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

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

Painting in Angkor Wat of Vyasa narrating the Mahabharata to Sri Ganesha (contributed by By Janice)

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

Previous Post: Satyavati’s Birth

Satyavati grew up into a virtuous and beautiful young woman, and because she was around fisherfolk all the time, her body smelled of fish. This young maiden ferried a boat across the Yamuna River to help her foster family.

One day, Rishi Parashar saw Satyavati when he happened to pass through that region. He became so enamoured by her beauty that a strong desire to unite with this young woman arose in him. 

He approached Satyavati and said, “Accept my embrace, O blessed one.”

Satyavati replied, “O holy one, there are rishis standing on both the banks of the Yamuna. How can I grant you this wish when they can see us clearly?”

Hearing Satyavati’s words, Rishi Parashar created a fog that enveloped that entire region in darkness. Satyavati was filled with wonder when she witnessed this feat of the rishi, and she blushed as soon as she realised the implication of the fog. Feeling shy and embarrassed she said, “O holy one, I am a maiden who lives in her father’s house. I will lose my virginity if I accept your embrace. O sinless one, how will I return home? Think about this O holy one and then do what is correct.”

The noble rishi was pleased by her words. He replied, “O beautiful maiden, you will remain a virgin even if you grant my wish. O maiden with a beautiful smile, ask me for a boon. My words have always come true.”

Satyavati asked the rishi to remove the swell of fish that emanated from her body and replace it with a sweet fragrance. Rishi Parashar immediately granted her wish.

Pleased that her wish was fulfilled, Satyavati’s body immediately manifested its fertile season and she accepted the embrace of the rishi.

After this event, Satyavati always emitted a sweet and beautiful fragrance wherever she went. She became known as Gandhavati and Yojanagandha because her sweet smell left its mark for the distance of one yojana.

The child conceived from her union with Rishi Parashar was born that day itself on an island in the Yamuna. This child was gifted with immense energy. As soon as he was born, he asked for his mother’s permission to practise asceticism and left the island saying that he would appear before her as soon as she thought of him.

This child was called Krishna-Dwaipayana. ‘Krishna’ because he had a dark complexion, and ‘Dwaipayana’ because he was born on an island.

After leaving the island where he was born, the learned Dwaipayana saw, through his inner vision, that virtue and the strength of humans and their lifespan diminishes with the passing of every yuga. 

Motivated by the desire to obtain the favour of Brahman Deva and the brahmanas, Rishi Dwaipayana, organised and classified the four Vedas and was thereafter known as Vyasa. Sometime after that, he composed the Mahabharata which is also known as the fifth Veda.

He taught all these works to Sumanta, Jaimini, Paila, his son Suka, and Vaishampayana.

Next Post: A Summary of the Birth of the Main Characters in the Mahabharata

Click on the image below to check out the book — Namaha.

Gnana Saraswati temple on the banks of the Godavari river in Basar, Telangana. Many parents bring their children here for their learning ceremony called Akshara Abhyasam.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Names of the Snakes Who Perished in the Sacrifice

Note: This post marks the beginning of the Adivansavatarana sub-parva of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata.

After hearing the complete account of Astika’s birth and how he saved the serpents in the snake sacrifice, Saunaka Kulapati said to Sauti, “O son, you have pleased me by narrating this wonderful and extensive history beginning with Bhrigu’s child. O son, I am very keen to listen to the history composed by Vyasa and the wonderful stories narrated by the sadasyas present at Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. I have been told the sacrifice lasted for a long time and many stories were narrated in the intervals during the yagna. O son, tell me all those stories.”

Sauti replied, “O noble-souled one, the brahmanas discussed many topics based on the Vedas and Rishi Vyasa recited the great history called Bharat.”

Saunaka said, “I wish to hear the great history that describes the glories of the Pandavas. That history was born from the ocean-like mind of that noble rishi, Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, whose soul has been purified by yoga. O son of Suta, narrate that history called the Mahabharata to me. I am very eager to hear it.”

