Draupadi’s Swayamvara

Vaisampayana said, “Hearing these words of the Brahmana, the sons of Kunti seemed to be, as it were, pierced with darts. Indeed, all those mighty heroes lost their peace of mind. Then the truthful Kunti, beholding all her sons listless and inattentive, addressed Yudhishthira and said, ‘We have now lived many nights in the abode of this Brahmana. We have passed our time pleasantly in this town, living on the alms obtained from many honest and illustrious persons. O oppressor of foes, as we have now seen often and often all the agreeable woods and gardens that are in this part of the country, seeing them again would no longer give any pleasure. O heroic scion of Kuru’s race, alms also are not now obtainable here as easily as before. If thou wishest it would be well for us now to go to Panchala; we have not seen that country, it will, no doubt, O hero, prove delightful to us. O crusher of foes, it hath been heard by us that alms are obtainable in the country of the Panchala, and that Yajnasena, the king thereof, is devoted to Brahmanas. I am of opinion that it is not good to live long in one place. Therefore, O son, if thou likest, it is good for us to go there.’ Hearing these words, Yudhishthira said, ‘It is our duty to obey thy command, which, besides, must be for our good, I do not, however, know whether my younger brothers are willing to go.’ Then Kunti spoke unto Bhimasena and Arjuna and the twins regarding the journey to Panchala. They all said, ‘So be it.’ Then, O king, Kunti with her sons saluted the Brahmana (in whose house they had dwelt) and set out for the delightful town of the illustrious Drupada. While the illustrious Pandavas were living disguised in the abode of the Brahmana, Vyasa, the son of Satyavati, once went to see them. Those chastisers of foes, beholding him coming rose up and stepped onward to receive him. Saluting him reverentially and worshipping him also the Pandavas stood in silence with joined hands. Thus worshipped by them the sage became gratified. He asked them to be seated, and cheerfully addressing them said, ‘Ye slayers of foes, are ye living in the path of virtue and according to the scriptures? Do ye worship the Brahmanas? Ye are not, I hope, backward in paying homage unto those that deserve your homage?’ The illustrious Rishi, after this, spoke many words of virtuous import, and after discoursing upon many topics of great interest, he said, ‘An illustrious Rishi, living in a certain hermitage, had a daughter of tender waist, fair lips, and fine eye-brows, and possessing every accomplishment. As a consequence of her own acts (in a past life) the fair maid became very unfortunate. Though chaste and beautiful, the damsel obtained not a husband. With a sorrowful heart she thereupon began to practise ascetic penances with the object of obtaining a husband. She soon gratified by her severe asceticism the god Sankara (Mahadeva), who became propitious unto her and said unto that illustrious damsel, ‘Ask thou the boon thou desirest! Blest be thou! I am Sankara prepared to give thee what thou wilt ask.’ Desirous of benefiting herself, the maid repeatedly said unto the supreme lord, ‘O give me, a husband endued with every accomplishment.’ Then Isana (Mahadeva), that foremost of all speakers, replied unto her, saying, ‘O blessed one, thou shall have five husbands from among the Bharata princes.’ Thus told, the maiden said unto the god who had given her that boon, ‘O lord, I desire to have only one husband through thy grace.’ The god then addressed her again and said these excellent words, ‘Thou hast, O girl, said full five times, ‘Give me (a) husband.’ Thou shalt, therefore, in another life have five husbands!’ Ye princes of Bharata’s line, that damsel of celestial beauty hath been born in the line of Drupada. The faultless Krishna of Prishata’s line hath been appointed to be the wife of you all. Ye mighty ones, go therefore, to the capital of the Panchalas and dwell ye there. There is no doubt that having obtained her as wife ye shall be very happy.’ Having said so unto the Pandavas, the illustrious and blessed grandsire then bade them farewell. The great ascetic then left them and went to the place whence he had come.'”

“After Vyasa had gone away, those bulls among men, the Pandavas, saluted the Brahmana and bade him farewell, and proceeded (towards Panchala) with joyous hearts and with their mother walking before them. Those slayers of all foes, in order to reach their destination, proceeded in a due northerly direction, walking day and night till they reached a sacred shrine of Siva with the crescent mark on his brow. Then those tigers among men, the sons of Pandu, arrived at the banks of the Ganga. Dhananjaya, that mighty car-warrior, walking before them, torch in hand, for showing the way and guarding them (against wild animals). And it so happened that at that time the proud king of the Gandharvas, with his wives, was sporting in that solitary region in the delightful waters of the Ganga. The king of the Gandharvas heard the tread of the Pandavas as they approached the river. On hearing the sounds of their foot-steps, the mighty Gandharvas were inflamed with wrath, and beholding those chastisers of foes, the Pandavas, approach towards him with their mother, he drew his frightful bow to a circle and said, ‘It is known that excepting the first forty seconds the grey twilight preceding nightfall hath been appointed for the wandering of the Yakshas, the Gandharvas and the Rakshasas, all of whom are capable of going everywhere at will. The rest of the time hath been appointed for man to do his work. If therefore, men, wandering during those moments from greed of gain, come near us, both we and the Rakshasas slay those fools. Therefore, persons acquainted with the Vedas never applaud those men–not even kings at the head of their troops–who approach any pools of water at such a time. Stay ye at a distance, and approach me not. Know ye not that I am bathing in the waters of the Bhagirathi? Know that I am Angaraparna the Gandharva, ever relying on my own strength! I am proud and haughty and am the friend of Kuvera. This my forest on the banks of the Ganga, where I sport to gratify all my senses, is called Angaraparna after my own name. Here neither gods, nor Kapalikas, nor Gandharvas nor Yakshas, can come. How dare ye approach me who am the brightest jewel on the diadem of Kuvera?’ Hearing these words of the Gandharva, Arjuna said, ‘Blockhead, whether it be day, night, or twilight, who can bar others from the ocean, the sides of the Himalayas, and this river? O ranger of the skies, whether the stomach be empty or full, whether it is night or day, there is no special time for anybody to come to the Ganga–that foremost of all rivers. As regards ourselves endued with might, we care not when we disturb thee. Wicked being, those who are weak in fighting worship thee. This Ganga, issuing out of the golden peaks of Himavat, falleth into the waters of the ocean, being distributed into seven streams. They who drink the waters of these seven streams, viz., Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Vitashtha, Sarayu, Gomati, and Gandaki, are, cleansed of all their sins. O Gandharva, this sacred Ganga again, flowing through the celestial region is called there the Alakananda, It hath again in the region of the Pitris become the Vaitarani, difficult of being crossed by sinners, and, Krishna-Dwaipayana himself hath said so. The auspicious and celestial river, capable of leading to heaven (them that touch its waters), is free from all dangers. Why dost thou then desire to bar us from it? This act of thine is not in consonance with eternal virtue. Disregarding thy words, why shall we not touch the sacred waters of the Bhagirathi free from all dangers and from which none can bar us?'”

