ADOPTION OF DRAUPADI AND DRSHTADYUMNA BY DRUPADA
Janamejaya was curious to know what the Pandavas did after killing Baka, the rebel militant (rakshasa). Vaishampayana told the king that a few days after that event a Brahman ascetic came to their house as a guest and told them and Kunti several episodes connected with the different countries, towns and holy places he had visited. He told them about the svayamvara of Draupadi that was slated to take place soon in Pancala. He told them about how Drshtadyumna, Sikhandi and Draupadi were born to Drupada, ruler of Pancala. He also told them at their request about how Drupada and Drona became friends and whose act had separated the two.
The ascetic told the Pandavas that when the sage, Bharadvaja, was young he saw Krtasi, an apsaras, when he went to the Ganga for bathing and was attracted to her. Drona was born of their union (in a cup). Drona studied all the Vedas and their branches. Bharadvaja was one of the major contributors to the Rgvedic anthology. He educated in his abode along with his son, Drona, Drupada, son of his friend, Prushadana, a rajanya.
It is likely that this king, Prushadana, was a first generation kshatriya who had emerged from the ranks of gandharvas. Drupada was trained as a kshatriya warrior and studied Vedas along with Drona. When Prushadana passed away, Drupada succeeded him as king. Drona must have been taught martial arts and principles of administration also besides Vedas. There was no major difference then in the courses taught to Brahmans and those taught to Kshatriyas. Both these cadres were drafted from the larger free class of gandharvas.
Drona heard that Parasurama intended to retire from all political and social activities and go to the forest after giving away all his wealth. Drona, son of Bharadvaja, went to meet that great thinker and activist and told him that he had come to receive his wealth. But Parasurama had already surrendered them to Kashyapa and told Drona that he had only his body left with him. Drona could choose between Parasuramas body and his skill in and knowledge of archery.
Drona asked for his weapons and knowledge of how to use them. Bhargava Parasurama agreed and gave him his weapons, especially the Brahmastra. This missile symbolised the superiority of the power of the intellectuals (Brahmans), especially of the judiciary, over the executive (Kshatriyas), of Brahmadanda over Rajadanda. The possession of Brahmastra made Drona superior to all others in the commonalty (manushyas).
Armed with that weapon, Drona went to Drupada and asked him to recognise his superior powers. But Drupada refused to acknowledge him as a friend arguing that one ignorant of Vedas could not be a friend of a Vedic scholar, one who did not know how to battle from a chariot could not be a friend of one who had that skill and one who did not have a kingdom of his own could not be a friend of one who had a kingdom. Drona decided to teach the king of Pancala a lesson for insulting him and went to Hastinapura, the capital of the eminent Kurus.
Bhishma received that scholar with honour and entrusted the education of his grandsons to him. Later Drona told them that they should extend him a particular help as fees due to the teacher (gurudakshina) after they had mastered the science of missiles. Arjuna and other students agreed to help him.
After their course of training was over, Drona told them to deprive Drupada, ruler of Chatravati, of his kingdom and give it to the former as gurudakshina. While Duryodhana and other sons of Dhrtarashtra and their friend, Karna, failed to defeat Drupada, the Pandavas led by Arjuna were able to capture him and produce him before their teacher. The people (jana) who followed Yajnasena (Drupada) accepted that there was no prince who could equal Arjuna in valour.
Drona retained the portion of Pancala north of Ganga and allowed Drupada to rule the southern portion to prove to him that Drona too was a king like him and had a status equal to his. Though Drupada promised Drona lasting friendship the king never forgot the insult heaped on him.
Drupada who had no issues of his own searched in the enclaves of Brahman scholars for experts who would help him to procreate offspring. His objective was to have sons who would help him to overcome Drona known for his scholarship, training in martial arts and extraordinary feats. Drupada located two Brahman sages, Yaja and Upayaja, in an educational (Brahman) enclave on the banks of Yamuna. They belonged to the school (gotra) of Kashyapa, a leading Atharvan scholar, socio-political ideologue and activist. Drupada offered the younger brother, Upayaja, whatever wealth he desired if he could fulfil his expectations.
Drupada wanted a son who could cause the death of Drona and a daughter who would marry Arjuna. Upayaja pleaded his inability to help the king and suggested that he should meet Yaja who unlike him was not particular about the purity of the fruits that he ate and would not hesitate to take the alms discarded by others. Upayaja hinted that Yaja could help Drupada to adopt children who had been abandoned by their parents.
Drupada told Yaja about his desire for a son who would destroy Drona who dressed as a Brahman was with his skill in archery and martial arts, able to defeat the might of Kshatriyas, even as Parasurama did. Drupada claimed that both influences (tejas), Brahma and Kshatriya, had been created, that is, were valid constitutional features. The socio-cultural influence that the Brahmans exercised was superior to the raw might and coercive power that the Kshatriyas used to make the people conform to the laws. Vaishampayana also pointed out that a king who did not have a strong army took refuge in the influence (tejas) that the constitution had empowered the judiciary (and educationists) to exercise.
Brahmatejas and Kshatriyatejas
Drupada submitted to Yaja that he did not question the superiority of the judiciary (brahmatejas) over the executive and coercive power of the state (kshatriyatejas). His objective was limited to getting a son who would humble Drona whose conduct indicated exercising raw coercive power under the guise of righteousness (dharma) and wholesome socio-cultural influence (brahmatejas). Yaja directed his assistant, Upayaja, to perform the necessary sacrificial rites. At the end of those rites, Yaja presented to the rajarshi, an armed youth as his son. It was declared that the youth was born for killing Drona. This lad was indeed presented to the king by the nobles (devas).
Yaja also presented to the king a beautiful girl. This princess, Panchali, was a girl belonging to the nobility (devas) but was dressed as a commoner (manushya). She was one whom both aristocrats (devas) and rich plutocrats (danavas, yakshas) liked. It was predicted that this girl, Krshna, would destroy the kshatriyas and would be a threat to the Kauravas. Drupada accepted her as Pandus daughter-in-law. Drupadas wife accepted the two, the lad and the girl, as her son and daughter. The boy was named Drshta as he was proud and happy and as Dyumna as he was valorous and rich. As the girl was dark, she was called Krshna. Drona undertook to teach Drshtadyumna the science of missiles. He had already studied the Vedas when Drona took him as his student.
