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The image on the left shows the five Pandava children and the Ashwini Devas while the image on the right shows Dronacharya and Kripi with Ashwathama (Image Credit: The Mahabharata Part I Comic Book from Archive.org)

Table of Contents (The Complete Condensed Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa’s Birth


Note: This post is a short and quick account of how the main characters of the Mahabharata were born. I have mentioned the circumstances of everyone’s birth but summarised the character description provided in the unabridged Mahabharata. You can read the full character descriptions here.

Bhishma was born to Devi Ganga and the King Shantanu.

Karna was born from the union of Kunti and Surya Deva. He was born with natural armour and bright earrings.

Sri Vishnu, the all-pervading soul, himself was born to Devaki and Vasudeva in the race of Andhaka-Vrishnis for the benefit of all the creatures in the three worlds.

Satyaki and Kritivarma were born in the Vrishni race. Satyaki’s father was Satyaka while Kritivarma’s father was Hridika. Both of them were strong, well-versed in all branches of knowledge and always obeyed Sri Krishna.

Drona was born from the seed of the great rishi Bharadwaja. The seed was kept in a pot and that’s how Drona (the pot born) got his name.

The twins, Kripi and Kripa were born from sage Gautam’s seed which had fallen on a clump of reeds.

Ashwatthama was born to Kripi and Drona.

Dhrishtadyumna was born from the sacrificial fire in a yagna organised by King Drupada. He was born with a bow in his hand and he was destined to destroy Drona. 

The excellent and beautiful Draupadi (also known as Krishnaa) was born from the same sacrificial fire. 

From King Drupada and his wife was born a daughter called Sikhandin who later transformed into a male with the help of a Yaksha named Sthuna.

Sakuni was born to Suvala. Cursed by the gods, he worked against virtue and was the cause of death for many people. 

Gandhari was also born to Suvala. Both Gandhari and Sakuni were knowledgeable in the art of acquiring worldly profit.

Dhritarashtra was born to Ambika (Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Pandu was born to Ambalika (also Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Vidura was born from the union of Ambika’s maid (called Parishrami) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. He was an incarnation of Dharma but he was born to a maid due to the curse of a brahmin who was falsely accused of theft because of the way Dharma’s law worked on earth. 

The Pandavas were born to Pandu and his two wives (Kunti and Madri). Yudhishthira was born to Kunti and Dharma (the god of justice). Bhima was born from Kunti and the God of wind (Marut). Arjun was born from the union of Kunti and Indra Deva. The twins, Nakula and Sahadeva) were born to Madri and the Ashwins.

Dhritharashtra and Gandhari gave birth to a hundred sons, with Duryodhana as the eldest. Another son called Yuyutsu was born from Dhritharashtra and a Vaishya woman. out of the 101 sons, 11 were maharathas.

Amoung the Pandavas’ children, Abhimanyu was born from Subhadra (Sri Krishna’s sister) and Arjuna. Draupadi and Yudhishthira had a son called Pritivindhya. Draupadi and Bhima had a son called Sutasoma. Draupadi and Arjuna had a son called Srutakirti. Draupadi and Nakula had a son called Satanika. Draupadi and Sahadeva had a son called Srutasena. Bhima had one more son with Hidimba called Ghatotkacha.

Note: Arjuna also had children from Ulupi (a Naga princess) and Chitrangada (the princess of Manipura). However, these progeny are not mentioned at this point, in the Mahabharata. I have mentioned it here for completeness.