Vaisampayana continued, “Hearing these words of Arjuna, Angaraparna became inflamed with wrath and drawing his bow to a circle began to shoot his arrows like venomous snakes at the Pandavas. Then Dhananjaya, the son of Pandu, wielding a good shield and the torch he held in his hand, warded off all those arrows and addressing the Gandharva again said, ‘O Gandharva, seek not to terrify those that are skilled in weapons, for weapons hurled at them vanish like froth. I think, O Gandharva, that ye are superior (in prowess) to men; therefore shall I fight with thee, using celestial weapons and not with any crooked means. This fiery weapon (that I shall hurl at thee), Vrihaspati the revered preceptor of Indra, gave unto Bharadwaja, from whom it was obtained by Agnivesya, and from Agnivesya by my preceptor, that foremost of Brahmanas, Drona, who gave it away to me.’ Saying these words, the Pandava wrathfully hurled at the Gandharva that blazing weapon made of fire which burnt the Gandharva’s chariot in a trice. Deprived of consciousness by the force of that weapon, the mighty Gandharva was falling, head downward, from his chariot. Dhananjaya seized him by the hair of his head adorned with garlands of flowers and thus dragged the unconscious Gandharva towards his brothers. Beholding this, that Gandharva’s wife Kumbhinasi, desirous of saving her husband, ran towards Yudhishthira and sought his protection. The Gandharvi said, ‘O exalted one, extend to me thy protection! O, set my husband free! O lord, I am Kumbhinasi by name, the wife of this Gandharva, who seeketh thy protection!’ Beholding her (so afflicted), the mighty Yudhishthira addressed Arjuna and said, ‘O slayer of foes, O child, who would slay a foe who hath been vanquished in fight, who hath been deprived of fame, who is protected by a woman, and who hath no prowess?’ Arjuna replied, saying, ‘Keep thou thy life, O Gandharva! Go hence, and grieve not I Yudhishthira, the king of the Kurus, commandeth me to show thee mercy.’ The Gandharva replied, ‘I have been vanquished by thee, I shall, therefore, abandon my former name Angaraparna (the blazing vehicle). In name alone, O friend, I should not be boastful when my pride in my strength hath been overcome: I have been fortunate in that I have obtained thee; O Arjuna, that wielder of celestial weapons! I like to impart to thee the power of (producing) illusions which Gandharvas alone have. My excellent and variegated chariot hath been burnt by means of thy fiery weapon. I who had formerly been called after my excellent chariot should now be called after my burnt chariot. The science of producing illusions that I have spoken of was formerly obtained by me by ascetic penances. That science I will today impart to the giver of my life-thy illustrious self! What good luck doth he not deserve who, after overcoming a foe by his might, giveth him life when that foe asketh for it? This science is called Chakshushi. It was communicated by Manu unto Soma and by Soma unto Viswavasu, and lastly by Viswavasu unto me. Communicated by my preceptor, that science, having come unto me who am without energy, is gradually becoming fruitless. I have spoken to thee about its origin and transmission. Listen now to its power! One may see (by its aid) whatever one wisheth to see, and in whatever way he liketh (generally or particularly). One can acquire this science only after standing on one leg for six months. I shall however, communicate to thee this science without thyself being obliged to observe any rigid vow. O king, it is for this knowledge that we are superior to men. And as we are capable of seeing everything by spiritual sight, we are equal to the gods. O best of men, I intend to give thee and each of thy brothers a hundred steeds born in the country of the Gandharvas. Of celestial colour and endued with the speed of the mind, those horses are employed in bearing the celestials, and the Gandharvas. They may be lean-fleshed but they tire not, nor doth their speed suffer on that account. In days of yore the thunderbolt was created for the chief of the celestials in order that he might slay (the Asura) Vritra with it. But hurled at Vritra’s head it broke in a thousand pieces. The celestials worship with reverence those fragments of the thunderbolt. That which is known in the three worlds as glory is but a portion of the thunderbolt. The hand of the Brahmana with which he poureth libations on the sacrificial fire, the chariot upon which the Kshatriya fighteth, the charity of the Vaisya, and the service of the Sudra rendered unto the three other classes, are all fragments of the thunderbolt. It hath been said that horses, forming as they do a portion of the Kshatriya’s chariot, are, on that account, unslayable. Again horses which form a portion of the Kshatriya’s chariot, are the offspring of Vadava. Those amongst them that are born in the region of the Gandharvas can go everywhere and assume any hue and speed at the will of their owners. These horses of mine that I give thee will always gratify thy wishes.”

“On hearing these words of the Gandharva, Arjuna said, ‘O Gandharva, if from satisfaction for having obtained thy life at my hands in a situation of danger, thou givest me thy science, and these horses, I would not accept thy gift.’ The Gandharva replied, saying, ‘A meeting with an illustrious person is ever a source of gratification; besides thou hast given me my life. Gratified with thee, I will give thee my science. That the obligation, however, may not all be on one side, I will take from thee, O Vibhatsu, O bull in Bharata’s race, thy excellent and eternal weapon of fire!’ Arjuna said, ‘I would accept thy horses in exchange for my weapon. Let our friendship last for ever. O friend, tell us for what we human beings have to stand in fear of the Gandharvas. Chastisers of foes that we are and virtuous and conversant with the Vedas, tell us, O Gandharva, why in travelling in the night-time we have been censured by thee.’ The Gandharva said, ‘Ye are without wives (though ye have completed the period of study). Ye are without a particular Asrama (mode of life). Lastly, ye are out without a Brahmana walking before, therefore, ye sons of Pandu, ye have been censured by me. The Yakshas, Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Pisachas, Uragas and Danavas, are possessed of wisdom and intelligence, and acquainted with the history of the Kuru race. O hero, I have heard too from Narada and other celestial Rishis about the good deeds of your wise ancestors. I myself, too, while roaming over the whole earth bounded by her belt of seas, have witnessed the prowess of thy great race. O Arjuna, I have personal knowledge of thy preceptor, the illustrious son of Bharadwaja, celebrated throughout the three worlds for his knowledge of the Vedas and the science of arms. O tiger in Kuru’s race, O son of Pritha, I also know Dharma, Vayu, Sakra, the twin Aswins, and Pandu,–these six perpetuators of Kuru race,–these excellent celestials and human progenitors of you all. I also know that you five brothers are learned and high-souled, that ye are foremost of all wielders of weapons, that ye are brave and virtuous and observant of vows. Knowing that your understanding and hearts are excellent and your behaviour faultless, I have yet censured you. For, O thou of Kuru’s race, it behoveth no man endued with might of arms to bear with patience any ill usage in the sight of his wife. Especially as, O son of Kunti, our might increaseth during the hours of darkness, accompanied by my wife I was filled with wrath. O best of vow-observing men, I have, however, been vanquished by thee in battle. Listen to me as I tell thee the reasons that have led to my discomfiture. The Brahmacharya is a very superior mode of life, and as thou art in that mode now, it is for this, O Partha, that I have been defeated by thee in battle. O chastiser of foes, if any married Kshatriya fight with us at night, he can never escape, with life. But, O Partha, a married Kshatriya, who is sanctified with Brahma, and who hath assigned the cares of his State to a priest, might vanquish all wanderers in the night. Men should therefore, ever employ learned priests possessing self-command for the acquisition of every good luck they desire. That Brahmana is worthy of being the king’s priest who is learned in the Vedas and the six branches thereof, who is pure and truthful, who is of virtuous soul and possessed of self-command. The monarch becometh ever victorious and finally earneth heaven who hath for his priest a Brahmana conversant with the rules of morality, who is a master of words, and is pure and of good behaviour. The king should always select an accomplished priest in order to acquire what he hath not and protect what he hath. He who desireth his own prosperity should ever be guided by his priest, for he may then obtain ever the whole earth surrounded by her belt of seas. O son of Tapati, a king, who is without a Brahmana, can never acquire any land by his bravery or glory of birth alone. Know, therefore, O perpetuator of Kuru’s race, that the kingdom lasteth for ever in which Brahmanas have power.'”

“Arjuna asked, ‘O Gandharva, thou art acquainted with everything. Tell us, therefore, which Veda-knowing Brahmana is worthy to be appointed as our priest.’ The Gandharva replied, ‘There is in these woods a shrine of the name of Utkochaka. Dhaumya, the younger brother of Devala is engaged there in ascetic penances. Appoint him, if ye desire, your priest.’ Then Arjuna, highly pleased with everything that had happened, gave unto that Gandharva, his weapon of fire with befitting ceremonies. And addressing him, the Pandava also said, ‘O thou best of Gandharvas, let the horses thou givest us remain with thee for a time. When the occasion cometh, we will take them from thee. Blest be thou.’ Then the Gandharva and the Pandavas, respectfully saluting each other, left the delightful banks of the Bhagirathi and went wheresoever they desired. Then, O Bharata, the Pandavas going to Utkochaka, the sacred asylum of Dhaumya installed Dhaumya as their priest. And Dhaumya, the foremost of all conversant with the Vedas, receiving them with presents of wild fruits and (edible) roots, consented to become their priest. And the Pandavas with their mother forming the sixth of the company, having obtained that Brahmana as their priest regarded their sovereignty and kingdom as already regained and the daughter of the Panchala king as already obtained in the Swayamavara. And those bulls of the Bharata race, having obtained the master Dhaumya as their priest, also regarded themselves as placed under a powerful protector. And the high-souled Dhaumya, acquainted with the true meaning of the Vedas and every rule of morality, becoming the spiritual preceptor of the virtuous Pandavas, made them his Yajamanas (spiritual disciples). And that Brahmana, beholding those heroes endued with intelligence and strength and perseverance like unto the celestials, regarded them as already restored, by virtue of their own accomplishments to their sovereignty and kingdom. Then those kings of men, having had benedictions uttered upon them by that Brahmana, resolved to go, accompanied by him, to the Swayamvara of the Princess of Panchala.’ Then the five Pandavas, set out for Panchala to behold that country and Draupadi and the festivities (in view of her marriage). And those tigers among men–those oppressors of all enemies–in going along with their mother, saw on the way numerous Brahmanas proceeding together. And those Brahmanas who were all Brahmacharis beholding the Pandavas, O king, asked them, ‘Where are ye going to? Whence also are ye come?’ And Yudhishthira replied unto them, saying, ‘Ye bulls among Brahmanas, know ye that we are uterine brothers proceeding together with our mother. We are coming even from Ekachakra.’ The Brahmanas then said, ‘Go ye this very day to the abode of Drupada in the country of the Panchalas. A great Swayamvara takes place there, on which a large sum of money will be spent. We also are proceeding thither. Let us all go together. Extraordinary festivities will take place (in Drupada’s abode). The illustrious Yajnasena, otherwise called Drupada, had a daughter risen from the centre of the sacrificial altar. Of eyes like lotus-petals and of faultless features endued with youth and intelligence, she is extremely beautiful. And the slender-waisted Draupadi of every feature perfectly faultless, and whose body emitteth a fragrance like unto that of the blue lotus for two full miles around, is the sister of the strong-armed Dhrishtadyumna gifted with great prowess–the (would-be) slayer of Drona–who was born with natural mail and sword and bow and arrows from the blazing fire, himself like unto the second Fire. And that daughter of Yajnasena will select a husband from among the invited princes. And we are repairing thither to behold her and the festivities on the occasion, like unto the festivities of heaven. And to that Swayamvara will come from various lands kings and princes who are performers of sacrifices in which the presents to the Brahmanas are large: who are devoted to study, are holy, illustrious, and of rigid vows; who are young and handsome; and who are mighty car-warriors and accomplished in arms. Desirous of winning (the hand of) the maiden those monarchs will all give away much wealth and kine and food and other articles of enjoyment. And taking all they will give away and witnessing the Swayamvara, and enjoying the festivities, we shall go wheresoever we like. And there will also come unto that Swayamvara, from various countries, actors, and bards singing the panegyrics of kings, and dancers, and reciters of Puranas, and heralds, and powerful athletes. And beholding all these sights and taking what will be given away to illustrious ones, ye will return with us. Ye are all handsome and like unto the celestials! Beholding you, Krishna may, by chance, choose some one amongst you superior to the rest. This thy brother of mighty arms and handsome and endued with beauty also, engaged in (athletic) encounters, may, by chance, earn great wealth.’ On hearing these words of the Brahmanas, Yudhishthira replied, ‘Ye Brahmanas, we will all go with you to witness that maiden’s Swayamvara–that excellent jubilee.'”

