Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Draupadi Dishonored

Mahabharata


This episode is from [Maha:2.65-2.66].

Duryodhana's joy knew no bounds. His plan for revenge against the Pandavas had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He laughed aloud and said, "O Vidura, go forth and bring Draupadi here. She is my slave now, and she shall earn her keep by menial labor. Let her sweep the floor of this assembly hall as her first task!"

Angered, Vidura said, "Wretch! Do you not know that by uttering such unworthy words you are providing the rope to hang yourself with? You are tottering at the edge of a precipice. The Pandavas are akin to deadly snakes, poised to strike. I say that Draupadi is not your slave, as she was staked by Yudhishtra after he had lost himself, and had ceased to be his own master. It is not too late, do the honorable thing and return their wealth and liberty to the Pandavas."

Intoxicated with pride, Duryodhana said, "Fie on you, O Vidura. You are always indulging in specious arguments, always twisting truth to favor the sons of Pandu. I can expect no fair play from you." He then cast his eyes on the assembly and spotted Pratikamin, the charioteer of King Dhritharashtra. He commanded him, "Go and fetch Draupadi, informing her that she is the slave of the Kauravas."

Pratikamin entered the chambers allotted to the Pandavas, and approaching Draupadi, said, "O Queen, King Yudhishtra has lost all his wealth at dice and has finally lost you to the Kauravas. You are now the slave of King Duryodhana. The King has ordered me to bring you to the assembly hall, to do menial work."

Draupadi was shocked. She said, "What are you saying? Is there any man in the world who would stake his wife on a game of dice? Has my husband taken leave of his senses? Was there nothing else he could stake?"

The charioteer replied, "The King lost all his wealth, and then his kingdom, to Shakuni, playing on behalf of Duryodhana. He then staked his brothers, and lost them also. He then lost his own person at dice. Finally, he staked and lost you."

Draupadi said in a voice choked with grief and derision, "Go and ask that gambler, whom did he lose first, himself or me? Bring me the answer."

The messenger went back to the assembly and conveyed the question posed by the Panchala princess. When Yudhishtra heard the question, he hung his head in shame. His brothers also sat immobile, unable to utter a single word.

Duryodhana said, "Let the princess come here and put her question. Let everyone present hear the words that pass between her and her husband."

Pratikamin went back to Draupadi and said, "O princess, the King has asked you to come and ask this question to Yudhishtra in person, in the full assembly. King Duryodhana will brook no opposition. Please do as he says."

Draupadi said, "I shall not come there. I am having my monthly season and am unfit for appearing in public. Go and tell the Kuru elders why I am unable to come to the assembly. Ask them once again, whether I really am a slave, having been staked by my husband after he had become a slave himself. I shall do as the elders think proper."

The charioteer went back to the assembly and gave the message from Panchali. Bhishma, Kripa, and Drona saw the force of her arguments, but they did not utter any word, for they knew that Duryodhana would not listen to their advice. Meanwhile, with a heavy heart, Yudhishtra sent a trusted messenger to Draupadi, telling her that she should come to the assembly, even though she was in her season, and was clad in just a single garment.

Duryodhana got up and said to his brother Dushasana, "Brother, this servant of ours has not accomplished what I wanted. It appears that fear of the Pandavas has muddled his intellect. Go and drag Draupadi to the assembly."

Dushasana rose with bloodshot eyes and entered the abode of the Pandavas. He said to Draupadi, "Come, your Lords have become slaves and Yudhishtra has lost you at play. Abandon your husbands and chose the Kurus as your Lords. You have been won by us in fair play. Come to the assembly and sweep the floor!"

Greatly afflicted, Draupadi covered her face with her hands, and ran in distress to the chambers allotted to the Kuru ladies. Dushasana roared in anger, and ran after her. He seized the queen by her hair, by the locks that had been sprinkled with water sanctified in the great Rajasooya sacrifice. He dragged her by her hair to the assembly. In her grief, Draupadi prayed to Lord Naryana, the protector of the universe.

Dushasana taunted her, saying, "Whether your season has come or not, whether you are attired in one garment or are entirely naked, you have been won at dice and are our slave, you have to live among our serving women, doing menial chores!"

In a voice faint with grief and anger, Draupadi said, "In the assembly, there are great warriors, equal in prowess unto Indra the lord of the celestials. Those persons are my superiors and are worthy of my respect. I cannot appear before them in this state. O wretch! O cruel one, do not drag me so. Do not expose my body so. My husbands will not pardon you, your life will be forfeit, even if the Gods led by Indra were your allies. It looks like an evil hour has descended on the Kurus, for how else could Bhishma and Drona have allowed this vile deed to be done?"

As she was dragged to the assembly, the Pandavas' hearts swelled with wrath, seeing the pitiable state of their wife, but the code of the defeated party at dice held them silent. They did not grieve for their wealth, nor for their kingdoms, nor for their own sakes, but the beseeching glance cast by Panchali on them as she was dragged to the assembly shook the very core of their being.

