Mahabharata Episode 25: Jayadratha Abducts Draupadi

Jayadratha Abducts Draupadi - Featured Image - Picture of Shiva's Trishul

In this series of posts, I am reconstructing the Mahabharata as a sequence of episodes.

This will provide a quick and easy way for someone new to the story to become acquainted with it.

(For the previous post in this series, see Episode 24: Karna Conquers the World. To access the full repository of Mahabharata episodes, see: 60 Mahabharata Episodes that Tell You the Whole Story.)

Jayadratha Spots Draupadi

Once, during their stay in Kamyaka, the Pandavas leave Draupadi alone at the hermitage and go hunting. Right at that time, a group of kings happens to pass by, with Jayadratha at their head.

He is the king of Sindhu, son of Vriddhakshatra. He is on his way to the kingdom of Salwa in order to attend a swayamvara.

When they reach Lake Trinavindu, they stop for a while to rest and refresh their horses. Jayadratha takes a walk around the place then and spots Draupadi, standing on the porch of her hut, leaning against the branch of a kadam tree.

He immediately is caught off-guard by Panchali’s incandescent beauty. Addressing a friend of his called Kotika, he says, ‘Is this an Apsara that has descended from heaven to sport in these woods, my friend? Or is she a daughter of a celestial? No human maiden I have seen before exudes grace like this one. Go and find out all you can about her.’

(Jayadratha’s words here suggest that he does not know Draupadi by sight. He is already married to Dusshala, sister of Duryodhana, so we can only wonder how he had not met Draupadi by now. Maybe the Pandavas didn’t attend the wedding.)

Draupadi Shows Disinterest

Kotika plays the messenger by engaging Draupadi in conversation. He approaches her and gives her an introductory account of all the kings that have stopped by the Trinavindu. ‘At the head of the chariots is King Jayadratha, my lady,’ he says, ‘the king of the Sauviras. He intends to know whose wife and daughter you are.’

Draupadi lets go of the branch and inches closer to the door of her cottage, casting one nervous eye around her to see if the Pandavas were nearby. ‘It is not proper that I should speak to you here, good sir, but since you told me all about the kings that have come here, I shall give you my details too.

‘They call me Krishnaa. I am the daughter of King Drupada of Panchala. I am also the wife of the Pandavas – Yudhishthir, Bhimasena, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. I accepted all five of them as my husbands while they were living in Khandavaprastha.

‘I shall inform them of your arrival; my lord Yudhishthir is fond of entertaining guests here, and I am certain that he will invite you here once he returns from his day at hunting.’

Kotika takes the message back to Jayadratha. The young prince, having now known who the object of his affection is, has the opportunity to respectfully withdraw, but chooses to pursue Draupadi.

Jayadratha Abducts Draupadi

Accompanied by six other men, Jayadratha nears the cottage and waits for her to open the front door. Smiling, he says, ‘My respects to you, excellent one. I trust that the sons of Pandu are faring well?’

‘All my husbands and I have all that we can ask for, Your Majesty,’ replies Draupadi. ‘Please enter and wait for them to return. Accept this water for washing your feet. Once my lord Yudhishthir returns, I dare say we will be able to offer you the best of deer meat that you have ever eaten.’

‘That does sound tempting,’ says Jayadratha, entering the hut, blocking the doorway with his heavy frame. ‘But I have come to ask you if you would consent to become my wife, O Panchali. I will make you queen of Sindhu and Sauvira. Forsake these men who have heaped nothing but misfortune upon you.’

Draupadi suddenly realizes that she is in a compromised position. She does not openly reject Jayadratha, but attempts to delay him with long speeches. Jayadratha does not rise to the bait, though; with his patience running out, he seizes her and carries her away to his chariot.

The Pandavas Return

On their return, the Pandavas notice that Draupadi is nowhere to be found. They learn from Sage Dhaumya and a maid at the hermitage (named Dhatrika) what had happened, and turn their chariots to follow the tracks left by Jayadratha’s horses.

In no time at all they catch up to them, and when the king of Sindhu spots the five men on their trail, he says to Draupadi, ‘I suspect that these are your husbands, Panchali. Tell me which of the Pandavas rides which of these chariots.’

Draupadi replies, ‘This deed you have committed – whereby you carried away another man’s wife without first defeating him – is certain to shorten your life, O King. What good will knowing the identities of these heroes do you? But I will still tell you, for it fills me with pride to speak of my husbands.’

Draupadi now points out and describes each of her husbands to her kidnapper – in the following manner.

Draupadi Describes

‘Look at the warrior at the head of the five chariots,’ says Draupadi, ‘he of the golden complexion, prominent nose, large eyes, and a slender build. He is Yudhishthir, the very personification of virtue on Earth.

‘He is known to grant life to even an enemy, so if you wish to escape certain death, O Prince, you would do well to beg forgiveness of this man.

‘Behold the warrior to his left, sitting in his chariot biting his nether lip, his brows contorted in a deep frown. He has arms as sturdy as a full-grown sala tree. The strength of ten thousand elephants course through his muscles.

‘He has killed numerous Rakshasas over the years. He is known never to forget a slight, and is forever eager to claim vengeance. He is known around the three worlds by the name of Bhimasena.

‘Now look to Yudhishthir’s right, his staunchest disciple, the world’s supreme bowman. He can shoot arrows with both arms equally well; he has pleased the celestials and procured all of their great weapons, though he will not use them on a flea such as you!

