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said to the Pandava brethren : " Come with us to the
festival and the sports and the swayamvara ; you will
be fea-sted and will receive gifts. You are all as comely
as princes and as fair as the bright gods; mayhap Drau-
padi may choose from among ye this stalwart and noble
youth, strongly armed and of fearless bearing, and if he
should perform mighty feats, the garland may be thrown
upon his shoulders."

Said Yudhishthira: "So be it, We will hasten
with you to the swayamvara and share banquet and

So the Pandavas went towards Panchala with the
troop of Brahmans, When they reached the city they


took up their abode in the humble dwelling of a potter,
still disguised as Brahmans, and they went out and
begged food from the people.

In their secret hearts the brethren desired greatly to
win the fair bride whose fame had been bruited abroad.

The Choice of Draupadi

Drupada's Hope Conditions for winning his Daughter The Great
Bow and Whirling Target The Swayamvara Pandavas in Disguise Love-
sick Rajahs put to Shame Kama strings the Bow Rejected as a Base-born
Suitor Arjuna's Triumph Chosen by Princess An Angry Scene Rajahs
seek Vengeance Warriors attack Supposed Brahmans Kama and Salya over-
come Princess taken to Potter's House Pritha's Command An Evening
Meal The Royal Spy.

Now Drupada had long cherished the hope that Arjuna
would become his daughter's husband. He never re-
vealed his wish to any man, but ere he proclaimed the
swayamvara of Draupadi, he thought of the great Pan-
dava archer, and caused to be made a powerful bow
which only a strong man could bend and string. For
a target he had constructed a strange and curious device:
a high pole was erected, and it was surmounted by a
golden fish, which was poised above a swiftly-revolving
wheel. Then Drupada issued a proclamation far and
wide summoning the regents and princes of the world
to the swayamvara. He said : " The man who will bend
the bow and shoot an arrow through the wheel which
will strike and bring down the golden fish shall obtain
my daughter in marriage." None but a mighty archer
who was Arjuna's equal could hope to win the beautiful
Draupadi, for five arrows only were allowed to each com-
petitor, and the fish must needs be struck on an eye to
be brought down.



A great field was enclosed for the swayamvara. It
was surrounded by a fosse and barrier and swan-white
pavilions, with domes and turrets that were agleam with
gold and jewels, festoons and streamers and bright gar-
lands. The turrets of the royal mansion were lofty and
golden like Himalayan mountain peaks.

For sixteen days there were sports and banquets, and
everyone within the city made merry. Then came the
great and festal day. At dawn trumpets and drums
awakened the people, and flags and flowers decorated
every street. The whole populace gathered on the plain
and massed around the barriers. The rajah's soldiers
kept order, and wrestlers and jugglers and dancers and
musicians performed merrily until the appointed hour
drew nigh.

At length the people roared their welcome to the
king and the high-born ladies and all the royal guests,
who thronged the galleries and pavilions. The mighty
rajahs, frowning defiance one upon another, were ranged
on lofty seats round the throne of King Drupada. Multi-
tudes had gathered to gaze on the glittering scene, press-
ing against the barriers, or clustering on trees and scaf-
folds, while others looked down from lofty lattice and high
house roofs. ... A thousand trumpets clamoured ; and
the murmuring of the swaying people was like the voice
of the heaving main.

Among others came in all her beauty the Princess
Draupadi, stepping gently and sweet, bearing in a delicate
hand the golden bridal garland, which was adorned with
sparkling gems. Tardily she made approach, blushing
with increasing loveliness, and appeared in the presence
of the princes. Mighty and high-born men were there.
The Pandavas beheld in the galleries their enemies
Duryodhana, Kama, and all the great Kauravas, and they


saw also Krishna, the amorous and powerful one, and
his brother, the wine-drinking Balarama 1 , the Yadava
princes, the Rajah of Sindhu and his sons, the Rajah of
Chedi, the Rajah of Kosala, the Rajah of Madra, and
many more. Now the Pandavas were still disguised as
Brahmans, and stood among the holy men.

An aged and white-haired Brahman, clad in white,
approached the high altar, chanting mantras. He spread
the holy grass and poured out oil ; then he kindled
the sacred fire, and the offering to the gods was

Thereafter the thousand trumpets were sounded,
and a tense silence fell upon the buzzing crowd. In
the solemn hush all eyes were turned towards the royal
mansion as Drupada's valiant son, Dhrishta-dyumna, led
forth his sister Draupadi, and in a voice like thunder
proclaimed his father's will, saying:

" Here stands the noble princess, my sister. Whoso-
ever can bend this bow, and strike with an arrow yonder
whirling target set on high, may, if his lineage is
noble, claim Draupadi for his bride. My words are
truth ! "

Having spoken thus, the prince recited to his sister
the names of the royal guests, their lineage and their
deeds of fame, and bade her award the golden garland
to the successful archer.

