Mahābhārata – Episode 63 - Vidura-Nīti

This article is part 63 of 112 in the series Mahābhārata

Vidura first elucidated upon the qualities of a scholar and the differences between the wise and the foolish. A wise man always does what is good for himself and to the society. He gives up condemnable activities. He is devoted to his work and lives a disciplined life. He sacrifices not basic human values and the puruṣārthas at the cost of anger, joy, shame, arrogance, ego, or obstinacy. None can understand the depth of his personality and his thoughts. One can only understand him when his thoughts get translated into actions. Neither extreme heat nor extreme cold, comfort nor discomfort, poverty nor wealth hampers his work. He has his eye on dharma and artha at all times and considers artha to be a greater value than kāma. He never refrains from doing any sort of honest labour and does not look down upon anything. He lends his ear to all, being attentive to what is told. He understands things quickly and is free from desires. He never speaks out of turn, especially when he is not asked to do so. He doesn’t seek the weak and frets not over what is lost. He doesn’t lose heart when he encounters challenges and doesn’t take up an activity until he has a strong mental conviction about what he’s doing.  He doesn’t abandon the task he has taken up and never wastes time. He has his mind under his control. The wise one always spends his time on activity that is beneficial to the individual and to the society. He knows the nature of the world and is skilled at a wide range of activities. He knows what instruments to use where and what action to take under different circumstances. The wise one is also charismatic, talented, and quickly grasps whatever the texts say. His intellect matches his learning and his learning is streamlined by wisdom inherent in him. He is respected by the noble ones and is held in high regard.

A foolish man is uneducated and lacks good characteristics. He pretends to be generous even when he is languishing in poverty. He tries to become rich without doing any work. He neglects the job assigned to him and tries his hand at tasks that others are performing. He gets himself involved, uninvited, in the activities of other people. He is not transparent in his dealings even with his friends and has a double-faced character. He doesn’t speak what he thinks and bends the rules to suit the situation. He desires to possess people who do not love him and he alienates people who love him. He develops animosity against the mighty. He befriends men who are of inferior nature and distances himself from his real friends. He tries to harm the noble and good-natured ones. The fool is always inclined towards taking to unrighteous and unethical means in all his endeavours. He is unsure of everyone under all circumstances and suspects people who are pure in their intentions and behaviour. He is lethargic in executing tasks that need urgent attention. He visits people, though uninvited, and speaks out of turn.

The fool trusts the unworthy and has no faith in the noble. Though he has his own shortcomings, he points out the same in others. Though incapable of doing anything, he has no control over his anger. He tries to preach to those who are in no need of it, takes refuge in the weak, and pampers people of lowly character. He doesn’t share his resources even with those whom he ought to nourish and he leads a lavish life with a stone-heart.

A wrong deed might be committed by one, but its repercussions are experienced by many. An arrow shot by an archer either hits the target or misses it. But the sharp mind of an intelligent person destroys both the king and his kingdom.

i. Truth is the only stairway to heaven.
ii. Two kinds of men are like snakes hiding in an anthill – a king who does not fight a war and a brāhmaṇa who does not travel around the country.
iii. Three kinds of men walk over the earth – the Superior, the Average, and the Inferior – they must be assigned tasks that will match their quality and capacity.
iv. Four things betray their fruits spontaneously – Fate, Conversations with the wise, Wisdom, and Humility.
v. Five beings, if worshipped, give one great rewards here and hereafter – Deities, Ancestors, Humans, Beggars, and Guests.
vi. Six great qualities one should never give up – Honesty, Philanthropy, Agility, Patience, Endurance, and Courage.
vii. Seven vices that all kings should give up – Addiction to women, Gambling, Hunting, Drinking, Foul language, Severe punishments, and Unnecessary expenditure.
viii. Eight kinds of happiness one can procure, which are like the butter that floats on curd – Spending time with good friends, Handsome income, Embrace from the son, Lovemaking, Sweet words heard at the right moment, Prosperity of one’s own people, Procuring a long-desired object, and Felicitation before a gathering.
ix. Nine doors, three pillars, five windows make up a certain house. A person who understands the house and its yajamāna (owner) is a great one.
x. Ten people do not know dharma – the intoxicated, mad, foolish, tired, angry, hungry, one in a hurry, coward, miser, and one engulfed by lust.

