The Pandavas hear the story of the birth of their future wife.
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the Mahabharata continues, the Pandavas, now living in Ekacakra disguised as brahmanas, hear from a traveling brahmana the story of the birth of Draupadi and her brother Dhrstadyumna.
King Janamejaya said:
The Pandavas were truly tigers among men. O brahmana, after the slaying of Baka, the Raksasa, what did they do next?
Sri Vaisampayana said:
Having slain Baka, Bhima and the other Pandavas continued to dwell in the same place, studying the Absolute Truth in the house of the learned brahmana. After some days had passed, another brahmana, strict in his religious vows, came to thebrahmana's house to seek lodging. Having vowed to receive all guests God sent to his home, the first brahmana, a leader of his community, gave full honor to the visiting sage and offered him shelter.
The noble Pandavas and Kunti worshiped the wandering holy man and sat down to hear as he began to tell many stories. He talked about various countries, describing their holy places, the deeds of their kings, and the diverse features of their capitals.
As he finished his tales, the learned man mentioned that in the Pancala country the beautiful princess Draupadi would be holding a most extraordinary svayamvara, a ceremony in which a princess chooses her husband from among qualified princes. He also described the unusual birth of Dhrstadyumna and Sikhandi and mentioned how Draupadi, the daughter of King Drupada, was born from a great sacrifice, without passing through a mother's womb.
On hearing the saintly one mention this most amazing news of world events, the Pandavas, those noble men, urged the sage to tell the stories again in detail.
"How did these wonderful events take place that Drupada's son Dhrstadyumna took birth from the flames of a sacred fire, and that his sister Draupadi arose from the middle of a sacrificial altar? How did Dhrstadyumna then learn all the weapons from the great archer Drona? And how could two loving friends like Drona and Drupada become enemies? Who caused their friendship to break?"
My dear king, when the exalted Pandavas had thus urged the sage to speak, he began by explaining all about the birth of Princess Draupadi.
The Rivalry of Drona and Drupada
The brahmana said:
Near the gateway of the Ganges [where the sacred river begins her earthly course] lived a mighty saint and ascetic named Bharadvaja, who was most learned and faithful to his religious vows. Once, when he had come to the Ganges to bathe, he saw a chaste apsara named Ghrtaci, a dancing girl from the heavenly planets, who had come there first and had just taken her bath. Just then, as she stood on the river bank, the wind came and stole away her clothes.
Seeing her without any covering, the sage could not help but desire her. Though he had carefully practiced celibacy since childhood, his mind was now entangled with the goddess. In his excitement, semen spilled from his body. The sage placed his seed in a pot, and Drona took birth from that pot as the son of the sage. As a child Drona thoroughly studied the Vedas with all their branches.
Bharadvaja had a friend named Prsata, a king who had a son named Drupada. Young Drupada would always go to the sage's retreat, and the powerful prince played and studied with Drona. Then Prsata passed away, and Drupada became king.
Drona heard that Lord Parasurama, having retired to the forest, desired to give all his wealth to the brahmanas. So Drona, the son of Bharadvaja, went to him and said, "O noble twice-born, I am Drona, and you may know that I have come in need of money."
Lord Parasurama said, "All that is left to me now is my own body and my weapons. So, brahmana, you may select, either my body or my weapons."
Sri Drona said, "Sir, it is best that you give me all your weapons and the technology to engage and withdraw them."
Lord Parasurama, born in the Bhrgu dynasty, agreed to the request and presented all his weapons to Drona. Drona was jubilant, for he had received from Parasurama the most highly regarded of all weapons: the brahmastra. He now excelled mankind in weaponry.
With his fierce new power, the son of Bharadvaja was a tiger among men. Approaching King Drupada he said, "I am your old friend."
King Drupada said, "An uneducated man cannot be a friend to a learned man, nor a man with no chariot to a chariot warrior, nor a non-king to a king. What need is there for a friend of the past?"
Drona Seeks Revenge
The intelligent Drona then and there made up his mind to seize Drupada's kingdom, the kingdom of Pancala. Drona went directly to Hastinapura, the capital of the Kuru chiefs. The Kuru grandsire Bhisma gathered up his grandsons and presented them to the learned Drona to be his students. Bhisma also awarded him all kinds of wealth.
