to play dice with balarAma.
In vishNupurANa and bhAgavata, a group of kings, with king of kali~Nga as
chief (note the same words (kali~NgarAjapramukhA - viShNupurANa,
kAli~NgapramukhA nR^ipAH - bhAgavata) ask rukmi to play dice with balarAma.
In harivaMsha, the kings tell rukmi that balarAma is not an expert of
In viShNupurANa (anakShaj~no halI dyUte tathAsya vyasanaM mahat) and
bhAgavata (anakShaj~no hyayaM rAjannapi tadvyasanaM mahat) also, the kings
say that balarAma does not know the game well, but he is greatly concerned
with it. The same words (anakShaj~no, vyasanaM, mahat) are used in
viShNupurANa and bhAgavata in this context.
Description of assembly (sabha) - venue of the dice game
In harivamsha, the venue of game, sanctified by sprinkling sandal water,
is described as auspicious.
te shubhAM kA~nchanastambhAM kusumairbhUShitAjirAm |
sabhAmAvivishurhR^iShTAH siktAM chandanavAriNA ||2-61-23
Happily, they entered the auspicious assembly, having golden pillars,
decorated with flowers and sprinkled with sandal water.
tAM pravishya tataH sarve shubhrasraganulepanAH |
sauvarNeShvAsaneshvAsAMchakrire vijigIShavaH ||2-61-24
Entering the assembly, all of them, wearing white garlands,
with their bodies smeared with pastes, sat on the golden seats, eager for
AhUto baladevastu kitavairakShakovidaiH |
bADamityabravIddhR^iShTaH saha dIvyAma paNyatAm ||2-61-25
baladeva (balarAm) who was called by the deceitful kings who were experts
in the dice game, also said happily: Let us play. Offer your stake.
nikR^ityA vijigIShanto dAkShiNAtyA narAdhipAH |
maNimuktAH suvarNaM cha tatrAninyuH sahasrashaH ||2-61-26
The kings of the southern side, eager for victory by cheating, brought
thousands of jewels, pearls and gold and others (as stake).
tataH prAvartata dyUtaM teShAM rativinAshanam |
kalahasyAspadaM ghoraM durmatInAM kShayAvaham ||2-61-27
Then the dice game began, leading to destruction of their pleasure, the
basis of terrible quarrel, leading to the decline of those with bad
In vishNupurANa, the beginning of the game is described in one shloka:
tatheti tAnAha nR^ipAnrukmI balamadAnvitaH |
sabhAyAM saha rAmeNa chakre dyUtaM cha vai tadA || 5-28-12
Then, rukmi, proud of his strength told the kings: let it be so.
Then the dice game with balarAma started in the assembly.
We have already seen the short description of the beginning of the dice game
ityukto balamAhUya tenAkShai rukmyadIvyata ||10-61-28
With these words, bala(rAma) was called and rukmi began playing dices with
In harivamsha, the dice game (ritual) is presented with certain sinister
elements (nikR^itya vijigIShanto), defeating its original purpose of
enjoyment. Instead of merry-making, it leads to quarrel and ultimately to the
horrible death of rukmi, one of the participants.
No attributes such as ritual or sinister are assigned to the dice game in
viShNupurANa and bhagavata.
First part of dice game
harivaMsha (2-61-28 to 2-61-33)
niShkANAM cha sahasrANi suvarnasya dashAditaH |
rukmiNA saha saMpAte baladevo glahaM dadau ||2-61-28
In the game with rukmi, baladeva (rAma) offered ten thousand golden coins as
taM jigAya tato rukmI yatamAnaM mahAbalam |
tAvadevAparaM bhUyo baladevaM jigAya saH ||2-61-29
Then rukmi won against the highly powerful balarAma who was trying to
Afterwards, rukmi again defeated baladeva for the same stake.
asakR^ijjIyamAnastu rukminA keshavAgrajaH |
suvarNakoTIrjagrAha glahaM tasya mahAtmanaH || 2-61-30
rukmi defeated the elder brother of keshava (kR^iShNa) several times and won
ten million gold coins from the great soul as stake.
