Draupadi’s Svayamvara Continued

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Surya’s son took hold of the huge bow, lifted it with no apparent effort, and fixed an arrow into it, then with the same ease he stretched the string towards him. Drupada felt his heart skip. He was afraid that Karna would succeed in the enterprise and he did not want to give his daughter in marriage to him, as in his heart he hoped that certain street rumors that murmured that Pandu’s children were still alive, were true. Draupadi also wanted to marry Arjuna, whom she had heard of both as a fabulous man and as an invincible warrior.

Suddenly the princess’s voice was heard echoing in the amphitheater, strong and determined:

“Anyone can try to hit the target,” she proclaimed, “but as for marrying the victor, I want it to be known that I will never accept a Suta-class husband.”

Karna was flabbergasted. Again that curse that haunted him! They still called him son of charioteer! At those words, spoken with the purpose of discouraging Karna, a loud murmur rose from the bleachers and he, humiliated and out of focus, hurriedly shot the arrow, missing the target only by a few millimeters. Then, furious, he threw his bow to the ground and sat down again, his face shocked with anger. Seeing the best archer in the world fail, some of the monarchs present began to get nervous.

“Drupada, we don’t understand what you had in mind when you make us face an impossible test. Did you see? Even Karna didn’t make it, although it must be admitted that your daughter’s sharp words disturbed him. It almost seems that you don’t want to give her to anyone. And if that’s true, why did you make us come here? “

“Maybe you just wanted to humiliate us and have fun behind us seeing us fail,” said another with a furious frown.

“If so, you definitely deserve punishment.”

“You will pay for your impudence with your life!” shouted others.

The nervousness grew more and more, so much so that the sector reserved for the kings was shaking like a stormy sea and furious words could be heard. The turn the situation had taken made Drupada fear the worst. Someone was already taking up arms.

But suddenly, a voice from the box reserved for Brahmanas rose so loudly that everyone fell silent. It was Arjuna, asking permission to speak.

“The laws we have observed for millennia do not prohibit the superior classes from trying their hand at demonstrations that are not relevant to their roles,” he said. “So, I ask permission to try to hit the target too.”

Drupada observed that strange Brahmana: for belonging to a class for which the study of scriptures and the practice of austerities and penances are the fundamental rules, he presented himself singularly robust and his bearing was proud and noble. These qualities were normally found in the Kshatriyas. The words spoken by Arjuna were correct: no law prevented the Brahmanas from trying their hand at tests of military dexterity.

“You are free to try if you wish,” Maharaja Drupada replied.

When Arjuna came down the steps, the Kshatriyas present whispered to each other, irritated:

“How could a weak Brahmana succeed where the mightiest warriors in the world had failed?”

But when they saw him confidently and effortlessly grasp the bow and place an arrow on it, the noises stopped suddenly, so that everyone seemed to be holding their breath. The arrow went off and, darting through the air, hit the target in full. And not happy, with an impressive speed, the son of Indra sent seven more arrows to the same point, dividing the one shot previously in half.

Draupadi had been won.

After a moment of incredulous silence, clamors of amazement and indignation rose from the stands. Looking around, Bhima realized that the situation was heating up, so, he braced himself for action.

Meanwhile, Draupadi was looking at that young Brahmana who was so strong and skillful and something suggested to her that this could be Arjuna, and that her dreams could have come true. She got up, went down into the arena and put the wreath around his neck: it was the sign that she had accepted him as a husband.

At that point, the murmurs became very loud. That gesture had unleashed everyone’s over-repressed nervousness. Salya, Somadatta, Jayadratha and a thousand others, feeling wounded in their pride as warriors, violently inveighed against the Brahmana, and against Drupada, whom had allowed him to try. Dozens rose from their seats and, with their weapons in hand, poured into the arena like a raging river, eager to fight. Arjuna and Bhima protected the king and, clashing with the enraged monarchs, they engaged in a spectacular duel against Salya, Duryodhana and Karna and with everyone else.

Transcendental to the passions of the world, free from the bondage of desire and anger, with eyes so much like the petals of the lotus flower, Krishna watched the scene. He seemed almost amused and smiled. In fact, He knew very well who those Brahmanas really were.

The situation degenerated and the Kshatriyas began to fight each other, dusting off old grudges, making the confusion general. Taking advantage of the moment when it seemed that the conquest of Draupadi had become a secondary issue, the two Pandavas, taking the attractive woman with them, rushed out of the arena and headed towards the house where they were guests.

Arriving on the doorstep, happy for the victory obtained, they called their mother and said in a joking tone:

“Mother, we have brought a gift!”

“Whatever it is,” Kunti replied from within, “your solemn commitment must be to divide it into five.”

At that time the truthfulness of the word was one of the fundamental principles, and one of the values ​​that was given greater importance; in that way one learned to control the tongue. Therefore, although Kunti was unaware of the gift the children had brought, the latter should have shared Draupadi among themselves.

The Pandavas were dismayed: how could they do that?

They discussed it for a long time, and the only solution seemed to be to marry the five of them to her; but would that be right? Did they respond to the laws of morality contained in the scriptures? They decided to do it that way; but the doubt remained. However, when Draupadi learned that the five Pandavas would be her husbands, she felt an immense joy. Her wish had been granted.


This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.

To buy the complete book, click above

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