The rajahs then descended from their gorgeous
thrones and gathered around Draupadi as the bright gods
gather around Parvati, the mountain bride of Shiva. Their
hearts were filled with love for the maiden and with hate
for one another. Rivals frowned upon rivals. Those
who had been close friends became of a sudden angry
enemies because that Draupadi was so beautiful. Krishna

1 Pron. bal-a-rah'ma.


and Balarama alone remained aloof; calmly and self-
restrained they stood apart, while rajah opposed rajah
like to angry elephants.

Each of the love -sick monarchs gazed upon the
mighty bow and upon the whirling target on high, and
for a time no man sought to lift the bow lest he should
be unable to bend it and then be put to shame. At
length a rajah, more bold than the others, picked it up
and tried his strength without avail ; another followed
and another, but failed to string it. Soon many rajahs
strained their arms in vain, and some fell upon the
ground and groaned, while the laughter of the people
pealed around the barriers. . . . The gods had assembled
in mid-air and looked down with steadfast eyes.

At length proud Kama strode forward ; he took the
bow and bent it and fixed the bowstring. Then he
seized an arrow. Drupada and his son were alarmed,
fearing he might succeed and claim the bride. Suddenly
Draupadi intervened, for she would not have the son of
a charioteer for her lord. She said, speaking loudly: "I
am a king's daughter, and will not wed with the base-
born. . . ."

Kama smiled bitterly, his face aflame. He cast down
the bow and walked away, gazing towards the sun. He
said: "O sun! be my witness that 1 cast aside the bow,
not because I am unable to hit the mark, but because
Draupadi scorns me."

Others sought to perform the feat, but in vain, and
many rajahs feared to make attempt lest they should
compel the laughter of the people. A buzz of merry
voices arose from beyond the barriers.

Meanwhile the Pandava brethren, disguised as Brah-
mans, looked on with the others.

Then suddenly silence fell upon everyone, for Arjuna


advanced from the priestly band to lift the bow. The
Brahmans applauded him, shaking their deerskins.

Said the rajahs : " Can a weakly Brahman, who is a
mere stripling, accomplish a feat which is beyond the
strength of mighty warriors."

Others said : " The Brahman knoweth best his own
skill. He would not go forward if he were not confident
of success."

An aged priest endeavoured to restrain Arjuna, lest
he should by his failure bring ridicule upon the Brah-
mans; but the hero would not be thwarted. He strode
forward like to a stately elephant and bared his broad
shoulders and ample chest. He was nimble as a lion,
and calm and self-possessed.

Ere he lifted the bow, he walked round it ; then he
addressed a prayer to the gods. . . . He stood up un-
moved and serene as a mountain peak, and he bent the
bow and fixed an arrow in it. ...

All eyes watched him. He drew the cord, and the
arrow flew upwards with a hissing sound ; it hit the
target eye, and the golden fish fell over and clashed
upon the ground.

Like distant thunder arose the plaudits of the multi-
tude ; hundreds of Brahmans shouted in ecstasy and
waved their scarfs ; a thousand trumpets clamoured in
triumph, and the drums were beaten loud. . . .

The heart of Draupadi was filled with joy, and,
smiling coyly, she advanced towards Arjuna and flung
the golden bridal garland over his shoulders. Celestial
blossoms fluttered, descending through the air, and the
sound of celestial music was heard.

Drupada was well pleased, because he had already re-
cognized the hero in his Brahman guise ; but the jealous
rajahs stormed in fury, and each said unto the other :


"Behold! the king goeth to greet this youth. To him
we are as worthless as jungle grass ; he tramples upon us
in his pride. . . . Are we to be humbled by a Brahman
and denied the fruit of our nourished hopes ? The
daughter of a rajah must even choose a Kshatriya for
her husband. . . . Verily, the life of a priest is sacred,
but the rajah who scorns his peers must die- -he and
his son together. Let us seize also this shameless
woman who honours the Brahman - that trespasser of
our birthright so that she may be burned at the
stake ! '

Shouting with anger one to another, the rajahs poured
from the galleries with drawn swords and rushed towards
Arjuna and the princess. Like ponderous wild elephants
they advanced; but the Pandavas rose against them.
Arjuna bent the great bow, and Bhima, having no weapon,
uprooted a tree and stood defying them like to hell's
stern judge wielding his mighty club. Yudhishthira and
the younger brothers were soon beside them, and the
Brahmans hastened also to give their aid.