Vaisampayana said, “Thus addressed by the Brahmanas, the Pandavas proceeded towards the country of the southern Panchalas ruled over by the king Drupada. And on their way those heroes beheld the illustrious Dwaipayana–that Muni of pure soul, and perfectly sinless. And duly saluting the Rishi and saluted by him, after their conversation was over, commanded by him they proceeded to Drupada’s abode. And those mighty chariot-fighters proceeded by slow stages staying for some time within those beautiful woods and by fine lakes that they beheld along their way. Devoted to study, pure in their practices, amiable, and sweet-speeched, the Pandavas at last entered the country of the Panchalas. And beholding the capital, as also the fort, they took up their quarters in the house of a potter, Adopting the Brahmanical profession, they began to lead an eleemosynary life. And no men recognised those heroes during their stay in Drupada’s capital. Yajnasena always cherished the desire of bestowing his daughter on Kiriti (Arjuna), the son of Pandu. But he never spoke of it to anybody. And the king of Panchala thinking of Arjuna caused a very stiff bow to be made that was incapable of being bent by any except Arjuna. Causing some machinery to be erected in the sky, the king set up a mark attached to that machinery. And Drupada said, ‘He that will string this bow and with these well-adorned arrows shoot the mark above the machine shall obtain my daughter.’ With these words king Drupada proclaimed the Swayamvara. On hearing of them, the kings of other lands came to his capital. And there came also many illustrious Rishis desirous of beholding the Swayamvara. And there came also, Duryodhana and the Kurus accompanied by Kama. There also came many superior Brahmanas from every country. And the monarchs who came there were all received with reverence by the illustrious Drupada. Desirous of beholding the Swayamvara, the citizens, roaring like the sea, all took their seats on the platforms that were erected around the amphitheatre. The monarch entered the grand amphitheatre by the north-eastern gate. And the amphitheatre which itself had been erected on an auspicious and level plain to the north-east of Drupada’s capital, was surrounded by beautiful mansions. And it was enclosed on all sides with high walls and a moat with arched doorways here and there. The vast amphitheatre was also shaded by a canopy of various colours. And resounding with the notes of thousands of trumpets, it was scented with black aloes and sprinkled all over with water mixed with sandal-paste and decorated with garlands of flowers. It was surrounded with high mansions perfectly white and resembling the cloud-kissing peaks of Kailasa. The windows of those mansions were covered with net works of gold; the walls were set with diamonds and precious costly carpets and cloths. All those mansions adorned with wreaths and garlands of flowers and rendered fragrant with excellent aloes, were all white and spotless, like unto the necks of swans. And the fragrance therefrom could be perceived from the distance of a Yojana (eight miles). And they were each furnished with a hundred doors wide enough to admit a crowd of persons; they were adorned with costly beds and carpets, and beautified with various metals; they resembled the peaks of the Himavat. And in those seven-storied houses of various sizes dwelt the monarchs invited by Drupada whose persons were adorned with every ornament and who were possessed with the desire of excelling one another. And the inhabitants of the city and the country who had come to behold Krishna and taken their seats on the excellent platforms erected around, beheld seated within those mansions those lions among kings who were all endued with the energy of great souls. And those exalted sovereigns were all adorned with the fragrant paste of the black aloe. Of great liberality, they were all devoted to Brahma and they protected their kingdoms against all foes. And for their own good deeds they were loved by the whole world. The Pandavas, too, entering that amphitheatre, sat with the Brahmanas and beheld the unequalled affluence of the king of the Panchalas. And that concourse of princes, Brahmanas, and others, looking gay at the performances of actors and dancers (large presents of every kind of wealth being constantly made), began to swell day by day. And it lasted several days, till on the sixteenth day when it was at its full, the daughter of Drupada, having washed herself clean entered the amphitheatre, richly attired and adorned with every ornament and bearing in her hand a dish of gold (whereon were the usual offerings of Arghya) and a garland of flowers. Then the priest of the lunar race–a holy Brahmana conversant with all mantras–ignited the sacrificial fire and poured on it with due rites libations of clarified butter. And gratifying Agni by these libations and making the Brahmanas utter the auspicious formula of benediction, stopped the musical instruments that were playing all around. And when that vast amphitheatre became perfectly still, Dhrishtadyumna possessed of a voice deep as the sound of the kettledrum or the clouds, taking hold of his sister’s arm, stood in the midst of that concourse, and said, with a voice loud and deep as the roar of the clouds, these charming words of excellent import, ‘Hear ye assembled kings, this is the bow, that is the mark, and these are the arrows. Shoot the mark through the orifice of the machine with these five sharpened arrows. Truly do I say that, possessed of lineage, beauty of persons, and strength whoever achieveth this great feat shall obtain today this my sister, Krishna for his wife.’ Having thus spoken unto the assembled monarchs Drupada’s son then addressed his sister, reciting unto her the names and lineages and achievements of those assembled lords of the earth.'”

