Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The Pandavas wed Draupadi

Mahabharata


Some time after Bheema had killed Bakasura, a traveler came to the house of their Brahmana host. He had just come back the Panchala kingdom, and praised the divine beauty of the Panchala princess, Draupadi. He also said, that her father Drupada was making arrangements for her marriage. For this purpose, a Swayamvara (self-choice ceremony) was to be conducted. All the Kings and great warriors, as well as learned Brahmanas had been invited to this ceremony, where a tough task will be set for the suitors of Draupadi.

Kunti saw that all her sons had listened intently to the descriptions of Draupadi's beauty. She saw that all of them were desirous of visiting Panchala, to witness this Swayamvara, and maybe, who knows? May even win the hand of the Panchala princess. She proposed that all of them should accompany this traveler, to attend the Swayamvara. They took fond leave of their host and started their journey to Panchala.

They had to cross a dense forest on their way to Panchala. Dusk had fallen by the time they entered the forest. Arjuna was carrying the torch and leading the way. The came upon the banks of the river Ganga and wished to drink water and rest for a while there.

Now, a Gandharva named Angaraparana was disporting in this river, accompanied by his wives. He grew angry when he saw that some mortals had disturbed them. He said to them, "The day time is the time for mortals. Dusk, evening and night belong to supernatural beings, like us Gandharvas. Do you not know this fact? How dare you approach the river Bhagerathi in a time that has been reserved for us Gandharvas? I am the mighty Angaraparana, friend of Kubera and a peerless warrior. Turn back immediately, lest I kill you all!".

To this Arjuna replied, "You Idiot! The rivers, lakes and other water bodies are the common property of everybody. Nobody owns them, nobody may claim exclusive use for them. It is said that people who are tired, who have been traveling for a long time, people who are thirsty, have a right to water at all times. Nowhere is it mentioned that the river belong to the Gandharvas. The river Ganga, foremost among all rivers, welcomes us at all times. Those who are weak may be cowed by your threats and worship you. We are great warriors and will prove more than a match for you if you insist on fighting us."

When the Gandharva heard these taunting words of the Pandava, he drew forth his bow and let go a volley of arrows upon the party. The great Pandava effortlessly warded off the arrows with his torch. Arjuna then said, "Know O Gandharva, that I have learned the art of the divine Astras from my Guru, the great Drona himself. Since you are a super-natural being, I would be justified in fighting you with those Astras." With this, he drew forth a missile that shot out fire and hurled it at the chariot of the Gandharva. The Gandharva's chariot was burnt in a second and he lost consciousness by the force of that weapon and fell down senseless.

Seeing their husband in such a plight, the wives of Angaraparana rushed to the scene and fell at the feet of Arjuna. They pleaded with him to spare the life of their husband. Yudhishtra said to Arjuna, "It is not right to slay a fallen foe. This Angaraparana has been vanquished by you and would have learnt his lesson. Concede the request of his wives and spare his life."

Meanwhile, Angaraparana regained his senses. His pride was humbled. He said to Arjuna, "O great warrior! Who are you? What was the divine Astra that you used against me? I wish for your friendship, accept me as a friend. I was called Angaraparana after my flaming chariot, but I am no longer worthy of that name, for my chariot has been burned down by you."

Dhananjaya (Arjuna) said, "O Gandharva, know that I am Arjuna, the third son of King Pandu of the Bharata dynasty. My divine father is Indra, the king of the Devas. The fire missile that I used against you was given to Indra by Brihaspati, his Guru. Indra gave it to Bharadwaja, who gave it to Agniveshya, and from Agniveshya it went to my Guru Drona, who taught me its usage."

The Gandharva then said, "O Arjuna, I see that you belong to an illustrious lineage. As a mark of my friendship, I shall confer upon you the power to create illusions in battle, which knowledge is solely possessed by us Gandharvas. I shall also give you a thousand war horses, which are the swiftest known to me. Accept these gifts as a token of my friendship."

Arjuna said, "I shall gladly accept you as a friend. However, You must get something in return from me for the great gifts that you are giving me. Ask me for something, and it shall be yours."

Angaraparana thought for a while and said, "In return, I will be very glad if you give me the missile with which you defeated me. It is a great missile and will more than recompense me for the gifts that I have given you. I shall also give you a piece of advice. You and your brothers are wandering in the forest like mendicants, but you have no Guru to advice you. Your fame will be diminished, unless you have a learned Brahmana as your guide. Moving about as you are, you will lay yourself open to censure without a priest."