For a moment the rajahs paused, wondering at the
daring of the priestly band; but impatient Kama and
angry Salya, Rajah of Madra, dashed forward like to
infuriated elephants against Arjuna and Bhima. The
brothers sustained the shock, and when Kama had been
struck by Arjuna, he faltered in amaze and said: "Brah-
man, who art thou ? Art thou a god in human guise ?
No Brahman could thus attack me, nor dost there live
a man who can thwart me with defiance as thou hast
done even now, save Arjuna alone."

Said Arjuna, " I am nor god nor hero, but a humble
Brahman who hath been trained to use of arms. I have
come hither to tame thy pride, thou haughty youth ;
therefore be firm.'


But Kama fell back, deeming it vain to oppose the
power of a holy man.

Meanwhile Madra's king fought against peerless
Bhima. Both were long-armed and of gigantic strength.
Sharp and fierce was their conflict. When their clubs were
splintered, they leapt one upon the other and wrestled
fiercely, struggling with all their might. Then, of a
sudden, Bhima stopped and swung aloft the mighty rajah
and threw him heavily upon the ground, where he lay
unconscious and bleeding before the eyes of the multi-

The rajahs drew back, humbled because of Kama's
flight and Salya's downfall.

" Brave, indeed, are the Brahmans," they said. " Who
can they be? What is their lineage? and whence come

The Pandavas scorned to make answer. But Krishna
had knowledge of who they were, and he interposed with
gentle words to soothe the angry rajahs. The monarchs
heard him and withdrew, and the tumult was appeased.

Then Arjuna took Draupadi by the hand and led
her away in peace from that scene of angry strife. So
ended the swayamvara, and Krishna declared that the
bride had been fairly won.

The Pandava brethren went towards the house of
the potter, and they entered and addressed their mother
Pritha, saying: "A great gift have we obtained this day."

Said Pritha: "Then share the gift between you, as
becomes brethren."

Yudhishthira said: "What hast thou said, O mother?
The gift is the Princess Draupadi whom Arjuna hath won
at the swayamvara."

Said Pritha: "Alas! what have I said? I have sinned
deeply in saying,, c Then share the gift between you, as


becomes brethren.' But, O Yudhishthira, my son, the
fatal words have been spoken ; you must devise how
they can be obeyed without involving one another in

Yudhishthira pondered a time and then spake to
Arjuna, saying: " My brother, thou hast won Draupadi
by thine own merit. She must therefore be thy bride."

Said Arjuna: "Thou, Yudhishthira, art our elder
brother and we are thy servants. The princes , is for

Yudhishthira said: "Let this matter be arranged in
accordance with the will of the gods. It is for Drupada
to say unto which of us his daughter will be given."

Now, as hath already been told, each one of the
Pandavas yearned in his secret heart to have Draupadi
for his bride. . . .

Meanwhile the evening meal had been prepared, and
Pritha desired that the princess should at once take her
place, and serve out the portions to the brethren. So
she said unto Draupadi: "Divide the food, and first set
aside a share for the poor ; then cut what is left into two
parts, one part for Bhima, and the rest for my other sons
and for thee and me."

The princess smiled when she beheld the great meal
which Bhima devoured.

When they had all eaten they retired to rest. Drau-
padi slept with Pritha, and the brethren lay at their feet.

King Drupada was sore troubled in heart after his
daughter had been led away to the potter's house, and
he sent his valiant son to watch her. Dhrishta-dyumna
went forth in disguise, and, listening at the window, he
discovered to his joy that the Brahmans were no other
than the Pandava brethren. He returned to his royal
sire and related all that had happened, and what had been


spoken at the evening meal. The king was well pleased
because that the brethren were Kshatriyas and not

In the morning Drupada sent a priest to the potter's
house to ask how it fared with all the brethren.

Said Yudhishthira : " Inform thou the rajah that his
daughter hath been won by a family who will not bring
shame or disgrace upon his royal name. None but a
man of high birth could have shot down the fish of

Drupada, ere this message was delivered unto him,
sent a second messenger bidding the brethren to come
to the palace because that the nuptial feast was ready.
. . . Two chariots awaited them. Then Pritha and
Draupadi entered one of the chariots together, and the
five brethren entered the other, and they were all driven
towards the royal palace.

