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Gambler's Lament: Rig Vedic Hymn About Gambling Addiction

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

We all know how Yudhishtira's addiction to 'Game of Dice' ruined everything for him and his near and dear. Rig Veda also narrates a pathetic condition of an addict in 14 beautiful slokas.

The 34th hymn in the 10th chapter of Rig Veda has a monologue of a gambler who loses everything and laments about restarting his life. "Considering it is the oldest composition of the kind in existence, we cannot but regard this poem as the most remarkable literary product,” said a noted Sanskrit scholar, Arthur Anthony Macdonell.

The essence of the monologue is as follows:

“The sound of the dice relieves me like a soft breeze on a hilltop. It gives me a high which can only be experienced by having the best of drinks. (Here, the author equates the game of dice with the drinking/alcohol addiction)
My spouse has never been angry or vexed with me. She has always been kind to me and my friends. Yet, I have deserted her. Now, she puts me away, my mother hates me. There is no one to comfort me. I’m not even able to enjoy the game like before.
Others misbehave with my spouse. My relatives do not care about me, and they disowned me. I resolved not to play the game, but then my friends left me. The sound of dice attracts me like a girl who goes to a scenic place to meet her lover.
I go to the gambling house every day, thinking that I can be lucky and win on the day. The sound of dice triggers me to bet all my possessions. The dice are armed to provoke pain and torture us. They give useless gifts and destroy the person who wins. Even the mightiest king has to bow before the dice.
The dice dance on the board and make us worship them. Although cold, they burn our hearts.
The gambler’s family will be on the road. The gambler himself will be wandering in fear of debt. He regrets when he looks at happy homes, and yet goes back to gambling in the noon and tries to sleep at night with the guilt of losing everything.
I’m telling you, leave gambling, plough the felid, rear the cattle and be happy with whatever you have. You will have your family and happiness back. You will always have the blessing of Almighty.”

As per some historians, this was written during Indian Iron Age (2700 years ago). As per the Sanskrit scholars Rig Veda was written during the Mahabharata age, which goes back at least 5000 years. But the situations, described in these verses are valid to date. Gambling has become more prevalent these days and one need not even go to a casino or a gambling club. We have gambling empires at the touch of our phones to ruin us and the people who care about us.

Gamblers should realise and stay away from ruining themselves. In most cases, people cannot control themselves, learn from setbacks or listen to others like Dharmaraja, it is the responsibility of the people who care about the persons to talk and bring them out of the trap. Otherwise, one day the spectre called gambling will come knocking on the doors of everyone!

How can we convince someone that they are suffering from Gambling addiction and let them take help to recover?

Convincing someone that they are addicted to gambling and encouraging them to seek professional help can be challenging, as individuals with addiction often exhibit denial or resistance. However, here are some steps that may help in the process:

Educate Yourself: Learn about gambling addiction, its signs and symptoms, and the impact it can have on an individual's life. This will help you better understand the condition and approach the conversation with empathy and knowledge.

Express Concern: Approach the person with compassion and express your genuine concern about their gambling behaviour. Use "I" statements to share how their gambling has affected you and your relationship with them.

Provide Evidence: Present specific examples or instances where their gambling behavior has caused problems or had negative consequences, such as financial difficulties, strained relationships, or changes in behaviour or mood.

Share Information: Share information about the risks and consequences of gambling addiction, including the potential impact on mental health, relationships, and financial stability. Provide factual information about the signs and symptoms of addiction and how it may be affecting their life.

Avoid Judgment: Avoid criticizing or blaming the person for their addiction, as this may trigger defensiveness and resistance. Instead, convey empathy and understanding, and express your desire to support them in seeking help.

Offer Support: Let the person know that you are there to support them in their journey towards recovery. Offer to accompany them to professional help appointments or provide resources for treatment options, such as therapists or support groups.

Be Persistent: Be prepared for resistance or denial, as addiction often involves a level of self-deception. It may take time for the person to accept that they have a problem and need help. Be patient, persistent, and continue to express your concern and support.

Encourage Professional Help: Emphasize the benefits of seeking professional help for gambling addiction, such as counseling, therapy, or participation in support groups. Offer to help them research and locate qualified professionals in their area.

Highlight the Positive: Discuss the potential positive outcomes of seeking help, such as improved mental health, better relationships, and regaining control over their finances and life.

Respect Boundaries: Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to seek professional help. Respect their autonomy and choices, and avoid pushing or forcing them into treatment. Offer your support, but do not try to control or coerce them.

Remember, addiction is a complex and sensitive issue, and it may require professional intervention. If the person is resistant to seeking help, or if the addiction is severe, it may be necessary to involve a qualified mental health professional or addiction specialist to provide appropriate guidance and support.

Free helpline for mental health issues: 18008914416 (TeleMANAS - An initiative by Government of India)

PS: I’m not an expert in Sanskrit, this article was written after reading and understanding various sources.