Note: Sauti began his narration with Rishi Vyasa’s birth. The following words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics of Naimisha forest.

Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa was born on an island in the Yamuna river. His mother was the virgin, Kali, and his father was Sakti’s son, Parasara. As soon as he was born, Vyasa used his will-power to develop his mental and physical faculties. He then went on to master the Vedas and their branches and all the histories. 

Many people practice asceticism, study the Vedas, adhere to vows and fasts, give birth to progeny, perform sacrifices, and yet, certain spiritual blessings stay out of reach for them. However, Rishi Vyasa easily obtained the thing that was out of reach for these people. 

This brahmana rishi, Krishna-Dwaipayana, cherished the truth. He was holy. With knowledge of the supreme Brahma, he could intuit the past. 

With this wisdom and knowledge, Vyasa divided the Vedas into four parts. 

Note: Each of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva) are divided into four layers. Here, the Mahabharata is pointing to the four layers. These layers are the Samhitas, Aranyakas, Brahmanas, and Upanishads. 

The Samhitas are the most ancient layer of the Vedas. They contain mantras, stotras, and blessings. The Aranyakas contain details about rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices. The Brahmanas contain commentaries about the rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices. The Upanishads focus on spiritual knowledge, meditation, and philosophy.

Rishi Vyasa, the sage of sacred deeds and enormous fame, later fathered three sons: Pandu, Dhritarashtra, and Vidur in order to continue Raja Shantanu’s line.

When Rishi Vyasa found out that Raja Janamejaya was installed as the chief priest in his snake sacrifice, he and his disciples went to the sacrificial pavilion. There they saw the royal sage Raja Janamejaya surrounded by sadasyas, ritwiks, and kings from various countries. This scene reminded them of the splendour of Devaraja Indra as he sat in heaven surrounded by devas and learned sages.

When Janamejaya saw Rishi Vyasa arrive at the sacrifice, he arose with great speed and joy, along with his relatives and followers, to welcome the great rishi. After paying him due respect, Janamejaya sought approval from the sadasyas to give Rishi Vyasa a golden seat.  The sadasyas readily agreed to this noble gesture which was similar to the gesture Indra had once made to Brihaspati. 

Once Vyasa was seated on his golden seat, all the kings worshipped him according to the rites laid down in the scriptures. Then Janamejaya offered Sage Vyasa water to wash his feet and mouth. He also gave arghya` and cattle to the sage. Vyasa was pleased by everyone’s conduct. He accepted the gifts and commanded that the cattle should not be slain.

Note: Wikipedia describes ‘Arghya’ as an offering of water, Durva, flowers, and raw grain. In ancient times, arghya was given to a guest as a sign of respect and welcome.

After adoring the sage, Janamejaya bowed to his ancestor (Vyasa Muni was his great-great-grandfather) and inquired about his health. Rishi Vyasa also inquired about the king’s welfare. After that, Rishi Vyasa worshipped the sadasyas just as they had worshipped him some time back.

Janamejaya, along with all the sadasyas, folded their palms and said to Vyasa Muni, “O brahmana, you have witnessed the events that happened in the lives of the Kurus and the Pandavas. We are eager to hear that history from you. What caused the disagreement between them? These were great souls, yet why did they engage in a battle of such a great proportion? Were their minds clouded by fate? O great brahmana, tell us everything that happened in connection with these events.”

Rishi Vyasa looked at his disciple seated next to him and said, “O Vaishampayana, you have heard me narrate the story of Bharata. I would like you to narrate the entire story to the sadasyas and the chiefs assembled here.”

Vaishampayana replied respectfully, “I begin by bowing to my guru (Rishi Vyasa) with reverence and devotion and with the eight parts of my body touching the ground. I also worship with all my heart, the entire assembly of brahmanas and learned people assembled here.” 