Determined to make Drupada suffer for his offense, the expert Drona then assembled all his students and said to them, "When students have learned their weapons, they owe a debt to their teacher, which must be paid. There is something I desire that turns strongly in my heart. You, my innocent boys, must promise me that when you have learned your weapons you will give me what I desire."
Later, when the all the Pandavas had mastered their weapons through diligent practice, Drona again brought up the debt to the teacher and said, "The son of Prsata is a monarch named Drupada, who lives in the city of Chatravati. You must take away his kingdom at once and offer it to me."
The five sons of Pandu then defeated Drupada in battle, arrested him, and brought him with his ministers before Drona.
Sri Drona said, "Once again, O ruler of men, I request your friendship. A non-king is not fit to be the friend of a king. Therefore I strove to capture your kingdom so that we could in fact be friends. You will be king of all the land to the south of the Bhagirathi River, and I shall rule the land to the north.
That great insult, though spoken in a minute's time, never left Drupada's heart, and he grew morose and thin.
King Drupada Serves the Sages
King Drupada was a frustrated man, and he journeyed to the dwellings of many brahmanas, seeking the very best of the twiceborn, sages who had perfected the Vedic science of action. He had faith that if he were to have a powerful son, that son would defend his father and mitigate the grief that afflicted the father's mind.
Drupada constantly thought, "I don't have outstanding children." As his sons were born, the discouraged father said, "What a shame are these relatives!" He was forever sighing, for he yearned to repay Drona. He fretted over the situation, but no matter how he tried he could find no way to counteract with his own warrior strength Drona's deeds, learning, power, and discipline.
Once as the king was wandering about the bank of the Ganges where it flows near the River Yamuna, he came upon a sanctified dwelling of brahmanas. Each sage there was fully trained, faithful to his religious vows, and greatly fortunate. Drupada, son of Prsata, particularly noticed two powerful brothers named Yaja and Upayaja. They were peaceful and strict in their vows. Born in the family of Kasyapa, they were advanced in their studies of the Vedas. Those two brahmanas, leaders of all the sages there, seemed perfect for Drupada's purpose. Confident that they would save him from his plight, he eagerly served them, satisfying all their desires.
After ascertaining the strength and learning of both, Drupada submitted himself discreetly to the younger brother, Upayaja, who was particularly firm in his vows, and offered him all he might desire. Rendering Upayaja menial service, addressing him in a most pleasing tone, and arranging all that he wanted, the king honored the sage in the traditional way.
Drupada then said to Upayaja, "Dear brahmana, there must be a process by which I can get a son who will kill Drona. Upayaja, do it for me, and I shall give you ten million cows, or whatever else is very dear to your mind. O illustrious brahmana, I have no doubt about what I want, and I shall give you everything if you will only help me."
The sage replied, "I do not care to perform such a rite."
To win his favor, Drupada continued to render him faithful service.
At the end of one year, at the proper moment, the exalted brahmana Upayaja said to Drupada in a gentle voice, "My older brother, while strolling in the forest by a waterfall, picked up a fruit that had fallen there, but he did not investigate the purity of the ground. I was following behind him, and I saw my brother's improper behavior. He ate an unclean fruit without any investigation. There were impurities clinging to the fruit, but he did not see them. When a person does not consider cleanliness in one thing, why should he in another?
"When we were living in our guru's house and studying the Vedas, my brother would constantly eat other people's leftover alms, praising the quality of the food again and again without the slightest disdain. After carefully studying the matter, I have concluded that my brother is willing to work for profit. So go to him, O king, and he will help you perform your sacrifice."
Hearing these words from Upayaja and not liking them at all, the wise king kept his feelings to himself.
After thinking over the matter, he went and worshiped the venerable saint Yaja and said to him, "My lord, engage me in the rite of sacrifice, and I shall certainly give you eighty thousand cows. I have suffered so much because of my conflict with Drona, and you must now bring some happiness to my life. He is the greatest of Vedic scholars, and no one is more skilled in the deadly brahmastra weapon. Therefore, when we had a quarrel between friends, he easily defeated me. There is no warrior or commander on the earth equal to that wise son of Bharadvaja, now the chief military teacher of the Kuru empire.
"His large bow, the length of three outstretched arms, is clearly unique. When Drona lets fly his impenetrable network of arrows, they simply remove the body of his foe. He has a brilliant mind, and he is an extraordinary archer. With his brahminical power he will doubtlessly strike down a warrior's strength. He seems ordained to cut down the ruling class, as if he were Parasurama himself. No man on earth can bear the terrible power of his weapons.