Drupadas counsellors (Brahmans who followed the prescribed rules and procedures rigorously) told him about how the Kauravas hatched the plan to get the Pandavas burnt alive in the house of lac at Varanavata and how Vidura and Bhishma had performed the last rites of the Pandavas. Drupada conveyed this news to his ministers and the people of his city. He feared that his plan to get his adopted daughter married to Arjuna had been frustrated by this event. But his chief counsellor (purohita) who was gentle and calm (sattva) and knew the subtleties of knowledge needed to carry out his assignment told him that the Pandavas who zealously followed the counsel of their elders and observed the socio-cultural laws (dharma) could not have been destroyed or defeated.
Svayamvara and Kshatriya orientation
He swore that he had seen rare escapes. He cited an episode mentioned by scholars (Brahmans) in the Vedas of how Indra who had disappeared was discovered by his consort in the root stem of a lotus. Brhaspati had told her whom to approach to locate her missing spouse. The counsellor (purohita) said that he had heard indirectly that the Pandavas were alive and that they would reach Panchala. He encouraged Drupada to arrange for the contest where Draupadi would select her spouse (svayamvara). Svayamvara was the method prescribed for the Kshatriyas to give away their daughters to suitable grooms, he explained. Drupada announced when the svayamvara programme would take place.
The Brahman ascetic informed Kunti and the Pandavas about this programme and told them that nobles (devas), free intellectuals-cum-warriors (gandharvas), plutocrats (yakshas) and sages (rshis) (and he himself) were going to Pancala to witness that event. He invited them to accompany him. By chance Draupadi might obtain one of the Pandavas as her spouse, he said. Of course he was not predicting for none in this world knows the good intent of the socio-political constitution (Brahma), he said. (Ch.182 Adiparva)
DRAUPADI, PANDAVAS, POLYANDRY
Guided by Dhoumya the Pandavas went to attend the svayamvara of Pancali and see that country, Pancala. On their way they met the great flawless sage, Dvaipayana. After saluting him they went to Drupadas house in Pancala. There they stayed in the workshop of a potter but brought alms to show that they followed the ways of life of Brahmans. No commoner identified them as warriors. Yajnasena (Drupada) knew that he had offended Bhishma and Drona and began to do the things necessary for his protection. After securing Drshtadyumna (as his son and general) Drupada did not worry about Drona but was afraid of Bhishma as the old enmity between the Kurus and the Pancalas continued.
He thought of setting that enmity at naught by giving the virgin (kanya) to the Kurus. Yajnasena wanted to give Krshna to the Pandava, Arjuna, but did not tell his view to anyone. He hoped that the strength of his son-in-law would add to his strength. Addressing Janamejaya as Bharata, the chronicler told him that the king of Pancala who was searching for the Pandavas had arranged for the bending of a strong bow as the test. It had been given to Srnjaya, son of Vyagrapada (one whose feet were like those of a tiger), by devatas, nobles of the social periphery. It had an iron string which none else could draw. The great thinker and socio-political activist, Samkara, had given it to Srnjaya, as a boon.
For the test of skill, Drupada had arranged a novel device by which the arrow released from that bow should hit a mobile target, a golden fish. As he advertised the contest for the svayamvara of Draupadi, many kings and sages arrived in Pancala. Among them were Karna, Duryodhana and other Kauravas, Krshna and Yadavas, Antakas (governors of border lands) and Vrshnis. And many prominent Brahmans (scholars) had come from different countries and the Pandavas sat along with them. The nobles (devas) observed the proceedings from a high gallery. Separate areas in that fortified and decorated city hall had been assigned to the kings. The commoners and women too could observe the events and also see Draupadi.
Gandharva Orientation, Brother as guardian of Sister
Drshtadyumna seated on his horse led the decorated elephant carrying Draupadi to the hall guarded by Drupada and his troops. The political counsellor (purohita) of the Somaka kings (kings of the lunar group) prepared the pulpit of the holy fire. Drshtadyumna announced the conditions set for the hand of Draupadi, his sister. Among the gandharvas the brother had the right to give away his sister to the eligible groom but it was the girl who selected her spouse. Neither her parents nor her brother could determine whom she should marry. Drshtadyumna told his sister the names and careers of the princes and others assembled there and about their clans and might. He directed her to accept as her husband whoever of them hit the target.
As the nobles (devas), kings, sages, feudal lords (asuras), technocrats (nagas) and their opponents (garudas), siddhas, apsarases, gandharvas, yakshas and other approved sections of the larger society witnessed the proceedings, the aspirants enchanted by her beauty readied to take part in the contest. [At this stage only the rebel militants, rakshasas, were kept out of the civilised society.] The ruler of Cedi, Sisupala, came forward to try his hand at the bow but failed to draw its string. Salya of Madra and Duryodhana (son of Dhrtarashtra) too failed to handle it. As Karna, the great archer too failed, all the princes became disenchanted.
As the people assembled in the hall grew restless Arjuna thought of drawing its string. This delighted Balarama and the great Yadu warrior, Vasudeva, who was superior to feudal lords (asuras) and nobles (devas). They thought that Draupadi would reach the hands of the great warrior, Arjuna (son of Kunti). None of the kings and Brahmans (jurists) among the people assembled there then except Balarama, Krshna and Dhoumya, recognised the Pandavas who were in disguise.
When Arjuna got up from among the Brahmans to draw the string of that great bow some of them suggested that he should not attempt to do what great archers like Karna and Salya could not. They did not want that young boy bringing disrepute to the class of Brahmans by his misadventure. But some other Brahmans were impressed by his personality and hoped that he would succeed in his venture. They claimed that though compared to the Kshatriyas, Brahmans were physically weak they had the power of tapas and hence could overcome the Kshatriyas as Parasurama, son of Jamadagni, had proved. None should underestimate the strength of one because he was short. (Vamana who overcame Bali was a dwarf.) They cited the exploits of dwarfish Agastya and encouraged the Brahman youth.