“Then those youthful princes adorned with ear-rings, vying with one another and each regarding himself accomplished in arms and gifted with might, stood up brandishing their weapons. And intoxicated with pride of beauty, prowess, lineage, knowledge, wealth, and youth, they were like Himalayan elephants in the season of rut with crowns split from excess of temporal juice. And beholding each other with jealousy and influenced by the god of desire, they suddenly rose up from their royal seats, exclaiming ‘Krishna shall be mine.’ And the Kshatriyas assembled in that amphitheatre, each desirous of winning the daughter of Drupada, looked like the celestial (of old) standing round Uma, the daughter of the King of mountains. Afflicted with the shafts of the god of the flowery bow and with hearts utterly lost in the contemplation of Krishna, those princes descended into the amphitheatre for winning the Panchala maiden and began to regard even their best friends with jealousy. And there came also the celestials on their cars, with the Rudras and the Adityas, the Vasus and the twin Aswins, the Swadhas and all the Marutas, and Kuvera with Yama walking ahead. And there came also the Daityas and the Suparnas, the great Nagas and the celestial Rishis, the Guhyakas and the Charanas and Viswavasu and Narada and Parvata, and the principal Gandharvas with Apsaras. And Halayudha (Valadeva) and Janardana (Krishna) and the chiefs of the Vrishni, Andhaka, and Yadava tribes who obeyed the leadership of Krishna were also there, viewing the scene. And beholding those elephants in rut–the five (Pandavas)–attracted towards Draupadi like mighty elephants towards a lake overgrown with lotuses, or like fire covered with ashes, Krishna the foremost of Yadu heroes began to reflect. And he said unto Rama (Valadeva), ‘That is Yudhishthira; that is Bhima with Jishnu (Arjuna); and those are the twin heroes.’ And Rama surveying them slowly cast a glance of satisfaction at Krishna. Biting their nether lips in wrath, the other heroes there–sons and grandsons of kings–with their eyes and hearts and thoughts set on Krishna, looked with expanded eyes on Draupadi alone without noticing the Pandavas. And the sons of Pritha also, of mighty arms, and the illustrious twin heroes, beholding Draupadi, were all likewise struck by the shafts of Kama. And crowded with celestial Rishis and Gandharvas and Suparnas and Nagas and Asuras and Siddhas, and filled with celestial perfumes and scattered over with celestial flowers, and resounding with the kettle-drum and the deep hum of infinite voices, and echoing with the softer music of the flute, the Vina, and the tabor, the cars of the celestials could scarcely find a passage through the firmament. Then those princes–Karna, Duryodhana, Salwa, Salya, Aswatthaman, Kratha, Sunitha, Vakra, the ruler of Kalinga and Banga, Pandya, Paundra, the ruler of Videha, the chief of the Yavanas, and many other sons and grandsons of kings,–sovereigns of territories with eyes like lotus-petals,–one after another began to exhibit prowess for (winning) that maiden of unrivalled beauty. Adorned with crowns, garlands, bracelets, and other ornaments, endued with mighty arms, possessed of prowess and vigour and bursting with strength and energy, those princes could not, even in imagination, string that bow of extraordinary stiffness. And (some amongst) those kings in exerting with swelling lips each according to his strength, education, skill, and energy,–to string that bow, were tossed on the ground and lay perfectly motionless for some time. Their strength spent and their crowns and garlands loosened from their persons, they began to pant for breath and their ambition of winning that fair maiden was cooled. Tossed by that tough bow, and their garlands and bracelets and other ornaments disordered, they began to utter exclamations of woe. And that assemblage of monarchs, their hope of obtaining Krishna gone, looked sad and woeful. And beholding the plight of those monarchs, Karna that foremost of all wielders of the bow went to where the bow was, and quickly raising it strung it and placed the arrows on the string. And beholding the son of Surya–Karna of the Suta tribe–like unto fire, or Soma, or Surya himself, resolved to shoot the mark, those foremost of bowmen–the sons of Pandu–regarded the mark as already shot and brought down upon the ground. But seeing Karna, Draupadi loudly said, ‘I will not select a Suta for my lord.’ Then Karna, laughing in vexation and casting glance at the Sun, threw aside the bow already drawn to a circle. Then when all those Kshatriyas gave up the task, the heroic king of the Chedis–mighty as Yama himself–the illustrious and determined Sisupala, the son of Damaghosa, in endeavouring to string the bow, himself fell upon his knees on the ground. Then king Jarasandha endued with great strength and powers, approaching the bow stood there for some moment, fixed and motionless like a mountain. Tossed by the bow, he too fell upon his knees on the ground, and rising up, the monarch left the amphitheatre for (returning to) his kingdom. Then the great hero Salya, the king of Madra, endued with great strength, in endeavouring to string the bow fell upon his knees on the ground. At last when in that assemblage consisting of highly respectable people, all the monarchs had become subjects of derisive talk that foremost of heroes–Jishnu, the son of Kunti–desired to string the bow and placed the arrows on the bow-string.'”

“When all the monarchs had desisted from stringing that bow, the high-souled Jishnu arose from among the crowd of Brahmanas seated in that assembly. And beholding Partha possessing the complexion of Indra’s banner, advancing towards the bow, the principal Brahmanas shaking their deer-skins raised a loud clamour. And while some were displeased, there were others that were well-pleased. And some there were, possessed of intelligence and foresight, who addressing one another said, ‘Ye Brahmanas, how can a Brahmana stripling unpractised in arms and weak in strength, string that bow which such celebrated Kshatriyas as Salya and others endued with might and accomplished in the science and practice of arms could not? If he doth not achieve success in this untried task which he hath undertaken from a spirit of boyish unsteadiness, the entire body of Brahmanas here will be rendered ridiculous in the eyes of the assembled monarchs. Therefore, forbid this Brahmana that he may not go to string the bow which he is even now desirous of doing from vanity, childish daring, or mere unsteadiness.’ Others replied, ‘We shall not be made ridiculous, nor shall we incur the disrespect of anybody or the displeasure of the sovereigns. Some remarked, ‘This handsome youth is even like the trunk of a mighty elephant, whose shoulders and arms and thighs are so well-built, who in patience looks like the Himavat, whose gait is even like that of the lion, and whose prowess seems to be like that of an elephant in rut, and who is so resolute, that it is probable that he will accomplish this feat. He has strength and resolution. If he had none, he would never go of his own accord. Besides, there is nothing in the three worlds that Brahmanas of all mortal men cannot accomplish. Abstaining from all food or living upon air or eating of fruits, persevering in their vows, and emaciated and weak, Brahmanas are ever strong in their own energy. One should never disregard a Brahmana whether his acts be right or wrong, by supposing him incapable of achieving any task that is great or little, or that is fraught with bliss or woe. Rama the son of Jamadagni defeated in battle, all the Kshatriyas. Agastya by his Brahma energy drank off the fathomless ocean. Therefore, say ye, ‘Let this youth bend the bow and string it with ease’ (and many said), ‘So be it.’ And the Brahmanas continued speaking unto one another these and other words. Then Arjuna approached the bow and stood there like a mountain. And walking round that bow, and bending his head unto that giver of boons–the Lord Isana–and remembering Krishna also, he took it up. And that bow which Rukma, Sunitha, Vakra, Radha’s son, Duryodhana, Salya, and many other kings accomplished in the science and practice of arms, could not even with great exertion, string, Arjuna, the son of Indra, that foremost of all persons endued with energy and like unto the younger brother of Indra (Vishnu) in might, strung in the twinkling of an eye. And taking up the five arrows he shot the mark and caused it to fall down on the ground through the hole in the machine above which it had been placed. Then there arose a loud uproar in the firmament, and the amphitheatre also resounded with a loud clamour. And the gods showered celestial flowers on the head of Partha the slayer of foes. And thousands of Brahmanas began to wave their upper garments in joy. And all around, the monarchs who had been unsuccessful, uttered exclamations of grief and despair. And flowers were rained from the skies all over the amphitheatre. And the musicians struck up in concert. Bards and heralds began to chant in sweet tones the praises (of the hero who accomplished the feat). And beholding Arjuna, Drupada–that slayer of foes,–was filled with joy. And the monarch desired to assist with his forces the hero if the occasion arose. And when the uproar was at its height, Yudhishthira, the foremost of all virtuous men, accompanied by those first of men the twins, hastily left the amphitheatre for returning to his temporary home. And Krishna beholding the mark shot and beholding Partha also like unto Indra himself, who had shot the mark, was filled with joy, and approached the son of Kunti with a white robe and a garland of flowers. And Arjuna the accomplisher of inconceivable feats, having won Draupadi by his success in the amphitheatre, was saluted with reverence by all the Brahmanas. And he soon after left the lists followed close by her who thus became his wife.'”

“When the king (Drupada) expressed his desire of bestowing his daughter on that Brahmana (who had shot the mark), all those monarchs who had been invited to the Swayamvara, looking at one another, were suddenly filled with wrath. And they said, ‘Passing us by and treating the assembled monarchs as straw this Drupada desireth to bestow his daughter–that first of women,–on a Brahmana! Having planted the tree he cutteth it down when it is about to bear fruit. The wretch regardeth us not: therefore let us slay him. He deserveth not our respect nor the veneration due to age. Owing to such qualities of his, we shall, therefore, slay this wretch that insulteth all kings, along with his son. Inviting all the monarchs and entertaining them with excellent food, he disregardeth us at last. In this assemblage of monarchs like unto a conclave of the celestials, doth he not see a single monarch equal unto himself? The Vedic declaration is well-known that the Swayamvara is for the Kshatriyas. The Brahmanas have no claim in respect of a selection of husband by a Kshatriya damsel. Or, ye kings, if this damsel desireth not to select any one of us as her lord, let us cast her into the fire and return to our kingdoms. As regards this Brahmana, although he hath, from officiousness or avarice, done this injury to the monarchs, he should not yet be slain; for our kingdoms, lives, treasures, sons, grandsons, and whatever other wealth we have, all exist for Brahmanas. Something must be done here (even unto him), so that from fear of disgrace and the desire of maintaining what properly belongeth unto each order, other Swayamvaras may not terminate in this way.’ Having addressed one another thus, those tigers among monarchs endued with arms like unto spiked iron maces, took up their weapons and rushed at Drupada to slay him then and there. And Drupada beholding those monarchs all at once rushing towards him in anger with bows and arrows, sought, from fear, the protection of the Brahmanas. But those mighty bowmen (Bhima and Arjuna) of the Pandavas, capable of chastising all foes, advanced to oppose those monarchs rushing towards them impetuously like elephants in the season of rut. Then the monarchs with gloved fingers and upraised weapons rushed in anger at the Kuru princes, Bhima and Arjuna, to slay them. Then the mighty Bhima of extraordinary achievements, endued with the strength of thunder, tore up like an elephant a large tree and divested it of its leaves. And with that tree, the strong-armed Bhima, the son of Pritha, that grinder of foes, stood, like unto the mace-bearing king of the dead (Yama) armed with his fierce mace, near Arjuna that bull amongst men. And beholding that feat of his brother, Jishnu of extraordinary intelligence, himself also of inconceivable feats, wondered much. And equal unto Indra himself in achievements, shaking off all fear he stood with his bow ready to receive those assailants. And beholding those feats of both Jishnu and his brother, Damodara (Krishna) of superhuman intelligence and inconceivable feats, addressing his brother, Halayudha (Valadeva) of fierce energy, said, ‘That hero there, of tread like that of a mighty lion, who draweth the large bow in his hand four full cubits in length, is Arjuna! There is no doubt, O Sankarshana, about this, if I am Vasudeva. That other hero who having speedily torn up the tree hath suddenly become ready to drive off the monarchs is Vrikodara! For no one in the world, except Vrikodara, could today perform such a feat in the field of battle. And that other youth of eyes like unto lotus-petals, of full four cubits height, of gait like that of a mighty lion, and humble withal, of fair complexion and prominent and shining nose, who had, a little before, left the amphitheatre, is Dharma’s son (Yudhishthira). The two other youths, like unto Kartikeya, are, I suspect, the sons of the twin Aswins. I heard that the sons of Pandu along with their mother Pritha had all escaped from the conflagration of the house of lac.’ Then Halayudha of complexion like unto that of clouds uncharged with rain, addressing his younger brother (Krishna), said with great satisfaction, ‘O, I am happy to hear, as I do from sheer good fortune, that our father’s sister Pritha with the foremost of the Kaurava princes have all escaped (from death)!'”

