Draupadi Svayamvara

After escaping from the House of Lac, the Pandavas spent some time in the jungle, where Bhima killed the demon Hidimb, married his sister Hidimba, and fathered a son named Ghatotkacha. While living in disguise, the Pandavas received a visit from Vyasa, who shared teachings on righteousness and wealth.

Guidance of Vyasa

Vyasa narrated the story of a virtuous rishi’s daughter, who, despite her exceptional qualities, remained unmarried due to misfortunes. After undergoing severe austerities, she pleased Lord Shankara, who granted her the boon of having five husbands in her next life. Reborn as Krishna (Draupadi) in Drupada’s family, she was destined to be the wife of the Pandavas. Vyasa advised them to go to Panchala to find her, before bidding farewell to Kunti and her sons.

Guided by the instructions of Vyasa, Pandavas moved towards Panchala, savoring the sights of beautiful forests and lakes. Finally, they reached Panchala and lodged in a potter’s house, adopting the guise of Brahmanas and living modestly by begging for food while remaining unrecognized by the locals.

Preparation of Swayamvara in Panchala

Yajnasena, desiring to give his daughter Krishna (Draupadi) to Kiriti (Arjuna), Pandu’s son, secretly constructed a formidable bow with a golden target on an artificial machine. He proclaimed that whoever could string the bow and shoot the target would win his daughter’s hand. The news of the svayamvara spread far and wide, attracting kings, rishis, and Brahmanas to witness the event. Duryodhana, accompanied by Karna and the Kouravas, also attended. 

Drupada honored all the guests, creating a bustling atmosphere filled with anticipation. A magnificent platform was erected northeast of the city, surrounded by houses, walls, and a moat, adorned with gates and covered with colorful canopies. It resounded with music, fragrant with incense, and decorated with garlands and sandalwood water.

White palaces encircled it, boasting intricate mosaic work and golden trellises on windows, with stairs leading to plush seats covered in expensive cloth and scented with fragrances. Kings sat in these palaces, adorned with ornaments, admired for their virtues, and beloved by all. The Pandavas were seated with Brahmanas, enjoying the entertainment and lavish hospitality of Drupad’s kingdom. 

Day of Swayamvara

On the sixteenth day of the event, Draupadi prepared herself meticulously, bathing, donning exquisite attire, and adorning herself with numerous ornaments. She carried a beautifully decorated golden prize for the victor and descended into the arena. The priest of the Somakas, a knowledgeable Brahmana skilled in mantras, poured offerings into the sacrificial fire as per tradition and invoked peace upon the fire and the Brahmanas, signaling the commencement of the event by halting all musical performances.

Amid the silence, Dhrishtadyumna stepped into the center of the arena and delivered a resounding speech to the gathered kings. He pointed out the bow, the target, and the arrows, instructing that the task was to shoot the target through the hole in the machine with five arrows. He proclaimed that the man who achieved this feat would win his sister, Krishna, as his wife. Dhrishtadyumna then turned to Draupadi, narrating the lineages and deeds of the assembled kings.

Dhrishtadyumna called the names many powerful kings, including the sons of Dhritarashtra led by Duryodhana, warriors from Gandhara, skilled fighters like Ashvatthama, and numerous other renowned rulers from various regions. He described their valor and lineage, emphasizing their presence at the swayamvara to compete for Draupadi’s hand. These kings and many others were gathered to attempt to win Draupadi’s hand by hitting the target set for the competition.

The youthful kings, considered the most skilled in warfare, were adorned with ornaments and exuded confidence in their abilities. They stood proudly, boasting of their beauty, valor, lineage, virtue, wealth, and youth. Like mighty elephants in a rut, they stared at each other defiantly, filled with desire and determined to win Draupadi. The arrows of love pierced their hearts, and they descended into the arena, ready to compete for Draupadi’s hand, harboring hatred toward their kin for her sake.