Arjuna said, "We gladly accept your advice. Tell me O Gandharva, who amongst the learned Brahmanas is worthy of being our priest? Where can we find a priest, who will bring greater glory to us?"

The Gandharva replied, "There is a nearby shrine in the woods of the name of Utkochaka. Dhaumya, the younger brother of Devala is engaged there in ascetic penances. He is learned in the scriptures and the Vedas. He alone is worthy of being your priest. Approach him and ask him to honor you by becoming your guide."

The Pandavas thanked the Gandharva and went to seek out Dhaumya. The found that Brahmana seated in a posture of meditation in the afore mentioned shrine. All of them prostrated themselves before him, and sought his blessings. They introduced themselves to the sage and ask him to do them the honor of becoming their priest. Dhaumya was pleased with the humility of the Pandavas and consented to be their priest. He accompanied them to the Panchala Kingdom.

The assembly at the Panchala court was truly a sight to behold. A huge hall had been constructed especially for this occasion. All the four Varnas had their own enclosures to watch the proceedings. The Kings who had both come to watch the proceedings, as well as those who hoped to win the hand of the beautiful princess were assembled in all their splendor. Among them, Duryodhana and Karna were also present. Krishna and Balarama were also there. Krishna had told Balarama that the Pandavas were alive and would definitely come for the Swayamvara. The Pandavas took their seats among those reserved for the Brahmanas.

First, Drupada spoke words of welcome for the assembled people. He especially thanked the Kings who had graced this ceremony with their presence. He introduced his son Dhrishtadhyumna, who would conduct the proceedings from this point onwards. After bowing to his fathers and other elders, the young prince presented his sister Draupadi, the fame of whose beauty had spread far and wide. When the assembly beheld this dusky maiden, they felt that the praises they had heard of her beauty were all true. If anything, words did not do justice to the divine beauty of the princess. Dhrishtadhyumna pointed out the various assembled Kings to his sister, and told her about their lineage and deeds. After the introductions were over, he started to describe the task that was to be accomplished.

The Panchala prince said, "Hear O Kings. Here is the task that you must accomplish to wed my fair sister. A pillar has been constructed in the middle of a shallow pool. On top of this pillar is a revolving wheel. On one of the spokes of this wheel, a small target has been placed. Here is a massive bow, which only the very strong shall be able to lift. The victor will have to string the bow, and bring down the rapidly spinning target with an arrow, using only its reflection in the water below to aim. I declare this contest open."

With high hopes, one by one all the Kings attempted this task. Many were not even able to lift the bow from its box! They walked away, dejected. Very few were able to lift the bow and aim. Even those few, shot wide of the mark. Duryodhana was one of those who missed the mark by a mile. Karna walked like a lion to the bow and effortlessly lifted it from the box. As he took aim, a conviction descended on the multitude, that this was the warrior who will accomplish this task. However, Draupadi said to her brother, "I will never marry this low caste son of a charioteer!". When Karna heard this, he smiled dejectedly to himself and replaced the bow and walked back without making the attempt. More kings tried their luck, at last the last of the Kings had finished his attempt and a silence descended upon the assembly. People had begun to mutter to their neighbors that this task was impossible.

Even Drupada begun to get worried. He had deliberately set this feat of archery, as he desired his daughter to marry Arjuna. Rumors had reached him that the Pandavas were not really dead. He had been sure that the Pandavas would surely come to the Swayamvara. It looked like his plan had not worked.

Arjuna rose from the ranks of the Brahmanas and addressed the Panchala prince, "Can a Brahmana attempt this task and win the hand of the princess?".

The prince replied, "I said that whoever accomplishes the task will win my sister's hand. All are welcome to attempt this feat of archery."

As Arjuna walked to the bow, there were many arguments taking place all over the assembly. One faction of the Brahmanas felt that if Arjuna failed, it would bring disgrace to their class. The opposing faction was swayed by the magnificent physique of the Pandava, and felt that he was bound to succeed.

Arjuna effortlessly lifted the bow, strung it, and watching the reflection of the revolving target on the water below, shot five arrows in succession through the small target, and brought it crashing down. The Brahmana's roared in appreciation. Draupadi garlanded Arjuna and the whole assembly was in an uproar. Yudhishtra, Nakula and Sahadeva slipped out of the hall, to inform their mother. Bheema anticipated trouble, and went and stood near Arjuna.

