Draupadi’s Svayamvara

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After a few days, the Pandavas arrived in Kampilya, the beautiful capital of the kingdom of Panchala.

Having found hospitality in a potter’s house, the five brothers began to wander around the city, which they found pervaded by an almost frenetic festive atmosphere, with floods of people arriving. The roads were constantly busy, so much that neither during the day nor the night they were empty. People of all kinds came continually from all over Bharata-varsha. Cheered up by festoons and flags, with its wide boulevards continually sprinkled with rose water, as clean and opulent as ever, Kampilya truly felt like a heavenly city. The Pandavas, unrecognizable in their disguise, at a certain point approached one of the numerous groups of people who were confabulating in the streets to listen to what they were saying.

“Would you believe that our king,” argued one of them, “had built a bow so heavy that few would even be able to lift it, and so stiff that very few could stretch it? And what about putting an arrow on it and throwing it! In its newly built amphitheater, a fish-like shape has been hung with a wheel spinning in front of it all the time and which has only one orifice from which you can locate its target. The archer will have to hit exactly the eye of the fish. But that’s not all. The archer will not even be able to look directly up, but will have to aim while looking at the reflection in a pool of moving water.”

“It’s a practically impossible test for anyone,” someone said.

“Maybe Karna could make it,” someone else retorted.

“Maybe, but you can be sure that Draupadi would never agree to marry a man of a lower caste. Rather, she would throw herself into the flames.”

“Eh, Arjuna surely would have made it, but unfortunately he fell victim to the sinister plots of the evil son of Dhritarastra.”

“The vile Duryodhana …”

“You know, secretly the king has always wanted to give his daughter to Arjuna, whom he admired when he faced him on the battlefield long ago …”

In the days that followed, the Pandavas continued to visit the beautiful and rich capital, and spent their time begging and studying the scriptures.

 

Then came the longed-for day of the tournament.

Arjuna got up early and after carrying out his morning spiritual practices, accompanied by Bhima, he left the house and headed towards the gigantic amphitheater where the svayamvara would be celebrated. Already packed with hundreds of thousands of shouting people in the stands, this was a truly impressive setting for the tournament. The two brothers looked around and were amazed to see that almost all the kings and princes of the earth had flocked to Kampilya. In the tribunes reserved for the monarchs they recognized the sons of Dhritarastra headed by Duryodhana, then Karna, Salya, and thousands of others.

But, when Arjuna turned his gaze in the direction of the sector reserved for the Vrishni, he noticed a stupendous figure adorned with garlands and jewels of various kinds; he had not yet met Him, but Drona had told him so much about Him, that he could not fail to recognize Krishna and His brother Balarama, accompanied by friends and relatives. He looked for a long time at that divine character, the one that everyone said was an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of God. Bhima, on the other hand, having seen Duryodhana in the sector reserved for the Kuravas felt seething with an unbearable anger that only with difficulty he was able to restrain.

Then there was silence.

Princess Draupadi, who had been born from the sacrificial fire at the behest of the Devas, was announced. She entered, shining like a sun. Everyone gasped, struck and in full admiration for that extraordinary beauty; never on earth had such a lovely and graceful woman been seen. Walking with a demeanor that revealed great modesty, Draupadi sat down beside his father. And, like everyone else, Arjuna wished in his heart nothing more than to have her as his wife.

First Drupada and then his son Dhristadyumna gave a short speech, explaining the rules of the competition; then the bow was introduced and the wheel that disturbed the passage of the arrows was set in motion.

Powerful kings, generals of armies and famous warriors in turn followed one another in an attempt to hit the target: Duryodhana and his hundred brothers, Sakuni, Asvatthama, Bhoja, Virata and his sons, Bhagadatta, Salya, Somadatta, Jayadratha, Jarasandha, and hundreds of others attempted to hit the target, but all failed. Furious and humiliated, they sat back down, looking regretfully at the wonderful princess who had hopelessly stolen their hearts.

At one point, all noise ceased and a strange silence, almost of fear, invaded the stands. Rising from his golden seat, Karna, with his tall and imposing figure, stepped forward with a regal gait. Believing that Arjuna had died, everyone thought that Karna was the only archer in the world capable of hitting the target.

 

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

To buy the complete book, click above

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