jitamityeva hR^IShTo.atha tamAhvR^itirabhAShata |
shlAghyamAnashcha chikShepA prahasanmusalAyudham ||2-61-31
Then the deceitful rukmi said: I won. Then he congratulated himself
(for winning) and ridiculed the one having plough as his weapon
avidyo durbalaH shrImAnhiraNyamamitaM mayA |
ajeyo baladevo.ayamakShadyUte parAjitaH ||2-61-32
(rukmi said) Today, in the dice game, I have defeated the undefeatable,
auspicious baladeva (balarAma) who is a novice and weak and I have won
kali~NgarAjastachChrutvA prajahAsa bhR^ishaM tadA |
Hearing this, the king of kali~Nga laughed happily showing his teeth.
The one with plough as weapon (balarAma) became angry then.
sahasramekaM niShkANaM rukimiNA vijito balaH |
dvitIye.api paNo chAnyatsahasraM rukmiNA jitaH || 5-28-13
rukmi won one thousand gold coins from bala(rAma) as the first stake. rukmi
won another stake of one thousand gold coins as the second stake.
tato dashasahasrANi niShkANaM paNamAdade |
balabhadro.ajayattAni rukmI dyUtavidAM varaH || 5-28-13
Then balabhadra offered a stake of ten thousand gold coins. That was also won
by rukmi, the best among the players of dice.
tato jahAsa svanavatkali~NgAdhipatirdvijaH |
dantAnvidarshayanmUDho rukmI chAha madoddhataH || 5-28-14
(O brAhmin (O maitrya)! (parAshara said) Then the foolish king of kali~Nga
laughed loudly showing his teeth. rukmi, excited with pride said:
avidyo.ayaM mayA dyUte balabhadraH parAjitaH |
mudhaivAkShAvalepAndho yo.avamene.akShakovidAn || 5-28-15
I have defeated balabhadra who is ignorant in the dice game. Blinded with
his interest in the game, he is insulting the experts.
dR^iShTvA kali~NgarAjantaM prakAshadashanAnam |
rukmiNaM chApi durvAkyaM kopaM chakre halAyudhaH || 5-28-16
Seeing the king of kali~Nga laughing, showing his teeth and hearing the
insulting words of rukmi, the one with plough as weapon, became angry.
shataM sahsramayutaM rAmastatrAdade paNam |
taM tu rukmyajayattatra kAli~NgaH prAhasad balam |
dantAn sandarshayannuchchairnAmR^ShyattadhalAyudhaH || 10-61-29
balarAma first offered stakes of hundred, thousand and ten thousand gold
coins. rukmi won them. Then king of kali~Nga laughed at the one with plough
as weapon, showing his teeth.
The amount of stakes and the number of games are different in harivamsha,
viShNupurANa and bhAgavata. All three texts mention king of kali~Nga laughing,
showing his teeth.
Second part of dice game
In the second part, balarAma starts winning the game, but rukmi says he has
won. rukmi also speaks offending words to balarAma. balarAma,
controlling his anger, offers more stakes, and the game continues.
rukmiNastadvachaH shrutvA parAjayanimittajam |
Hearing the words of rukmi about the defeat,
(balarama felt that) the son of king bhIShmaka, rukmi,
has insuled him with severe words.
roShamAhArayAmAsa jitaroSho.api dharmavit |
saMkruddho dharShaNAM prApya rauhiNeyo mahAbalaH ||2-61-35
The one fixed in morals (balarAma) controlled his anger even though he had
won. The highly powerful son of rohiNI, getting angry,
dhairyAnmanaH sannidhAya tato vachanamabravIt |
dashakoTisahasrANi glaha eko mamAparaH ||2-61-36
controlling his mind with courage, said the following words:
My yet another stake is hundred thousand million (gold coins).
enaM samparigR^ihNIShva pAtayAkShAnnarAdhipa |
kR^iShNAkShA.NllohitAkShAMshcha deshe.asmiMstvadhipAMsule ||2-61-37
O king! Accepting this stake, play the dice game. Throw the dice with black
and red hues in this sinful place (at this Time of wrath) (see nIlakanTha
ityevamAhvayAmAsa rukmiNaM rohiNIsutaH |
anuktvA vachanaM ki~nchidbADhamityabravItpunaH ||2-61-38
Saying this, the son of rohiNI (balarAma) called rukmi. First without saying
any words as reply, he said, "let it be so" again.
