After escaping from the house of lac in Varnavata, Arjuna and the other Pandavas had gone into hiding. Consequently, they lived disguised as brahmanas. The Pandavas continued their disguise even when they went to the Panchala country to attend Draupadi’s swayamvara. Within the amphitheater, they sat, dressed in deesskin, with other brahmanas.
Arjuna did not participate in the contest when the swayamvara began. He remained seated and waited for all the kings and princes to try and bring down the target. However, when none of them were able to attain success, Arjuna got up from his seat and proceeded towards the center of the amphitheater to string the bow and shoot the target.
When the brahmanas saw Arjuna proceed towards the bow, many were happy and cheered for him, some were displeased and actively discouraged him, and the others wondered if he would be able to accomplish such a difficult feat.
It’s a delight to understand these reactions with the help of quotes from the Unabridged Mahabharata.
As we can see from the quote below, most of the brahmanas were happy to see Arjuna proceed towards the bow.
However, not all were happy. They thought a brahmana was naturally unskilled and weak to accomplish a task that required strength and training in arms. They were worried that he would fail and make them the laughing stock of the assembly hall, or, even worse, they might incur the anger of the kings because one of them dared to participate in an event where all the great warriors had failed. Let’s examine the exact words.
However, many brahmanas who saw Arjuna’s strength also spoke out in his favor comparing him with the great brahmana warrior, Parashurama.
I find this incident interesting because it shows how people react when someone tries to step out of their prescribed periphery to accomplish a task that his lot has not yet accomplished. Regardless of their reasons, some will support and some will oppose, some will encourage and some will discourage. But, at the end of the day, we see how Arjuna just went ahead and did what he had to do. And, just like Arjuna, so must we.