The gods and celestial beings arrived in their divine chariots, including the Rudras, Adityas, Vasus, Ashvins, Sadhyas, Maruts, Yama, and Kubera. Alongside them were the daityas, suparnas, uragas, and various other celestial beings, accompanied by sages, celestial musicians, and divine entities like Narada and Parvata. Krishna, along with the Yadava chiefs, also attended the event. 

Upon seeing Draupadi, the sons of Pritha and the valiant twins were captivated by her beauty, as were the other warriors present, whose hearts and desires were drawn to her. The celestial atmosphere was filled with divine beings, heavenly fragrances, and melodious music, creating an enchanting ambiance for the event.

Failure of other Kings

In their attempts to string the bow and win Draupadi’s hand, the assembled kings failed miserably one after another, as the bow proved too strong for them. Despite their noble birth and valorous boasts, they were humbled and left crestfallen, their spirits shattered. Seeing this, Arjuna, Kunti’s son, rose, intending to string the bow and place an arrow on it.

Doubts about Brahmana (Arjuna’s) Feat

As all the kings failed to string the bow, Jishnu (Arjuna) rose from among the Brahmanas. His majestic appearance garnered both admiration and skepticism among the chief Brahmanas. Some were pleased, while others doubted his ability, questioning how a Brahmana without martial training could succeed where renowned Kshatriyas like Karna and Shalya had failed.

Some Brahmanas expressed concerns that if this Brahman, lacking experience and youthfulness, failed to string the bow, it would bring ridicule upon the Brahmanas and displease the kings. They advised stopping him to avoid such consequences. However, others countered, praising the Brahman’s physical prowess, determination, and resoluteness, suggesting that he might succeed due to his evident strength and determination.

The Brahmanas emphasized that within the three societal orders, Brahmanas can accomplish any task. Despite their ascetic practices and physical frailty, they maintain inner strength. They asserted that Brahmanas should not be underestimated or judged based on their actions, as they can do significant and trivial deeds. 

Arjuna came to where the bow was and stood there like a stationary mountain. Arjuna determinedly approached the bow, performing the prescribed rituals; he bowed his head to the bow and joyously grasped it. In the twinkling of an eye, he strung the bow and grasped the five arrows. He effortlessly pierced the target through the machine’s hole with his five arrows, instantly causing it to fall to the ground. 

After the Brahman (Arjuna) completed the task, there was an uproar in the sky and the assembly. The gods showered celestial flowers on him while spectators expressed joy or despair. Music filled the air as bards praised Arjuna’s accomplishment and Drupada got overjoyed.

Amidst the uproar, Yudhishthira, known for his adherence to righteousness, left the assembly swiftly with the twins. Krishna, delighted by Arjuna’s feat, approached him with a garland of white flowers. All the Brahmanas paid homage to Arjuna for his remarkable achievement and winning Krishna. Arjuna departed from the arena, accompanied by his future wife, Krishna.

Resentments of other Kings

The assembled kings were angry when King Drupada expressed his desire to give his daughter to a Brahmana. They felt insulted and disrespected, considering themselves superior to Brahmanas. They contemplated killing Drupada for his perceived offense, accusing him of disrespecting kings and their sons despite inviting them and treating them well. They questioned Drupada’s decision, believing that there must be one worthy of marrying his daughter among the assembled kings.

The kings believed that according to sacred texts, a svayamvara is meant for Kshatriyas, not Brahmanas. They planned to retaliate because they felt insulted by Drupada’s decision to offer his daughter to Arjuna, a Brahmana. They decided that if Draupadi did not choose one of them, they would throw her into the fire and return to their kingdoms.

Despite their anger towards Drupada, they acknowledged the importance of Brahmanas and did not intend to harm Arjuna. However, they were determined to take action to prevent further disrespect and uphold their dharma. Therefore, they attacked Drupada with various weapons to confront him about his decision.

Drupada Asked the Protections from Brahmanas

As the enraged kings charged at Drupada, seeking retribution for his decision, Drupada turned to the Brahmanas for protection. Pandu’s sons, Arjuna and Bhima, renowned for their prowess in battle, stepped forward to confront the attackers. Displaying his incredible strength, Bhima uprooted a large tree effortlessly and stood beside Arjuna like a formidable force, ready to defend against the onslaught of the angry kings.

