Duryodhana falls into water
Duryodhana falling into an indoor water body

There is an often attributed incident to Draupadi, where she is said to have called Duryodhan a “blind man’s son” after he mistook an artificial pond in their palace at Indraprastha for a crystal floor and slipped into the water. This narrative has been promoted by TV serials, abridged versions, and retellings of the epic. The dialogue that’s popularly used is “Andhe ka putra bhi andha!” It means: a blind man’s son is also blind.

But is this incident really mentioned in the Mahabharata? The short answer is NO — it is not mentioned anywhere in the Unabridged Mahabharata. In the rest of the article, I will describe (with quotes) everything that happened in the Pandava’s palace at Indraprastha, the day after the Rajasuya Yagna, when Duryodhan fell into the indoor pond of water.

I’ll begin with a little background.

The Pandavas established Indraprastha as the capital city of their Kingdom after Dritarashtra gave them the Khandavprastha region, of the ancestral kingdom, as their share. The first goal of the Pandavas was to bring well-being and prosperity to the citizens of the kingdom. After succeeding in this goal, Yudhishthira expressed the desire to perform the Rajasuya Yagna and become the emperor of Bharat. Subsequently, the four Pandavas (Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadev) set out in the four directions, brought all the surrounding kingdoms under their sway, and returned to Indraprastha with large tributes.

Sometime after this, Yudhishthira invited all the kings, who had accepted him as the emperor, and relatives/well-wishers to the final Rajasuya Yagna where he would be crowned as the emperor of Bharat. After the yagna was complete, all the kings returned to their respective kingdoms. However, Duryodhana and Sakuni stayed back to inspect the Pandavas’ magnificent palace.

The day after the yagna, Duryodhan and Sakuni walked around the palace and marveled at the extraordinary designs of the kind they had never seen before in Hastinapur. As we will see in the passage below, Duryodhan bumbled a lot in the palace. He mistook the crystal floor to be an indoor pond and he mistook an indoor pond for a crystal floor. As a result, he fell into the water and got himself wet. When the Pandava brothers saw his bumbling, they laughed aloud. Even the menials laughed at Duryodhan.

The passage where the Pandavas laughed at Duryodhan

Unfortunately, Duryodhan’s misery had no bounds because he went on to be further confounded in the palace. He mistook doors for walls and walls for doors, as seen in the passage below. After several such moments, he took leave from the Pandavas and returned to Hastinapur with his uncle, Shakuni.

Duryodhan leaves for Hastinpur after a few more embarrassing incidents.

As we can see, Draupadi was not even in the picture, so there was no question of her insulting Duryodhan and King Dhritarashtra.

Another important point to note (as we will see in future posts) is that Draupadi did not insult the Kuru elders even when she was disrobed after the game of dice, so it’s really far-fetched to assume that she would have uttered unkind words to uncle, Dhritarashtra, and brother-in-law, Duryodhan, in her own palace.

Now, I’ll jump ahead to another passage. Later, when Duryodhan reached his palace, he recounted the incident to his father, Dhritarashtra. In this talk, he mentioned that Draupadi had laughed at him.

See the passage below.

The passage where Duryodhan narrates, to Dritharashtra, how he was insulted.

As we can see in the passage above, the only thing Duryodhana mentioned to his father was that Draupadi and other servants laughed at him. There was no mention of Draupadi calling him a blind man’s son.

This incident of Draupadi telling Duryodhana: “Andhe ka putra bhi andha,” is purely a figment of certain people’s imagination that has been repeated without verification.

Reading the critical edition of the Vyasa Mahabharata will debunk many such ‘common myths’ and help us separate fact from fiction. Check out the English translation of the critical edition by Bibek Debroy. The Mahabharata: Volume 2 covers this incident and more.

The reason why I consider this piece of information important is because the Mahabharata is an epic about the subtle dharma. In certain instances, the subtle dharma is clearly elucidated by Vyasa Muni and, in other instances, it is left to the reader to introspect and decipher the subtle dharma. In this spiritual exercise, the actions, words, and dilemmas of the characters in the Mahabharata become pointers to the subtle dharma (that is described as being beyond human logic and morality). These are small factoids that the reader considers to understand what the subtle dharma might mean. When we twist these seemingly small details, we obscure the subtle dharma that Vyasa-Muni wanted to describe, thus reducing the Mahabharata from being the fifth Veda into being a mere story of the rivalry between cousins.

fight after Draupadi's swayamvar

As we know, King Drupada secretly wanted his daughter, Draupadi, to marry the great archer, Arjuna. Therefore, he devised a challenge for Draupadi’s swayamvara, that could only be completed by Arjuna. The challenge was to string a very heavy bow and shoot down a mark that had been placed high up on specially erected machinery.