"Like fire fed with the butter of rite, he shoots out his brahmana's power. Joining the battle, that first of brahmanas burns up the warrior class. It has been ordained by the creator that among brahmanas and kings a brahmana's power is greater. Thus with the mere strength of a king, I am wretched. And so I resort now to the power of brahmanas by approaching you, sir, who are greater than Drona, for you are a supreme scholar in the Vedic science. I must attain an invincible son who can bring down Drona in battle. Do that work for me, Yaja, and I shall select for you ten million cows."
Yaja consented, saying, "So be it," and he began to prepare for the sacrifice.
The Sacrifice Yields Children
Though Upayaja was unwilling, Yaja urged him to take part, saying, "Do it for your older brother's sake."
Finally Upayaja also promised to work the rite for the destruction of Drona. The mighty ascetic Upayaja then explained to the king the sacrificial procedure that would produce the son he desired.
"O king," he said, "exactly as you desire, your son will be a mighty warrior of extraordinary fire and strength."
Determined to have a son who would kill Drona, King Drupada performed all the sacrificial rites with precision so that the process would be successful. Then, at the end of the sacrifice, Yaja called upon Drupada's godly wife.
"Come toward me, queen, daughter-in-law of Prsata, for twin children are ready to have you as their mother."
The godly queen replied, "O brahmana, I am not quite prepared for the holy act. I have to rinse my mouth, and I am holding the sacred scents in my hands. Please wait, Yaja, as a favor to me."
Yaja said, "I, your priest, have already cooked the oblation in the fire, and Upayaja has blessed it with mantra. How then can it not fulfill the purpose of the rite? As for you, you may come forward or stay there as you like."
When Yaja had thus spoken, he made the sacrificial offering he had prepared so well, and from the fire of sacrifice arose a male child, glowing like the gods. The child was as radiant as fire and frightening to behold. He wore a beautiful helmet and armor and was equipped with a sword, a bow, and arrows. He repeatedly let out a thundering warrior cry. He mounted an excellent chariot and on it went forth. All the people of Pancala present there joyously roared their approval.
From the sky a great invisible being declared, "Now the glory of Pancala is born, a king's son who will drive away the people's fear and banish the king's sorrow, for this child is born to kill Drona!"
Then from the middle of the sacrificial altar arose a beautiful and blessed maiden. All her limbs were lovely to behold, her waist was as attractive as a sacred altar, and everything about her was enchanting. Her color and complexion were radiant, for she was an immortal godly being who had taken human form as a Pancala princess.
No other woman on earth could match her supreme beauty. The fragrance of her body, equal to that of a blue lotus, wafted for many miles. She came forth in an exquisitely mature body with lovely curving hips.
The moment she appeared an invisible voice declared, "This best of all women is known as Krsna,* and she is meant to bring many kings to ruin. In due time this thin-waisted woman will carry out the mission of the gods. Because of her, terrible fear will arise among the rulers of the earth."
*Usually called Draupadi ("the daughter of Drupada"), she was also well known as Krsna because of her beautiful dark complexion and pure devotion for Lord Krsna.
Hearing this, all the people of Pancala roared like a host of lions. The abundant earth could hardly bear their weight, so heavy were they with joy.
Seeing the twins produced from the sacrifice, the queen, eager to have her children, approached Yaja and said, "These two must not know anyone but me as their mother."
"So be it," said Yaja, for he desired to please the king.
With full meditation the learned sages then gave names to the two children: "Because this boy is bold and daring (dhrsta) and fiercely courageous (dhrsnu), and because he follows the sacred law and was born from shining light (dyut), this son of Drupada will be called Dhrstadyumna.
"Because this girl will always call upon the name of Lord Krsna, and because her color is dark (krsna), she will be called Krsna."
Thus in a great sacrificial rite, twins were born to King Drupada.
[Although Dhrstadyumna was destined to kill Drona] Drona, the mighty son of Bharadvaja, brought the Pancala prince, Dhrstadyumna, to his own home and taught him the military science. Drona was a brilliant and liberal man. He knew that the future as ordained by God cannot be avoided, and so he acted thus to preserve his own glory.
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. Fluent in several languages, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami has extensively taught Krsna consciousness in India, Europe, the United States, and Latin America. He is now doing graduate work in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.