The five children were born when the cursed Pāṇḍu was in the forest. You had looked after them by providing education and by nurturing their talents. The five of them are like five Indras now, yet they are obedient to you. Give them their rightful share of the kingdom. You can live happily with your children and the Pāṇḍavas together. Neither the humans nor the devatas will find a reason to find fault with you!

O King! Being dhārmic even to animals is like taking a dip in all tīrthakṣetras. In fact, being dhārmic and moral in one’s conduct is superior to any pilgrimage. This will give you good renown here and you will reach svarga after passing away.

Once, an asura named Virocana and a brāhmaṇa named Sudhanva had a fight over a girl whom they wanted to marry. They tried to establish their superiority over each other. They fought and they agreed that whoever lost the fight would give up their life. They went to Prahlāda to resolve the dispute. Prahlāda was Virocana’s father but Sudhanva knew that he would not pronounce judgement in his son’s favour out of his affection for him. Prahlāda was in a fix and said, “O brāhmaṇa! He is my son and you are a brāhmaṇa; how can a person like me resolve this conflict? How do I proceed and decide what is the truth and what is false?”

Sudhanva said, “Speaking the untruth and hiding the truth both amount to the same thing. Both increase our accumulation of pāpa and that will lead to our destruction.”

Prahlāda pronounced his judgement: “Virocana! I think Sudhanva’s father Aṅgirasa will do a better job than me in such matters. His mother is of a superior nature than your mother and he is better than you. He has won this matter!” To Sudhanva, he said, “Virocana’s life is now yours! I request you to give it to me!”

This made Sudhanva happy and he said, “Prahlāda! I’m pleased with you. Giving up your attachment to your son, you have behaved in a dhārmic manner. You have been objective in your judgement. Thus, I give you back your son. However, he must wash my feet before Keśinī!”

Dhṛtarāṣṭra! Don’t get carried away by your excessive affection towards your children. Give up dishonesty and be dhārmic in your way. If you stick to immoral means, be assured that your clan will get destroyed along with you! Do you think the devatas watch over people just as a cowherd watches over his herd and has a stick in his hand to keep them under control? The devas bless the ones they want to protect with a good intellect and a tender heart. If he follows his heart and acts in a manner conducive to the individual and to the society, he will do wonders. All his desires will be fulfilled and his spiritual value will grow. Have no doubt regarding this! When such is the case, how can you expect something good to come out, having entrusted all powers and responsibilities in the hands of Duryodhana, Duśśāsana and Śakuni? The Pāṇḍavas are the embodiments of all good qualities. They treat you like their father. You should treat them like your own children and that would be your dharma too! Even if your relatives lack good qualities, it is only to keep them in good humour and to take care of them; what to say of the Pāṇḍavas, who are so humble and gentle in their manners? You will need to show compassion towards them! Give them a few villages so that they can lead their lives in peace and can get their bare minimum requirements. If you do so, you will get a good name. They too will get a comfortable footing as kṣatriyas,” Vidura said.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra said, “Vidura! I agree with everything you say and you have been saying this for a long time now. My heart tells me the same too and I prefer to have a gentle attitude about the Pāṇḍavas. However, as soon as I see Duryodhana, my mind completely changes. What shall I do? No one can conquer Fate and undo its play. Fate is stronger than Free will!”




Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh


Hari is a writer, translator, editor, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in philosophy, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written/translated and (co-)edited 35+ books, mostly related to Indian culture. He serves on the advisory board of a few educational institutions.

Prekshaa Publications

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...