“Then those bulls among Brahmanas shaking their deer-skins and water-pots made of cocoanut-shells exclaimed, ‘Fear not, we will fight the foe!’ Arjuna smilingly addressing those Brahmanas exclaiming thus, said, ‘Stand ye aside as spectators (of the fray). Showering hundreds of arrows furnished with straight points even I shall check, like snakes with mantras, all those angry monarchs.’ Having said this, the mighty Arjuna taking up the bow he had obtained as dower accompanied by his brother Bhima stood immovable as a mountain. And beholding those Kshatriyas who were ever furious in battle with Karna ahead, the heroic brothers rushed fearlessly at them like two elephants rushing against a hostile elephant. Then those monarchs eager for the fight fiercely exclaimed, ‘The slaughter in battle of one desiring to fight is permitted.’ And saying this, the monarchs suddenly rushed against the Brahmanas. And Karna endued with great energy rushed against Jishnu for fight. And Salya the mighty king of Madra rushed against Bhima like an elephant rushing against another for the sake of a she-elephant in heat; while Duryodhana and others engaged with the Brahmanas, skirmished with them lightly and carelessly. Then the illustrious Arjuna beholding Karna, the son of Vikartana (Surya), advancing towards him, drew his tough bow and pieced him with his sharp arrows. And the impetus of those whetted arrows furnished with fierce energy made Radheya (Karna) faint. Recovering consciousness Karna attacked Arjuna with greater care than before. Then Karna and Arjuna, both foremost of victorious warriors, desirous of vanquishing each other, fought madly on. And such was the lightness of hand they both displayed that (each enveloped by the other’s shower of arrows) they both became invisible (unto the spectators of their encounter). ‘Behold the strength of my arms.’–‘Mark, how I have counteracted that feat,’–those were the words–intelligible to heroes alone–in which they addressed each other. And incensed at finding the strength and energy of Arjuna’s arms unequalled on the earth, Karna, the son of Surya, fought with greater vigour. And parrying all those impetuous arrows shot at him by Arjuna, Karna sent up a loud shout. And this feat of his was applauded by all the warriors. Then addressing his antagonist, Karna said, ‘O thou foremost of Brahmanas, I am gratified to observe the energy of thy arms that knoweth no relaxation in battle and thy weapons themselves fit for achieving victory. Art thou the embodiment of the science of weapons, or art thou Rama that best of Brahmanas, or Indra himself, or Indra’s younger brother Vishnu called also Achyuta, who for disguising himself hath assumed the form of a Brahmana and mustering such energy of arms fighteth with me? No other person except the husband himself of Sachi or Kiriti, the son of Pandu, is capable of fighting with me when I am angry on the field of battle.’ Then hearing those words of his, Phalguna replied, saying, ‘O Karna, I am neither the science of arms (personified), nor Rama endued with superhuman powers. I am only a Brahmana who is the foremost of all warriors and all wielders of weapons. By the grace of my preceptor I have become accomplished in the Brahma and the Paurandara weapons. I am here to vanquish thee in battle. Therefore, O hero, wait a little.'”

“Thus addressed (by Arjuna), Karna the adopted son of Radha desisted from the fight, for that mighty chariot-fighter thought that Brahma energy is ever invincible. Meanwhile on another part of the field, the mighty heroes Salya and Vrikodara, well-skilled in battle and possessed of great strength and proficiency, challenging each other, engaged in fight like two elephants in rut. And they struck each other with their clenched fists and knees. And sometimes pushing each other forward and sometimes dragging each other near, sometimes throwing each other down; face downward, and sometimes on the sides, they fought on, striking, each other at times with their clenched fists. And encountering each other with blows hard as the clash of two masses of granite, the lists rang with the sounds of their combat. Fighting with each other thus for a few seconds, Bhima the foremost of the Kuru heroes taking up Salya on his arms hurled him to a distance. And Bhimasena, that bull amongst men, surprised all (by the dexterity of his feat) for though he threw Salya on the ground he did it without hurting him much. And when Salya was thus thrown down and Karna was struck with fear, the other monarchs were all alarmed. And they hastily surrounded Bhima and exclaimed, ‘Surely these bulls amongst Brahmanas are excellent (warriors)! Ascertain in what race they have been born and where they abide. Who can encounter Karna, the son of Radha, in fight, except Rama or Drona, or Kiriti, the son of Pandu? Who also can encounter Duryodhana in battle except Krishna, the son of Devaki, and Kripa, the son of Saradwan? Who also can overthrow in battle Salya, that first of mighty warriors, except the hero Valadeva or Vrikodara, the son of Pandu, or the heroic Duryodhana? Let us, therefore, desist from this fight with the Brahmanas. Indeed, Brahmanas, however offending, should yet be ever protected. And first let us ascertain who these are; for after we have done that we may cheerfully fight with them.’ And Krishna, having beheld that feat of Bhima, believed them both to be the son of Kunti. And gently addressing the assembled monarchs, saying, ‘This maiden hath been justly acquired (by the Brahmana),’ he induced them to abandon the fight. Accomplished in battle, those monarchs then desisted from the fight. And those best of monarchs then returned to their respective kingdoms, wondering much. And those who had come there went away saying. ‘The festive scene hath terminated in the victory of the Brahmanas. The princess of Panchala hath become the bride of a Brahmana.’ And surrounded by Brahmanas dressed in skins of deer and other wild animals, Bhima and Dhananjaya passed with difficulty out of the throng. And those heroes among men, mangled by the enemy and followed by Krishna, on coming at last out of that throng, looked like the full moon and the sun emerging from the clouds. Meanwhile Kunti seeing that her sons were late in returning from their eleemosynary round, was filled with anxiety. She began to think of various evils having overtaken her sons. At one time she thought that the sons of Dhritarashtra having recognised her sons had slain them. Next she feared that some cruel and strong Rakshasas endued with powers of deception had slain them. And she asked herself, ‘Could the illustrious Vyasa himself (who had directed my sons to come to Panchala) have been guided by perverse intelligence?’ Thus reflected Pritha in consequence of her affection for her offspring. Then in the stillness of the late afternoon, Jishnu, accompanied by a body of Brahmanas, entered the abode of the potter, like the cloud-covered sun appearing on a cloudy day.'”