Vaishampayana then looked at Janamejaya and said, “O king, you are fit (in mind and soul) to hear this great history. I shall recite the history called Bharata as I have heard it from my high-souled guru. O king, I will tell you why disagreements arose between the Kurus and the Pandavas. I will speak about why the Pandavas were exiled after the game of dice by the Kauravas who desired to rule the entire kingdom. I shall tell you everything, O noble king of the Bharata race.”

Note: In the next post, Rishi Vauishampayana sets the foundation for reciting the story of the Kurus.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Rishi Vaishampayana Sets the Stage With a Brief Story of the Pandavas

Note: In the previous post, we learned how Lord Ganesha became Vyasa Muni’s scribe to help him write his epic – (Maha)Bharata. In this post, we will see how Sauti uses the simile of a tree to describe the various characters and parts of the Mahabharata. These words are spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest.

I know 8800 hundred verses of the Bharata. So does Suka, and perhaps Sanjaya. But many slokas are closely knit and difficult to understand. No one has been able to fully understand their meaning. Even the omniscient Ganesha took a moment to reflect on their true meaning, and while Ganesha was reflecting, Vyasa continued to compose other verses in abundance.

The wisdom of this work, through its discourses on religion, profit, pleasure, and final release, has illuminated many people’s minds and dispelled the darkness of ignorance. 

This Purana (The Bharata) expands human intelligence just like the full moon expands the petals of the water lily. Thus, through the lamp of history, that destroys the darkness of ignorance, all of nature is properly and completely illuminated.

Note: The Mahabharata consists of 18 parvas. You can think of the parvas as books that form a series. Each parva consists of several sub-parvas, that can be thought of as chapters. The first parva of The Mahabharata is the Adi Parva which has several sub-parvas such as Pauloma Parva, Astika Parva, Sambhava Parva, etc. In the next paragraph, Sauti first compares 3 sub-parvas of the Adi Parva to different parts of a tree and then continues the comparison with several (main) parvas. Through this comparison, the reader gets to know the name of the parvas and their role in the epic.

This work (The Bharata) is like a tree.

The chapter of contents is the seed. 

The Pauloma and Astika sub-parvas are the roots. The Sambhava sub-parva is the trunk. 

The Sabha and Aranya parvas are the roosting perches. 

The Arani parva is the knitting knot. 

The Virata and Udyoga parvas are the pith. 

The Bhishma parva is the main branch.

The Drona parva is like the leaves. 

The Karna parva is like the fair flowers. 

The Salya parva is like their sweet smell. 

The Stri and Aishika parvas are like a refreshing shade. 

The Santi parva is the mighty fruit. 

The Aswamedha parva is the immortal sap. 

The Asramavasika parva is the spot where the tree grows. 

The Mausala parva is an epitome of the Vedas and is held in great respect by the virtuous brahmanas. 

This inexhaustible tree of the Bharata will be a source of livelihood for all distinguished poets.

Note: Vichitra-Virya was the son of Shantanu and Satyavati. Satyavati also had another son, Ved Vyasa, from Rishi Parashara.

I will now tell you about the beautiful and fruitful productions of this tree. In former times, the virtuous Ved Vyasa was urged by his mother (Satyavati) and the grandsire of the Kuru race (Bhishma) to father children with the two wives of Vichittra-Virya in order to continue the Kuru lineage. 

Ved Vyasa fathered three sons in all. They were Dhritarashtra, Pandu, and Vidura. After performing his duty to the Kuru lineage, Ved Vyasa returned to his home, where he stayed as a reclusive hermit, and continued with his religious practices.

Ved Vyasa published this story – The Bharata – in the region of humans, only after these three sons had grown up and left their physical bodies on the supreme journey of the soul. Much later, Vyasa Muni was present at a sacrifice conducted by Janamejaya (great-grandson of Arjuna and son of King Parikshit). There, he was urged by Janamejaya and thousands of brahmins to recite the (Maha)Bharata. Thus requested, he asked his disciple Vaishampayana to recite the (Maha)Bharata during the intervals in the ceremony.