Next Post: Why Did The Celestials Take Birth On Earth As The Pandavas And other Beings


Shakuni making his move in the game of dice

When an event of great significance occurs in a story, the reactions of people, in response to that event, give us insights into their nature. These insights help us unravel the thread of subtle dharma in works such as the Mahabharata.
As we know, Duryodhan was filled with jealousy when he witnessed Yudhishthira’s affluence, popularity, virtue, and power during the latter’s Rajasuya Yagna at Indraprastha. Unable to control his jealousy, Duryodhana convinced his father — King Dhritarashtra — to invite the Pandavas to a game of dice. He planned to appoint Shakuni to play on his behalf and rob the Pandavas of their wealth and kingdom.
Shakuni defeated Yudhishthira, through deceitful play, and won the Pandava’s wealth and kingdom. However, by this time, Shakuni, who was drunk on his winning streak, prodded Yudhishthira (who was weakened by his resolve to not decline a challenge) to stake his brothers and himself.
Unsurprisingly, Shakuni won, but, what was surprising is that the game did not stop even then. Shakuni prodded Yudhishthira to stake Draupadi.
It was unimaginable, but Yudhishthira agreed, and all the elders in the assembly hall were shocked and agitated and fell into grief as we see in the two excerpts below.

However, there was one elder who, despite an outward act of virtue, was quite pleased and eager to witness the Pandavas’ humiliation. That elder was Dhritarashtra, as we see in the excerpt below.

Karna and Dussasana laughed, Shakuni was eager to win, and everyone else cried with grief.

Credit: The above excerpts are from Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation of The Mahabharata.

Author’s Note: I was surprised by two characters’ responses while reading this passage.

The first was Dhritarashtra. His indulgent attitude toward Duryodhan and jealousy toward the Pandavas are well known. It came as no surprise when he sanctioned the game of dice, but it was a big surprise to see the King so eager to witness Draupadi being lost in the game of dice.

The other moment of surprise was Karna’s reaction. He is popularly thought of as a generous and noble person who had to deal with exceedingly unfortunate circumstances. However, laughing when Draupadi was staked is hardly a sign of nobility. While it is true that Karna was generous, his nobility is questionable. We will see in future posts that Karna behaved quite abhorrently after Yudhishthira lost Draupadi.

Duryodhana falls into water
Duryodhana falling in 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.

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.

When Draupadi and the Pandavas returned to Hastinapur after their marriage, King Dritharashtra, divided the Kuru kingdom into two parts. He gave half the kingdom to the Pandavas and the other half to the Kauravas. The Pandavas were given a region called Khandavaprastha which was the most barren part of the Kuru kingdom, while the Kauravas retained the part of the kingdom that flourished. However, even though the Pandavas got the shorter end of the stick, they did not raise any objection. They were content with what they got and worked jointly to turn the barren land into a paradise of abundance, peace, and virtue.

Draupadi lived with her five husbands in the capital city — Indraprastha. It is here that she gave birth to five sons from each of her husbands — the five Pandavas. Each child was born at a gap of one year.

What follows are the names of the five sons of Draupadi along with a description of why that particular name was chosen for the child.

Prativindhya

The first child, Prativindhya, was born to Draupadi and Yudhishthira. He was called Prativindhya because he was very strong and had the capacity, much like the Vindhya mountains, to bear any weapon hurled by enemy warriors.

Sutasoma

Sutasoma, the second child, was born to Draupadi and Bhima. He was known as Sutasoma because he was born after Bhima performed one thousand sacrifices to the moon deity (Soma).

Srutakarman

The third child, Srutakarman, was born to Draupadi and Arjuna. He was known as Srutakarman because he was born after Arjuna had returned from his twelve-year exile where he had performed many brave and valorous actions (karmas).

Satanika

Draupadi and Nakula’s child, Satanika, was the fourth child. He was named after an illustrious ancestor of the Kuru race.

Srutasena

Srutasena, the fifth child, was born from the union of Draupadi and Sahadev. He was born when the Krittika nakshatra was rising in the heavens. Therefore, he was named from one of the many names of Kartikeyan who is considered to be the general of the Krittika nakshatra.

Author’s Note: All of Draupadi’s children were born after Abhimanyu, the son of Subhadra and Arjuna. However, Abhimanyu also wasn’t the eldest of the Uppapandavas (sons of the Pandavas). Abhimanyu had three elder brothers. The eldest was Ghatotkacha (son of Hidimba and Bhima) followed by Iravana (son of Ulupi and Arjuna) followed by Babruvahana (son of Chitrangada and Arjuna).