Slokas of the above-mentioned hymn and their respective Translation:

34th hymn in the 10th chapter of Rig Veda About Gambling Addiction
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​प्रा॒वे॒पा मा॑ बृह॒तो मा॑दयन्ति प्रवाते॒जा इरि॑णे॒ वर्वृ॑तानाः । सोम॑स्येव मौजव॒तस्य॑ भ॒क्षो वि॒भीद॑को॒ जागृ॑वि॒र्मह्य॑मच्छान् ॥ प्रावेपा मा बृहतो मादयन्ति प्रवातेजा इरिणे वर्वृतानाः । सोमस्येव मौजवतस्य भक्षो विभीदको जागृविर्मह्यमच्छान् ॥

The large rattling dice exhilarate me as the breeze that flows on a hillock in a desert; the exciting dice give me the thrill of Soma of Maujavat. (Soma: A drink, Maujavat: A mountain where the best soma is found)

​न मा॑ मिमेथ॒ न जि॑हीळ ए॒षा शि॒वा सखि॑भ्य उ॒त मह्य॑मासीत् । अ॒क्षस्या॒हमे॑कप॒रस्य॑ हे॒तोरनु॑व्रता॒मप॑ जा॒याम॑रोधम् ॥ न मा मिमेथ न जिहीळ एषा शिवा सखिभ्य उत मह्यमासीत् । अक्षस्याहमेकपरस्य हेतोरनुव्रतामप जायामरोधम् ॥

My wife has not been angry with me, nor was she vexed with me; She was kind to me and my friends; yet for the sake of the game, I have deserted this affectionate spouse.

द्वेष्टि॑ श्व॒श्रूरप॑ जा॒या रु॑णद्धि॒ न ना॑थि॒तो वि॑न्दते मर्डि॒तार॑म् । अश्व॑स्येव॒ जर॑तो॒ वस्न्य॑स्य॒ नाहं वि॑न्दामि कित॒वस्य॒ भोग॑म् ॥ द्वेष्टि श्वश्रूरप जाया रुणद्धि न नाथितो विन्दते मर्डितारम् । अश्वस्येव जरतो वस्न्यस्य नाहं विन्दामि कितवस्य भोगम् ॥

My spouse keeps me at distance. Her mother in-law hate me. There is no one to comfort this wretched man. Like an old horse, I cannot enjoy the game anymore.

अ॒न्ये जा॒यां परि॑ मृशन्त्यस्य॒ यस्यागृ॑ध॒द्वेद॑ने वा॒ज्य१॒॑क्षः । पि॒ता मा॒ता भ्रात॑र एनमाहु॒र्न जा॑नीमो॒ नय॑ता ब॒द्धमे॒तम् ॥ अन्ये जायां परि मृशन्त्यस्य यस्यागृधद्वेदने वाज्यक्षः । पिता माता भ्रातर एनमाहुर्न जानीमो नयता बद्धमेतम् ॥

Others touch his wife. His parents and siblings say, “We do not know him anymore”.

यदा॒दीध्ये॒ न द॑विषाण्येभिः परा॒यद्भ्योऽव॑ हीये॒ सखि॑भ्यः । न्यु॑प्ताश्च ब॒भ्रवो॒ वाच॒मक्र॑तँ॒ एमीदे॑षां निष्कृ॒तं जा॒रिणी॑व ॥ यदादीध्ये न दविषाण्येभिः परायद्भ्योऽव हीये सखिभ्यः । न्युप्ताश्च बभ्रवो वाचमक्रतँ एमीदेषां निष्कृतं जारिणीव ॥

When I resolve not to play the game, my friends leave me. When the brown dice, thrown on the board, have rattled,I just go to their appointed place, like a girl with a lover.

स॒भामे॑ति कित॒वः पृ॒च्छमा॑नो जे॒ष्यामीति॑ त॒न्वा॒३॒॑ शूशु॑जानः । अ॒क्षासो॑ अस्य॒ वि ति॑रन्ति॒ कामं॑ प्रति॒दीव्ने॒ दध॑त॒ आ कृ॒तानि॑ ॥ सभामेति कितवः पृच्छमानो जेष्यामीति तन्वा शूशुजानः । अक्षासो अस्य वि तिरन्ति कामं प्रतिदीव्ने दधत आ कृतानि ॥

The player goes to a gambling house and wonders if he can be lucky today? The sound of the dice excites him, pushing him to bet his money against the opponent.

अ॒क्षास॒ इद॑ङ्कु॒शिनो॑ नितो॒दिनो॑ नि॒कृत्वा॑न॒स्तप॑नास्तापयि॒ष्णव॑: । कु॒मा॒रदे॑ष्णा॒ जय॑तः पुन॒र्हणो॒ मध्वा॒ सम्पृ॑क्ताः कित॒वस्य॑ ब॒र्हणा॑ ॥ अक्षास इदङ्कुशिनो नितोदिनो निकृत्वानस्तपनास्तापयिष्णवः । कुमारदेष्णा जयतः पुनर्हणो मध्वा सम्पृक्ताः कितवस्य बर्हणा ॥

The dice are truly armed to provoke, pain and torture the players. They give useless gifts and destroy the the person who wins.