In this epic composition, Vyasa Muni has fully represented the greatness of the Kurus, the virtuous principles of Gandhari, the wisdom of Vidura, and the constancy of Kunti. The noble Rishi has also described the divinity of Vasudeva, the righteousness of the sons of Pandu, and the evil practices of the sons and supporters of Dhritarashtra.

Vyasa Muni’s original composition contained 24,000 verses. Only these verses are called the Bharata by the learned people. Afterward, he composed 150 verses consisting of the introduction with the chapter of contents. 

He first taught these verses to his son, Suka, and then to his disciples who had the same qualifications as his son. 

After teaching the main verses, he created another compilation consisting of 6,000,000 verses. These are partly known in different regions, as follows:

  • 3,000,000 verses were transmitted by Narada Muni to the devas.
  • 1,500,000 verses were transmitted by Devala to the pitris.
  • 1,400,000 verses were transmitted by Suka to the gandharvas, yakshas, and rakshasas.
  • 100,000 verses were recited by Vaishampayana in the world of humans.

Note: Next Sauti compares the Pandavas, Krishna, Brahma, and the brahmanas to a tree.

  • Yudhishthira is a vast tree, formed of religion and virtue.
  • Arjuna is its trunk.
  • Bhimasena, its branches.
  • The two sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadev) are its full-grown fruit and flowers.
  • The roots of this tree are Krishna, Brahma, and the brahmanas.

Full Index: Table of Contents

Previous: Lord Ganesha Becomes Vyasa Muni’s Scribe

Next: A Brief Summary of The Mahabharata

Lord Ganesha writing the Mahabharata

Note: After describing the origin story of the universe and the order in which various beings and devas come into existence, Sauti went on to tell the story of how Lord Ganesha became Vyasa Muni’s scribe to write the Mahabharata. These words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha forest.

Rishi Vyasa has made this knowledge (the wisdom contained in his epic) available in both detailed and concise forms. The learned wish to possess both. 

Some people read this composition (also referred to as a Purana by many) beginning with the initial mantra (invocation) while others begin with the story of Astika and yet others with the story of Uparichara. Some brahmanas study the whole from the beginning to the end. Learned people comment on the composition to display their knowledge. Some people are skillful in explaining it, while others are in remembering its contents.

Vyasa Muni, who was the son of Satyavati and Rishi Parashara, analyzed the eternal Veda through penance and deep meditation. Only after analyzing the Veda, did he compose this holy history – The (Maha)Bharata. However, Vyasa Muni was worried about how he would teach this new composition to his disciples. 

Meanwhile, Lord Brahma (the all-knowing one and the world’s preceptor) understood Vyasa Muni’s dilemma and went to meet him in person. When Lord Brahma approached, Rishi Vyasa was seated with various tribes of holy people. Surprised to behold the great Lord, Rishi Vyasa immediately stood up, folded his palms, bowed to Lord Brahma, and had a seat brought for him. After Hiranyagarbha (another name for Brahma) took the seat, Vyasa Muni circumbulated him and stood next to him awaiting further instructions. When Lord Brahma asked the sage to take a seat, he sat down, full of affection and joy, next to Brahma’s seat.

The glorious Vyasa then addressed Brahma and said: 

“O Divine Brahma, I have composed a poem that is studied by many learned people. I have explained several subjects in the poem, such as the mystery of the Veda, several rituals of the Upanishads, and the compilation of the Puranas.” 

“I have named the three divisions of time: past, present, and future. I have explained the determination of the nature of decay, disease, existence, and non-existence.”

“I have described the beliefs and principles by which people live and their modes of life. I have described the rules for the four varnas and the importance of all the Puranas. I have given an account of asceticism and explained the duties of a religious student.” 

“I have described the dimensions of the sun, the moon, other planets, the constellations, and the stars. I have explained the duration of the four ages.” 

“I have spoken about the Rik, Sama, and Yujur Vedas. I have described adhyatma.” 

“I have spoken about the sciences called nyaya, orthoepy, and treatment of diseases.” 

“I have spoken about charity and pasupatadharma. I have spoken about celestial and human birth and their purpose. 