After her wedding with the five Pandavas, Draupadi approached her mother-in-law, Kunti, with reverence. Kunti, filled with joy, pronounced several blessings on Draupadi.

I read through this passage of the Unabridged Mahabharata with a lot of interest because the blessings pronounced by elders to the younger members of their family give us insight into what the culture and that particular section of society held as important.

Let’s take a look at Kunti’s blessings to Draupadi with this view of understanding what a noble and royal mother-in-law would bless her daughter-in-law with.

First of all, Kunti blesses Draupadi with the characteristics of illustrious women known at that time.

Next, she blesses Draupadi with happiness resulting from material possessions, luck, and prosperity.

After that, Kunti blesses Draupadi with the ability to be devoted to her husbands and to wait on her noble husbands when they are engaged in grand sacrifices. Along with devotion to her husbands, Kunti also blesses her daughter-in-law with generosity, so she may not only entertain worthy guests who come to her palace but also give away to brahmanas the material things of the world that have been conquered by her husbands.

She blesses Draupadi with a long life and, as a queen, she is also blessed with the possession of gems that would make Draupadi happy. I like how Kunti balances the material with the spiritual, or artha with dharma.

Finally, Kunti blesses Draupadi with heroic children as well as male progeny who would take their ancestral line ahead.

Author’s Note: These blessings pronounced by Kunti to Draupadi give us a glimpse into what was considered important by those who were noble and royal, in those times. I love how Kunti balances artha, kama, and dharma in her blessings. This balance has always been the foundation of the Sanatana Dharma. Interestingly, Kunti doesn’t speak of moksha, perhaps, because it is not in her power to bless someone with moksha. Those blessings would come from higher spiritual forces such as Lord Krishna or Lord Shiva.


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.

Draupadi in the swayamvara hall

King Drupada had erected a massive amphitheater for Draupadi’s swayamvara. It was a grand event where kings and princes arrived from across the country in the hope of winning her hand in marriage.

When Draupadi entered the amphitheater on the 16th day, her brother, Drishtadyumna, took her hand and addressed the assembled kings and princes in a voice as deep as thunder. He explained the challenge devised by his father, King Drupada, to win his sister’s hand in marriage. He went on to tell them that anyone possessed with lineage, beauty, and strength, who is able to shoot the target through the orifice with the five decorated arrows may wed Draupadi.

Here are the exact words according to the Unabridged Mahabharata.

Then he introduced all the kings and princes who were present there, to Draupadi. One by one, he told her their names, lineages, and achievements. After he had introduced everyone to his sister, he invited the participants to approach the bow and target and apply their skills and strength.

The common understanding about Draupadi’s swayamvara is that any person who fulfilled the challenge would marry Draupadi. Many people even think of this challenge disparagingly, because it makes Draupadi appear as some kind of an object that would be awarded to the person who fulfilled the challenge. However, this is not the truth. The contest was designed to ensure that only Arjuna could complete the challenge, and, in the case, someone else got close to winning the challenge, enough stipulations were put in place (along with Draupadi’s own power to deny participation to anyone she did not wish to marry) to ensure they would not be able to marry her.

We see clearly, in the Unabridged Mahabharata, that Drishtadyumna also mentions lineage, beauty, and strength as being necessary for a person to wed Draupadi. It’s a different matter we never encounter the situation where someone who did not possess these qualities shot the target. In fact, none of the participants were even able to string the bow. Not even the mighty Jarasandha. Karna may have succeeded, but Draupadi stopped him. Arjuna, even though dressed in a brahmanas simple garb, was not stopped by anyone. Most likely, because he looked very noble; like a celestial being. We know that from these words a few brahmana friends of the Pandavas used to describe them. (Note: In the passage below, Draupadi is referred to as Krishna)

The simple truth is that Draupadi was not an object that would be given away to the person who won the contest. Far from it. She was the goddess incarnate and the contest was designed to ensure that only Arjuna could win it.

