"In order of age, and on successive days, each royal prince took the hand
of that excellent woman, who had assumed a form of supreme beauty."
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. The princess Draupadi, in a former life, had prayed to Lord Siva five times for a husband, and Lord Siva had therefore blessed her to marry five former Indras in her next life. These Indras had now appeared as Yudhisthira and the four other Pandava brothers. The sage Vyasa has just finished telling this story to Draupadi's father, King Drupada, who had questioned the propriety of Draupadi's proposed marriage to the five Pandavas.
KING DRUPADA SAID, "It was only because I had not heard these words from you, Maharsi, that I first endeavored to do things in a certain way. What is ordained by providence cannot be avoided, and that alone is the relevant rule here. The knot tied by destiny is never to be undone; nothing will be accomplished by our own effort if we strive against the will of the Supreme. Arrangements were made for a single bridegroom, but the preparations are quite suitable for many.
"Previously, Draupadi requested Lord Siva several times to give her a husband, and he pronounced her blessing accordingly, for the lord surely knows what is best here. When Lord Siva, with his superior knowledge, has personally established what is right and wrong in this case, there is no offense on my part. Let these boys take her hand in sacred marriage, as they wish, for Draupadi is clearly destined for them."
Then the exalted Vyasa said to Yudhisthira, the king of righteousness, "Today is a holy day, Pandava, for the moon has reached its conjunction with the constellation Pausya. Therefore on this very day you should be the first to take the hand of Draupadi."
At this, King Drupada and his son gathered all kinds of wealth to present to the bridegroom's party, and he arranged to bring his daughter, after she had bathed and adorned herself with many jewels. Then all the ministers, advisers, and close friends of the family came in joyful spirits to see the wedding, and so did the important brahmanas and city dwellers.
The king's palace was beautified by brahmanas who came for charity, and lotus blossoms were scattered about to adorn the festival grounds. The palace shone with an abundance of most valuable gems, like the sky with its hosts of pure white stars.
Then the sons of the Kaurava king, dressed in priceless garments, bedecked with earrings and other jeweled ornaments, and cooled by costly sandalwood paste, were duly anointed in the ritual ablutions, and those brothers performed all the rites that invoke substantial blessings at the time of marriage.
In proper order, by ritual, and accompanied by the royal priest Dhaumya, who shone with the splendor of fire, the Pandavas entered the great hall like mighty, jubilant bulls entering their pleasure pastures. First Dhaumya kindled the sacred fire and offered oblations, and when it blazed with the potent Vedic mantras, that master of the Vedic science brought Yudhisthira forward and joined him in wedlock to Draupadi with all the proper mantras. Husband and wife held each other's hands, and with his masterful comprehension of Vedic rite Dhaumya led them around the sacrificial fire. Then bidding farewell to Yudhisthira, who was so brilliant in battle, the priest departed the royal palace.
In order of age, and on successive days, each royal prince took the hand of that excellent woman, who had assumed a form of supreme beauty. All the princes were maharatha warriors who spread the glory of the Kuru dynasty, and each one married Draupadi. The holy sage Vyasa spoke of the wonderful superhuman splendor of the occasion, for as each day passed, thin-waisted Draupadi, by her great spiritual influence, again became a virgin.
When the weddings were done, Drupada gave many sorts of valuable treasures to the grand warriors, including one hundred chariots that were all ornamented in gold and yoked to four golden-bridled horses. Similarly, he presented one hundred red-spotted elephants who stood like one hundred gold-peaked mountains, and one hundred exquisite young handmaids bedecked in the most costly garments, ornaments, and garlands.
As the sacred fire witnessed, King Drupada gave to each Pandava vast amounts of wealth, with extremely valuable garments and ornaments, befitting their prowess. The Pandavas graciously took the huge fortune, heavy in gems. Then those mighty warriors, equal to Indra, relaxed and enjoyed themselves in the capital city of the Pancala king.
Kunti Blesses Draupadi
Having united with the Pandavas, Drupada feared nothing, not even the gods. The women of noble Drupada then approached Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, told her their names, and touched her feet with their heads. Dressed in linen, with the auspicious marriage thread tied about her, Draupadi too paid obeisances to her mother-in-law and stood bowed with folded hands. Draupadi was endowed with beauty and the marks of nobility, and her character and conduct were ideal. Kunti knew this, and with love she spoke words of blessing:
"As Indrani abides in Indra, Svaha in the lord of fire, Rohini in the moon, the chaste Damayanti in Nala, Bhadra in Vaisravana, Arundhati in Vasistha, and the goddess of fortune in Lord Narayana, so may you abide in your men, and they will maintain you. May you give birth to healthy, heroic sons who fill your heart with joy. May good fortune be yours, and all the comforts of life. Having married before the sacred fire, may you ever honor your vow.
"May endless years be yours, as you honor even uninvited guests as well as teachers, the young, the saintly, the elderly, and the teachers, according to propriety and the religious law. Following your virtue-loving king, may you be anointed queen of the nations, headed by Kuru and Jangala, and of their cities. When your mighty lords with their valor have conquered the earth, make of her a joyous offering to the brahmanas, with great sacrifices like the Asvamedha. Kind lady, may you obtain all the fine treasures of the earth and live happily for one hundred autumns. As I rejoice with you today, for you are a new bride dressed in linen, so shall I rejoice with you again when you bear a son filled with good qualities."
Lord Krsna's Gifts
Thereupon Lord Krsna sent the newly married Pandavas beautiful varieties of pearls, diamonds, and ornaments of pure gold. Lord Krsna, known as Madhava, also sent costly clothes from many countries, along with blankets, deerskins, and jewels. All these were pleasing to the touch and of the purest quality. He sent large beds and seats of all varieties, grand vehicles in different styles, and vessels by the hundreds, inlaid with diamonds and cat's-eye gems. Lord Krsna also sent thousands of lovely young meticulous female attendants, beautifully adorned and from many countries. He sent obedient, good-natured elephants, celestial horses with fine ornaments, and wonderfully responsive chariots, decorated with shining gold cloth. Lord Krsna, Madhusudana, the immeasurable Soul of the universe, also dispatched unworked gold bricks by the millions. Dharmaraja, Yudhisthira, accepted all these gifts with the greatest of joy. His only motive was to please his Lord, Krsna, who is known as Govinda, the supreme source of pleasure for the senses of all living beings.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami led the team of devotee-scholars who completed the translation and commentary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam begun by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is now doing graduate work in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.
Dramatic readings by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami of his Mahabharata translations may be purchased from: HDG Tape Ministry, P. O. Box 1156, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Phone: (904) 418-4644.