Draupadi

Vaisampayana said, “The Pandavas, O king, after slaying the Rakshasa Vaka, continued to dwell in the abode of that Brahmana, employed in the study of the Vedas. Within a few days there came a Brahmana of rigid vows unto the abode of their host to take up his quarters there. Their host, ever hospitable unto all guests, worshipping the newly-arrived Brahmana with due ceremonies, gave him quarters in his own abode. Then those bulls among men, the Pandavas, with their mother Kunti, solicited the new lodger to narrate to them his interesting experiences. The Brahmana spake to them of various countries and shrines and (holy) rivers, of kings and many wonderful provinces and cities. And after this narration was over, that Brahmana also spoke of the wonderful self-choice of Yajnasena’s daughter, the princes of Panchala, and of the births of Dhrishtadyumna and Sikhandi, and of the birth, without the intervention of a woman, of Krishna (Draupadi) at the great sacrifice of Drupada. The Pandavas, hearing of these extraordinary facts regarding that illustrious monarch (Drupada), and desiring to know the details thereof, asked the Brahmana, after his narration was concluded, to satisfy their curiosity, ‘How, O Brahmana, did the birth of Dhrishtadyumna the son of Drupada, take place from the (sacrificial) fire? How also did the extraordinary birth of Krishna take place from the centre of the sacrificial platform? How also did Drupada’s son learn all weapons from the great bowman Drona? And, O Brahmana, how and for whom and for what reason was the friendship between Drona and Drupada broken off?’ Thus questioned, O monarch, by those bulls among men, the Brahmana narrated all the particulars about the birth of Draupadi.'”

“The Brahmana said, ‘At that region where the Ganga entered the plains there lived a great Rishi, devoted to the austerest of penances. Of rigid vows and great wisdom, he bore the name Bharadwaja. One day, on coming to the Ganga to perform his ablutions, the Rishi saw the Apsara Ghritachi, who had come before, standing on the bank after her ablutions were over. And it so happened that a wind arose and disrobed the Apsara standing there. And the Rishi beholding her thus disrobed, felt the influence of desire. Though practising the vow of continence from his very youth, as soon as he felt the influence of desire, the Rishi’s vital fluid came out. And as it came out, he held it in a pot (drana), and of that fluid thus preserved in a pot was born a son who came to be called Drona (the pot-born). And Drona studied all the Vedas and their several branches. And Bharadwaja had a friend named Prishata who was the king of Panchalas. And about the time that Drona was born, Prishata also obtained a son named Drupada. And that bull amongst Kshatriyas, Prishata’s son, going every day to that asylum of Bharadwaja, played and studied with Drona. And after Prishata’s death, Drupada succeeded him on the throne. Drona about this time heard that (the great Brahmana hero) Rama (on the eve of his retiring into the weeds) was resolved to give away all his wealth. Hearing this, the son of Bharadwaja repaired unto Rama who was about to retire into the woods and addressing him, said, ‘O best of Brahmanas, know me to be Drona who hath come to thee to obtain thy wealth.’ Rama replied, saying, ‘I have given away everything. All that I now have is this body of mine and my weapons. O Brahmana, thou mayest ask of me one of these two, either my body or my weapons.’ Then Drona said, ‘It behoveth thee, sir, to give me all thy weapons together with (the mysteries of) their use and withdrawal. Then Rama of Bhrigu’s race, saying, ‘So be it,’ gave all his weapons unto Drona, who obtaining them regarded himself as crowned with success. Drona obtaining from Rama the most exalted of all weapons, called the Brahma weapon, became exceedingly glad and acquired a decided superiority over all men. Then the son of Bharadwaja, endued with great prowess went to king Drupada, and approaching that monarch, that tiger among men, said, ‘Know me for thy friend.’ Hearing this Drupada said, ‘One of low birth can never be the friend of one whose lineage is pure, nor can one who is not a car-warrior have a car-warrior for his friend. So also one who is not a king cannot have a king as his friend. Why dost thou, therefore, desire (to revive our) former friendship?’ Drona, gifted with great intelligence, was extremely mortified at this, and settling in his mind some means of humiliating the king of the Panchala he went to the capital of the Kurus, called after the name of an elephant. Then Bhishma, taking with him his grandsons, presented them unto the wise son of Bharadwaja as his pupils for instruction, along with various kinds of wealth. Then Drona, desirous of humiliating king Drupada, called together his disciples and addressed them, ‘Ye sinless ones, it behoveth you, after you have been accomplished in arms, to give me as preceptorial fee something that I cherish in my heart.’ Then Arjuna and others said unto their preceptor, ‘So be it.’ After a time when the Pandavas became skilled in arms and sure aims, demanding of them his fee, he again told them these words, ‘Drupada, the son of Prishata, is the king of Chhatravati. Take away from him his kingdom, and give it unto me.’ Then the Pandavas, defeating Drupada in battle and taking him prisoner along with his ministers, offered him unto Drona, who beholding the vanquished monarch, said, ‘O king, I again solicit thy friendship; and because none who is not a king deserveth to be the friend of a king, therefore, O Yajnasena, I am resolved to divide thy kingdom amongst ourselves. While thou art the king of the country to the south of Bhagirathi (Ganga), I will rule the country to the north.'”