“I have spoken about places of pilgrimage and other holy places along the rivers, mountains, forests, and the ocean. I have spoken about heavenly cities and the kalpas.” 

“I have spoken about the art of war. I have described different kinds of nations and languages. I have described the nature of different types of people. I have spoken of the all-pervading spirit.”

Rishi Vyasa further addressed Lord Brahma and said, “I have mentioned all these topics in the poem, but I am unable to find a suitable person on earth to write this work.”

Brahma said. “I esteem you greatly for your knowledge of divine mysteries. I know your composition reveals the Divine word from its very first utterance, in a truthful language. Your composition, which you call a poem, shall remain unequaled by any other poet. O muni, think of Ganesa to help you with writing your composition.” 

After giving this advice, Brahma returned to his abode and Vyasa Muni began to think of Lord Ganesha.

Ganesa, the destroyer of obstacles, was always ready to fulfill the desires of his followers. As soon as he realized that Vyasa Muni had thought of him, he himself went to the place Vyasa where was seated. After saluting Lord Ganesha and offering him a seat, Vyasa requested him to write the composition (Bharata) that he had formed in his imagination.

Ganesha answered: “I will write your composition provided my pen does not cease writing (due to pauses by Vyasa Muni).”

Vyasa Muni replied, “I agree, but you must stop writing if you come across a passage that you do not fully understand.”

Ganesa agreed by saying the word Om! 

Vyasa began narrating the Bharata and he composed some passages in such a way that even Ganesha had to pause to fully comprehend their meaning. Thus, he narrated the entire (Maha)Bharat to Lord Ganesha who in turn wrote it for Vyasa.

Full Index: Table of Contents

Previous: Creation Story of the Universe as Explained in the Adi Parva

Next: Sauti Compares The Mahabharata to a Tree

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

Did you know the Pandava brothers were told about Draupadi’s destiny to marry all of them even before they went to her swayamvara? Did you know that all the five Pandava brothers were smitten by Draupadi when they heard about her the first time?

These stories are not commonly narrated, so there is a good chance you haven’t heard of these events.

Let’s backtrack to the unabridged Mahabharata, translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, to find out what the Pandava brothers knew before they went to Panchala to participate in Draupadi’s swayamvara.

What a Learned Brahmana Tells the Pandavas About Draupadi

The location in Ekachakra village (West Bengal) where the Pandavas are said to have stayed after escaping from the house of lac

After escaping unhurt from the highly-inflammable house of lac at Varanavata, the Pandavas were convinced that Duryodhana and his supporters would go to any length to remove the Pandavas from their path and ensure that Duryodhan ascends the throne of Hastinapura — even if it meant slaying the Pandavas.

Duryodhana not only had powerful supporters but also had an army at his disposal. The Pandavas, on the other hand, had only each other. In such a situation, they had no option but to remain undercover until a solution presented itself. Therefore, the Pandavas and their mother, Kunti, disguised themselves as brahmanas and took up residence as guests at a brahmana’s house in a village called Ekachakra.

It was while they were in Ekachakra that another wise brahmana came to stay with their host for a few days. As was the custom, everyone worshipped the learned guest and requested him to narrate stories of his experiences while wandering in different lands. After telling them stories about various countries, kings, rivers, and shrines, the brahmana told them about Draupadi, the princess of Panchala. He told them the story of her birth — how she was born from the fire during a great sacrifice conducted by her father, Drupada. He then went on to describe her beauty and told the Pandavas that Draupadi’s father, King Drupada, was hosting a swayamvara (self-choice ceremony) in the coming days for his daughter to choose a husband.

According to Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation of the epic, the Pandava brothers went into a daze after hearing about Draupadi and her beauty. Here are the exact words used by Kisari Mohan Ganguli in the Adi Parva (Chaitraratha Parva subsection):

Quote from Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation describing how the Pandavas reacted after hearing the brahmana speak about Draupadi.

This quote shows that all five brothers were smitten by Draupadi. But there’s more.

