As soon as the clamor subsided, everyone looked to the Pandavas, Duryodhana, and Dhritarastra, waiting for new developments. An icy feeling, like death, circulated among those present, and the expressions of Arjuna, Bhima, and the twins did not promise anything good. Bhima blew like an angry bull, Indra’s son brandished his bow and quiver in clear threatening attitude while Nakula and Sahadeva had their hands on the hilt of their swords, ready to unsheath them.
Aware of the terrible turn that events had taken, Bhishma, Kripa, Vidura, Drona, and all the other kings and sages felt dismayed, worried about what might happen. The story was at an alarming turn. Only Dhritarastra and his son were visibly happy, so the Kurava got up from his seat and embraced his uncle with an enthusiastic feeling.
Increasingly furious, the Pandavas were only waiting for a nod from their elder brother to let loose in battle; within them, they wanted nothing more than the slaughter of those wicked ones. The dice were loaded and they knew they had been fooled; but Yudhisthira said nothing, looked disconsolately at the floor and barely moved.
Suddenly, Duryodhana’s voice was heard, unimpressed by the menacing appearance of his cousins.
“My dear uncle,” he said turning to Sakuni, “I thank you on behalf of my family for the riches you have managed to earn, and we need not worry if our cousins threaten us with gestures and phrases spoken through gritted teeth. We have conquered their treasures with full legitimacy, and it is time that they too learn to lose. But let’s stop thinking about them; let’s enjoy this moment of joy. Rather, call Draupadi and have her come here, so that we can tell her that she is no longer a queen but the wife of five slaves. Let us entrust her today to our instructors, so that she may soon learn her duties as a servant.”
“Duryodhana,” Vidura cried, “Draupadi is not your slave. When Yudhisthira played for the last time he had already lost himself and could no longer dispose of anything. Also, you have to consider that she is also the wife of his brothers, which Yudhisthira had not asked for permission to put her on the betting table, so Draupadi was not won.”
“Also, Duryodhana, I warn you: do not provoke the Pandavas further, their patience may end. Look at them, one more word and they will destroy you, your relatives, and your friends in a few moments. Do not insult Draupadi by calling her slave. Such an act could mean your end.”
At those words, Duryodhana grinned, and not deigning giving an answer, turned to Pratikami.
“My friend, go to Draupadi in her apartments and tell her to come immediately. Her new master, Duryodhana, the son of Dhritarastra, orders you to come before him.”
Observing the expressions of the Pandavas, the latter hesitated, doubting what to do.
“Are you afraid of Pandu’s sons?” the Kurava then said to him in a tone of derision. “You don’t have to be. They are our slaves. They are like snakes whose venom has been removed. They can’t hurt anyone anymore.”
At those words, Pratikami quickly reached the queen’s rooms and told her what had happened.
She, stunned, said:
“Go back to my husband and ask him if he lost himself or me first.”
Pratikami returned to the hall and turned to Yudhisthira, who was standing with his head down, no longer looking his oppressors in the face.
“Oh, king, your consort wants to know if you lost her first or yourself first.”
But as he did not answer, Duryodhana stood up and in a thunderous voice ordered:
“Friend, Yudhisthira doesn’t feel like explaining. Go back to her right away and tell her that her husband refuses to answer. Tell her to come in person and ask the question.”
When Pratikami left the room again, the atmosphere of tension had grown dramatically; in the eyes of Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva, one could read the frustrated anger of those who want to destroy an entire planet. But Yudhisthira, who was still the older brother, was still not moving or saying anything.
Meanwhile Draupadi, at that new message, said:
“I cannot present myself in front of others. Today my menstrual cycle has begun and consequently I am wearing only one piece of cloth to cover my body. Presenting myself in front of the Brahmanas and elders like this is not respectable. Go back to my husband and ask him what it is I have to do.”
Pratikami, obviously nervous, went back to the hall where the men were gathered and repeated the queen’s words. At that point, Yudhisthira raised his head:
“Say it like this: the ways of dharma are often extremely branched and difficult to understand. I don’t know if I have done well at this juncture, but I have always tried to behave according to the dictates of the divine laws that have been handed down to us. I may have done well, or maybe I have it all wrong; I don’t know. But there are so many sages and monarchs of vast knowledge here, who have surely understood these laws better than I. Come here yourself, and ask them what is right to do.”
At those words, the other Pandavas became even more furious and began to move feverishly on their seats, brandishing their weapons in the air with frenzied energy. At that point Pratikami, very frightened, refused to go back to Draupadi again.
So, Duryodhana, laughing out loud, turned to his brother.
“Duhssasana, my brother, our Pratikami is afraid. Go to our slave and bring her here to us. Show how no one should fear anything from our enemies.”
Laughing, intoxicated by the gambling atmosphere, the Kurava burst into the queen’s room and shouted at her:
“You were won by Duryodhana, and now you are at his service! Do not delay in obeying him any longer! He wants you to work in his court, but if that is not your thing you can avoid it by accepting him as a husband. That way you can continue living as a queen.”
At those insulting words, Draupadi jumped up and looked at him with angry eyes. Then, realizing Duhssasana’s evident intention to grab her, tried to flee to Gandhari’s rooms to find protection. But before she could get there, Duhssasana caught up with her, threw her to the ground and, grabbing her by the hair, dragged her with him.
Drupada’s daughter, born directly from the fire of sacrifice, whose hair had been sanctified during a Rajasuya, was dragged to the floor like a vile servant. Such a serious insult to a queen had never been perpetrated. Having succumbed to the anger and intoxication of the gambling’s gains, Duhssasana did not ponder, nor did he suspect that in reality, at that moment, he had not grabbed a woman’s hair, but a fiery snake that would destroy him.
So, the infamous Duhssasana showed up in the hall, dragging the weeping Draupadi by the hair. At that unholy scene, all in consternation rose to their feet, shouting insults and condemnations to the second son of Dhritarastra.
Draupadi trembled with fear and wept. The Pandavas shivered as if they had been shaken by a tremendous current.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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