Drupadi’s father, King Drupada, was a generous king, so it’s not surprising that he had made lavish and extravagant preparations for his daughter’s swayamvara.

The swayamvara was to be conducted in a large amphitheater built in an auspicious location, on level ground. It was situated in the north-east direction of the Panchala capital. This large amphitheater was covered with a canopy of various colors and was scented with black aloes and water made from sandalwood paste. The entire space was decorated with beautiful flowers of many varieties and it resounded with the notes of a thousand trumpets.

Beautiful mansions circled the amphitheater and the entire complex was protected by a high wall that had several arched doorways and a moat.

The mansions surrounding the amphitheater were built as residences for the kings and princes who would come from kingdoms all over Bharatvarsha to the swayamvara. These mansions were pure-white 7-storeyed buildings. Their color is compared to the Himalayas by Ved Vyasa in the Mahabharata.

The windows of these mansions were covered with networks of gold and the walls were studded with diamonds and other precious stones. Comfortable and exquisitely decorated beds were made for the royals and the floor was further decorated with lovely carpets.

The inner and outer walls of the mansions were adorned with garlands of flowers and were scented with excellent aloes such that their fragrance would be perceived from a distance of one yojana (eight miles).

All mansions were 7-storeyed but their widths varied. The larger mansions were assigned to more powerful kings. Many of these mansions were large enough to accommodate a hundred doors.

The entire event lasted for sixteen days. The guests included people from all strata of society. They came from all over Drupada’s kingdom, neighboring kingdoms, and then, of course, there were the kings and princes who had come to participate in the swayamvar. The kings came from near and distant kingdoms. They had all heard of Draupadi’s beauty and each one carried a wish in his heart to be the chosen one.

King Drupada entered the amphitheater from the north-eastern gate.

The first fifteen of the sixteen days were filled with performances and entertainment by actors, dancers, athletes, and performers of various arts. The entire amphitheater was filled with people who had come to partake in the celebrations while the kings and princes watched the performances from the balconies of their mansions. The Pandavas sat with their brahmana friends and other regular folks in the amphitheater. For these fifteen days, the amphitheater resounded with applause from the audience and generous gifts were bestowed by the visiting kings to the performers.

During these first 16 days, various actors, dancers, and performers made their performances and were handsomely rewarded by the kings who were present.

In the center of the amphitheater was an apparatus (Ved Vyasa describes it as machinery) that contained a target and on the ground, near the apparatus was a stiff bow. The target and the bow were part of a challenge designed by King Drupada, however, they would be used only on the sixteenth day when Draupadi entered the amphitheater.

After Draupadi’s swayamvar, she (cheerfully) went with Arjuna and Bhima to the potter’s house where the Pandavas were staying in disguise.

The next day, King Drupada (Draupadi’s father), sent his priest to the potter’s house to invite them for a feast at his palace.

Till this point, the king did not know their identity. He had a strong feeling, based on his son, Dhrishtadyumna’s, secret observations, that the youth who had fulfilled the difficult challenge, was none other than Arjuna, but he still wasn’t certain. After Kunti, Draupadi, and the Pandavas arrived at his palace, Drupada asked Yudhishthira about their identity. Yudhishthira, knew that King Drupada cherished the desire to marry his daughter Draupadi to Arjuna. He finally revealed their true identity to King Drupada in his palace.

King Drupada was not only relieved that his daughter was about to be married into a noble and virtuous family, but he was also overjoyed and exuberant that his desire for obtaining Arjuna as his son-in-law was fulfilled. He suggested that Arjuna and Draupadi perform the marriage rites immediately since it was an auspicious day. Till this point, King Drupada was unaware of what had transpired at the potter’s house between Kunti, Draupadi, and the five Pandavas, and about the proposal that she marry all five brothers.