What Ved Vyasa Tells the Pandavas About Draupadi’s Destiny

Soon after the learned brahmana left, Ved Vyasa visited the Pandavas in Ekachakra.

Ved Vyasa also spoke to them about Draupadi. He told them the story of how a maiden had received a boon from Lord Shiva that she would have five husbands in a future life. Ved Vyasa went on to tell the Pandavas that the maiden had been born as King Drupada’s daughter, Draupadi, and she was destined to have all the five Pandava brothers as her husbands.

Quoting Kisari Mohan Ganguli from the Adi Parva (Chaitraratha Parva subsection) verse CLXXI:

Ved Yasa’s words to the Pandavas at the brahmana’s house in Ekachakra

The Pandavas left for Panchala after hearing Ved Vyasa’s counsel.

The unabridged Mahabharata makes it clear that not only were all the Pandavas smitten by Draupadi, but were also informed by Ved Vyasa about their destiny to marry her, and that the marriage would bring them great happiness.

I find these stories interesting because they show us how the threads of destiny come together. They show us how the marriage was fated and how two brahmanas arrived as messengers of destiny to ensure that the Pandavas were in the right place at the right time for the fated event to occur.

Draupadi Amman idol in a temple near Thiruvallur


Most people know Draupadi as King Drupada’s daughter, the wife of the five Pandavas, and the queen who was wrongfully insulted in the Hastinapura court.

Some people also believe her to be a revengeful queen who caused the war at Kurukshetra.

However, there is much more to Draupadi than what we commonly know from the abridged versions and retellings of the Mahabharata. One of those is her celestial identity.

Let me tell you the story of who Draupadi was in the celestial regions. We may even call this her higher and more authentic identity.

This story is narrated in the Adi Parva (Vaivahika Parva subsection) by Ved Vyasa to Draupadi’s father, King Drupada.

The Time When Humans Became Immortal

In the days of yore, long before the birth of the Pandavas, there was a time when humans became immortal. They stopped dying because the celestials were performing a grand sacrifice in the Naimisha forest, and Yama, being busy with the sacrifice, had no time to take human lives. Consequently, the human population on earth started to increase.

This became a matter of huge concern for the celestials. Vexed by the fact that humans had become immortal, they decided to approach Lord Shiva to voice their concerns. However, Lord Shiva couldn’t understand their fear. The celestials were already immortal. Why then, was human immortality of any threat to them?

This is what they said when questioned by Lord Shiva.

“The mortals have all become immortal. There is no distinction now between us and them. Vexed at the disappearance of all distinction, we have come to thee in order that thou mayest distinguish us from them.”

The celestials to Lord Shiva

The celestials wanted the distinction between them and humans to continue. They wanted to maintain their superiority.

Lord Shiva smiled and told them that human immortality was temporary because Yama was busy with the sacrifice. Everything would return to normal after the sacrifice, he assured.

The Golden Lotuses

Relieved by Lord Shiva’s words, the celestials returned to the ongoing sacrifice by the banks of the Ganges. Very soon, they noticed a golden lotus being carried downstream by the river’s current. They marveled at the lotus and saw it flow by with the river’s current, and just as they were about to return their attention back to the sacrifice, they saw another lotus and then another, followed by even more lotuses. The celestials were awed by the beautiful lotuses and wondered where they came from. Piqued with curiosity, Indra decided to go up the river to find the origin of the lotuses.

Indra’s journey up the river led him to the very source of the Ganga, where he saw a beautiful maiden who shone like the sun. She stood there weeping a constant stream of tears. When her tears touched the water of the Ganges, they instantly became golden lotuses.

Concerned about the maiden’s grief, Indra walked up to her and asked why she was crying. Instead of answering his question, the maiden asked Indra to follow her. She took him to a place in the Himalayas, where Indra saw a handsome young man engrossed in a game of dice with a beautiful young lady. Both were seated on thrones placed on one of the Himalayan peaks. Assuming the young man to be the reason for the maiden’s grief, Indra called out to him and said:

Know, intelligent youth, that this universe is under my sway.

