Ten peaceful months had passed during which Draupadi had spent much of her time in the company of the queen, amiably discussing various subjects with her.
Sudeshna had a brother named Kichaka, who was such a strong and respectable fighter that Virata made him general of his army.
One day, while Kichaka was passing through his sister’s gardens, he saw Draupadi, who was as beautiful as the most splendid Apsaras such as Urvashi, Tilottama and Menaka. Admiring her with greedy glances of lust, Kichaka paused, surprised that such beauty existed at court and that he had never been told about it. He went to meet her and told her:
“Your appeal has bewitched me, so much so that I ask you to become my favorite bride. I beg you to accept me; I’ll know how to make you happy.”
“My name is Sairandhri, and I’m married to five Gandharvas that I certainly can’t betray,” she replied kindly, careful not to reveal herself, “and they are very jealous; so if you want to continue living abandon this insane idea born of a sudden infatuation. My husbands are very strong and vindictive, and I can assure you that if they knew you were courting their wife they would kill you without much scruples.”
Having said that, Draupadi quickly left.
Kichaka watched her go without words, amazed by so much wonder and grace of movements. Draupadi’s words did not seem to have had any effect on the general because as soon as he recovered from his astonishment, immediately went to his sister to tell her everything. Sudeshna tried every way to persuade him to forget her.
“I can’t, I can’t! Ever since I saw her I have lost my serenity, and I don’t think of anything but her. I don’t think that over time I would be able to forget her. Dear sister, I’ve never seen such a beautiful woman and I desire her as I have never wanted anything in my life. Please allow us to meet at a propitious time so that I can talk to her calmly. I will succeed, I am sure of it. Do this for me and I will always be grateful to you.”
Believing that nothing could happen other than some proposal that was probably going to be rejected, Sudeshna promised her brother that she would help him. Two days later the queen called Sairandhri and asked her to take a drink to Kichaka who was at her home at the time. Draupadi was very worried and told her:
“Oh, no, my queen, don’t send me to him! The day before yesterday he stopped me and made me some propositions. He was very agitated and seemed to have lost his mind due to an unhealthy passion. Please don’t send me to his house alone,” Draupadi begged.
“My friend, you are going there under my command, and for that reason, he will not dare to harass you. Do not worry, go with confidence,” the queen assured her.
The queen ignored Draupadi’s allegations, and she had to take the gold container and head to the house.
As soon as Kichaka saw her on the threshold, his senses flared up; so, taking the container from her hands, he tried to hug her. Terrified, Draupadi managed to free herself and fled toward the council chamber where the dignitaries of the court were gathered at that moment. The assembly was abruptly interrupted by the entry of Draupadi asking for help. She was followed by Kichaka, who was disturbed by anger and frustration.
And there, in front of everyone, the terrible scene of twelve years before was repeated: Kichaka grabbed Draupadi by the hair and threw her to the ground, shaking her furiously. Everyone looked in amazement, but no one said a word.
That day, by chance, Bhima was also present. Seeing his wife insulted in that barbaric way for the second time, the Pandava was about to lash out at Kichaka, but with a gesture Yudhisthira stopped him on time. She was crying on the floor, with her hair untidy, and cursing those husbands who were unable to protect her. Yudhisthira, fearing that if they avenged her openly, Duryodhana’s spies would track them down, strove to keep calm and managed to contain Bhima’s fury by telling him wise words.
At that point, Draupadi appealed to Virata, but he, being too dependent on his general, dare not take part in her defense; instead, he returned to his apartment leaving her heartbroken.
When Sudeshna saw her in that state, she asked what had happened.
“You knew perfectly well what your brother wanted from me,” said Draupadi angrily, “and yet you demanded that I go to him. And now you’re asking me what happened? When my husbands take revenge and Kichaka lies on the ground lifeless, remember that it was your fault.”
She seemed so sure of what she said that Sudeshna began to fear for her brother’s life.
That evening, when it was deep dark, Draupadi left her room and went to Bhima’s, taking care not to be seen by anyone. She shook him until he woke up.
“Wake up, Oh Bharata, how can you sleep after your wife has been insulted and beaten like that?”
Bhima woke up and found her full of suffering and fear. He could not tolerate seeing her cry like that, so wiping her eyes he said:
“Don’t worry about anything, queen. You know that I wouldn’t let anything like that happen to you. Unfortunately for the second time I was forced to tolerate it to obey my brother. But as for that coward who dared to raise his hands against you, a helpless woman, I will tolerate no more. His days are over; I swear. Listen: tomorrow you have to go to him and pretend you have second thoughts and want to accept his proposals. You will have to tell him to go at night to the guest room, where you will wait for him. That wretch can’t imagine who he’ll find in that bed: it’ll be a Gandharva who’ll kill him.”
Happy with her husband’s promise, Draupadi returned to her rooms and slept peacefully.
The next morning she made sure to be seen by Kichaka, and as soon as she had the opportunity to speak alone with him she made him believe that she had decided to accept his love. Out of himself with the joy of his beloved’s unexpected change of mind, all day he did nothing but think of her and prepare for the meeting; inside, he cursed time that seemed not to pass.
At last, amidst the torments of the lusts of the flesh, midnight came.
When Kichaka entered the room, Bhima was waiting for him, hidden under richly embroidered sheets so that, from the distance and in the dim light, he could easily be mistaken for a woman. With inflamed senses and murmuring sweet words of love, Kichaka approached and placed his hand on the shoulder of that figure. Unfortunately for him, it was not the soft body of a woman, but that of a sinewy and powerful man. Suddenly, Bhima stood up roaring like an angry lion.
Surprised to find himself in front of that gigantic and furious figure, Kichaka defended himself valiantly, but it was in vain; after a hard hand-to-hand fight, he lost his life.
The death of the enemy did not, however, placate Bhima’s bestial fury. So much was the rage accumulated in years of frustration that Bhima continued to wreak havoc on that body, reducing it to a ball of formless flesh and spilling the blood on all the walls and in every point of the floor. At that moment Draupadi came in and saw the horrible ending that his aggressor had.
Satisfied, the two went back to sleep.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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