Most of the Kings felt that Drupada had arranged for this sham purposely to humiliate them. They decided that the best thing to do was to punish Drupada for his insolence, by killing him and his children. Drupada, seeing so many warriors ranged against him, sought the protection of Arjuna. Meanwhile, Krishna told his brother Balarama that the two Brahmanas standing in the middle of the hall where Arjuna and Bheema.

A great battle started in the hall. Although the kings opposing them were numerous, Arjuna and Bheema held them back without much trouble. A great battle with the bow and arrows raged between Karna and Arjuna. The arrows were flying so fast and thick that the two combatants became hidden from others' sight. Karna was impressed. He said to his opponent, "I know of only one man in this world who can fight like this and stand up to me in archery. That man is Arjuna. Are you really Arjuna? I had supposed that you were dead, did you escape?".

Arjuna was not yet ready to reveal his identity, so he asserted that he was merely a Brahmana. Karna decided that it was not proper to fight a Brahmana and retired from the battle. After the battle had raged for a while, Krishna brokered a truce. He reminded them that the contest had been fair. Since the Brahmana youth had accomplished the feat of marksmanship, he was entitled to wed the princess. Since the Kings were anyway losing the battle, they agreed to the truce and the battle stopped.

Arjuna and Bheema walked out of the hall. Draupadi accompanied them. Drupada knew no details of the man who had won his daughter's hand, save for the fact that he was a great archer. He sent his son to follow them discreetly and to ascertain their identity.

All the five Pandavas reached the house where they were staying. They shouted to their mother from outside, "Look mother, we have brought some alms for you!". Without looking, Kunti said, "Whatever it is, share it equally." When she saw Draupadi and realized what she had said, she was speechless.

Dhrishtadhyumna who had observed all this from his hidden position, now rushed back to his father and told him that the Brahmanas appeared to be the Pandavas and that the man who had won Draupadi's hand seemed to be Arjuna. Drupada was glad. He called his chief-priest and said to him, "The man who has won my daughter's hand is staying in so-and-so place. Go there, and ascertain from them who they really are. Bring the whole family here, tell them that great honor awaits them."

The priest met the Pandavas and conveyed the message to them. They still did not reveal their identity, but they did accompany him to Drupada's palace. When they got there, they revealed their true identity to the King. The King was extremely pleased. He wanted to conduct the wedding of Draupadi to Arjuna.

Yudhishtra entered a caveat and said, "O King. I am the eldest of my family and am as yet unmarried. My brother's marriage cannot take place before mine."

Drupada said, "Then I would wish to give my daughter in marriage to you. Or if you wish, you may award her hand in marriage to any of your brothers."

Yudhishtra said, "We have vowed never to be separated and to share all that we obtain equally. Even my mother has said that we should share Draupadi. Therefore, all five of us will wed her."

Drupada was aghast. He said, "O Prince. How can you even propose a thing? It is totally against the practice of the world. We have heard of men having many wives, but even the scriptures proscribe a woman from having many husbands! Please abandon this unworthy idea."

Even Dhrishtadhyumna and other advisers of the King were against the idea, but Yudhishtra was firm. Matters had reached an impasse. At this time, the great sage Vyasa made an appearance. The King presented the problem to the sage. The sage took the King aside and said, "While it is true that the scriptures prohibit polyandry, it was by no means uncommon in the past. There are many instances in the Puranas where women take multiple husbands. Know that your daughter was a hermit's daughter in her previous birth. Due to her Karma from previous birth, she remained unwed. She prayed to Shiva and when he appeared, in her haste, she repeated her request for a husband five times. Accordingly, Shiva blessed her, saying that she will have five husbands in her next birth. Who are we to gainsay the will of the Lord? Besides, the Pandavas are worthy sons-in-law to you. Agree to this wedding."

Half-heartedly, Drupada consented to this wedding. An auspicious date was chosen, and the multiple weddings were celebrated. First Yudhishtra wed Draupadi. Then one by one, in order of seniority, his brothers also wed her.

At this time, in order to avoid conflict between the brothers, they agreed that Draupadi will spend one year with each of them. When she was with one Pandava, the others should not even see her. This way, they could all live in harmony.

With the Pandavas marrying Draupadi, they had acquired a powerful ally in Drupada. Not only did he own a large army, he was also connected to various other Kings, who owed their allegiance to him. The Pandavas were in a much stronger position than before. The secret of their escape now became common knowledge. They accepted the invitation of Drupada and became his guests.

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Last Modified At: Sun Nov 7 16:20:04 2004