It was only when he suggested the marriage rites, that Yudhishthira said, he too would have to marry Draupadi. This took the king by surprise. He (possibly) did not register the implication of what Yudhishthira had just said, so he suggested that instead of Arjuna marrying Draupadi, Yudhishthira, being the eldest brother, may marry her. However, Yudhishthira clarified that all five brothers would have to marry Draupadi.

This proposal made King Drupada very uneasy. He was put into a dilemma, because he was unsure of the morality of one woman marrying five men and, he did not want his daughter to enter into a morally questionable alliance.

It was during this critical and delicate situation that Ved Vyasa came to the palace. Everyone immediately stopped the discussion to welcome and worship the great rishi. After honouring the sage, the king approached him with his doubts regarding the proposed marriage.

Quoting from the unabridged Mahabaharata, below.

Ved Vyasa replied that the practice of one woman having many husbands had become obsolete because it was opposed to the Vedas and present-day customs, but, that didn’t mean it was sinful. However, before giving further explanations, he asked everyone assembled there to share their opinion.

What follows are the opinions of King Drupada, his son, Drishtadyumna, Yudhishthira, and Kunti. Finally, after hearing them, Ved Vyasa presents his own views about the marriage.

King Drupada’s Opinion

Drupada went by social precedence as well as the Vedas. He wasn’t aware of any precedence where one woman had taken many husbands, and because this practice was opposed to the Vedas, he was not in favour of the proposal. Quoting the exact passage below.

Drishtadyumna’s Opinion

Drishtadyumna believed that an elder brother of good conscience would never approach his younger brother’s wife. He agreed that the ways of morality were subtle and he also confessed that the subtlety was beyond his understanding, and therefore, he could not agree to this proposal with a clear conscience. Quoting the exact passage below.

Yudhishthira’s Opinion

Yudhishthira took a different approach to the dilemma. He was aware of two precedences where a (virtuous) woman had many husbands. But along with precedence, he also gave importance to his inner feeling. He believed that his purity and truthfulness made his disposition such that he would not incline toward a sinful act. If an act was sinful, his heart would instinctively reject it, and because his heart approved of this marriage, it was not immoral.

He went on to cite the two precedences. The first example was from the Puranas, where a virtuous maiden called Jatila (of the Gotama race) had married seven rishis. In the second example, he cited the case of an ascetic’s daughter who had married ten brothers who were also exalted ascetics themselves.

Finally, he went on to say that because his mother (whom he considered the foremost among superiors) had said so, the marriage couldn’t be immoral.

Quoting the exact passage below.

Kunti’s Opinion

Kunti regarded her eldest son Yudhishthira (who was born of her union with Dharmaraja himself) as an authority on dharma. Therefore, since he approved of the marriage, she did not believe it to be incorrect. However, she did put forth her concern about her speech becoming untrue and having to face the consequences of that.

Ved Vyasa’s Answer to Everyone

Ved Vyasa first addressed Kunti to ease her conscience. He remarked that even the (genuine) concern she had of saving herself from the consequences of untruth showed how pure she was, and this itself was eternal virtue.

He went on to agree with Yudhishthira’s reasoning, however, he did not want King Drupada to simply take his word on the matter and agree to the marriage. He wanted to reveal to King Drupada, the subtle and celestial forces that acted behind the material world. Therefore, he took King Drupada to a room, where they would be alone, and revealed the celestial form of Draupadi and the Pandavas. Click here to read the story that describes how Drupadi was the Goddess Adi Para Shakti herself and the five Pandavas were five Indras.

I am quoting Ved Vyasa’s words below.

After saying this, Ved Vyasa took the King to a separate room and explained to him that Draupadi was actually the Goddess Adi Para Shakti herself, and the five Pandavas were five Indra. He went on to describe how their marriage was ordained by Lord Shiva himself. Not only did Ved Vyasa explain all this, but he also granted the king, divine sight, through which he could see his daughter and the five Pandavas in their celestial form.

