YUDHISHTHIRA put on the garb of a
sanyasin. Arjuna transformed himself into a eunuch. Others also disguised
themselves. But no disguise could take away their natural charm, grace and
nobility of appearance.
When they went to King Virata
seeking service, they seemed to him born to command and rule rather than to
serve. He hesitated, at first, to engage them in service but yielding to their
urgent solicitations, he finally appointed them to the places they sought of
Yudhishthira became the king's
companion and spent his days in playing dice with him. Bhima worked as the
chief of the cooks. He also entertained the king by wrestling with the reputed
men of might whom came to the court, and by controlling wild animals.
Arjuna assumed the name of
Brihannala and taught dancing, singing and instrumental music to Princess Uttara,
the daughter of Virata, and the ladies. Nakula looked after the horses and
Sahadeva looked after the cows and the bulls.
The princess Draupadi who, if
fate had been less cruel, should herself have been served by many maids, had
now to pass her days in serving Sudeshna, Virata's queen. She lived in the
inner apartments of the palace as maid and companion, engaging herself in
Kichaka, the brother of Sudeshna,
was the commander-in-chief of Virata's army and it was to him that the old king
Virata owed his power and prestige. Kichaka wielded such vast influence that
people used to say that Kichaka was the real king of the Matsya country and old
Virata king only in name.
Kichaka was inordinately vain of
his strength and his influence over the king. He was so smitten with Draupadi's
beauty that he conceived an uncontrollable passion for her. And he was so sure
of his own attractions and power that it never occurred to him that she, though
a mere maidservant could resist his will. He made amorous overtures to her,
which greatly vexed her.
Draupadi was too shy to speak of
this to Sudeshna or to others. She gave out that her husbands were Gandharvas
who would mysteriously kill those who tried to dishonor her.
Her good conduct and lustre made
every one believe in her story about the Gandharvas. But Kichaka was not to be
frightened so easily and he sought persistently to seduce Draupadi.
His persecution became so
intolerable that at last she complained of it to Queen Sudeshna, and implored her
protection. Kichaka, of course, had greater influence over his sister, and he
shamelessly confided to her his unlawful passion for her maid and sought her
aid to compass his wish.
He represented himself as dying
of desire. "I am so full of torment," he said, "that from the
time I met your maid, I do not get any sleep or rest. You must save my life by
managing somehow to make her receive my advances favorably." The queen
tried to dissuade him but Kichaka would not listen. And finally Sudeshna yielded.
Both of them decided upon a plan to entrap Draupadi.
One night, many sweetmeats and
intoxicating drinks were prepared in the house of Kichaka and a great feast was
arranged. Sudeshna called Sairandhri to her side and handing her a beautiful
golden jug bade her go and bring her a jug of wine from Kichaka's house.
Draupadi hesitated to go to the
house of the infatuated Kichaka at that hour and begged hard that someone else
of her many attendants might be sent, but Sudeshna did not listen. She
pretended to be angry and said sharply: "Go, you must. I can not send
anyone else," and poor Draupadi had to obey.
Draupadi's fears were justified.
When she reached Kichaka's house, that wretch, maddened with lust and wine,
began to pester her with urgent entreaties and solicitations.
She rejected his prayers and
said: "Why do you, who belong to a noble royal family, seek me, born of a
low caste? Why do you take to the wrong path? Why do you approach me, a married
lady? You will perish. My protectors, the Gandharvas, will kill you in their
When Draupadi would not yield to
his entreaties, Kichaka seized her by the arm and pulled her about. But putting
down the vessel she carried, she wrenched herself free and fled, hotly pursued
by the maddened Kichaka.
She fled to the court wailing
loudly. But even there, intoxicated not only with wine, but even more by his
power and influence, Kichaka followed her and kicked her in the presence of all
with abusive words.
Everyone was afraid of the
all-powerful commander-in-chief and no one was bold enough to oppose him.
Draupadi could not bear the
sorrow and anger she felt at the thought of her helplessness under the
intolerable insult offered to her.
Her deep distress made her forget
the danger that would befall the Pandavas if they were discovered prematurely.
She went that night to Bhima and waking him up, gave vent to her agonized sense
After telling him how brutally
Kichaka had pursued and insulted her, she appealed piteously to Bhima for
protection and revenge. She said in a voice choked with sobs:
"I cannot bear this any
longer. You must kill this wretch at once. For your sake, to help you keep your
promise, I serve in a menial office and even prepare sandal paste for Virata. I
have not minded it, I, who have till now served only you or Mother Kunti, whom
I love and honor. But now, I have to serve these wretches, fearful every moment
of some disgraceful outrage. Not that I mind hard work, see my hands." And
she showed her hands, which were cracked and stained with menial tasks.
Bhima respectfully carried her
hands to his face and eyes, and speechless with sorrow and pity and love, he
dried her tears. Finally he found his voice, and said thickly:
"I care not for the promise
of Yudhishthira or the advice of Arjuna. I care not what may happen but I will
do as you say. I will kill Kichaka and his gang here and now!" and he
But Draupadi warned Bhima not to
be hasty. They talked it over and finally decided that Kichaka should be
beguiled to come alone at night to a retired spot in the dancing hall where he
should find waiting for him Bhima disguised as a woman, instead of Draupadi.
Next morning, Kichaka renewed his
hateful attentions and vaingloriously said to Draupadi: "O Sairandhri, I
threw you down and kicked you in the presence of the king. Did any one there
come forward to help you? Virata is only king in name of this Matsya country.
But I, the commander-in-chief, am the real sovereign. Now, do not be a fool,
but come and enjoy life with me, with all royal honors. I shall be your devoted
servant." And he begged and bullied and cringed, devouring her the while
with lust-reddened eyes.
Draupadi pretended to yield and
said: "Kichaka, believe me, I can no longer resist your solicitations. But
none of your companions or brothers should know of our relations. If you swear
that you will faithfully keep the secret from others, I shall yield to your
Kichaka delightedly agreed to the
condition and he promised to go alone to a place of assignation that very
She said: "The women have
their dancing lessons during daytime in the dancing hall and return to their
own quarters at nightfall. None will be in the dancing hall at night. Come
there tonight. I shall be waiting for you there. You can have your will of me."
Kichaka reveled in happiness.
That night, Kichaka took his bath, perfumed and decked himself, went to the
dancing hall and finding with joy that the doors were open, gently entered the
In the very dim light, he saw
someone lying there on a couch, no doubt Sairandhri. He groped his way in the
dark, and gently laid his hands on the person of the sleeper.
Alas! It was not the soft form of
Sairandhri that he touched but the iron frame of Bhima who lept forth on him
like a lion on its prey and hurled him to the ground. But surprised as he was,
Kichaka was no coward, and he was now fighting for dear life.
Grimly they wrestled, Kichaka no
doubt thinking he had to do with one of the Gandharva husbands. They were not
ill matched, for at that time Bhima, Balarama and Kichaka were reputed to be in
the same class in strength and wrestling skill.
The struggle between Bhima and
Kichaka was like that between Vali and Sugriva. In the end Bhima killed
Kichaka, pounding and kneading his body into a shapeless lump of flesh.
Then he gave the glad news of
Kichaka's punishment to Draupadi and went in haste to his kitchen, bathed,
rubbed sandal paste over his body and slept with satisfaction.
Draupadi awoke the guards of the
court and said to them: "Kichaka came to molest me, but as I had warned
him, the Gandharvas, my husbands, made short work of him. Your
commander-in-chief, who fell a prey to lust, has been killed. Look at
him." And she showed them the corpse of Kichaka, which had been reduced to
such a shapeless mass that it had no human semblance.