‘He exercises remarkable control over his senses, does Dhananjaya, and you will never find him quick to anger or passion. His is the voice of reason that keeps Vrikodara on the right path.

‘The sword-bearing one on horseback that gallops in our direction is Nakula, the fourth of my husbands, the handsomest of men, possessed of extreme lightness of hand.

‘Today you will witness his performance in the field of battle, O King; watch your forces get decimated by the speed of this great warrior.

‘And the last, the youngest of the Pandavas, is Sahadeva, who is also on horseback. Dearer to Kunti than her own soul, there is none in the world of men that equals Sahadeva’s wisdom and foresight.

‘These five warriors will rout all your soldiers in a trice, Wretched One, and then you will realize the full extent of your action.’

Jayadratha Flees

While Drauapdi is filling Jayadratha in on her husbands, they have already broken into the king’s ranks and have begun to hack the infantrymen down mercilessly in their bid to reach the chariots.

All the Kshatriyas that have accompanied Jayadratha now attempt to defend him, but they are found to be no match to the skills of the Pandavas.

Realizing that his army has no chance, Jayadratha lets Draupadi go and flees the field of battle. The Pandavas take some time – engrossed in fighting as they are – to notice his absence, and once they do, Arjuna stops Bhimasena from mindlessly slaughtering the Saindhava footmen.

‘Our enmity is not with these men, Brother,’ he says. ‘Let us follow that king of Sindhu and teach him a lesson.’ And turning to Yudhishthir, he says, ‘Take Panchali and return to the hermitage, Brother. Await our return.’

Five Tufts of Hair

Arjuna and Bhima set out in pursuit of Jayadratha, and even though the Saindhava is a full two miles ahead of them, Arjuna manages to kill his horses with well-aimed arrows.

They quickly come abreast of him, and with Jayadratha still intent on running away, they taunt him with words. ‘How is it that a man so shorn of manliness dared to commit such a rash act of stealing the wife of the Pandavas?’ says Arjuna.

‘And how is it that the king of Sindhu fled the battlefield, leaving all his followers in the midst of his enemies? Do they not teach you valour back in your country?’ says Bhima.

Jayadratha is not interested in talking, though, and he tries to run away again. But Bhima and Arjuna capture him and chain him to a chariot. Bhima wants to kill the Saindhava king, but Arjuna reminds him that Jayadratha – as the husband of Dusshala – is a kinsman.

Frustrated at this minor detail, Bhima chooses to punish Jayadratha with shame. Taking a crescent arrow, he shaves off Jayadratha’s head and leaves five tufts of hair on his scalp.

‘I might not be allowed to kill you, Prince,’ says Bhima, ‘but I sure can make sure that you never forget this battle. Whenever you go out onto the streets in your native land, make sure you proclaim to the hawkers and traders that you are a slave to the Pandavas.’

Yudhishthir Pardons Jayadratha

Chaining him to a chariot, Bhima and Arjuna drag him back to the hermitage by the Trinavindu, where Yudhishthir and Draupadi – along with Nakula and Sahadeva – are waiting outside their hut. Bhima grabs Jayadratha and sends him sprawling into the dust.

A smiling Yudhishthir looks down at the vanquished prince. ‘I have no intention of taking you captive, O Jayadratha,’ he says. ‘My brothers have punished you enough. Go. You are a free man.’

Jayadratha salutes Yudhishthir and leaves the place with his head bowed. But the shame rankles in his heart.

Soon after his return to Sindhu, he embarks upon a year of extreme hardships in order to propitiate Lord Shiva. When the god appears and grants him a boon, he asks, ‘Make me so strong, O Pasupati, that I will be able to defeat all five Pandavas during a live war.’

But Shiva gives him a boon with a little bit of a twist.

Jayadratha’s Boon

Shiva smiles and shakes his head. ‘The third Pandava, Arjuna, is none other than a reincarnation of Sage Nara, O Jayadratha, he who has become a legend in your world on account of all the austerities he performed while in the forest of Vadari.

‘He holds the Pashupatastra in his quiver as we speak, for I have given it to him on a previous occasion. It is quite simply impossible to vanquish him in battle.

‘And who is his friend and well-wisher! Krishna is none other than Narayana, the one we call Vishnu. In the bygone days, it is he who assumed the form of a sacrificial boar and rescued Earth from sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

‘In this yuga, for the necessary annihilation of a number of evil-seeking men born in the world as Kshatriyas, he has taken birth in the Yadu clan as Krishna. With this man giving Arjuna all the support that he needs, can anyone in the three worlds hope to defeat the Pandavas?

‘But I will make it so that you will be able to defeat four of them – with the exception of Arjuna – over the course of one single day. On this day, you will prove to be more skilled than Yudhishthir, Bhimasena, Nakula and Sahadeva combined.

‘You will, as a result, bring about a pivotal point in the conflict between good and evil, and you will be hailed a great hero by your allies.’


This boon of Jayadratha comes true on the thirteenth day of the Kurukshetra war. With Arjuna being engaged in battling the Samsaptakas, the remaining four brothers entrust Abhimanyu with breaking into the Chakravyuha.

They plan to follow him deep into the enemy ranks. But Jayadratha blocks their progress and ensures Abhimanyu is left alone at the mercy of Drona, Ashwatthama, Kripa and others.

Of course, this is also avenged on the very next day by Arjuna, who breaks through Drona’s ‘impenetrable array’ and kills Jayadratha and his father Vriddhakshatra with a single arrow.

Further Reading

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