The Story of Draupadi

Drupada performed a fire-sacrifice (yajña) from where Draupadi emerged as a beautiful dark-skinned young woman after her brother from the sacrificial fire. She was born with her regal personality equally filled with spark and flame. She was a warrior princess. It is her anger that destroys the sinful Kauravas dynasty. She had eyes like lotus-petals and of faultless features and shiny black hair.

Drupada intended to wed his daughter to Arjuna one of the five Pandava brothers hence he set up a Swayamvara for Draupadi. Many princes came to attend this ceremony in order to win Draupadi hand and marry her.  The condition was to string Pinaka (the divine bow of Lord Shiva) and shoot only one arrow at the eye of a revolving fish, while looking at its reflection in a bowl filled with oil.

All contenders failed to do so but Arjuna accomplished this task successfully and won Draupadi. Karna was another one who was able to easily wield and string the bow, but Draupadi refused to allow him to take part. She rejected him for being the son of a charioteer and a man of low cast.

Queen Kunti mandated that the five Pandava brothers share everything they have. Indeed it was Arjuna that had won Draupadi at the Swayamvara had to share with his brothers. Hence Draupadi married all five brothers and each of the five brothers represents a given quality:

The just Yudhisthira for his wisdom of Dharma; The powerful Bhima for his strength; The valiant Arjuna for his courage and knowledge of the battlefield; the exceedingly handsome Nakula and Sahadeva, for their love. The five Pandava brothers were said to have the 14 qualities desired by Draupadi in her previous birth.

When Pandavas, escorting the Kauravas to show the "Palace of Illusions" Duryodhana encountered an atmosphere of mystery. When Duryodhana stepped on the apparently solid part of the courtyard, there was a splash and Duryodhana found himself waist deep in water, drenched from head to toe. Draupadi and her maids saw this from the balcony and they were amused. Duryodhana felt extremely insulted when laughing Draupadi joked and said "a blind man's son is blind", That is when Duryodhana swore revenge on Draupadi; such a revenge that the Pandava would fall at his feet begging for mercy.

Duryodhana maternal uncle Shakuni influenced him and conspired against Padavas. Duryodhana together with Shakuni, his brothers Dushasana and his friend Karana, call on the Pandavas to Hastinapur and set them up for a game of dice. The plan's architect, Shakuni was blessed with dice that would never disobey his will. The idea was that Shakuni would play against Yudhisthira and win at the gambling table what was impossible to win on the battlefield.

This game of dice is the key incident that often marks a definitive moment in the story of Mahabharata. It is one of the driving reasons that ultimately led to the Kurukshetra war.

As the game proceeded, Yudhishthira lost everything one-by-one. Having lost all material wealth, he went on to put his brothers at stake, and lost them too. Ultimately he put himself at stake, and lost again. All the Pandavas were now the servants of the Kauravas. But for Duryodhana, the humiliation of the Pandavas was not enough. He prodded Yudhishthira that he has not lost everything yet; Yudhishthira still has Draupadi with him and if he wished he could win everything back by putting Draupadi at stake. Inebriated by the game, Yudhishthira walked into the trap and to the horror of everybody present, put Draupadi up as a bet for the next round.

Once again Shakuni played the next round and won. When Draupadi heard that she was staked in the game of dice and now is a slave for Duryodhana , she was horrified. Draupadi questions Yudhishtira's right on her as he had lost himself first and she claimed that she was still the queen. She refused to present herself in the court. Duryodhana got very angry with Draupadi's behaviour and ordered his younger brother Dushasana to bring her into the court, forcibly if he must. Dushasana barged into the living quarters of Draupadi, who was clad in one piece of attire that is the sari and had not washed yet. Dushasana grabed her by the hair and drags her into the court while she was screaming and howling for help.

Now in an emotional appeal to the elders present in the forum, Draupadi repeatedly questions the legality of the right of Yudhishthira to place her at stake. Everybody remains quiet and speechless.

In order to provoke the Pandavas further, Duryodhana bares and pats his thigh looking into Draupadi's eyes, implying that she should sit on his thigh. In rage Bhima vows in front of the entire assembly that he would break that thigh of Duryodhana, or accept being Duryodhana's slave for seven lifetimes.

Then to the horror of everybody present in the court, Duryodhana ordered Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi. Seeing nobody in the assembly or her husbands unable to help her, Draupadi prayed to Lord Krishan to protect her. Dushasana pulled and unwraped layers and layers of her sari while Pandavas and the court looked away. And finally Krishna appeared as Dharma and granted Daupadi with thousand yards of continuous material and protected her modesty. As her sari keeps getting extended, everyone looks upon in awe, and Dushasana himself is forced to stop due to exhaustion and collapsed. At this point, a furious Bhima vows to remove Dushasana's arm (that had held her hair) and to drink the blood from his chest. This vow unsettles the entire court. Draupadi also vowed not to tie her hair until she has washed them with the blood of Dushasana.

Draupadi was about to curse the Kuru dynasty when she was interrupted by the queen mother of Durayodhana and begged her not to curse the whole dynasty. Knowing how lethal a pious woman's curse could be, Gandhari counseled her husband Dhritarashtra who granted Draupadi three boons.

Draupadi in her first boon asked her husbands to be freed from bondage.

In her second boon she asked for all the wealth Pandavas had lost in the game of dice to be restored to them.

When Dhritarashtra asks her to wish for the third boon she refuses by saying that it would be greedy to ask for more.

Shakuni and Duryodhana later convince Dhritarashtra to invite Pandavas for a new game of dice, with modified rules. The loser here, would go for 12 years in exile and another one year of anonymity. Yudhisthira agreed and lost again and Pandavas were sent into exile for 13 years.

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