Dushasana, beholding that the Pandavas were helpless, taunted her saying, "Slave! Slave!", and laughed aloud. Karna looked approvingly at this spectacle, and joined in the laughter. Shakuni also applauded Dushasana. Excepting these three and Duryodhana, everyone else in the assembly was filled with sorrow at the sight of Draupadi's dishonor.

Prostrated on the ground, Draupadi once again asked everyone in the assembly, "Did my husband even have a right to stake me, considering that he had become a slave already? Tell me if I should regard myself as fairly won!"

Bhishma rose and said, "O blessed one, this is a tricky case. I am unable to answer the question you have raised, for I am not sure whether your husband had a right to stake you or not."

Draupadi said, "My husband was summoned to this assembly and though he possessed little skill at dice, he was made to play with skillful, wicked and deceitful gamblers. How can it be said that he made the stakes voluntarily? Having lost himself first, how could he stake me? Let the wise ones in this assembly answer my question."

No one dared to speak. Draupadi, in excess of her grief, repeated her question again and again in a pitiable voice. Unable to contain himself any longer Bheema, fixed his eyes on Yudhishtra and said, "O Yudhishtra, in low gambling houses, there are women of loose character. Even such women are not staked by gamblers, for they respect the liberty of women. You lost all our wealth at dice, we kept silent, for our love for you is greater than wealth. You lost our kingdom, but we love you more than we love our lands. You proceeded to make us the slaves of Kauravas, and we were silent, for you are our lord. You then committed this abominable act, staking the faultless Panchali! She is the proud daughter of Drupada, the beloved sister of the invincible Dhrishtadhyumna. Brought up in the lap of luxury, we all wed her, with Agni as witness, promising to protect her as long as we drew breath! And this, is the way you treat her? It is due to your thoughtless deed that she is being persecuted by the low, despicable, cruel and mean minded Kauravas. O Sahadeva, bring me fire, for I shall burn the very hands that threw the dice and reduced Yajnaseni to this pitiable state!"

Arjuna comforted Bheema, saying, "O Bheema, never before have you uttered such angry words at our brother! It is the intention of the Kauravas that we should fight among ourselves. Let us not give them that satisfaction. The King was summoned by the foe, and conforming to the practice of Kshatriyas, he accepted the challenge. He could not have acted otherwise."

Bheema said, "I know that. Had it not been for the fact that he had little choice in this matter, I would have seized his hands by sheer force and burnt them in a blazing fire."

Yuyutsu, the son of Dhritharashtra by a Vaishya wife, got up and said, "Ye Kings, Answer the question that has been asked by Yajnaseni. If we do not judge this matter referred to us, all of us will assuredly go to hell without delay. How is it that Bhishma and my father, the oldest of the Kurus, and the high-souled Vidura are silent? The son of Bharadwaja, our perceptor, and the the great Kripa, the son of Saradwat have also not dared to answer this question. Why do these Brahmanas possessed of all the knowledge in the Vedas keep quiet? Is it not the duty of this assembly to decide disputes brought forth before it? What use is the prowess of all those present here, if they do not answer the question posed by Yajnaseni?"

Thus did Vikarna (Yuyutsu) exhort the assembly. At last, the prince said, "O Kings, I did not answer the question, for I am young, and you are all old and venerable. Since you are all keeping quiet, I will now say what I regard as just and proper. It has been said that hunting, drinking, gambling and too much enjoyment of women are the four vices of kings. A man who is addicted to these will forsake the path of virtue. Acts done by a person who has been intoxicated by indulging in these vices will not be regarded as having any authority by wise men. This son of Pandu was consumed by the lure of gambling, and, urged by deceitful Shakuni, staked Draupadi. She is the common wife of all the Pandavas. Yudhishtra had already lost himself and then offered her as the stake. Taking all these circumstances into account, I regard Draupadi as not won. She is not a slave."

Hearing these words of the young prince, Karna grew exceedingly angry. He got up and said, "When the elders, well versed in the rules of morality are unable to come to a conclusion, it is presumptuous of you, young in years and experience, to make such categorical assertions. O Vikarna, these illustrious personages, though urged by Draupadi have not uttered any protest. It is evident that they all regard the Panchala princess as duly won. Everyone saw Yudhishtra stake and lose her, how can she not be a slave now? If you think that dragging her to the assembly, despite her being attired in a single garment is improper, consider this: the Gods have ordained that a woman may have only one husband. This Draupadi, however, has many husbands. She is nothing but a whore! O Dushasana, take off the robes of the Pandavas, to mark their slavery. Also take off the attire of Draupadi!"

Burning with humiliation, the Pandavas took off their upper garments and threw them down in the assembly. The wicked Dushasana forcibly seized the robe of Draupadi and began to drag it off her person. To the eternal shame of the Kurus, none in the assembly dared to prevent this ignoble act, this humiliation of the daughter-in-law of the Bharata race.

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Last Modified At: Sun Dec 12 21:41:47 2004