When the people beheld the Pandavas and marked
their comely bearing and royal gait, they knew that they
were not Brahmans, but high-born Kshatriyas.

The Pandava guests were made welcome, and the
king and his son and all his counsellors sat down to feast
with them.

Said the rajah at length unto Yudhishthira : " I per-
ceive that you are men of high birth. Tell me, there-
fore, I pray thee, who ye are your names and your

Yudhishthira said : " We are of humble birth. Do
now with us as is thy desire."

Said Drupada : " In Indra's name, I adjure thee to
reveal yourselves unto me now."

Yudhishthira said : " Know, then, that we are the
Pandava princes. . . . Our brother Arjuna was the
winner of Draupadi. Thy daughter, like to a lotus,


hath been but transferred from one lake to another. I
have spoken what is true."

Drupada glowed with joy and satisfaction. He pre-
vailed upon the brethren to remain at the palace, and
entertained them for many days.

At length Yudhishthira was addressed by Drupada,
who said : " Thou art the elder brother. Speak and say
if it is thy desire that Arjuna be given Draupadi for his

Said Yudhishthira : " I would fain speak with Vyasa,
the great Rishi, regarding this matter."

Now Vyasa was in the city of Panchala at that time,
and he was brought before the rajah, who spake to him
regarding Draupadi.

The Rishi said : " The gods have already declared
that she will become the wife of all the five Pandava

Drupada's son spoke and said : " With reverence 1
have heard thy words, O Vyasa, but to me it appears
that Draupadi hath been betrothed unto Arjuna alone."

Said Yudhishthira: "Thou hast spoken truly, but
there is wisdom in the words of Vyasa which in my heart
I cannot condemn. Besides, our mother hath already
commanded us to share our gift together."

Then Vyasa told that Draupadi was the re-incarnation
of a pious woman who once prayed unto the god Shiva
for a husband : five times she prayed, and the god
rewarded her with the promise of five husbands in her
next existence. Vyasa also revealed that the Pandava
brethren were five incarnations of Indra, and thus were
but as one.

Drupada then gave consent for his daughter to be-
come the bride of all the brethren, and it was arranged
that she should be married unto them all, one after the


other, according to their ages. So on five successive
days she was led round the holy fire by each of the five
Pandava princes.

Drupada thereafter conferred great gifts upon his
sons-in-law ; he gave them much gold and many jewels,
and he gave them numerous horses and chariots and
elephants, and also a hundred female servants clad in
many-coloured robes, and adorned with gems and bright
garlands. Unto the Pandavas Krishna gave much
raiment and ornaments of gold, and rare vessels spark-
ling with jewels, besides female servants from various

Now when Duryodhana came to know that the
Pandava brethren were still alive, and had formed a
powerful alliance with Drupada, he was moved to jealous
wrath. A great council was held, at which the young
men clamoured for war and the grave elders spoke in
favour of peace. At length it was agreed that the Pan-
dava princes should be invited to return to Hastinapur
so that the raj might be divided between them and the
sons of Dhritarashtra. Then Vidura was sent to Panchala
to speak with the Rajah Drupada and his sons-in-law
regarding this matter.

Triumph of the Pandavas

Pandavas visit Drupada's Palace Their Identity revealed Draupadi's
Five Husbands Kingdom assigned to Pandavas Building of Indra-prastha
Arjuna goes into Exile His Serpent Bride Marriage in Manipur An
Heir to a Throne Meeting with Krishna Abduction of Princess Miracu-
lous Origin of Jarasandhu His Two Mothers Slain by Bhima The
Imperial Sacrifice Krishna kills Shishupala Yudhishthira's Triumph
Jealousy of Duryodhana.

THE Pandava brethren returned to Hastinapur with
Vidura. They took with them their mother, Queen
Pritha, and their wife, Draupadi, and the people went
forth in great multitudes and bade them glad welcome.
Then there was much rejoicing and many banquets.

At length Dhritarashtra spake unto Yudhishthira and
his brethren and said : " I will now divide the raj be-
tween you and my sons. Your share will be the south-
western country of Khandava-prastha."

Said Bhishma: "The maharajah hath spoken wisely.
It is meet that you should depart unto the country of
Khandava-prastha as he hath decreed."