King Drupada’s dilemma was resolved after seeing Drupadi and the five Pandavas in their celestial form and understanding that Lord Shiva himself had ordained this marriage. If Lord Shiva had ordained it then it was beyond simple moral law and he had no objection.

You can read the detailed story of the celestial form of Draupadi and the five Pandavas by clicking here.

Some Additional Thoughts

I like this particular interaction between Ved Vyasa and the others because in dealing with the issue of Draupadi’s marriage, it also points to the larger issue of social norms, the Vedas, and morality. Vyasa muni shows us how Divine forces act behind the scenes to influence human life, and because we are not aware of these forces, we cannot judge morality based solely on logic, precedence, and even the Vedas. However, that doesn’t mean we can totally disregard morality. I’ll leave you with three quotes by the Auroville Mother (Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual partner) on this topic.

The (Auroville) Mother

You can break the moral rules only when you observe the Divine Law.

The Mother, May 1966

You have no right to dispense with morality unless you submit yourself to a law that is higher and much more rigorous than any moral law.

The Mother, 28th May 1947

Moral laws have only a very relative value from the point of view of Truth. Besides, they vary considerably according to country, climate and period. Discussions are generally sterile and without productive value. If each one makes a personal effort of perfect sincerity, uprightness and good-will, the best conditions for the work will be realised.

The Mother, August 1966

Image of Kunti apologizing in front of Draupadi, and her son, Yudhishthira

After the swayamvara, Druapadi, Arjuna, and Bhima walked to the potter’s house where the Pandavas and their mother, Kunti, were staying disguised as brahmanas.

Upon entering the cottage, Arjuna did not tell his mother about what had transpired at the swayamvara. He did not tell her that he had fulfilled the challenge designed by King Drupada and that Draupadi had chosen him as her husband. He did not tell his mother that he had returned home accompanied by Draupadi (also known as Yajnaseni) herself.

He simply told his mother, perhaps as he had been doing every day after they started staying at the potter’s house, that he had bought home alms. Here are the exact words used in the unabridged Mahabharata.

We don’t know why Arjuna said “alms” instead of Draupadi. It’s possible he wanted to surprise his mother, but that’s just my extrapolation. However, what we do know is what Kunti said next and how she responded when she realized she had made a mistake.

Kunti, without seeing Arjuna, simply said: “Enjoy ye all.” A moment after that, Kunti saw Draupadi (also known as Krishna) and she immediately realized her mistake and exclaimed, “Oh, what have I said?” Quoting the exact passage below.


Upon realizing her mistake, she took Draupadi gently by her hand and went to her eldest son Yudhishthira, who was well-known for his wisdom and knowledge of dharma, to ask him for a solution. Presenting a passage from the Mahabharata.

The passage above clearly shows that the Pandavas did not marry Draupadi simply because their mother said so. In fact, Kunti, herself, confessed that she had uttered those words out of ignorance. She wanted to find a solution that fulfilled three criteria:

  1. Her speech should not become untrue.
  2. Draupadi should remain without sin (as a result of the solution).
  3. Draupadi should not be uncomfortable with the solution.

Modern readers might be surprised about Kunti’s concern for her speech not becoming untrue. We might think all she had to do was take back her words, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. In those times, words, once spoken, had a certain power. They could not be recalled or gone back upon with the same ease with which we do so in modern times.

We have to understand the mindset of people who followed the dharma during those times. They gave a lot of importance to truth and purity of speech. Words were not uttered frivolously, and a noble person would think a hundred times before uttering even half a lie. Thoughts and words were treated with reverence. From that perspective, it is not very difficult to understand why Kunti was concerned about her words becoming untrue. However, she did not want Draupadi to bear the consequence of the mistake she’d made out of ignorance. She made that very clear when she said that Draupadi should remain without sin and should not be uncomfortable with the solution.

So, Kunti’s response upon realizing her mistake was to explore a solution that was correct and in accordance with the dharma. In those times, when faced with a dilemma, people of a noble disposition tried to find a solution that was aligned with the dharma and also correctly balanced all the issues involved.