त्रि॒प॒ञ्चा॒शः क्री॑ळति॒ व्रात॑ एषां दे॒व इ॑व सवि॒ता स॒त्यध॑र्मा । उ॒ग्रस्य॑ चिन्म॒न्यवे॒ ना न॑मन्ते॒ राजा॑ चिदेभ्यो॒ नम॒ इत्कृ॑णोति ॥ त्रिपञ्चाशः क्रीळति व्रात एषां देव इव सविता सत्यधर्मा । उग्रस्य चिन्मन्यवे ना नमन्ते राजा चिदेभ्यो नम इत्कृणोति ॥

The dice do not bend to anyone, how much ever violent or powerful the person is. Even the mightiest king have to kneel before them!

नी॒चा व॑र्तन्त उ॒परि॑ स्फुरन्त्यह॒स्तासो॒ हस्त॑वन्तं सहन्ते । दि॒व्या अङ्गा॑रा॒ इरि॑णे॒ न्यु॑प्ताः शी॒ताः सन्तो॒ हृद॑यं॒ निर्द॑हन्ति ॥ नीचा वर्तन्त उपरि स्फुरन्त्यहस्तासो हस्तवन्तं सहन्ते । दिव्या अङ्गारा इरिणे न्युप्ताः शीताः सन्तो हृदयं निर्दहन्ति ॥

They roll up, they roll down, they shuffle and force the hand of the player to serve them on the board. Although cold, they burn the player’s heart.

जा॒या त॑प्यते कित॒वस्य॑ ही॒ना मा॒ता पु॒त्रस्य॒ चर॑त॒: क्व॑ स्वित् । ऋ॒णा॒वा बिभ्य॒द्धन॑मि॒च्छमा॑नो॒ऽन्येषा॒मस्त॒मुप॒ नक्त॑मेति ॥ जाया तप्यते कितवस्य हीना माता पुत्रस्य चरतः क्व स्वित् । ऋणावा बिभ्यद्धनमिच्छमानोऽन्येषामस्तमुप नक्तमेति ॥

The gambler’s wife is left alone and wretched. She mourns for her son who roams homeless. The gambler, involved in debt, ever in fear roams at night to dwell at others homes.

स्त्रियं॑ दृ॒ष्ट्वाय॑ कित॒वं त॑तापा॒न्येषां॑ जा॒यां सुकृ॑तं च॒ योनि॑म् । पू॒र्वा॒ह्णे अश्वा॑न्युयु॒जे हि ब॒भ्रून्त्सो अ॒ग्नेरन्ते॑ वृष॒लः प॑पाद ॥ स्त्रियं दृष्ट्वाय कितवं ततापान्येषां जायां सुकृतं च योनिम् । पूर्वाह्णे अश्वान्युयुजे हि बभ्रून्त्सो अग्नेरन्ते वृषलः पपाद ॥

The gambler regrets when he looks at the happy homes. But he rolls the dice and the morning and lies down as a sinner at night.

यो व॑: सेना॒नीर्म॑ह॒तो ग॒णस्य॒ राजा॒ व्रात॑स्य प्रथ॒मो ब॒भूव॑ । तस्मै॑ कृणोमि॒ न धना॑ रुणध्मि॒ दशा॒हं प्राची॒स्तदृ॒तं व॑दामि॥ यो वः सेनानीर्महतो गणस्य राजा व्रातस्य प्रथमो बभूव । तस्मै कृणोमि न धना रुणध्मि दशाहं प्राचीस्तदृतं वदामि॥

To the almighty, I salute you with my 10 fingers. I’am speaking truth, I do not hold any wealth.

अ॒क्षैर्मा दी॑व्यः कृ॒षिमित्कृ॑षस्व वि॒त्ते र॑मस्व ब॒हु मन्य॑मानः । तत्र॒ गाव॑: कितव॒ तत्र॑ जा॒या तन्मे॒ वि च॑ष्टे सवि॒तायम॒र्यः॥ अक्षैर्मा दीव्यः कृषिमित्कृषस्व वित्ते रमस्व बहु मन्यमानः । तत्र गावः कितव तत्र जाया तन्मे वि चष्टे सवितायमर्यः॥

The god told me to not give attention to gambling. He asked me to plough the field, rear the cattle and be satisfied with whatever you have. You will have your cattle, you have your wife and all that you need.

मि॒त्रं कृ॑णुध्वं॒ खलु॑ मृ॒ळता॑ नो॒ मा नो॑ घो॒रेण॑ चरता॒भि धृ॒ष्णु । नि वो॒ नु म॒न्युर्वि॑शता॒मरा॑तिर॒न्यो ब॑भ्रू॒णां प्रसि॑तौ॒ न्व॑स्तु॥ मित्रं कृणुध्वं खलु मृळता नो मा नो घोरेण चरताभि धृष्णु । नि वो नु मन्युर्विशतामरातिरन्यो बभ्रूणां प्रसितौ न्वस्तु॥

God, please be my friend, pull me out of this trap of dice. Bestow some happiness on me.

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