Gandharva Orientation and Merit of the Individual
Arjuna asked Drshtadyumna whether Brahmans were eligible to draw the string of that bow. Drshtadyumna promised that whoever drew its string, whether he was a Brahman or Kshatriya or Vaisya or Shudra, he would give him his sister. A girl who was entitled to or required to follow the rules of gandharva marriage was free to choose her spouse from any community or cadre or class and her brother and guardian would not restrain her from exercising that freedom. After paying respect to the bow and praying to Isvara (Siva), a devata and prabhu and thinking about Krshna Arjuna lifted the bow. [The bow was a boon (vara) given by Samkara who was known also as Isvara, Siva and Mahadeva.] What great archers, Rukma, Sunita, Karna, Duryodhana, Salya and Salva could not do, Arjuna did. He hit the target.
The nobles (devas) in the gallery showered petals on him and all in the hall applauded him. The Brahmans were happy with his success. (They did not know that he was not a Brahman.) Trumpets and drums and other instruments were played to honour him. Drupada was delighted with the success of that youth. He wanted to help the winner with his army. As the applause grew in intensity Yudhishtira and his brothers went back to their seats. Krshna (Draupadi), surrounded by Kshatriya warriors went smiling towards Arjuna who was seated amidst Brahmans and garlanded him. Arjuna left the hall with his wife feted by Brahmans.
When Drupada wanted to hand over his daughter formally to the Brahmana the princes became angry. They felt that he had insulted them and threatened to kill him. They argued that Drupada did not deserve to be respected as a senior king. They said that only Kshatriyas were eligible to take part, as contenders in svayamvara and Brahmans were not. If that girl did not like any Kshatriya she deserved to be thrown in fire, (that is, she should be taken to task by the civil judge, Agni), they said. Some princes argued that if the Brahman had out of necessity or out of desire done that deed which was not to the liking of the senior kings it was not proper to kill him. For the lives of the kings and their wealth and their sons and grandsons were meant for the benefit of the Brahmans.
The senior kings should fear being put to shame and should protect their rights and duties (dharma) and ensure that other svayamvaras too did not come to such an end. They wanted a legislation that would entitle only recognised rajanyas to participate in a svayamvara contest. As they went against Drupada, the latter requested the Brahmans for protection. Drupada sought protection from the higher judiciary, which was entitled to interpret the provisions of the constitution (Brahma). Brahma (constitution) is superior to Dharma (legislation). While Dharmasastra defined the powers, rights and duties of the individual in accordance with the class (varna) to which he belonged, the constitution, Brahma, dealt with the relations among the different communities and cadres and social sectors and was to be referred to for resolution of conflicts in class orientations, interests and privileges.
Magistrates could discipline even kings
The chronicler, Vaishampayana, clarifies that Drupada sought protection by the Brahmans not because he was afraid or was weak or for saving his life. He went to the Brahmans (judiciary) to request them to pacify the kings. As the enraged kings rushed at him like mad elephants, Bhima and Arjuna went towards them. When they attacked Bhima, the latter took up in his hands a tree. He appeared like Yama (the Vedic official entitled to enforce compliance with the laws), with his weapon, a stick (danda). According to dandaniti, the magistrates (yamas) could discipline even kings.
Arjuna who was armed with his bow was surprised. Meanwhile Krshna who had knowledge (insight) not attainable by commoners and the ability to perform rare exploits told his brother, Balarama (Samkarshana), that he (son of Vasudeva) was sure that the two warriors were Bhima and Arjuna. He also pointed out Yudhishtira, Nakula and Sahadeva to Balarama. The chronicler compares the twins who were born to the two Asvins, with Subrahmaniya who was brought up by the (six) Krttika sisters as their son. Krshna said that he had heard that the Pandavas had escaped from the burnt house of lac. Balarama was glad that his aunt, Kunti and her sons had been saved.
Arjuna asked the Brahmans to stay back as observers while he and his brothers would keep the princes back. He took up the strong bow, which he had received as kanyasulka, fees for marrying a virgin (kanya) and stood his ground with his brother, Bhima. The two Pandavas defeated Karna, Duryodhana, Salya and other opponents. But the latter did not know that they were fighting against Pandavas. They presumed that they were Brahmans. Karna wondered whether his opponent was Parasurama or Indra or Vishnu. He knew that no one except Indra and Arjuna was capable of fighting against him. But the Pandavas including Arjuna had died in the house of lac, he believed. If so, who was his opponent?
Arjuna, hiding his identity, said that he was a Brahman superior to all armed warriors and who had mastered the Brahma and Indra missiles. He had the support of the judiciary and the aristocracy, he implied. Karna realising that he would not be able to overcome the superior Brahma influence (tejas) of Arjuna withdrew from the battle. At the same time Bhima defeated Salya in wrestling. Yudhishtira signalled to him not to kill Salya. Yudhishtira defeated Duryodhana while Sahadeva defeated Duhsasana and Nakula another brother of Duryodhanas brothers.
While the Brahmans applauded the victorious Pandavas, the Kshatriya princes wondered who those Brahman warriors were. They knew that only Parasurama, Drona, Arjuna, Krshna and Krpacharya were capable of defeating Karna (son of Radha, a charioteer). They also knew that only Balarama, Bhima and Duryodhana could bring down Salya of Madra in wrestling. Krshna was convinced that the two were sons of Kunti and told the assembled kings that Draupadi had been secured in accordance with the provisions of dharma, (that is, only kshatriyas had won her) and asked those kings to withdraw from battle.
The other spectators went back saying that Brahmans who had attained greatness had obtained Panchali. Led by Arjuna, the Pandavas and Draupadi reached the potters house where Kunti was waiting anxiously for the return of her sons with alms. She feared for a while that her sons despite the assurance given by Vyasa might have been killed by rakshasas.
Bhima and Arjuna told their mother in a lighter vein that they had brought Draupadi as alms for they were in the guise of Brahmans who could receive only alms from others. Without noticing what they had brought she asked them to eat together what they had brought. Then on seeing Krshna she realised her mistake and asked Yudhishtira to find a way by which she would be saved from having directed them to do something that was against dharma. She did not want her word to be proved false and the princess of Panchali to be made to do a wrong act. This was obviously a later attempt to defend Kunti from the charge of having compelled Draupadi to yield to the advances of all her sons, being unable to favour any one of them against others.