— Indra to the young man playing dice

However, the young man was so engrossed in his game that he didn’t even move his eyes, let alone his face. This impudence infuriated Indra and he thundered repeatedly at the youth as if to warn him:

“I am the lord of the universe!”

— Indra to the young man playing dice

The young man remained unperturbed by Indra’s words. He simply smiled and cast a sideways glance. However, this was no ordinary glance. It held within it the fire and fury of the universe. It terrified Indra so much that he froze on the spot. Unable to move, Indra stood there like a staff.

After the game of dice ended, the young man — who was none other than Lord Shiva — addressed the weeping woman and asked her to bring Indra to him.

“Bring Sakra hither, for I shall soon so deal with him that pride may not enter his heart.”

— Lord Shiva to the weeping maiden

But the weeping woman was no ordinary maiden. She was the great goddess Devi Adi Para Shakti herself. When the goddess touched Indra, he collapsed on the ground, as if paralyzed, like a piece of cloth falling on the floor. Lord Shiva looked at Indra and thundered!

Act not Sakra, ever in this way again.

— Lord Shiva to Indra

Lord Shiva Orders Indra to Enter a Cave

After uttering these words, Lord Shiva commanded Indra to enter a nearby cave and see for himself what his future had in store. In the cave, Indra saw four other devas (celestial beings) like himself. They had once been great and powerful but were now in a wretched and pitiable state.

Indra cowered with fear. He folded his hands to the great lord and begged forgiveness, but Lord Shiva shut him with these words:

“Those that are of disposition like thine never obtain my grace. These others had at one time been like thee. Enter thou this cave, therefore, and lie there for some time. The fate of you all shall certainly be the same. All you will have to take birth as humans. After achieving many difficult feats and slaying a large number of humans, you will return to the celestial region.”

— Lord Shiva to Indra

It was clear to the five Indras they would have to be reborn on earth to fulfill their destiny before they could return to the celestial regions. Lord Shiva always meant what he said. Resigning to their fate, they folded their hands and requested Lord Shiva that they be born on earth through celestial fathers.

“We shall go from our celestial regions even unto the region of men where salvation is ordained to be difficult of acquisition. But let the gods Dharma, Vayu, Maghavat, and the twin Aswins beget us upon our would-be mother.”

— The five Indras to Lord Shiva

The current Indra (Maghavat) requested Lord Shiva that instead of being born on earth, he would create a fifth person through a portion of his energy. This person would fulfill all the tasks that Lord Shiva had ordained.

Shiva agreed to all these requests and asked Devi Adi Para Shakti to also be reborn as the wife of the five Indras (to play a part in the events that had to occur on earth before it entered the new era called Kaliyuga, or the age of darkness).

Many years later, the five Indras were born as the five Pandavas, and Devi Adi Para Shakti, as Draupadi.

Ved Vyasa Grants Divine Sight to King Drupada

Ved Vyasa grants divine sight to King Drupada to see Draupadi and the Pandavas in their celestial form

After enlightening King Drupada about his daughter’s celestial identity and explaining how the threads of destiny had come together in this life leading Draupadi to marry the five Pandavas, Vyasa granted divine sight to Drupada so he could see his daughter and the Pandavas in their celestial splendour.

When King Drupada saw Draupadi and the five Pandavas as celestial beings, shining the like the sun, noble, splendid, decked with beautiful jewels and celestial garments, he was awestruck and he wondered about how the divine forces worked on earth through deep disguise.

Interesting Facts

Have you ever wondered if India has any temples dedicated to Draupadi? According to this TOI article, there are close to 800 temples dedicated to Draupadi Amman in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala.

Her temples are usually small and situated in remote places. Devi Draupadi or Draupadi Amman is worshipped as the village deity (Gram Devi) as well as the family deity (Kula Devi) in these places. The villagers pray to her for protection, rain, and good crops.

An idol of The Reclining Draupadi Near Auroville