Observing the remarkable feats of Arjuna and Bhima, Damodara (Krishna), known for his extraordinary intelligence, recognized them as Pandu’s sons. He confidently identified Arjuna as the one wielding a mighty bow and Bhima as the powerful warrior who easily uprooted a tree. Convinced of their identities, Damodara joyfully informed his brother, Halayudha (Balarama), that they were Pandu’s sons and expressed happiness that their aunt, Pritha, and the noble Kurus had survived.

When the Brahmanas offered to fight alongside them, Arjuna reassured them and decided to face the kings alone, armed with his bow. He stood firm alongside Bhima, ready for battle—the enraged kings, led by Karna and Shalya, charged at them. Eager for combat, Karna attacked Arjuna fiercely while Shalya targeted Bhima. Despite facing overwhelming odds, the brothers remained steadfast, with the Brahmanas providing support in the background.

Arjuna and Karna engaged in a fierce battle, exchanging powerful strikes and taunts. Arjuna initially gained the upper hand, piercing Karna with three arrows, but Karna retaliated with equal ferocity. The combat between the two warriors was so intense that they seemed to vanish from sight, fighting with unmatched speed and skill. Despite Karna’s resilience, Arjuna’s prowess remained unmatched, earning admiration from the spectators for his remarkable display of strength and agility.

Karna, impressed by Arjuna’s prowess, speculated if he was an incarnation of a divine figure like Rama or Vishnu disguised as a Brahmana. However, Arjuna clarified that he was merely a Brahmana highly skilled in warfare, not a deity. Despite Karna’s formidable strength, he retreated from the battle, acknowledging the perceived invincibility of Brahmana warriors.

In another part of the arena, Bhima and Shalya engaged fiercely, grappling and exchanging blows like two raging elephants. Bhima eventually overpowered Shalya, hurling him to the ground, much to the surprise of onlookers. However, Bhima spared Shalya’s life despite defeating him. Witnessing Bhima’s feat and Karna’s retreat, the other kings acknowledged the unmatched strength of the Brahmanas and expressed their awe at their lineage and prowess in battle.

Krishna’s Interruption

After witnessing Bhima’s remarkable strength, Krishna, believing them to be Kunti’s sons, intervened and restrained the assembled kings from further conflict. He declared that the lady had been rightfully won according to dharma. As a result, the kings, impressed by the Brahmanas’ valor, refrained from fighting and returned to their kingdoms. They departed, acknowledging the Brahmanas’ victory and recognizing Panchali as the wife of a Brahmana.

Pritha, the mother of the Pandavas, anxiously awaited her sons’ return, fearing various dangers they might have encountered on their journey. She worried they might have been recognized and harmed by their enemies or fallen prey to powerful rakshasas. However, her concerns were alleviated when Arjuna, accompanied by Brahmanas, returned safely later in the afternoon, resembling the sun surrounded by clouds.


After securing alms, Arjuna and Bhima, Kunti’s sons, returned to their mother’s house. Arjuna and Bhima happily presented Yajnaseni and said, “See what alms we have.” She was inside the house and, without seeing her sons, replied, “Share it.” Later, Kunti saw the lady, and upon realizing her mistake, Kunti felt distressed.

Kunti, concerned about upholding righteousness, explained the situation to Yudhishthira regarding Draupadi being brought home as alms by Arjuna and Bhima. She expressed her worry that her inadvertent words might lead to falsehood. Yudhishthira, known for his wisdom, pondered the matter after listening to his mother’s concerns.

Yudhishthira advised Arjuna to marry Draupadi and suggested performing the ceremony according to proper rites. However, Arjuna expressed reluctance, suggesting that Yudhishthira should marry Draupadi first, followed by Bhima, himself, Nakula, and Sahadeva. Arjuna emphasized the importance of adhering to dharma and awaited Yudhishthira’s decision. All eyes turned to Krishna for guidance, and they patiently awaited Yudhishthira’s instruction while keeping Draupadi’s image in their hearts.