“Then those illustrious sons of Pritha, on returning to the potter’s abode, approached their mother. And those first of men represented Yajnaseni unto their mother as the alms they had obtained that day. And Kunti who was there within the room and saw not her sons, replied, saying, ‘Enjoy ye all (what ye have obtained).’ The moment after, she beheld Krishna and then she said, ‘Oh, what have I said?’ And anxious from fear of sin, and reflecting how every one could be extricated from the situation, she took the cheerful Yajnaseni by the hand, and approaching Yudhishthira said, ‘The daughter of king Yajnasena upon being represented to me by thy younger brothers as the alms they had obtained, from ignorance, O king, I said what was proper, viz., ‘Enjoy ye all what hath been obtained. O thou bull of the Kuru race, tell me how my speech may not become untrue; how sin may not touch the daughter of the king of Panchala, and how also she may not become uneasy.’ Thus addressed by his mother that hero among men, that foremost scion of the Kuru race, the intelligent king (Yudhishthira), reflecting for a moment, consoled Kunti, and addressing Dhananjaya, said, ‘By thee, O Phalguna, hath Yajnaseni been won. It is proper, therefore, that thou shouldst wed her. O thou withstander of all foes, igniting the sacred fire, take thou her hand with due rites.’ Arjuna, hearing this, replied, ‘O king, do not make me a participator in sin. Thy behest is not conformable to virtue. That is the path followed by the sinful. Thou shouldst wed first, then the strong-armed Bhima of inconceivable feats, then myself, then Nakula, and last of all, Sahadeva endued with great activity. Both Vrikodara and myself, and the twins and this maiden also, all await, O monarch, thy commands. When such is the state of things, do that, after reflection, which would be proper, and conformable virtue, and productive of fame, and beneficial unto the king of Panchala. All of us are obedient to thee. O, command us as thou likest.’ Hearing these words of Jishnu, so full of respect and affection, the Pandavas all cast their eyes upon the princess of Panchala. And the princess of Panchala also looked at them all. And casting their glances on the illustrious Krishna, those princes looked at one another. And taking their seats, they began to think of Draupadi alone. Indeed, after those princes of immeasurable energy had looked at Draupadi, the God of Desire invaded their hearts and continued to crush all their senses. As the lavishing beauty of Panchali who had been modelled by the Creator himself, was superior to that of all other women on earth, it could captivate the heart of every creature. And Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, beholding his younger brothers, understood what was passing in their minds. And that bull among men immediately recollected the words of Krishna-Dwaipayana. And the king, then, from fear of a division amongst the brothers, addressing all of them, said, ‘The auspicious Draupadi shall be the common wife of us all.’ The sons of Pandu, then, hearing those words of their eldest brother, began to revolve them in their minds in great cheerfulness. The hero of the Vrishni race (Krishna suspecting the five persons he had seen at the Swayamvara to be none else than the heroes of the Kuru race), came accompanied by the son of Rohini (Valadeva), to the house of the potter where those foremost of men had taken up their quarters. On arriving there, Krishna and Valadeva beheld seated in that potter’s house Ajatasanu (Yudhishthira) of well developed and long arms, and his younger brothers passing the splendour of fire sitting around him. Then Vasudeva approaching that foremost of virtuous men–the son of Kunti–and touching the feet of that prince of the Ajamida race, said, ‘I am Krishna.’ And the son of Rohini (Valadeva) also approaching Yudhishthira, did the same. And the Pandavas, beholding Krishna and Valadeva, began to express great delight. And those heroes of the Yadu race thereafter touched also the feet of Kunti, their father’s sister. And Ajatasatru, that foremost of the Kuru race, beholding Krishna, enquired after his well-being and asked, ‘How, O Vasudeva, hast thou been able to trace us, as we are living in disguise?’ And Vasudeva, smilingly answered, ‘O king, fire, even if it is covered, can be known. Who else among men than the Pandavas could exhibit such might? Ye resisters of all foes, ye sons of Pandu, by sheer good fortune have ye escaped from that fierce fire. And it is by sheer good fortune alone that the wicked son of Dhritarashtra and his counsellors have not succeeded in accomplishing their wishes. Blest be ye! And grow ye in prosperity like a fire in a cave gradually growing and spreading itself all around. And lest any of the monarchs recognise ye, let us return to our tent.’ Then, obtaining Yudhishthira’s leave, Krishna of prosperity knowing no decrease, accompanied by Valadeva, hastily went away from the potter’s abode.'”

“When the Kuru princes (Bhima and Arjuna) were wending towards the abode of the potter, Dhrishtadyumna, the Panchala prince followed them. And sending away all his attendants, he concealed himself in some part of the potter’s house, unknown to the Pandavas. Then Bhima, that grinder of all foes, and Jishnu, and the illustrious twins, on returning from their eleemosynary round in the evening, cheerfully gave everything unto Yudhishthira. Then the kind-hearted Kunti addressing the daughter of Drupada said, ‘O amiable one, take thou first a portion from this and devote it to the gods and give it away to Brahmanas, and feed those that desire to eat and give unto those who have become our guests. Divide the rest into two halves. Give one of these unto Bhima, O amiable one, for this strong youth of fair complexion–equal unto a king of elephants–this hero always eateth much. And divide the other half into six parts, four for these youths, one for myself, and one for thee.’ Then the princess hearing those instructive words of her mother-in-law cheerfully did all that she had been directed to do. And those heroes then all ate of the food prepared by Krishna. Then Sahadeva, the son of Madri, endued with great activity, spread on the ground a bed of kusa grass. Then those heroes, each spreading thereon his deer-skin, laid themselves down to sleep. And those foremost of the Kuru princes lay down with heads towards the south. And Kunti laid herself down along the line of their heads, and Krishna along that of their feet. And Krishna though she lay with the sons of Pandu on that bed of kusa grass along the line of their feet as if she were their nether pillow, grieved not in her heart nor thought disrespectfully of those bulls amongst the Kurus. Then those heroes began to converse with one another. And the conversations of those princes, each worthy to lead an army, was exceedingly interesting they being upon celestial cars and weapons and elephants, and swords and arrows, and battle-axes. And the son of the Panchala king listened (from his place of concealment) unto all they said. And all those who were with him beheld Krishna in that state. When morning came, the prince Dhristadyumna set out from his place of concealment with great haste in order to report to Drupada in detail all that had happened at the potter’s abode and all that he had heard those heroes speak amongst themselves during the night. The king of Panchala had been sad because he knew not the Pandavas as those who had taken away his daughter. And the illustrious monarch asked Dhristadyumna on his return, ‘Oh, where hath Krishna gone? Who hath taken her away? Hath any Sudra or anybody of mean descent, or hath a tribute-paying Vaisya by taking my daughter away, placed his dirty foot on my head? O son, hath that wreath of flowers been thrown away on a grave-yard? Hath any Kshatriya of high birth, or any one of the superior order (Brahmana) obtained my daughter? Hath any one of mean descent, by having won Krishna, placed his left foot on my head? I would not, O son, grieve but feel greatly happy, if my daughter hath been united with Partha that foremost of men! O thou exalted one, tell me truly who hath won my daughter today? O, are the sons of that foremost of Kurus, Vichitravirya’s son alive? Was it Partha (Arjuna) that took up the bow and shot the mark?'”