“The Brahmana continued, ‘The king of the Panchalas, thus addressed by the wise son of Bharadwaja, told that best of Brahmanas and foremost of all persons conversant with weapons, these words, ‘O high-souled son of Bharadwaja, blest be thou, let it be so, let there be eternal friendship between us as thou desirest!’ Thus addressing each other and establishing a permanent bond between themselves, Drona and the king of Panchala, both of them chastisers of foes, went away to the places they came from. But the thought of that humiliation did not leave the king’s mind for a single moment. King Drupada, distressed at heart, wandered among many asylums of Brahmanas in search of superior Brahmanas well-skilled in sacrificial rites. Overwhelmed with grief and eagerly yearning for children, the king always said, ‘Oh, I have no offspring surpassing all in accomplishments.’ And the monarch, from great despondency, always said ‘Oh, fie on those children that I have and on my relatives!’ And ever thinking of revenging himself on Drona, the monarch sighed incessantly. And that best of kings, even after much deliberation, saw no way of overcoming, by his Kshatriya might, the prowess and discipline and training and accomplishment of Drona. Wandering along the banks of the Yamuna and the Ganga, the monarch once came upon a sacred asylum of Brahmanas. There was in that asylum no Brahmana who was not a Snataka, no one who was not of rigid vows, and none who was not virtuous to a high degree. And the king saw there two Brahmana sages named Yaja and Upayaja, both of rigid vows and souls under complete control and belonging to the most superior order. They were both devoted to the study of the ancient institutes and sprung from the race of Kasyapa. And those best of Brahmanas were well-able to help the king in the attainment of his object. The king then, with great assiduity and singleness of purpose, began to court this pair of excellent Brahmanas. Ascertaining the superior accomplishments of the younger of the two the king courted in private Upayaja of rigid vows, by the offer of every desirable acquisition. Employed in paying homage to the feet of Upayaja, always addressing in sweet words and offering him every object of human desire, Drupada, after worshipping that Brahmana, addressed him (one day), saying, ‘O Upayaja, O Brahmana, if thou, performest those sacrificial rites by (virtue of) which I may obtain a son who may slay Drona, I promise thee ten thousand kine, or whatever else may be agreeable to thee, O first of Brahmanas, truly am I ready to make gifts to thee.’ Thus addressed by the king, the Rishi replied, saying, ‘I cannot (perform such rites).’ But Drupada without accepting this reply as final, once more began to serve and pay homage unto that Brahmana. Then, after the expiration of a year, Upayaja, that first of Brahmanas, O monarch, addressing Drupada in sweet tone, said, ‘My elder brother (Yaja), one day, while wandering through the deep woods, took up a fruit that had fallen upon a spot the purity of which he cared not to enquire about. I was following him (at the time) and observed this unworthy act of his. Indeed, he entertains no scruples in accepting things impure. In accepting that (particular) fruit he saw not any impropriety of sinful nature: Indeed, he who observeth not purity (in one instance) is not very likely to observe it in the other instances. When he lived in the house of his preceptor, employed in studying the institutes, he always used to eat (impure) remnants of other people’s feasts. He always speaks approvingly of food and entertains no dislike for anything. Arguing from these, I believe that my brother covets earthy acquisitions. Therefore, O king, go unto him; he will perform spiritual offices for thee.’ Hearing these words of Upayaja, king Drupada, though entertaining a low opinion of Yaja, nevertheless went to his abode. Worshipping Yaja who was (still) worthy of homage, Drupada said unto him, ‘O master, perform thou spiritual offices for me and I will give thee eighty thousand kine! Enmity with Drona burneth my heart; it behoveth thee therefore to cool that heart of mine. Foremost of those conversant with the Vedas, Drona is also skilled in the Brahma weapon and for this, Drona hath overcome me in a contest arising from (impaired) friendship. Gifted with great intelligence, the son of Bharadwaja is (now) the chief preceptor of the Kurus. There is no Kshatriya in this world superior to him. His bow is full six cubits long and looks formidable, and his shafts are capable of slaying every living being. That great bowman, the high-souled son of Bharadwaja, habited as a Brahmana, is destroying the Kshatriya power all over the earth. Indeed, he is like a second Jamadagnya intended for the extermination of the Kshatriya race. There is no man on earth who can overcome the terrible force of his weapons. Like a blazing fire fed with clarified butter, Drona, possessed of Brahma might and uniting it with Kshatriya might, consumeth every antagonist in battle. But (thy) Brahma force is greater in itself than (Drona’s) Brahma force united with Kshatriya might. Therefore, as I am inferior (to Drona) in consequence of my possession of Kshatriya might alone, I solicit the aid of thy Brahma force, having obtained thee so superior to Drona in knowledge of Brahma. O Yaja, perform that sacrifice by means of which I may obtain a son invincible in battle and capable of slaying Drona. Ready am I to give thee ten thousand kine.’ Hearing these words of Drupada, Yaja said, ‘So be it.’ Yaja then began to recollect the various ceremonies appertaining to the particular sacrifice. And knowing the affair to be a very grave one, he asked the assistance of Upayaja who coveted nothing. Then Yaja promised to perform the sacrifice for the destruction of Drona. Then the great ascetic Upayaja spoke unto king Drupada of everything required for the grand sacrifice (by aid of fire) from which the king was to obtain offspring. And he said, ‘O king, a child shall be born unto thee, endued, as thou desirest, with great prowess, great energy, and great strength.'”

