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Because blood is thicker than water, Yudhishthir was willing to forgive a 1000 sins of Kauravas.
Anyone else who had tried to poison people, burn people, assassinate others by any other means, drag a married woman in public by her hair, attempt rape or disrobing of a married woman, lie, cheat or be otherwise deceitful, Yudhishthir would have punished severely. As an emperor, he would have even pronounced the death penalty for them. But just because the Kauravas were his cousins, he kept forgiving them. He knew that they were adharma incarnate, yet he never sought to displace them as he sought to displace other kings who committed adharma.
Yudhishthir’s righteousness was highly biased and hence it perpetrated the adharma that led to Mahabharata. Had Yudhishthir followed his dharma correctly and sought to punish wrong doers at the appropriate time, Mahabharata could have been avoided. Yudhishthir was highly critical of Karna and constantly sought his demise. Yet, upon finding out that he was the elder son of Kunti, he was suddenly filled with remorse and instant fraternal love for the one man he saw as an obstacle in establishing his dharma-rajya.
Knowing his blind uncle to be the root cause of all misery, he respected, obeyed and even supported him materially till the very end. Knowing that their uncle was giving them bad advise and was partial to his wicked sons, Yudhishthir continued to do whatever pleased his uncle because he was officially his 'paternal loci'. His blind trust in his blind uncle was the root cause of misery for the Pandavas. Knowing Varanvat to be a trap and an assassination plot, Yudhishthir went because he did not want to displease his uncle. Knowing the division of their ancestral kingdom was wrong and inequitable, he submitted to it because it was the considered advise of his blind uncle. Knowing the gambling match to be rigged against himself, Yudhishthir went because he did not want to turn down an invitation from his uncle. Even after the war, knowing his uncle’s desire to bankrupt him, Yudhishthir still allowed him to use his own personal funds to give charity in the name of Duryodhan and the dead Kauravas.
The only time he defied his uncle was when he refused the peace offer send through Sanjay and the resulting war saw him annihilate his enemies.
Had 'Yudhishthir the Just' acted with such clarity of right vs wrong earlier, holocaust of the Mahabharata could have been avoided.
Other Pandavas were equally guilty of following Yudhishthir like sheep and not acting independently to ‘do the right thing’. They should have spoken out against injustices and unfairness earlier in life for the elders to become aware and act appropriately to remediate the injustices. Instead, they seethed in silence, following their elder brother’s lead, not questioning his wisdom or authority to lead. Following strict hierarchy based on age alone, they sacrificed meritocracy for compliance, leading to untold miseries in their lives. Had Yudhishthir been awake at the time of Hidamba’s attack, he might have advised withdrawal as opposed to an outright fight. At Ekchakra, he advised caution and keeping low. Thankfully, he was over-ruled by his mother who ordered Bhima to go and kill the demon Bakasur. During Draupadi’s swayamvar, Yudhishthir went away with the twins rather than stay and help him fight off his enemies or rejoice at Arjun’s victor. If it wasn’t for Narada’s stratagem of introducing Rajasuyagna as a ‘wish of Pandu’, Yudhishthir would not have risked antagonizing kings across India to become an Emperor. It was only through Krushna, Arjun and Bhima’s advise that they attacked Jarasandh of Magadh and Yudhishthir eventually became Emperor of India.
If only Pandavas had thought independently enough to have stopped their elder brother from bankrupting them and losing all their hard earned wealth, power, lands and prestige at the game of dice. If only they were capable to breaking the bond of blood and stopping their brother from gambling away themselves and their wife. But, blood is thicker than water. Even when Bhima wanted to burn Yudhishthir’s hands for having perpetrated such a cataclysmic loss to their family honour, other brothers stop him out of love for their ‘brother’. Had they not been bound by blood, would they have let such a crime happen ? Even when the Kauravas offer to free them if they denounce Yudhishthir’s right to rule over their lives, the four brothers simmered in silence rather than oppose their brother. What HUGE price did they, and all India paid, for such intransience to ‘brotherly love’ !
Compare this to Krushna, who kept all relationships at a pragmatic level. He was happy to pay due deference to all his elders, but if they were acting against the interest of the community, Krushna did not hesitate to call 'spade a spade'. He was willing to go so far as kill those who stood in the way of communal harmony and establishment of Dharma –rajya. He killed his uncle Kansa, publically exposed uncle Akrur for his fraud, publically killed cousin Shishupal at Yudhishthir’s Rajasu yagna, opposed his brother and brother-in-laws when situation demanded. Krushna was pragmatic enough to tell Arjun to kill all his elders (Bhishma, Dron etc) because they stood on the side of adharma. This is because those who are aiding and abetting a criminal are committing a crime aswell. If someone does it accidently, it can be forgiven as a misdemeanour. However, there can be no mercy for those who willingly and consistently aid and abet criminals. If you keep forgiving them because they are ‘essentially good at heart’, you are simply encouraging criminals, and their cohorts, to thrive behind a barrier of such liberal-good-at-heart people.
Those who are given the responsibility to govern must know when to exercise soft and hard policies, even if it means sometimes hurting their own loved ones. Yudhishthir could not do this and hence his dharma-rajya was delayed for so long. Too many people died in the great war a !!nd hence his Dharma-rajya was also devoid of any real joy for him, or others. If only Yudhishthir had been able to look beyond the ties of blood and had been pragmatic about being an Emperor !!