“Thus addressed Dhrishtadyumna, that foremost of the Lunar princes, cheerfully said unto his father all that had happened and by whom Krishna had been won. And the prince said, ‘With large, red eyes, attired in deer-skin, and resembling a celestial in beauty, the youth who strung that foremost of bows and brought down to the ground the mark set on high, was soon surrounded by the foremost of Brahmanas who also offered him their homage for the feat he had achieved. Incapable of bearing the sight of a foe and endued with great activity, he began to exert his prowess. And surrounded by the Brahmanas he resembled the thunder-wielding Indra standing in the midst of the celestials, and the Rishis. And like a she-elephant following the leader of a herd, Krishna cheerfully followed that youth catching hold of his deer-skin. Then when the assembled monarchs incapable of bearing that sight lose up in wrath and advanced for fight, there rose up another hero who tearing up a large tree rushed at that concourse of kings, felling them right and left like Yama himself smiting down creatures endued with life. Then, O monarch, the assembled kings stood motionless and looked at that couple of heroes, while they, resembling the Sun and the Moon, taking Krishna with them, left the amphitheatre and went into the abode of a potter in the suburbs of the town, and there at the potter’s abode sat a lady like unto a flame of fire who, I think, is their mother. And around her also sat three other foremost of men each of whom was like unto fire. And the couple of heroes having approached her paid homage unto her feet, and they said unto Krishna also to do the same. And keeping Krishna with her, those foremost of men all went the round of eleemosynary visits. Some time after when they returned, Krishna taking from them what they had obtained as alms, devoted a portion thereof to the gods, and gave another portion away (in gift) to Brahmanas. And of what remained after this, she gave a portion to that venerable lady, and distributed the rest amongst those five foremost of men. And she took a little for herself and ate it last of all. Then, O monarch, they all laid themselves down for sleep, Krishna lying along the line of their feet as their nether pillow. And the bed on which they lay was made of kusa grass upon which was spread their deer-skins. And before going to sleep they talked on diverse subjects in voices deep as of black clouds. The talk of those heroes indicated them to be neither Vaisyas nor Sudras, nor Brahmanas. Without doubt, O monarch, they are bulls amongst Kshatriyas, their discourse having been on military subjects. It seems, O father, that our hope hath been fructified, for we have heard that the sons of Kunti all escaped from the conflagration of the house of lac. From the way in which the mark was shot down by that youth, and the strength with which the bow was strung by him, and the manner in which I have heard them talk with one another proves conclusively, O monarch, that they are the sons of Pritha wandering in disguise.’ Hearing these words of his son, king Drupada became exceedingly glad, and he sent unto them his priest directing him to ascertain who they were and whether they were the sons of the illustrious Pandu. Thus directed, the king’s priest went unto them and applauding them all, delivered the king’s message duly, saying, ‘Ye who are worthy of preference in everything, the boon-giving king of the earth–Drupada–is desirous of ascertaining who ye are. Beholding this one who hath shot down the mark, his joy knoweth no bounds. Giving us all particulars of your family and tribe, place ye your feet on the heads of your foes and gladden the hearts of the king of Panchala mid his men and mine also. King Pandu was the dear friend of Drupada and was regarded by him as his counterself. And Drupada had all along cherished the desire of bestowing this daughter of his upon Pandu as his daughter-in-law. Ye heroes of features perfectly faultless, king Drupada hath all along cherished this desire in his heart that Arjuna of strong and long arms might wed this daughter of his according to the ordinance. If that hath become possible, nothing could be better; nothing more beneficial; nothing more conducive to fame and virtue, so far as Drupada is concerned.’ Having said this, the priest remained silent and humbly waited for an answer. Beholding him sitting thus, the king Yudhishthira commanded Bhima who sat near, saying, ‘Let water to wash his feet with and the Arghya be offered unto this Brahmana. He is king Drupada’s priest and, therefore, worthy of great respect. We should worship him with more than ordinary reverence.’ Then Bhima did as directed. Accepting the worship thus offered unto him, the Brahmana with a joyous heart sat at his ease. Then Yudhishthira addressed him and said, ‘The king of the Panchalas hath, by fixing a special kind of dower, given away his daughter according to the practice of his order and not freely. This hero hath, by satisfying that demand, won the princess. King Drupada, therefore, hath nothing now to say in regard to the race, tribe, family and disposition of him who hath performed that feat. Indeed, all his queries have been answered by the stringing of the bow and the shooting down of the mark. It is by doing what he had directed that this illustrious hero hath brought away Krishna from among the assembled monarchs. In these circumstances, the king of the Lunar race should not indulge in any regrets which can only make him unhappy without mending matters in the least. The desire that king Drupada hath all along cherished will be accomplished for his handsome princess who beareth, I think, every auspicious mark. None that is weak in strength could string that bow, and none of mean birth and unaccomplished in arms could have shot down the mark. It behoveth not, therefore, the king of the Panchalas to grieve for his daughter today. Nor can anybody in the world undo that act of shooting down the mark. Therefore the king should not grieve for what must take its course.’ While Yudhishthira was saying all this, another messenger from the king of the Panchalas, coming thither in haste, said, ‘The (nuptial), feast is ready. King Drupada hath, in view of his daughter’s nuptials prepared a good feast for the bride-groom’s party. Come ye thither after finishing your daily rites. Krishna’s wedding will take place there. Delay ye not. These cars adorned with golden lotuses drawn by excellent horses are worthy of kings. Riding on them, come ye into the abode of the king of the Panchalas.'” 

“Then those bulls among the Kurus, dismissing the priest and causing Kunti and Krishna to ride together on one of those cars, themselves ascended those splendid vehicles and proceeded towards Drupada’s place. Meanwhile, O Bharata, hearing from his priest the words that Yudhishthira had said, king Drupada, in order to ascertain the order to which those heroes belonged, kept ready a large collection of articles (required by the ordinance for the wedding of each of the four orders). And he kept ready fruits, sanctified garlands, and coats of mail, and shields, and carpets, and kine, and seeds, and various other articles and implements of agriculture. And the king also collected every article appertaining to other arts, and various implements and apparatus of every kind of sport. And he also collected excellent coats of mail and shining shields, and swords and scimitars, of fine temper, and beautiful chariots and horses, and first-class bows and well-adorned arrows, and various kinds of missiles ornamented with gold. And he also kept ready darts and rockets and battle-axes and various utensils of war. And there were in that collection beds and carpets and various fine things, and cloths of various sorts. When the party went to Drupada’s abode, Kunti taking with her the virtuous Krishna entered the inner apartments of the king. The ladies of the king’s household with joyous hearts worshipped the queen of the Kurus. Beholding, those foremost of men, each possessing the sportive gait of the lion, with deer-skins for their upper garments, eyes like unto those of mighty bulls, broad shoulders, and long-hanging arms like unto the bodies of mighty snakes, the king, and the king’s ministers, and the king’s son, and the king’s friends and attendants, all became exceedingly glad. Those heroes sat on excellent seats, furnished with footstools without any awkwardness and hesitation. And those foremost of men sat with perfect fearlessness on those costly seats one after another according to the order of their ages. After those heroes were seated, well-dressed servants male and female, and skilful cooks brought excellent and costly viands worthy of kings on gold and silver plates. Then those foremost of men dined on those dishes and became well-pleased. And after the dinner was over, those heroes among men, passing over all other articles, began to observe with interest the various utensils of war. Beholding this, Drupada’s son and Drupada himself, along with all his chief ministers of state, understanding the sons of Kunti to be all of royal blood became exceedingly glad.'”

“Then the illustrious king of Panchala, addressing prince Yudhishthira in the form applicable to Brahmanas, cheerfully enquired of that illustrious son of Kunti, saying, ‘Are we to know you as Kshatriyas, or Brahamanas, or are we to know you as celestials who disguising themselves as Brahmanas are ranging the earth and come hither for the hand of Krishna? O tell us truly, for we have great doubts! Shall we not be glad when our doubts have been removed? O chastiser of enemies, have the fates been propitious unto us? Tell us the truth willingly! Truth becometh monarchs better than sacrifices and dedications of tanks. Therefore, tell us not what is untrue. O thou of the beauty of a celestial, O chastiser of foes, hearing thy reply I shall make arrangements for my daughter’s wedding according to the order to which ye belong.’ Hearing these words of Drupada, Yudhishthira answered, saying ‘Be not cheerless, O king; let joy fill thy heart! The desire cherished by thee hath certainly been accomplished. We are Kshatriyas, O king, and sons of the illustrious Pandu. Know me to be the eldest of the sons of Kunti and these to be Bhima and Arjuna. By these, O king, was thy daughter won amid the concourse of monarchs. The twins (Nakula and Sahadeva) and Kunti wait where Krishna is. O bull amongst men, let grief be driven from thy heart, for we are Kshatriyas. Thy daughter, O monarch, hath like a lotus been transferred only from one lake into another. O king, thou art our revered superior and chief refuge. I have told thee the whole truth.’ Hearing those words, the king Drupada’s eyes rolled in ecstasy. And. filled with delight the king could not, for some moments answer Yudhishthira. Checking his emotion with great effort, that chastiser of foes at last replied unto Yudhishthira in proper words. The virtuous monarch enquired how the Pandavas had escaped from the town of Varanavata. The son of Pandu told the monarch every particular in detail of their escape from the burning palace of lac. Hearing everything that the son of Kunti said, king Drupada censured Dhritarashtra, that ruler of men. And the monarch gave every assurance unto Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti. And that foremost of eloquent men then and there vowed to restore Yudhishthira to his paternal throne. Then Kunti and Krishna and Bhima and Arjuna and the twins, commanded by the king, to reside there, treated by Yajnasena with due respect. Then king Drupada with his sons, assured by all that had happened, approaching Yudhishthira, said, ‘O thou of mighty arms, let the Kuru prince Arjuna take with due rites, the hand of my daughter on this auspicious day, and let him, therefore, perform the usual initiatory rites of marriage.’ Hearing these words of Drupada, the virtuous king Yudhishthira replied, saying, ‘O great king, I also shall have to marry.’ Hearing him, Drupada said, ‘If it pleaseth thee, take thou the hand of my daughter thyself with due rites. Or, give Krishna in marriage unto whomsoever of thy brothers thou likest.’ Yudhishthira said, ‘Thy daughter, O king, shall be the common wife of us all! Even thus it hath been ordered, O monarch, by our mother. I am unmarried still, and Bhima also is so amongst the sons of Pandu. This thy jewel of a daughter hath been won by Arjuna. This, O king, is the rule with us; to ever enjoy equally a jewel that we may obtain. O best of monarchs, that rule of conduct we cannot now abandon. Krishna, therefore, shall become the wedded wife of us all. Let her take our hands, one after another before the fire.’