akShAnrukmI tato hR^iShTaH pAtayAmAsa pArthivaH |
chAturakShe tu nirvR^itte nirjitaH sa narAdhipaH ||2-61-39
Then king rukmi threw the dice happily. In the game of dice with four marks,
the king was defeated by
baladevena dharmeNa netyuvAcha tato balam |
dhairyAnmanaH samAdhAya sa na ki~nchiduvAcha ha ||2-61-40
baladeva (balarAma) in the right moral way. But the king (rukmi) did not
agree. Fixing his mind with courage he (balarAma) did not say anything
baladevaM tato rukmI mayA jitamiti smayan |
baladevastu tachChrutvA jihmaM vAkyaM narAdhipaH ||2-61-41
Then rukmi told baladeva (balarAma), smiling: I have won. O king
(janamejaya)! (vaishampAyana said) Hearing these deceitful words,
bhUyaH krodhasamAviShTo nottaraM vyAjahAra ha |
(balarAma) became very angry. But he (balarAma) did not say anything in
tataH kopaparItAtmA niShkakoTiM smAdade |
glahaM jagrAha rukmI cha tadarthe.akShAnapAtayat || 5-28-18
Then, with his soul highly angered, balarAma offered ten million gold coins.
Accepting that stake, rukmi threw dices.
ajayadbaladevastaM prAhochchairvijitaM mayA |
mayeti rukmI prAhochchairlikokteralaM bala || 5-28-19
baladeva won the stake and he said loudly: I have won. But rukmi shouted:
O bala(rAma)! There is no gain in speaking lie. I have won this stake as
tvayokto.ayaM glahassatyaM na mayaiSho.anumoditaH |
evaM tvayA chedvijitaM vijitaM na mayA katham || 5-28-20
You have claimed the stake. But I have not accepted your claim. In this way,
if you have won, why I can't I win as well?
tato lakShaM rukmyagR^ihnvAd glahaM tatrAjayad balaH |
jitavAnahamityAha rukmI kaitavamAshritaH || 10-61-30
After this, rukmi offered a stake of hundred thousand gold coins. bala(rAma)
won it. But rukmi, depending on deceit said: "I have won".
manyunA kShubhitaH shrImAn samudra iva parvaNi |
jAtyAruNAkSho.atiruShA nyarbudaM glahamAdade || 10-61-31
Auspicious balarAma became angry in his mind, like an (agitated) ocean,
on a full moon day. His naturally red eyes became more red with anger.
He offered hundred million gold coins as stake.
taM chApi jitavAn rAmo dharmeNAchChalamAshritaH |
rukmI jitaM mayatreme vadantu prAshnikA iti || 10-61-32
rAma won that stake as well in the right way (as per the rules of the game).
But rukmi depending on deceit said: "I have won. Let the experts
The words of balarAma about the dice game in harivaMsha (2-61-37) needs to
be studied further, since the game is considered as a ritual with
The end of the game
tato gaMbhIranirghoShA vAguvAchAsharIriNI ||2-61-42
Then a great loud voice was heard without any body,
baladevasya taM krodhaM vardhayantI mahAtmanaH |
satyamAha balaH shrImAndharmeNaiSha parAjitaH ||2-61-43
by way of increasing the anger of the great soul, baladeva (balarAma):
Auspicious bala(rAma) has spoken the truth. He (rukmi) is defeated in the
anuktvA vachanaM ki~nchitprApto bhavati karmaNA |
manasA samanuj~nAtaM tatsyAdityavagamyatAm ||2-61-44
Without saying any words, if an action is done, it should be considered as
acceptable to the conscience.
iti shrutvA vachastathyamantarikShAtsubhAShitam |
sa~NkarShaNastathotthAya sauvarNenoruNA balI ||2-61-45
Hearing this moral spoken in the sky, sa~NkarShaNa (balarAma) then got up.