Yudhishtira noticed that his younger brothers had placed the daughter of King Drupada in the charge of their mother. As a king (raja) who adhered to the social laws, dharma, he told Arjuna that as the latter had won Draupadi in the contest and as he would be making her future bright he should take her hands (panigraha) in the presence of Agni. In his capacity as a father, Drupada had gifted her as a virgin (kanyadana) to Arjuna and performed the necessary rites in sign of that. As she was a Gandharva, her brother Drshtadyumna had handed her over to Arjuna on his victory as the person selected by her as her spouse (svayamvara). These did not require the presence of the priest (official, Agni). But the marriage would have been completed only with panigraha, which required attestation by the civil judge, Agni.
Arjuna did not want to violate the code by jumping the order of precedence in getting married. As he and his brothers had to obey the orders of Yudhishtira, he should do what would make dharma glorious and what would be good to the king of Pancala. The beauty of Draupadi had enchanted every one of the Pandavas. Yudhishtira, remembering Vyasas counsel and to prevent rise of mutual enmity among the brothers, declared that Draupadi should become the wife of all of them.
Janamejaya wanted to know why Krshna did not draw the string of the bow though he was capable of doing so. Vaishampayana told him that Krshna did not do so as he wanted to identify the Pandavas about whose escape he had heard but was not sure. Along with Balarama he went to the potters house and met the Pandavas and saluted Yudhishtira, a king belonging to the lineage of Ajamida and introduced himself as Krshna. The two Yadu brothers saluted their aunt, Kunti. She asked Vasudeva how he discovered them who were staying incognito there. He congratulated them for having escaped from arson. He advised them to keep their identity secret and left for their hostel. It would appear that Krshna revealed his identity only to Kunti and Yudhishtira and did not meet the other Pandavas or Draupadi during this visit.
When Bhima and Arjuna went to the potters house, Drshtadyumna followed them. From his hiding he observed the goings-on in that house. He heard the Pandavas talking about weapons and armies and battles. He went back at night to report to Drupada what he had seen and heard. The ruler of Panchala was anxious to know where Draupadi was living and under what conditions. One who belonged to a higher class, Brahmana, had won her. The king wanted to be assured that this did not lead to her being treated with contempt. He wanted to know who that Brahman was. Drupada had desired that she should marry Arjuna who belonged to the Kurus. Was the archer who hit the target Arjuna? He asked Drshtadyumna to tell him what he had learnt.
Drshtadyumna, the first of the Somakas, younger generals of the lunar groups of kings, told him with delight that the warrior who led away Krshna (Draupadi) after defeating Karna was Arjuna and that the strong youth who plucked the tree for fighting was Bhima. He told Drupada that they had taken her to a potters house outside the town. He guessed that the other three Brahman youths were Arjunas brothers and that the lady there was their mother, Kunti. They all slept on the floor on dry grass. Their conversation indicated that they were Kshatriyas and not Brahmans or Vaisyas or Shudras. Drshtadyumna was sure that they were Pandavas wandering incognito.
Then Drupada sent his counsellor (purohita) to ask them directly on his behalf whether they were Pandavas. He told them that Drupada was always eager that his daughter should become the daughter-in-law of his friend, Pandu, by marrying Arjuna. Yudhishtira without acknowledging openly that they were Pandavas assured the counsellor that he did not want the Somaka king to feel hurt and that what Drupada desired would take place.
Yudhishtira told Drupadas counsellor and envoy that Draupadi had followed the rules set for the contest. He pointed out to the counsellor that the Pancala king had not stipulated any eligibility condition, whether varna or gotra or discipline (acara), and had announced that he would give his daughter to one who hit the target. However, one who did not have mastery over archery or by one born in a lower community or by a commoner could not bring down that target, he said.
He indicated that a trained Kshatriya warrior had won Draupadi. Yudhishtira wanted that counsellor to convey to the king this assurance. While Yudhishtira and the counsellor were talking an envoy from Drupada arrived to invite the Pandavas for a dinner arranged by the king. (Ch.208 Adiparva)
The Pandavas, Kunti and Krshna went to Drupadas palace by the chariots he had sent. They were escorted ceremoniously. Meanwhile the counsellor deputed by the king told him what Yudhishtira had said. Drupada arranged a Kshatriya style welcome to be assured that they were indeed Kshatriyas and Pandavas. The warriors occupied their high seats without feeling shyness or surprise. After eating what they liked they bypassed the tables where rich jewels had been kept and went to where different types of weapons were kept. This indicated their Kshatriya orientation. Drupada and his ministers concluded that the youths were indeed Pandavas. (Ch. 209 Adiparva)
Drupada asked Yudhishtira whether he had to think that they were Kshatriyas or were they Brahmans, Vaisyas or Shudras or wandering Siddhas. To seek Krshnas hands even nobles (devas) had come. Drupada wanted to know whether Yudhishtira and his brothers had been formally inducted into one of these classes (varnas) and if so to which one or whether they claimed exemption like siddhas who had attained perfection in their careers and were no longer bound by the codes of any clan or community or country or class.
He asked Yudhishtira to tell him the truth. He pointed out that kings valued truth (satya). In addition to performing sacrifices and digging ponds, not saying lies was a duty of kings, he said. He said that Yudhishtira had a status equal to that of a devata (a noble of the forests marginally lower than an aristocrat, deva, of the agrarian core society). After hearing Yudhishtiras reply he would begin performing the marriage according to the rules prescribed in the code (sastra), Drupada told him.
Yudhishtira then acknowledged that they were Kshatriyas and sons of Pandu. He also introduced to him their mother as Kunti. He said that he was the eldest son of Kunti. He also introduced Bhima and Arjuna as the ones by whom his daughter was won in the contest in the royal hall. He told that his daughter would be going from one royal family to another royal family. Drupada thanked him for this information and asked him how they had escaped from their town. On hearing Yudhishtiras report, Drupada condemned Dhrtarashtra and promised that he would help him to regain his kingdom. Then Kunti, Krshna and the other Pandavas entered the big palace arranged for them by Drupada.
Gandharva Orientation and Panigraha
Drupada suggested to Yudhishtira after they had their partaken the feast that as it was an auspicious date, Arjuna should take the hand of (panigraha) Draupadi that day itself in conformity with the code (sastra). Yudhishtira said that he was not yet married and that the convention required that he should get married first before his younger brothers did. He asked Drupada for permission to get married first. Drupada then said that he might take her hand (panigraha), marry his daughter or give her (Krshna) to any one nominated by him (Yudhishtira).
