At the end of the masterpiece, The Mahabharata, Yudhisthira and a dog meet Indra. Indra tells Yudhisthira that he will take Yudhisthira to heaven if Yudhisthira leaves the dog behind. Yudhisthira refuses and it is revealed that the dog was really Dharma. For passing this test, Yudhisthira is rewarded with heaven. This scene perfectly encapsulates the themes of duty, loyalty, fairness, and dharma and being justly rewarded for such actions that were present throughout the entire Mahabharata.
It is important to note that the dog followed Yudhisthira during the entire journey to heaven. Even when Yudhisthira’s brothers, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula, and Sagadeva and their wife, Draupadi, were falling off of the Himalayan mountain range, which is why there was only Yudhisthira and the dog when Indra appeared, the dog continued to follow Yudhisthira. For the dog being so “…highly devoted…” (Mahabharata, p. 109) it was Yudhisthira’s duty to show loyalty to the dog. It is much like how Krsna offered Karna to fight with the Pandavas against the Kauravas since he was a Pandava brother. However, because he was abandoned at birth by Kunti and “…enjoyed sovereignty for thirteen years without let or hindrance,” (Mahabharata, p. 111) with the Kauravas, Karna decided that it was his duty to fight alongside the people who were most loyal to him, the Kauravas.
During the time of The Mahabharata dogs were far from man’s best friends. Dogs were considered impure. Most people would have cast aside a lowly dog for the chance at heaven, especially after being told by Indra himself that “there will be no cruelty in doing so” (Mahabharata, p. 209). However, Yudhisthira choose loyalty over what many people would have considered the common-sense option of Indra’s proposal. This was not the first time in The Mahabharata that the value of loyalty was shown to be stronger than common-sense.
Before going to Duryodhana’s gambling hall Yudhisthira said that, “If challenged, however I shall never disregard it. This is my firm vow.” (Mahabharata, p. 50) Quickly upon arriving, Yudhisthira was challenged by Duryodhana’s uncle Sakuni. Through cheating, Sakuni defeated Yudhisthira and even though Yudhisthira knew that Sakuni had cheated he continued to play dice with him. Due to this, Yudhisthira temporally lost everything, including himself. After having everything returned to him and while leaving the gambling hall Yudhisthira was challenged to one more game on dice. Yudhisthira said to the challenge, “…I am not able to disregard it.” (Mahabharata, p. 56) Playing another game of dice, like picking a dog over heaven, wasn’t the best idea, but it was most important to be loyal to his vow that he would accept any challenge.
Some may point out that the dog did not deserve Yudhisthira’s loyalty because the dog was below him, similar to when Karna was not allowed to dual Arjuna. When Karna originally challenged Arjuna to a dual he was refused because he was not of royalty like Arjuna....