“Drupada answered, ‘O scion of Kuru’s race, it hath been directed that one man may have many wives. But it hath never been heard that one woman may have many husbands! O son of Kunti, as thou art pure and acquainted with the rules of morality, it behoveth thee not to commit an act that is sinful and opposed both to usage and the Vedas. Why, O prince, hath thy understanding become so?’ Yudhishthira said in reply, ‘O monarch, morality is subtle. We do not know its course. Let us follow the way trodden by the illustrious ones of former ages. My tongue never uttered an untruth. My heart also never turneth to what is sinful. My mother commandeth so; and my heart also approveth of it. Therefore, O king, that is quite conformable to virtue. Act according to it, without any scruples. Entertain no fear, O king, about this matter.’ Drupada said, ‘O son of Kunti thy mother, and my son Dhrishtadyumna and thyself, settle amongst yourselves as to what should be done. Tell me the result of your deliberations and tomorrow I will do what is proper.’ After this, Yudhishthira, Kunti and Dhrishtadyumna discoursed upon this matter. Just at that time, however, the island-born (Vyasa), O monarch, came there in course of his wanderings. Then all the Pandavas and the illustrious king of the Panchalas and all others there present stood up and saluted with reverence the illustrious Rishi Krishna (Dwaipayana). The high-souled Rishi, saluting them in return and enquiring after their welfare, sat down on a carpet of gold. And commanded by Krishna (Dwaipayana) of immeasurable energy, those foremost of men all sat down on costly seats. A little after, O monarch, the son of Prishata in sweet accents asked the illustrious Rishi about the wedding of his daughter. And he said, ‘How, O illustrious one, can one woman become the wife of many men without being defiled by sin? O, tell me truly all about this.’ Hearing these words Vyasa replied, ‘This practice, O king, being opposed to usage and the Vedas, hath become obsolete. I desire, however, to hear what the opinion of each of you is upon this matter.’ Hearing these words of the Rishi, Drupada spoke first, saying, ‘The practice is sinful in my opinion, being opposed to both usage and the Vedas. O best of Brahmanas, nowhere have I seen many men having one wife. The illustrious ones also of former ages never had such a usage amongst them. The wise should never commit a sin. I, therefore, can never make up mind to act in this way. This practice always appeareth to me to be of doubtful morality. After Drupada had ceased, Dhrishtadyumna spoke, saying ‘O bull amongst Brahmanas, O thou of ascetic wealth, how can, O Brahmana, the elder brother, if he is of a good disposition, approach the wife of his younger brother? The ways of morality are ever subtle, and, therefore, we know them not. We cannot, therefore, say what is conformable to morality and what not. We cannot do such a deed, therefore, with a safe conscience. Indeed, O Brahmana, I cannot say, ‘Let Draupadi become the common wife of five brothers.’ Yudhishthira then spoke, saying, ‘My tongue never uttereth an untruth and my heart never inclineth to what is sinful. When my heart approveth of it, it can never be sinful. I have heard in the Purana that a lady of name Jatila, the foremost of all virtuous women belonging to the race of Gotama had married seven Rishis. So also an ascetic’s daughter, born of a tree, had in former times united herself in marriage with ten brothers all bearing the same name of Prachetas and who were all of souls exalted by asceticism. O foremost of all that are acquainted with the rules of morality, it is said that obedience to superior is ever meritorious. Amongst all superiors, it is well-known that the mother is the foremost. Even she hath commanded us to enjoy Draupadi as we do anything obtained as alms. It is for this, O best of Brahmanas, that I regard the (proposed) act as virtuous.’ Kunti then said, ‘The act is even so as the virtuous Yudhishthira hath said. I greatly fear, O Brahmana, lest my speech should become untrue. How shall I be saved from untruth?’ When they had all finished speaking, Vyasa said, ‘O amiable one, how shall thou be saved from the consequence of untruth? Even this is eternal virtue! I will not, O king of the Panchalas, discourse on this before you all. But thou alone shalt listen to me when I disclose how this practice hath been established and why it is to be regarded as old and eternal. There is no doubt that what Yudhishthira hath said is quite conformable to virtue.’ Then the illustrious Vyasa–the master Dwaipayana–rose, and taking hold of Drupada’s hand led him to a private apartment. The Pandavas and Kunti and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata’s race sat there, waiting for the return of Vyasa and Drupada. Meanwhile, Dwaipayana began his discourse with illustrious monarch for explaining how the practice of polyandry could not be regarded as sinful. Vyasa continued, ‘In a certain hermitage there was an illustrious Rishi’s daughter, who, though handsome and chaste, obtained not a husband. The maiden gratified, by severe ascetic penances, the god Sankara (Mahadeva). The lord Sankara, gratified at her penances, told her himself. ‘Ask thou the boon thou desirest’ Thus addressed, the maiden repeatedly said unto the boon-giving Supreme Lord, ‘I desire to obtain a husband possessed of every accomplishment. Sankara, the chief of the gods, gratified with her, gave her the boon she asked, saying, ‘Thou shall have, amiable maiden, five husbands.’ The maiden, who had succeeded in gratifying the god, said again, ‘O Sankara, I desire to have from thee only one husband possessed of every virtue?’ The god of gods, well-pleased with her, spake again, saying, ‘Thou hast, O maiden, addressed me five full times, repeating, ‘Give me a husband.’ Therefore, O amiable one, it shall even be as thou hast asked. Blessed be thou. All this, however, will happen in a future life of thine!’ Vyasa continued, ‘O Drupada, this thy daughter of celestial beauty is that maiden. Indeed, the faultless Krishna sprung from Prishata’s race hath been pre-ordained to become the common wife of five husbands. The celestial Sri, having undergone severe ascetic penances, hath, for the sake of the Pandavas, had her birth as thy daughter, in the course of thy grand sacrifice. That handsome goddess, waited upon by all the celestials, as a consequence of her own acts becomes the (common) wife of five husbands. It is for this that the self-create had created her. Having listened to all this, O king Drupada, do what thou desirest.'”

“Drupada, on hearing this, observed, ‘O great Rishi, it was only when I had not heard this from thee that I had sought to act in the way I told thee of. Now, however, that I know all, I cannot be indifferent to what hath been ordained by the gods. Therefore do I resolve to accomplish what thou hast said. The knot of destiny cannot be untied. Nothing in this world is the result of our own acts. That which had been appointed by us in view of securing one only bridegroom hath now terminated in favour of many. As Krishna (in a former life) had repeatedly said, ‘O, give me a husband!’ the great god himself even gave her the boon she had asked. The god himself knows the right or wrong of this. As regards myself, when Sankara hath ordained so, right or wrong, no sin can attach to me. Let these with happy hearts take, as ordained, the hand of Krishna with the rites.’ Then the illustrious Vyasa, addressing Yudhishthira the just, said, ‘This day is an auspicious day, O son of Pandu! This day the moon has entered the constellation called Pushya. Take thou the hand of Krishna today, thyself first before thy brothers!’ When Vyasa had said so, king Yajnasena and his son made preparations for the wedding. And the monarch kept ready various costly articles as marriage presents. Then he brought out his daughter Krishna, decked, after a bath, with many jewels and pearls. Then there came to witness the wedding all the friends and relatives of the king, ministers of state, and many Brahmanas and citizens. And they all took their seats according to their respective ranks. Adorned with that concourse of principal men, with its yard decked with lotuses and lilies scattered thereupon, and beautified with lines of troops, king Drupada’s palace, festooned around with diamonds and precious stones, looked like the firmament studded with brilliant stars. Then those princes of the Kuru line, endued with youth and adorned with ear-rings, attired in costly robes and perfumed with sandal-paste, bathed and performed the usual religious rites and accompanied by their priest Dhaumya who was possessed of the splendour of fire, entered the wedding hall one after another in due order, and with glad hearts, like mighty bulls entering a cow-pen. Then Dhaumya, well-conversant with the Vedas, igniting the sacred fire, poured with due mantras libations of clarified butter into that blazing element. And calling Yudhishthira there, Dhaumya, acquainted with mantras, united him with Krishna. Walking round the fire the bridegroom and the bride took each other’s hand. After their union was complete, the priest Dhaumya, taking leave of Yudhishthira, that ornament of battles, went out of the palace. Then those mighty car-warriors,–those perpetuators of the Kuru line,–those princes attired in gorgeous dresses, took the hand of that best of women, day by day in succession, aided by that priest. After the weddings were over, king Drupada gave unto those mighty car-warriors diverse kinds of excellent wealth. And the king gave unto them one hundred cars with golden standards, each drawn by four steeds with golden bridles. And he gave them one hundred elephants all possessing auspicious marks on their temples and faces and like unto a hundred mountains with golden peaks. He also gave them a hundred female servants all in the prime of youth and clad in costly robes and ornaments and floral wreaths. And the illustrious monarch of the Lunar race gave unto each of those princes of celestial beauty, making the sacred fire a witness of his gifts, much wealth and many costly robes and ornaments of great splendour. The sons of Pandu endued with great strength, after their wedding were over, and after they had obtained Krishna like unto a second Sri along with great wealth, passed their days in joy and happiness, like so many Indras, in the capital of the king of the Panchalas.”

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows the Swayamvara of Draupadi. It is an illustration from a copy of the Mahabharata published by the Gorakhpur Geeta Press.

Reference:

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