Yudhishtira told him that his mother had already said that Draupadi would be the wife of all the Pandavas. Both Yudhishtira and Bhima were not yet married while Arjuna had won her. It was their agreement that would enjoy together whatever they got. They could not break that agreement. They knew that marrying without caring for procedure would harm dharma. Draupadi becoming the wife of all of them was within the framework of dharma, he said. She should marry them all in order of precedence with Agni (the civil judge) as witness. [Bhima had already got united with Hidimba but that was not valid as it was not conducted in the presence of Agni.]
Drupada told him that the social code (sastra) approved a man having many wives. But there was no precedent known of a woman having many husbands. He pointed out that what Yudhishtira had proposed had never been accepted as dharma in practice or in the Vedic code (sastra). He did not expect Yudhishtira who knew dharma and was pure to do something that was against social customs and against Veda and was adharma. Drupada wondered how Yudhishtira got that idea.
Dharma is subtle
Yudhishtira pointed out to Drupada (Vaishampayana told Janamejaya and others), addressing him as maharaja, as a king who had legislative powers also, that dharma was subtle. We do not know how it proceeds. We only follow the traditional path that our ancestors followed. He was referring to kuladharma. His lips would not utter lies and his mind would not go along the path of adharma, he asserted. His mother also had said what he said. He too was for all the brothers marrying Draupadi.
Yudhishtira claimed that he had heard of this method when he was in the asrama (abode of the sage) from Vyasa whom Rudra had sent. He was sure that what he had proposed was within the framework of dharma. [Vaishampayana, a disciple of Dvaipayana, claimed that polyandry was permitted by the Rudra school of thought.] Drupada might conduct the rites without having any doubt in his mind about the validity of this polyandrous marriage, he said.
Drupada who belonged to the Somakas could not question the views expressed by Rudra. Then Drupada asked him to consult Kunti and Drshtadyumna and decide what rites were to be performed and Drupada would get them done the next morning. Drupada, it is obvious, was not convinced that polyandrous marriage was a valid practice and was not prepared to give away Draupadi in marriage to the five princes. His doubts could not be cleared until Vyasa arrived on the scene.
The Pandavas and Drupada welcomed that great sage, Dvaipayana. Drupada requested Vyasa to tell him the exact position about the practice of polyandry to which his foster-daughter was being subjected. Vyasa wanted to know first from each of them his or her view about this social law, dharma, which was against the views of the social world (loka) of commonalty and against the directions given in the Veda and which was still not given a definite status.
Drupada said that in his view it was against the views of the world and Veda, and hence it was adharma. A woman did not become the wife of many. Polyandry was not followed by the ancestors and by great persons. Those who knew laws and traditions should never do what was against dharma. Hence he had not decided to conduct the marriage. He was leaving it to others to decide. He said that this practice had always been suspect.
Drshtadyumna, addressing Vyasa as a Brahmajnani (one who knew the social constitution, Brahma, which was superior to social law, dharma) asked how an elder brother whose conduct was good have union with the wife of his younger brother. As dharma was subtle they would not be able to know by any method its conclusion. He and his like could not decide whether it was within the framework of dharma or was adharma. Hence they could not accept that Krshna could be the wife of all the five.
Yudhishtira said that he would not utter lies and would not think of doing anything that was adharma. As his mind had thought of it, it could not be against dharma in any way. He cited the example of Jatila of Gautama clan who was with seven sages according to the legends and of Varkshi who was with ten Pracetas brothers. He requested Vyasa who knew the provisions of social laws, dharma, to say how he could ignore the directive of his mother that they should enjoy Draupadi together even as they ate together the food received by them as alms.
Satya and Dharma
Kunti said that things had happened as narrated by Yudhishtira who never deviated from dharma. She had directed Arjuna to eat the alms with his brothers. She was afraid of being trapped in lie. She wanted to know how she could escape the sin of lie. She wanted to function within the framework of the laws based on truth (satya) which had not been repudiated by the rational and liberal laws (dharma). Vyasa then told the king of Pancala that polyandry was a dharma, a valid practice that had been there always.
In other words it was not to be treated as an aberration that was cropping up anew. He endorsed Yudhishtiras stand that it was a valid social practice and had a place in the social code (sastra). Then he told Drupada how polyandry was valid and how Draupadi had been given earlier a boon that would make that princess, wife of five nobles (devas). (Was it a boon or a curse?) He was referring to her tapas before he adopted her as his daughter and to the boon given to her by Isvara (Samkara).
Vyasa advised Drupada not to be upset by his daughter being required to have five husbands. It was the result of what her mother had prayed for when Drupada adopted this girl at the yajna, sacrifice conducted by Yaja and his assistant, Upayaja, who did not deviate from dharma. The two scholars had prescribed for her five husbands. Hence five obtained Krshna as wife, Vyasa said. This was another explanation that laid the blame on the priests who officiated on the occasion when Draupadi was given in adoption to Drupada. Then Vyasa told Drupada another reason for Draupadi becoming the wife of five.
Nalayani, a beautiful girl, was attending on Maudgalya, an aged sage, who was suffering from leprosy. She would be eating what he left uneaten. Pleased with her service he permitted her to seek a boon. She expressed the desire that he should divide his body into five parts and get re-formed into one body and enjoy her. He agreed to grant that boon. This story may not be interpreted as one based on the concept of rebirth. Nalayani and Maudgalya roamed as a young attractive couple. Besides the abodes of sages, they visited the enclave of nobles (devaloka) and enjoyed the company of the sages (devarshis) there.
Identity of Nalayani
When they were at the abode of Indra, the head of the nobles, his consort, Indrani, called Nalayani as Indrasena. Maudgalya left her there to go away to the mountains. But she followed him as a commoner whatever guise he took to shed her. Vyasa implied that the different forms that Maudgalya took indicated his diverse (five) traits and powers. Nalayani had a spouse who could fit in different social cadres but like Arundati and Sita was an adherent of the rigorous rules of monogamy. According to Vyasa, Nalayani was greater than her mother, Damayanti who was wife of Nala. It was this girl who was presented to Drupada as his daughter. Krshna was presented to him as the daughter of a noble (devakanya).