The powerful (balarAma), with the golden heavy (board of dice)
rukmiNyA bhrAtaraM jyeShThaM nijaghAna mahItale |
vivAde kupito rAmaH kSheptAraM kila rukmiNam |
jaghAnAShTApadenaiva pramathya yadunandanaH ||2-61-46
beat rukmiNI's elder brother (rukmi) and felled him on the earth. During the
argument, angry bala(rAma), the son of yadu, got up and beat rukmi,
who was laughing at him, with the dice board having eight parts.
tato.apasR^itya sa~NkruddhaH kali~NgAdhipaterapi |
dantAnbabha~nja saMrambhAdunnanAda cha simhavat ||2-61-47
Then, being angry, balarAma also felled the teeth of the king of kali~Nga.
With anger, balarAma roared aloud like a lion.
khaDgamudyamya tAnsarvAMstrAsayAmAsa pArthivAn |
stambhaM sabhAyAH sauvarNamutpATya balinAM varaH ||2-61-48
Brandishing his sword, balarAma terrified all the kings. The best among
the powerful, (balarAma) pulled out all the pillars of the assembly.
gajendra iva taM stambhaM karShaNsa~NkarShaNastataH |
nirjagAma sabhAdvArAttrAsayAmAsa kaishikAn ||2-61-49
Then sa~NkarShaNa (balarAma), dragging the pillar, like an elephant,
went out of the assembly door, terrifying the kaishika-s.
rukmiNaM nikR^itipraj~naM sa hatvA yAdavarShabhaH |
vitrAsya vidviShaH sarvAnsimhaH kShudramR^igAniva ||2-61-50
killing rukmi who desired to cheat, the best of yAdava-s terrified the
enemies, like a lion terrifying mean animals.
jagAma shibiraM rAmaH svayameva janAvR^itaH |
nyavedayatsa kR^iShNAya tatra sarvaM yathAbhavat ||2-61-51
Surrounded by people, (bala)rAma went to his camp and informed kR^iShNa
about all incidents which took place.
novAcha sa tadA kR^iShNaH ki~nchidrAmaM mahAdyutiH |
nigR^ihya cha tadA.a.atmAnaM kR^ichChrAdashrUNyavartayat || 2-61-52
kR^iShNa with great splendour did not say anything to (bala)rAma.
Controlling his mind with difficulty, he cried with his eyes full of
na hato vAsudevena yaH pUrvaM paravIrahA |
jyeShTho bhrAtAtha rukmiNyA rukmiNIsnehakAraNAt ||2-61-53
vAsudeva (kR^iShNa) did not kill rukmi, the elder brother of rukmiNI,
the killer of enemies, before, due to his love for rukmiNI.
sa rAmakaramuktena nihato dyUtamaNDale |
aShTApadena balavAnrAjA vajradharopamaH ||2-61-54
The powerful king (rukmi), comparable to the holder of vajra (indra),
was killed by the dice board having eight parts, released from the hand
of (bala)rAma, during the dice game.
tasminhate mahAvIrye nR^ipatau bhIShmakAtmaje |
drumabhArgavatulye vai drumabhArgavashikShite ||2-61-55
As the great valiant king, the son of bhIShmaka, equal to druma and
and trained by druma and bhArgava(rAma), was killed,
kR^itau cha yuddhakushale nityayAjini pAtite |
vR^iShNayashchAndhakAshchaiva sarve vimanaso.abhavan ||2-61-56
the one who is accomplished, one who is expert in battle, one who performs
sacrifices daily was killed, all vR^iShNi-s and andhaka-s, lost their mind
rukmiNI cha mahAbhAgA vilapantyArtayA girA |
vilapantIM tathA dR^iShTvA sAntvayAmAsa keshavaH ||2-61-57
(O janamejaya!) The illustrious rukmiNI cried saying sad words. Seeing
rukmiNI crying, keshava (kR^iShNa) consoled her.
athAntarIkShe vAguchchaiH prAha gambhIranAdinI |
baladevasya taM kopaM vardayantI mahAtmanaH || 5-28-21
At the same time, loud words were heard with high sound in the sky,
increasing the anger of the great soul, baladeva(rAma):
jitaM balena dharmeNa rukmiNA bhAShitaM mR^iShA |
anuktvApi vachaH ki~njitkR^itaM bhavati karmaNA || 5-28-22
As per the rules, this stake is won by baladeva(rAma). rukmi is speaking lie.