So the Pandava princes bade farewell to all their
kinsmen and to wise Drona, and they went towards their
own country. On the banks of the Jumna they built a
strong fort, and in time they made a great clearance in
the forest. When they had gathered together the people
who were subject unto them, they erected a great and
wonderful city like unto the city of Indra, and it was



called Indra-prastha. 1 High walls, which resembled the
Mandara mountains, were built round about, and these
were surrounded by a deep moat wide as the sea.

In time the fame of Rajah Yudhishthira went far and
wide. He ruled with wisdom and with power, and he
had great piety. Forest robbers were pursued constantly
and put to death, and wrongdoers were ever brought to
justice; indeed, the people who suffered from evildoing
went before the rajah as children go before a father seek-
ing redress.

The brethren lived happily together. In accordance
with the advice of a Rishi, they made a compact that
when one of them was sitting beside Draupadi, none of
the others should enter, and that if one of them should
be guilty of intrusion, he must needs go into exile for the
space of twelve years.

As it chanced, Yudhishthira was sitting with Draupadi
one day when a Brahman, whose cattle had been carried
off, hastened to Arjuna and entreated him to pursue the
band of robbers. The weapons of the prince were in the
king's palace, and to obtain them Arjuna entered the
room in which Yudhishthira and Draupadi sat, thus break-
ing the compact made by the brethren. He hastened
after the robbers and recovered the stolen cattle, which he
brought back unto the Brahman.

On his return to the palace, Arjuna said unto his
brother that he must needs become an exile for twelve
years to expiate his offence. Yudhishthira, however,
sought to prevail upon him not to depart. But Arjuna
made answer that he had pledged his oath to fulfil the
terms of the compact. " I cannot waver from truth," he
said; "truth is my weapon." So when he had bidden
farewell to Pritha and Draupadi and his four brethren,

1 Pron. indra-prast'ha.
(0569) 18


he took his departure from the city of Indra-prastha.
And a band of Brahmans went with him.

Arjuna wandered through the jungle, and he visited
many holy places. One day he went unto Hurdwar,
where the Ganges flows upon the plain, and he bathed
in the holy waters. There he met with Ulupi, daughter
of Vasuka, king of the Nagas, who had great beauty.
She loved him, and she led him to her father's palace,
where he abode a time, and she gave him the power to
render himself invisible in water. A child was born unto
them, and he was named Iravat.

Thereafterwards Arjuna went southwards until he
came to the Mahendra mountain. 1 He was received
there by Parasu Rama, the Brahman hero, who gave him
gifts of powerful weapons, and imparted to him the secret
of using them.

So he wandered from holy place to holy place until
he reached Manipur. Now the rajah of that place had
a beautiful daughter whose name was Chitrangada.
Arjuna loved her, and sought her for his bride. The
rajah said : " I have no other child, and if I give her
unto thee, her son must remain here to become my
heir, for the god Shiva hath decreed that the rajahs of
this realm can have each but one child." Arjuna married
the maiden, and he dwelt for three years at Manipur. A
son was born, and he was named Chitrangada. There-
after Arjuna set out on his wanderings once more.

He passed through many strange lands, travelling
westward, and at length he reached the city of Prabhasa 2 ,
which is nigh to Dwaraka, on the southern sea, the
capital of his kinsman Krishna, rajah of the Yadhavas.

Krishna welcomed Arjuna, and took the Pandava hero
to dwell in his palace. Then he gave a great feast on

1 In Ganjam district, Madras. 3 Pron. pra-bha'sa.


* t

the holy mountain of Raivataka, which lasted for two
days. Arjuna looked with love upon Krishna's fair
sister, Subhadra 1 , a girl of sweet smiles, and desired her
for a bride.

Now it was the wish of Balarama that Subhadra should
be given unto Duryodhana, whom, indeed, she would
have chosen had a swayamvara been held. So Krishna
advised Arjuna to carry her away by force, in accordance
with the advice of the sages, who had said aforetime :
" Men applaud the Kshatriyas who win brides by abduct-
ing them."

When the feast was over, Arjuna drove his chariot
from the holy mountain towards Dwaraka until he came
nigh to Subhadra. Nimbly he leapt down and took her
by the hand and lifted her into his chariot ; then he drove
hastily towards the city of Indra-prastha.

Balarama was greatly angered, and desired to pursue
Arjuna; and he spoke to Krishna, saying: "Thou art
calm, and I can perceive that Arjuna has done this thing
with thy knowledge. Thou shouldst not have given our
sister unto him without my consent. But let the deed
be upon his own head, for I will pursue him and slay

Online LibraryDonald Alexander MackenzieIndian myth and legend → online text (page 19 of 38)