Drupada wanted to know from Vyasa why Nalayani emerged in his sacrifice as Krshna. Vyasa said that Maudgalya who was tired of roaming with Nalayani abandoned her to follow the path of salvation, moksha, and was contemplating about the Ultimate (Brahma). As Nalayani continued to seek pleasure from that jurist (brahmarshi) he directed her to go to the world of commoners (manushyas) and become the daughter of Drupada, king of Pancala. He told her that as a princess she would have five famous and handsome husbands from whom she would get pleasure for a long time. What she sought was not sexual pleasure. Vaishampayana held this offer to be a curse rather than a boon.
Samkara, the Pasupati and Isvara
Nalayani went to the forest to pray to Samkara whom the nobles (deva) too worshipped as their superior authority. Giving up all desires and all food she prayed to him facing Surya (Aditya) even while standing in the midst of the five domestic fires. Samkara who was the chief of all domestic animals (Pasupati) and the charismatic benevolent chief (Isvara) of all the social worlds (lokas) was pleased with her strenuous effort, tapas, and told her that she would have in her next career (janma) five husbands who would be equal to Indra of the nobles (devas) in appearance and prowess. The chronicler in a lighter vein explains that as she had prayed five times for a husband she was granted five husbands.
Nalayani protested that monogamy was an ancient law, dharma, prescribed for women while polygamy was permissible for men and many men practised polygamy. A wife was to perform all socio-cultural acts (dharma) only along with one husband. This was the dharma prescribed by the ancient sages for women. Vyasa disapproved a girl being required to marry an old man. The husband should be young (at the time of marriage). Social legislators like Vyasa did not overlook the emotions and desires of women. The laws of exigency provided for a second husband provided the first husband directed her to have another husband (and procreate a son for the first). It was in fact a directive that women should not be subjected to live as wife with a diseased or impotent husband for all time.
Nalayani noted that a woman should never have intercourse with a third man. If she violated this rule she would have to perform penance. If she joined with a fourth person she would be declared a fallen woman (patita) and cast out of the community. If she united with a fifth man she would be declared to be a prostitute. As the social laws (dharma) had prescribed this approach she did not like to be the wife of many men. She asked Samkara how she could escape from the consequences of the act that was adharma and was not practised in the world (of commoners).
Mahesvara (the great benefactor who had powers of legislators) told her that earlier women were not under any (social) restraint and that the laws of nature (rta), which were in force then held that a union, which a woman entered into when she had to get her urge for sex fulfilled was valid and no guilt would be attached to it. If she followed that procedure she would not be doing anything against the principles of social laws, that is, any adharma act.
The laws of nature, rta, were in force during the pre-Vedic and early Vedic times. Puritanical laws based on truth, satya, superseded these permissive laws during the middle and later Vedic times. By the end of the Vedic era, the laws based on dharma, which took into account the existence of diverse practices supplemented these laws based on truth, satya. The issue of polyandry and morality needs to be debated in the background of the shift in emphasis, from Rta to Satya and then from Satya to Dharma. The principles of Dharma accommodated both the laws based on nature, Rta, and those based on truth, Satya. They were considerate to the needs and practices of every section of the larger society.
Nalayani agreed that she would indulge in sex only till she was yet young and would have sex only with one husband at a time and not yield to sex orgy of being required to have sex with all husbands at the same time. She had only nursed her previous husband, Maudgalya, a patient of leprosy, and not had sexual union with him though they were joyous in the company of each other. Addressing her as one who was virtuous and not guilty of any sin, Samkara told her that the pleasure of sex did not accord with the fruits of strenuous search (tapas) for truth. But in her new career she should try to obtain both and also realise the greatness of yoga (which required self-restraint in all acts).
Samkara predicted that she would be fortunate and have five handsome youths. He asked her to bring to him the man whom she would see while standing in the waters of Ganga and who would have the dignity of Indra. As that benefactor (Isvara) directed her thus, she went around Rudra and then to Ganga, which flows from the high mountains to the deep seas through the plains.
It may be noted here that Siva, Samkara, Visalaksha, or Mahadeva or Mahesvara belonged to the Rudra school of thought that flourished in the woods around the core society. Rudra had by the end of the Vedic times ceased to be an activist. The term, Isvara, was used to indicate the charismatic benefactor who had his seat in the woods and mountains rather than in the agro-pastoral plains. Later all these were deified and Siva (Rudra) was described as the furious god of destruction. [In Krshnas view, Samkara was the best among the thinkers belonging to the school of Rudras.]
Debate on the role of Rudra
The debate in Drupadas court then veered round the role of Rudra in promoting a new outlook during the Vedic times. Vyasa told Drupada (to be precise, Vaishampayana then told the king, Janamejaya) that the nobles were once performing in the Naimisha forest a joint sacrifice (satrayajna) on completion of their course of studies. In that sacrifice, the Vedic official designated as Yama who ensured that there was no violation of the rules, killed the animals that entered the protected area. [This was not sacrifice of animals including cows.]
But this official, Yama, who was authorised to regulate the entry of men, did not harm any one who was recognised as the subject (praja) of the organised janapada. Most of these prajas belonged to the social periphery and to the woods. Of course the natives (jana) of the rural plains could not attend the sacrifice conducted by the nobles who like them belonged to the core society and lived in devapuras.
While the natives of a given territory were referred to as jana and their birth-rights and the restrictions on their movements could not be tampered with, the new citizens of the expanded janapada were referred to as prajas. The latter could visit their old homes and get attenuated in the orientations prescribed for such entrants by which they followed the codes of the janapada concerned without losing their rights to follow the best of the traditions of their earlier regions, whether of aristocratic enclaves (devapuras) or industrial areas (antariksham) or of nomadic groups including those of the free intelligentsia (nagas and sarpas, gandharvas, apsarases etc.)
Prajas as new citizens
The new citizens, prajas who had been given permission to stay for a limited duration away from their janapada and attended this sacrifice (attenuation programme) were not treated as intruders and absentees from their duties. More of such new citizens were encouraged to attend this course so that the social polity might benefit. But this upset the then prevalent ratio in strength and difference in quality between the elite (devas) and the commonalty (manushyas), the two sections of the core society.
Vedic officials like Indra, Soma, Varuna and Kubera (representing the population of the four regions, east, north, west and south) and elite cadres like Saddhyas, Rudras, Vasus and Asvins (directing the intellectuals, soldiers-cum-administrators, bourgeoisie and landlords and agrarian proletariat respectively) and others approached Brahma who had prescribed the social structure and the relations among the different social worlds (lokas). [Brahma was the designation of the head of the constitution bench.] They sought protection against the threat emanating from the increase in the population of the commonalty, which was composed mainly of workers.
