PRATHIKAMI went to Draupadi as ordered by his master. He
said to her: "O revered princess, Yudhishthira fell under the spell of the
game of dice and has wagered and lost even you. Now you belong to Duryodhana. I
have come by Duryodhana's command to take you to serve in his household as maid
servant, which will hereafter be your office."
Draupadi, the spouse of the emperor who had performed
Rajasuya, was dumbfounded, at this strange message. She asked:
"Prathikami, what do you say? Which prince would pledge his wife? Had he
nothing else to pawn?"
Prathikami answered: "It is because he had already
lost all other possessions and had nothing else left that he played offering
you as a stake."
Then he told her the whole story of how Yudhishthira had
lost all his wealth and had finally betted her, after having first forfeited
his brothers and himself.
Though the news was such as to break the heart and kill
the soul, still, Draupadi soon regained her fortitude and, with anger blazing
from her eyes, said: "O charioteer, return. Ask of him who played the game
whether in it he first lost himself, or his wife. Ask this question in the open
assembly. Bring me his answer and then you can take me." Prathikami went
to the assembly and, turning to Yudhishthira, asked of him the question put by
Yudhishthira remained speechless.
Then Duryodhana bade Prathikami bring Panchali herself
there to question her husband. Prathikami went again to Draupadi and humbly
said: "Princess, the mean-minded Duryodhana desires you to go to the
assembly and ask your question yourself."
Draupadi answered: "No. Return to the assembly and
put the question and demand an answer."
Prathikami did so.
Enraged, Duryodhana turned to his brother Duhsasana and
said: "This man is a fool and is afraid of Bhima. Go and fetch Draupadi
even if you have to drag her here."
Thus commanded, the wicked Duhsasana at once sped with joy
on his errand. He proceeded to the place where Draupadi was, shouting:
"Come, why do you delay? You are now ours. Be not shy, beautiful lady.
Make yourself agreeable to us, now that you have been won by us. Come to the
assembly" and in his impatience, he bade as though to take her thither by
Panchali rose trembling, heart-stricken with sorrow and
started to fly for refuge to the inner apartments of Dhritarashtra's queen.
Duhsasana darted after her, caught her by the hair and dragged her to the
It is with a shudder of repugnance that we relate how the
sons of Dhritarashtra stooped to commit this vilest of deeds.
As soon as she came to the assembly, Draupadi controlled
her anguish and appealed to the elders gathered there:
"How could you consent to my being staked by the king
who was himself trapped into the game and cheated by wicked persons, expert in
the art? Since he was no longer a free man, how could he stake anything at
Then, stretching out her arms and raising her flowing eyes
in agonised supplication she cried in a voice broken with sobs:
"If you have loved and revered the mothers who bore
you and gave you suck, if the honor of wife or sister or daughter has been dear
to you, if you believe in God and dharma, forsake me not in this horror more
cruel than death"'
At this heart-broken cry, as of a poor fawn stricken to
death, the elders hung their heads in grief and shame. Bhima could hold himself
no longer. His swelling heart found relief in a roar of wrath that shook the
very walls, and turning to Yudhishthira he said bitterly:
"Even abandoned professional gamblers would not stake
the harlots who live with them, and you, worse than they, have left the
daughter of Drupada to the mercy of these ruffians. I cannot bear this
injustice. You are the cause of this great crime. Brother Sahadeva, bring fire.
I am going to set fire to those hands of his which cast the dice."
Arjuna however remonstrated gently with Bhima: "You
have never before spoken thus. The plot devised by our enemies is entangling us
also in its meshes and inciting us to wicked action. We should not succumb and
play their game. Beware."
With a superhuman effort, Bhima controlled his anger.
Vikarna, the son of Dhritarashtra, could not bear the
sight of the agony of Panchali. He rose up and said: "O Kshatriya heroes,
why are you silent? I am a mere youth, I know, but your silence compels me to
speak. Listen. Yudhishthira was enticed to this game by a deeply plotted
invitation and he pledged this lady when he had no right to do so, because she
does not belong to Yudhishthira alone. For that reason alone the wager is
illegal. Besides, Yudhishthira had already lost his freedom, and being no
longer a free man, how could he have a right to offer her as a stake? And there
is this further objection. It was Sakuni who suggested her as a pledge, which
is against the rules of the game, under which neither player may demand a
specific bet. If we consider all these points, we must admit that Panchali has
not been legally won by us. This is my opinion."
When the young Vikarna spoke thus courageously, the wisdom
given by God to the members of the assembly suddenly illumined their minds.