Even if words are unsaid, the actions done would suffice.
tato balaH samuthAya kopasaMraktalochanaH |
jaghAnAShTapadenaiva rukmiNam sa mahAbalaH || 5-28-23
Then the greatly powerful balarAma, with his eyes red with anger, got up and
struck rukmi with the board of the dice game having eight legs.
kali~NgarAjaM chAdAya visphurantaM balAdbalaH |
babha~nja dantAnkupito yaiH prakAshaM jahAsa saH || 5-28-24
Then balrAma caught the king of kali~Nga forcefully, and broke all his teeth,
showing which he had laughed.
Akr^iShya cha mahAstambhaM jAtarUpamayaM balaH |
jaghAna tAnye tatpakShe bhUbhR^ita kupito bhR^ishaM || 5-28-25
Then angry balarAma pulled a great pillar of the assembly and beat other
kings of his side with it.
tato hAhAkR^itaM sarvaM palAyanaparaM dvija |
tadrAjamaNDalaM bhItaM bhabhUva kupito bale || 5-28-26
Then O brAhmin (maitreya), all the kings of that assembly became afraid due
to the anger of bala(rAma) and all of them ran away.
balena nihataM dR^iShTvA rukmiNaM madhusUdhanaH |
novAcha ki~njitmaitreya rukmiNIbalayorbhayAd || 5-28-27
O maitrya! Seeing rukmi killed by bala(rAma), the slayer of madhu (kR^iShNa)
did not say anything due to fear of rukmiNI and balarAma.
tathAbravInnabhovANI balenaiva jito glahaH |
dharmato vachanenaiva rukmI vadati vai mR^iShA || 10-61-33
Then a voice in the sky said: As per the rules, it can be said that this
stake of gold coins is won by bala(rAma). What rukmi says is false.
tAmanAdR^itya vaidarbho duShTarAjanyachoditaH |
sa~NkarShaNaM parihasan babhAShe kAlachoditaH || 10-61-34
Without respecting the voice, prompted by the evil kings, prompted by
Time (death), the king of vidarbah (rukmi) spoke ridiculing sa~NkarShaNa
naivAkShakovidA yUyaM gopAlA vanagocharAH |
akShairdivyanti rAjAno bANaishcha na bhavAdR^ishAH || 10-61-35
you, cow tenders, living in the forest, are not experts in the dice game.
Only kings can play with the dices and arrows, not people like you.
rukmiNaivamadhikShapto rAjabhishchopahAsitaH |
kruddhaH parighamudyabhya jaghne taM nR^ipasaMsadi || 10-61-36
Being ridiculed by rukmi and also laughed at by the kings, bala(rAma),
took an iron club and killed rukmi in the assembly of kings.
kali~NgarAjaM tarasA gR^ihItvA dashame pade |
dantAnapAtayat kruddho yo.ahasad vivR^itairdvijaiH || 10-61-37
bala(rAma) quickly caught the king of kali~Nga in ten steps and broke
his teeth in anger.
anye nirbhinnabAhUrushiraso rudhirokShitAH |
rAjAno dudruvurbhItA balena parighArditAH || 10-61-38
With their arms, thighs and heads struck by the iron club of balarAma,
the other kings ran away with fear, bleeding.
nihate rukmiNI syAle nAbravIt sAdhvasAdhu vA |
rukmiNIbalayo rAjan snehabha~NgabhayAdharH || 10-61-39
O king (parIkShit)! (shuka said), due to his love to rukmINI and respect to
balarAma, hari (kR^iShNa) did not say anything in favour or against the
killing of rukmi.
Without contesting rukmi's claims, balarAma plays the game, controlling his
anger. In all the three texts, the words heard in the sky, prompt balarAma.
In harivaMsha and viShNupuRANa, rukmi is killed by balarAma with the dice
board having eight legs.
In bhAgavata, rukmi is killed with an iron club.
According to all the three texts, kR^iShNa did not say anything regarding
The event is described in almost identical ways in harivaMsha and
viShNupurANa, with harivaMsha presenting more details. The bhAgavata
description is found to be different.
May 7, 2010