Powerful kings and princes had come from near and distant kingdoms to participate in the swayamvara. However, none of them were even able to string the bow, let alone shoot the mark.

Note: Karna was able to string the bow, but was restrained by Draupadi from participating in the challenge.

After everyone else had failed, Arjuna (who was disguised as a brahmana youth) got up, strung the bow in the blink of an eye, and shot down the mark with five simultaneous arrows.

King Drupada was delighted and so was Draupadi. Draupadi got up and approached Arjuna with a white robe and garland. I’ve inserted quotes from Kisari Mohan’s translation of the Mahabharata where he describes the expressions of King Drupada and Draupadi (called Krishna in the quote) after Arjuna shot down the mark.

Yudhishthira and the twins leave the swayamvara to return to the potter’s cottage.

However, the monarchs who had assembled there to participate in the swayamvara were deeply unhappy when Drupada expressed his consent to the marriage. They were kings and princes, and even though they were clearly aware of the rules of the challenge, they considered themselves superior in might and splendour to the brahmana youth who had shot down the mark. They believed themselves to be more deserving of Draupadi.

So strong was their insult and indignation that, after a brief consultation with each other, they made a collective decision to spare the brahmana youth and slay Drupada.

When Drupada saw the kings, with Karna leading them, rush towards him with arms in their hands and hostility on their faces, he was taken aback. He took a step back because he feared for his life, however, the brahmana youths (Bhima and Arjuna), comforted him and prepared to fight the assailants.

Bhima uprooted a tree with his bare hands and stood there to face the threat, while Arjuna readied himself with his bow and arrow.

As the monarchs came near, Karna rushed to fight with Arjuna, and Salya (the king of Madra), rushed to fight Bhima. Duryodhana and a few other kshatriyas had minor skirmishes with the other brahmanas in the audience.

Arjuna, who was already prepared with his bow and arrows, shot a volley of arrows at Karna. So quick and fierce was Arjuna’s attack that Karna fainted. However, he recovered quickly and fought with greater care. Both the archers enveloped each other with a shower of arrows until they became invisible to everyone. Only their words could be heard emanating from a cloud of arrows. Karna fought with all his might, but he could not defeat the brahmana. Astonished, Karna asked the brahmana to reveal his identity. However, Arjuna simply said that he was an ordinary brahmana who had been graced by his teacher in the mastery of Brahma and Paurandara weapons. Karna decided to retreat from the fight thinking that Brahma energy was invincible.

Meanwhile, not too far away, Salya and Bhima fought with their hands and legs. They punched each other with their fists and knees. Sometimes, Salya threw Bhima on the ground and dragged him, while, at other times, Bhima threw Salya on the ground and dragged him. The fight continued until Bhima lifted Salya and threw him with enormous force several metres away. Being both noble and skilled, Bhima threw his opponent with perfect dexterity so as to not hurt Salya much.

The remaining kings were alarmed when they saw Salya on the ground and Karna struck with feat (of his opponent’s Brahma energy). They realised these brahmanas were mighty warriors and decided to stop fighting. They agreed, among themselves, that kshatriyas should protect brahmanas and not fight with them.

However, everyone assembled there was curious about one thing — they wanted to know the identity of the brahmanas who had fought so valiantly.

Lord Krishna was also present there and he knew that the brahmanas were none other than Arjuna and Bhima, and he also knew the importance of keeping their identity a secret. Stepping in at the right time, he gently addressed the monarchs and convinced them that the brahmana youth had justly fulfilled the condition of the challenge by bringing down the mark and it was best for everyone to return to their kingdoms without pursuing the matter further.

The kings and princes were convinced by Krishna’s words and prepared to return to their kingdoms without asking any further questions to Drupada or the brahmanas.

Author’s Notes: I’ve read several stories about devas and asuras, and two tendencies (a similarity and a difference) have consistently stood out through these stories. Very often, both the devas and asuras, perform actions motivated by lower emotions such as greed, lust, vengeance, etc. However, a big difference between them is that when the devas are made to understand their wrong ways (usually by the trinity — Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh), they seek forgiveness and try to make amends. The asuras, on the other hand, never (or in very rare cases) accept their mistake. Not only do they never make amends, but they usually dig in their heels and increase the intensity of their adharmic actions.

This tendency is seen in humans also — as we see it in this story, where the kings through fury and jealousy in the spur of the moment, they retreated when Sri Krishna convinced them to do so.

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.