There were great shouts of applause. They shouted: "Dharma has been saved.
Dharma has been saved."
At that moment Karna rose up and said:
"O Vikarna, forgetting that there are elders in this
assembly, you lay down the law though you are but a stripling. By your
ignorance and rashness you are injuring the very family which gave you birth,
just as the flame generated by the arani destroys its source, the stick. It is
an ill bird that fouls its own nest. At the very beginning, when Yudhishthira
was a free man, he forfeited all he possessed and that, of course, included
Draupadi. Hence, Draupadi had already come into Sakuni's possession. There is
nothing more to be said in the matter. Even the clothes they have on are now
Sakuni's property. O Duhsasana, seize the garments of the Pandavas and the
robes of Draupadi and hand them over to Sakuni."
As soon as they heard the cruel words of Karna, the
Pandavas, feeling that they had to stand the test of dharma to the bitter end,
flung off their upper garments to show that they were ready to follow the path
of honor and right at any cost.
Seeing this, Duhsasana went to Draupadi and made ready to
seize her clothes by force. All earthly aid had failed, and in the anguish of
utter helplessness, she implored divine mercy and succour:
"O Lord of the World," she wailed, "God
whom I adore and trust, abandon me not in this dire plight. You are my sole
refuge. Protect me." And she fainted away.
Then, as the wicked Duhsasana started his shameful work of
pulling at Panchali's robes and good men shuddered and averted their eyes, even
then, in the mercy of God a miracle occurred.
In vain Duhsasana toiled to strip off her garments, for as
he pulled off each, ever fresh garments were seen to clothe her body, and soon
a great heap of resplendent clothes was piled up before the assembly till
Duhsasana desisted and sat down in sheer fatigue.
The assembly trembled at this marvel and good men praised
God and wept. Bhima with quivering lips, loudly uttered this terrible oath:
"May I never go to the blest abode of my ancestors if I do not rend the
breast and drink the heart's blood of this sinful Duhsasana, this shame of the
Suddenly, the howling of jackals could be heard. Donkeys
and carnivorous birds began to send forth weird dissonant cries from all sides,
portending calamities to come.
Dhritarashtra who realised that this incident would be the
cause of the destruction of his race, for once acted with wisdom and courage.
He called Draupadi to his side and attempted to soothe her with words of
gentleness and affection.
Then he turned to Yudhishthira and said: "You are so
blameless that you can have no enemies. Forgive in your magnanimity the evil
done by Duryodhana and dismiss all memory of it from your mind. Take back your
kingdom and riches and everything else and be free and prosperous. Return to
Indraprastha." And the Pandavas left that accursed hall, bewildered and
stunned, and seeing a miracle in this sudden release from calamity. But it was
too good to endure.
After Yudhishthira and his brothers had departed, there
was a long and angry discussion in the palace of the Kauravas. Incited by
Duhsasana, Sakuni and others, Duryodhana upbraided his father with having
frustrated their well-laid plans on the very threshold of success.
He quoted Brihaspati's aphorism that no device could be
considered wrong which had as its object the destruction of formidable enemies.
He spoke in detail on the prowess of the Pandavas and
expressed his conviction that the only hope of overcoming the Pandavas lay in
guile and taking advantage of their pride and sense of honor.
No self-respecting kshatriya could decline an invitation
to a game of dice. Duryodhana secured his doting father's reluctant and ominous
approval to a plan to entice Yudhishthira once again to a game of dice.
A messenger was accordingly dispatched after Yudhisthira
who had taken his departure for Indraprastha. He came up with Yudhishthira
before the latter had reached his destination and invited him on behalf of king
Dhritarashtra to come back.
On hearing this invitation, Yudhishthira said: "Good
and evil come from destiny and cannot be avoided. If we must play again we
must, that is all. A challenge to dice cannot in honor be refused. I must
accept it." Truly, as Sri Vyasa says: "There never was and never can
be an antelope of gold! Yet, Rama went in vain pursuit of what seemed one.
Surely, when calamities are imminent, the judgment is first destroyed."
Dharmaputra returned to Hastinapura and set again for a
game with Sakuni, though everyone in the assembly tried to dissuade him.
He seemed a mere pawn moved by Kali to relieve the burden
of the world.
The stake played for was that the defeated party should go
with his brothers into exile to the forest and remain there for twelve years
and spend the thirteenth year incognito. If they were recognised in the
thirteenth year, they should go again into exile for twelve years.
Needless to say, Yudhishthira met with defeat on this
occasion also, and the Pandavas took the vows of those who are to go to the
All the members of the assembly bent down their heads in