The Mahabharata is a complex narrative that explores themes of righteousness (dharma) and unrighteousness (adharma) through the actions and decisions of its characters. The Kauravas, especially Duryodhana and his allies, commit several acts considered adharmic, which contribute to the moral justification for the war and highlight the epic’s teachings on ethics and morality. While it’s challenging to encapsulate all such actions comprehensively due to the epic’s vastness and depth, here is a list of the major adharmic actions attributed to the Kauravas in the Mahabharata:

  1. The Poisoning of Bhima: Duryodhana, envious of Bhima’s strength, attempts to kill him by poisoning and drowning him in the river.
  2. The Lac House Conspiracy: Purochana, acting on Duryodhana’s orders, builds a palace made of lacquer, a highly flammable material, intending to burn the Pandavas alive.
  3. Dishonouring Draupadi: During the infamous dice game, Draupadi is called into the court and an attempt is made to disrobe her, a grave insult to her dignity.
  4. Cheating in the Dice Game: The dice game itself, rigged by Shakuni, Duryodhana’s uncle, to ensure the Pandavas’ loss, represents a breach of fair play and justice.
  5. Exile and Humiliation of the Pandavas: The terms of the dice game, designed to humiliate the Pandavas and remove them from the political scene for thirteen years, including one year of anonymity.
  6. Denial of Pandavas’ Rights: Upon the Pandavas’ return from exile, Duryodhana refuses to return their kingdom or any land whatsoever, breaking the earlier agreement.
  7. Abuse of Power: Duryodhana’s misuse of his authority to oppress the Pandavas and deny them their rightful place in the kingdom.
  8. Attempt to Arrest Krishna: Duryodhana’s attempt to arrest Krishna when he came as a peace envoy demonstrates disrespect for diplomatic norms and divine emissaries.
  9. Breaking Rules of Warfare: Various instances during the war, including attacking those who have laid down their weapons or attacking from behind.
  10. Killing of Abhimanyu: The collective attack on Abhimanyu by several Kaurava warriors, breaking the rules of fair combat.
  11. Jayadratha’s Role in Abhimanyu’s Death: Having received a special boon from Lord Siva, Jayadratha blocked the entrance of the Chakravyuha to ensure Abhimanyu remains trapped and no Pandava warrior could enter to support Abhimanyu.
  12. The Night Raid: Ashwatthama’s night raid on the Pandava camp, leading to the slaughter of the Pandava children and other sleeping warriors.
  13. Use of the Narayanastra: Ashwatthama, in a moment of desperation, uses the Narayanastra, which could have caused massive uncontrolled destruction.
  14. Ashwatthama’s Attack on Unborn Parikshit: After the war, Ashwatthama attempts to end the Pandava lineage by attacking the unborn Parikshit in Uttara’s womb with the Brahmastra.
  15. Exploitation of Bhishma and Drona’s Loyalties: Manipulating these warriors’ sense of duty to fight for a cause they may not fully endorse.
  16. Disrespect towards Elders and Gurus: Ignoring the wise counsel of Vidura, Bhishma, and even Drona at times, showing a disregard for wisdom and experience.
  17. Forcing the War: Despite multiple opportunities for peace, choosing the path of conflict and war, driven by pride and envy.
  18. Disregard for Bhishma’s Counsel: Bhishma repeatedly advised Duryodhana to make peace with the Pandavas, but the Kauravas ignored his wise counsel.
  19. Unjust criticizing and insulting of Vidura: Duryodhana insulted Vidura on many occasions, he opposed the adharmic actions of the Kauravas particularly Duryodhana and the King Dhritarashtra. After the game of dice where the Pandavas lose their kingdom, wealth, and themselves, Vidura speaks out against the injustice and advises Dhritarashtra to rectify the situation. However, Dhritarashtra, under the influence of his son Duryodhana and his courtiers, disregards Vidura’s counsel. Feeling disillusioned and unable to prevent the impending disaster, Vidura decides to leave Hastinapura.
  20. Misuse of Divine Weapons: The Kauravas, including Karna, Ashwatthama and Drona, misused divine weapons in the war, causing immense destruction.
  21. Jealousy and Envy: The Kauravas were driven by jealousy and envy, especially towards the Pandavas, which fuelled their adharmic actions.
  22. Manipulating Allies Against Pandavas: Duryodhana manipulated allies such as Jarasandha, Jayadratha, and Karna to fight against the Pandavas, disregarding their familial ties and alliances.
  23. Influencing Dhritarashtra by emotional manipulation against his better judgment and towards favouring Duryodhana’s schemes.
  24. Abusing the hospitality concept to trick Shalya into fighting for the Kauravas.
  25. Casting aspersions on the parentage of the Pandavas.
  26. Refusal to Accept Defeat Graciously: Even in the face of defeat, Duryodhana chose to engage in guerilla warfare, hiding in a lake, instead of surrendering honourably.

These actions and decisions, driven by ambition, jealousy, and a disregard for moral and ethical principles, set the stage for the tragic conflict of the Kurukshetra War. They are not just personal failings but also serve as lessons on the consequences of adharma, both individually and collectively. The epic teaches that such actions lead to ruin and destruction, emphasizing the importance of righteousness, justice, and ethical conduct in life.

Unethical and immoral actions by leaders can have significant consequences for various aspects of an organization, its stakeholders, and society as a whole. Here are some potential consequences:

Loss of Trust and Credibility: One of the most immediate consequences of unethical behaviour by leaders is a loss of trust and credibility. Stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and the public, may no longer believe in the integrity of the organization or its leadership. Rebuilding trust can be challenging and may take a considerable amount of time and effort.

Damage to Reputation: Unethical actions can tarnish the organization’s reputation, leading to negative publicity and public backlash. This can have lasting effects on the organization’s brand image, making it difficult to attract customers, investors, and talented employees in the future.

Legal and Regulatory Consequences: Depending on the nature of the unethical actions, leaders may face legal and regulatory consequences. This could include lawsuits, fines, sanctions, or even criminal charges. Legal battles can be costly and time-consuming, further damaging the organization’s finances and reputation.

Employee Disengagement and Turnover: Unethical behaviour by leaders can demoralize employees, leading to decreased job satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. Employees may feel disillusioned or betrayed, leading to higher turnover rates as they seek employment elsewhere. This turnover can disrupt operations and increase recruitment and training costs for the organization.

Erosion of Organizational Culture: Ethical leadership is crucial for fostering a positive organizational culture built on trust, respect, and integrity. When leaders engage in unethical behaviour, it sends a message that such behaviour is acceptable, leading to a culture of corruption, mistrust, and dysfunction within the organization.

Financial Losses: Unethical actions can result in financial losses for the organization, including decreased revenue, loss of customers, and damage to assets. Stock prices may decline, investors may withdraw their support, and the organization may struggle to secure financing or partnerships due to concerns about its ethical standards.

Impact on Society and the Environment: Unethical actions by leaders can have broader societal and environmental consequences. For example, unethical business practices may exploit workers, harm local communities, or damage the environment. This can lead to public outrage, activism, and calls for regulatory intervention.

Long-term Viability and Sustainability: Ultimately, unethical behaviour by leaders can jeopardize the long-term viability and sustainability of the organization. It undermines trust with stakeholders, increases operational risks, and hinders the organization’s ability to adapt and innovate in a rapidly changing business environment.

In summary, unethical and immoral actions by leaders can have profound and far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the organization itself. It is essential for leaders to prioritize ethical conduct, integrity, and transparency to maintain the trust and support of their stakeholders and contribute to positive social and environmental outcomes.