The new constitution, Brahma as introduced by Vaivasvata
Brahma (the chief judge of the constitution bench) asked why the nobles (devas) feared the commoners (manushyas). The nobles said that attending that course for cultural orientation had improved the standards of the commoners and hence the distinction between the privileged like the nobles who enjoyed several immunities and were known as amaras and the new commonalty earlier known as martya, the insentient, had almost disappeared. They wanted Brahma to introduce in the constitution a distinction between the nobles (devas) and the new trained commonalty (prajas), recognised citizens (distinct from jana and manushyas, natives and commoners).
Lifting of death sentence would place commoners on par with elite
Brahma, the chief judge and great intellectual, explained that Manu Vaivasvata (also known as Yama, the controller) had taken charge of the seminar, satrayajna, and hence the commoners could not be subjected to death sentence for any offence. Earlier, only the nobles enjoyed this immunity. Vaivasvata had a purpose behind such declaration and after that purpose was served the very class of commonalty would disappear. The new legislation approved by Manu Vaivasvata had brought all the commoners (manushyas, prthvi) under the scheme of four varnas and granted them all equal protection and equal rights provided they paid one sixth of their earnings as tax. They were no longer required to pay tributes (bali) to the mighty or offer sacrifices (yajna) to the nobles.
Brahma (the head of the constitution bench) told the nobles that the new legislation approved by Vaivasvata had divided the insentient society of commoners into classes and that they had been strengthened by the inclusion of the nobles in them. He did not welcome this move and feared that it would not work in the interests of the commoners and that the new system of classes would ultimately cause the annihilation or withering away of the commonalty (loka, of manushyas), which had no class (varna) distinctions.
When the commonalty (manushyas) which stood distinct from the nobility ceased to exist as a structure that could coerce all its members to follow the traditions of the clans and communities and protected them against coercion by the ruling elite (devas) and the latter was merged in the new structure based on four classes, there would be no power left with the commoners to coerce the elite.
The four varnas would be composed only of those nobles and commoners who had opted to join them and follow the rules prescribed for those classes. With the assurance that the sections of the masses who did not come under the scheme of social classes (varnas) would not be able to resist the orders and desires of the elite, the nobles were satisfied and went to attend the seminar.
Indra and Isvara
While the nobles sat at the place near the Ganga where the course was being conducted, Indra saw a white lotus and a girl in distress. When he enquired why she was weeping she took him to a mountain cave where a young girl was playing dice with a young boy. As that boy did not notice him, Indra scolded him for not showing respect to him who with the status of Isvara controlled that commune (loka). But the boy who he was talking to was Isvara and on realising it Indra stood still. When Isvara, the short charismatic chief of the social periphery touched Indra, the chief of the nobles, the latter fell down. He told Indra to enter the mountain cave. Indra saw there four other personages like him. Isvara had restricted their movements. Indra feared that he too might meet with the same fate.
Siva as Girisa was the charismatic benefactor and ruler of the peoples of the mountains. He warned Sakra Indra (who had a hundred exploits to his credit as Satakratu) against belittling Isvara. Indra then acknowledged to Isvara who had taken the form of a chief controlling the entire varied social cosmos, Visvarupa, that the latter had the first place amongst all social chiefs. Isvara told him that the chiefs who had earlier behaved in an arrogant manner had been deposed and kept in that cave. According to the legend Siva condemned Sakra Indra to imprisonment there until he and the four others married the girl who had escorted him there. In other words, the proponents of the elitist school of thought were forced to work in unison with the commonalty and not despise the latter as weaklings.
Sakra and those four other Indras were fit only to be commoners (manushyas), Siva pronounced. But they would be eligible to use the missiles that belonged to the nobility (devas) and defeat the enemies who belonged to the commonalty (manushyas) and would return to the world of nobles headed by Indra. Isvara also directed them to perform certain other useful acts. The four persons who had held the position of Indra earlier accepted their demotion to the social world (loka) of commonalty (manushyas). They however desired to be treated as persons whose mother belonged to the commonalty but their father an official belonging to the nobility, as a Dharma or Vayu or Indra or an Asvinideva. Sakra told Isvara that he would give his son by a commoner as their junior brother.
Vyasa told Drupada that Isvara ordained that the woman in distress who escorted Sakra Indra to the cave would marry all these five persons, Visvabuk, Bhutadama, Sibi, Santi and Tejasvi. With them, Isvara (Siva) went to the sage, Narayana.
Nara and Narayana
They all went to the first of the nobles, Nara (a sage who was intimately associated with Narayana) and declared him to be a commoner born to Indra. Nara had the status of a free man and belonged to the lower stratum of gandharvas almost equal to the commoners, manushyas. The chronicler implied that the nobles could not expect their offspring to be granted the status of nobles. It was not birth in an aristocratic family but merit acquired through deeds performed as a free man (nara) that would enable such offspring to rise to the nobility.
The five Pandavas were expected to assume the position of Indra held earlier by the four deposed Indras who were imprisoned in the northern mountain cave and by Sakra Indra. Vyasa also told Drupada who continued to be sceptical that Draupadi who was adorned and dressed like a devakanya, a girl belonging to the nobility, was earlier known as rajalakshmi, symbolising the wealth of the state or king, authority over which was vested in Indra. He pointed out to Drupada that unless the nobles had issued the necessary orders she could not have risen from the commonalty (bhumi) at the sacrifice performed by him.
She enjoyed the patronage of the Vedic officials, Surya and Chandra, the class of warriors-cum-administrators (Kshatras) and the class of sober intellectuals (Brahmans). Vyasa enabled Drupada to observe all happenings from the standpoint of the nobles (divyadrshti). He also enabled Drupada to see the earlier Indras whose roles the Pandavas were expected to play. Vyasa presented the Pandavas dressed like Indra, Agni and Aditya. As Vyasa presented the Pandavas and Draupadi in the form of members of the nobility Drupada lauded his ability to present such a wonderful new scene.