Yudhishthira observed his brothers’ overwhelming love and desire for Draupadi, recognizing the potential for conflict. Remembering the words of Dvaipayana (Vyasa), he decided to avoid discord among his brothers and announced that Draupadi would be the wife of all the Pandavas.

Vasudeva (Krishna) and Balarama (Rohini’s son) arrived at the potter’s house where the Pandavas stayed. They greeted Yudhishthira with reverence, recognizing him as the foremost among those who follow dharma. The Pandavas and the Yadavas were delighted to see each other, and the Yadava chiefs paid respects to their father’s sister, Kunti.

Dhrishtadyumna’s Secret Following

Upon meeting Ajatashatru (Yudhishthira), Krishna acknowledged the Pandavas’ valor and good fortune in escaping the fire. He advised them to be cautious to avoid detection by other kings and sought permission to leave with Balarama. Krishna emphasized the importance of maintaining their disguise to prevent their enemies from discovering them. Dhrishtadyumna followed the two descendants of Kuru towards the potter’s house. He dismissed his attendants and concealed himself near the potter’s house without being noticed by them.

In the evening, after returning from begging for alms, Bhima and Arjuna handed over what they had obtained to Yudhishthira. Kunti then instructed Draupadi on distributing the food, advising her to offer a portion to the gods, give some to a Brahmana, feed people in need, and share the rest, allocating half to Bhima due to his hearty appetite. Draupadi followed these instructions diligently, and everyone partook of the food happily.

Madri’s son, Sahadeva, arranged a bed of kusha grass on the ground, and the warriors spread their deerskin to sleep. The Kurus lay down with their heads pointed towards the direction blessed by Agastya. Kunti positioned herself at their heads while Krishna rested at their feet like a foot pillow. Despite lying on the ground with Pandu’s sons, Kunti felt no sorrow or disrespect towards them.

The warriors talked about wars, celestial weapons, and battle tactics during the night. Dhrishtadyumna overheard their discussions and hurriedly reported everything to King Drupada, who was anxious about the whereabouts of Krishna and the Pandavas. Drupada expressed his concern, questioning if someone of low birth had taken away Krishna or if she had been united with Arjuna. He also wondered if the Pandavas were still alive and if Arjuna had won Krishna in the swayamvara.

Prince Dhrishtadyumna recounted to King Drupada the events of the swayamvara, detailing how Krishna had been won by the handsome youth with red eyes who effortlessly strung the bow and brought down the target. He described how the youth, surrounded by Brahmanas paying homage, left with Krishna, followed by the anger of the assembled kings.

Dhrishtadyumna narrated how the heroes took Krishna to a potter’s house, where they met a radiant lady and her three sons, and Krishna served them food before they all slept on the ground together. Dhrishtadyumna concluded that from their actions and conversations, it was evident that they were indeed Pritha’s sons, bringing great joy to King Drupada.

The priest sent by King Drupada approached the disguised Pandavas. He respectfully inquired about their identity, conveying the king’s joy at witnessing the prowess of the archer who had won Draupadi. He expressed Drupada’s long-standing desire for Draupadi to marry a worthy suitor, particularly Arjuna. The priest’s message highlighted the close friendship between King Pandu and Drupada and their mutual regard. Upon receiving the message, Bhima honored the priest with great respect, offering to wash his feet and providing offerings, following the instructions given by King Drupada.

Yudhishthira responded to the Brahmana, affirming that Draupadi’s swayamvara was conducted according to King Drupada’s wishes and dharma. He emphasized that by successfully stringing the bow and hitting the target, the one who won Draupadi had proven his worthiness, regardless of his varna, lineage, or means of living.

Yudhishthira assured that the victor would fulfill King Drupada’s long-held desire for Draupadi to marry a worthy suitor, indicating that Draupadi’s hand was unattainable for anyone lacking strength or skill in arms. He reasoned that Drupada had no reason to grieve over Draupadi, as her marriage had been rightfully earned. As Yudhishthira spoke, another messenger arrived, announcing that the feast had been prepared, signaling the continuation of the celebratory events.

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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