“The Brahmana continued, ‘Then king Drupada, impelled by the desire of obtaining a son who was to slay Drona, began, for the success of his wish, to make the necessary preparations. (And when everything was complete) Yaja, after having poured libations of clarified butter on the sacrificial fire, commanded Drupada’s queen, saying, ‘Come hither, O queen, O daughter-in-law of Prishata! A son and a daughter have arrived for thee!’ Hearing this, the queen said, ‘O Brahmana, my mouth is yet filled with saffron and other perfumed things. My body also beareth many sweet scents; I am hardly fit for accepting (the sanctified butter which is to give me offspring). Wait for me a little, O Yaja! Wait for that happy consummation.’ Yaja, however, replied, ‘O lady, whether thou comest or waitest, why should not the object of this sacrifice be accomplished when the oblation hath already been prepared by me and sanctified by Upayaja’s invocations?’ Having said this, Yaja poured the sanctified libation on the fire, whereupon arose from those flames a child resembling a celestial who possessing the effulgence of fire, was terrible to behold. With a crown on this head and his body encased in excellent armour, sword in hand, and bearing a bow and arrows, he frequently sent forth loud roars. And immediately after his birth, he ascended an excellent chariot and went about in it for some time. Then the Panchalas in great joy shouted, ‘Excellent, Excellent.’ The very earth seemed at that time unable to bear the weight of the Panchalas mad with joy. Then, marvellous to say, the voice of some invisible spirit in the skies said, ‘This prince hath been born for the destruction of Drona. He shall dispel all the fears of the Panchalas and spread their fame. He shall also remove the sorrow of the king.’ And there arose, after this from the centre of the sacrificial platform, a daughter also, called Panchali, who, blest with great good fortune, was exceedingly handsome. Her eyes were black, and large as lotus-petals, her complexion was dark, and her locks were blue and curly. Her nails were beautifully convex, and bright as burnished copper; her eye-brows were fair, and bosom was deep. Indeed, she resembled the veritable daughter of a celestial born among men. Her body gave out fragrance like that of a blue lotus, perceivable from a distance of full two miles. Her beauty was such that she had no equal on earth. Like a celestial herself, she could be desired (in marriage) by a celestial, a Danava, or a Yaksha. When this girl of fair hips was born an incorporeal voice said, ‘This dark-complexioned girl will be the first of all women, and she will be the cause of the destruction of many Kshatriyas. This slender-waisted one will, in time, accomplish the purpose of the gods, and along with her many a danger will overtake the Kauravas.’ On hearing these words, the Panchalas uttered a loud leonine roar, and the earth was unable to bear the weight of that joyous concourse. Then beholding the boy and the girl, the daughter-in-law of Prishata, desiring to have them, approached Yaja and said, ‘Let not these know any one else except myself as their mother.’ Yaja, desiring to do good unto the king said, ‘So be it!’ Then the Brahmanas (present there), their expectations fully gratified, bestowed names upon the new-born pair, ‘Let this son of king Drupada, they said, be called Dhrishtadyumna, because of his excessive audacity and because of his being born like Dyumna with a natural mail and weapon.’ And they also said, ‘Because this daughter is so dark in complexion, she should be called Krishna (the dark).’ Thus were born those twins of the great sacrifice of Drupada. And the great Drona, bringing the Panchala prince into his own abode, taught him all weapons in requital of half the kingdom he had formerly taken from Drupada. The high-souled son of Bharadwaja, regarding destiny to be inevitable, did what would perpetuate his own great deeds.'”

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows Yaja and Upayaja performing the sacrifice (desired by Drupada) and the birth of Dhrishtadyumna. It is an illustration from a 1598-99 copy of the Razmnama. The painting is the work of an artist by the name of Bilal Habsi.

Reference:

  • The Mahabharata (translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, 1883-1896)