Bhaumadevi and Manushyadharma
Vyasa also narrated to Drupada the episode of five sons, all famous archers, of an earlier aged Rajarshi who were friendly with each other and functioned in unison and had all married the daughter of Sibi, a famous emperor. [They were gandharvas for whom polyandry was not barred.] Bhaumasvi, who belonged to the cadres of manushya-gandharvas, had done so voluntarily at a svayamvara programme. Her offspring established five separate lineages. Vyasa told Drupada that Krshna who was in the form of a devata (a member of the nobility who had a status less than that of a deva or devi and who belonged to the social periphery) was required similarly to be the wife of five persons. Vyasa took care not to refer to her as Draupadi, the daughter of Drupada, thereby underlining the fact that Drupada was only her foster-father and his rights were limited.
He told Drupada how Samkara had told Nalayani, his devotee, who attended on the ailing sage, Maudgalya, that she would have another career (janma) as the wife of five persons. It was what she had earned by her act (karma). This was the position that Brahma, the highest intellectual and jurist had assigned to her. Vyasa then asked Drupada to do, as he desired.
Drupada confessed that he had begun to arrange for the marriage of Draupadi because he had not heard the episodes narrated by Vyasa. He agreed that destiny could not be set at naught and that in this case too it was what was destined that had taken place. The knot that nobility had tied, others could not untie, that is, commoners could not overrule. The Pandavas and Draupadi were both under the jurisdiction of nobles and she was being given to the five brothers in marriage under the rules of daiva marriage that did not look at polyandry as obnoxious. Daiva marriage could not however be annulled.
Faith in Destiny
Drupada wondered whether the concept of faith in destiny indicated lack of faith in human efforts leading to their logical results. He rationalised that what was termed as destined result, was what human act (karma) of the past resulted in the future act or event. [This approach seems to be more rational than the version that nothing is accomplished in this world (of commoners) by ones efforts and that every objective is pre-determined.] Drupada would not blame Samkara for determining that Draupadi would have five husbands. She was to be blamed for making an absurd request or for failing to make the correct request.
Samkara, the head (bhagavan) of the academy, had acceded to her request. That Isvara (charismatic benefactor) knew what solution was the best. Drupada would not dare to blame Samkara or hold him to have promised any boon thoughtlessly. He gave the boon as she sought earlier. If Samkara had determined so, whether it was within the framework of the socio-cultural code (dharma) or not, Drupada would not be in the wrong by following that great ideologue. He permitted Krshna to marry the Pandavas as determined in accordance with the code (sastra).
Eight Types of Marriage and Dharmasastra
Dharmasastras deal with the types of marriages that members of the different social classes (varnas) are advised to follow. Brahma, Arsha, Daiva, Prajapatya have been declared to be Dharma marriages. In these marriages there is no economic transaction (artha) or element of sexual attraction (kama). Brahmans are entitled to follow them. Of these Brahma marriage involved giving away to the suitable groom of a girl by her father before she attained the age of consent, that is, three years after puberty, by kanyadana. Arsha marriage, which the sages followed, had this feature of kanyadana but the girl was not necessarily the daughter of a sage and the groom was often his former disciple. It was a social welfare system. As the groom offered a cow and a calf in return this type was similar to asura type of marriage and disapproved by most of the legislators.
Daiva marriage too was a social welfare step but the groom to whom the noble gave away as wife the girl in his charge was induced with liberal gifts to accept her. Often such girls were not virgins and they could express whether they consented to marry the selected grooms. Prajapatya marriage was meant to ensure that the girl became a mother by accepting as her husband the person appointed by the chief of the community as her husband. She could not express her view though she was an adult. Asura marriage was virtual sale and purchase of girls as wives mainly to serve the husbands and their parents. It was condemned and banned. Gandharva marriage was voluntary union of two adults and it was open to all classes. Rakshasa marriage involved abduction of the girl and Paisaca marriage was enticing the girl. These two were not approved.
Vyasa and Drupada were dealing with the types of marriages that were in vogue before the commonalty was brought under the system of four social classes (varnas). The pre-varna Vedic core society had nobles (devas), feudal lords (asuras), free intellectuals and warriors (gandharvas) and commoners (manushyas) as the four classes. Drupadas was an age of transition from the pre-varna Vedic social order to the post-Vedic varna social system. With the feudal lords (asuras) no longer in a dominant position in the society, the nobles (devas), the sages (rshis), gandharvas and manushyas were the main social strata in the agro-pastoral plains before the four-varnas scheme was introduced.
The commoners (manushyas) were organised in clans (kulas) and communities (jatis) and followed their respective practices, kuladharmas and jatidharmas. The commoners (manushyas) would not be justified in practising what the elite (devas) practised, Vyasa told Drupada. Draupadi and the Pandavas had been born to members of the nobility and were closer to the elite than to the commonalty. Draupadi was a rajalakshmi before Drupada adopted her as his daughter. She became the wife of all the Pandavas because Samkara had directed her to become so. This polyandrous marriage was not within the methods prescribed or permitted by Manu Vaivasvata as valid social law (dharma).
Draupadi's was Daiva marriage. It was not Prajapatya or Brahma or Arsha marriage, which did not permit a woman to have more than one husband at a time. Men and women of the commonalty were not to resort to polyandry. Only for members of the elite (daivam) a marriage of the type between Draupadi and the Pandavas was valid according to the code (sastra), Vyasa pronounced. Then Vyasa and Drupada went to the place where the Pandavas and Kunti and Drshtadyumna were staying. Vyasa directed first Yudhishtira to take the hand of Krshna. Then he asked Bhima and others to take her hand in the order of seniority in age. Vyasa told them that he had witnessed the earlier incidents of polyandrous marriages. After this marriage was over the kings friends, ministers and Brahmans (jurists) and the people of the city were allowed to witness the other proceedings of the marriage.
Dhoumya, the rajapurohita (political counsellor) of the Pandavas, supervised the marriage proceedings. He brought together Yudhishtira and Draupadi in marriage in the presence of sages who were equal to Agni in status and then with the permission of Yudhishtira took other Brahmans to Drupada and requested him for permission to conduct the marriage of the other Pandavas with Draupadi by taking the hand of the virgin (kanya), for panigrahana. Drupada gave the permission to the delight of the princes. The marriage programme lasted five days with each prince needing one day to go through the proceedings.
Narada, a devarshi, later described a significant feature of this polyandrous marriage of persons who did not belong to the commonalty (manushyas). This feature was not objectionable in the case of a marriage involving nobles (devas) or gandharvas.