Mahabharata Parva 13: The Vaivahika Parva

Mahabharata Parvas - Vaivahika - Featured Image - Picture of Draupadi in a wedding attire

The Mahabharata is a collection of hundred Parvas (or ‘sections’) that tell the story of a long-standing family feud between two sets of cousins – the Kauravas and the Pandavas – for control of the Kuru throne in Hastinapur.

The climactic event of the story is an eighteen-day war that happens between the two factions on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

It is commonly understood that the Pandavas are the protagonists of this tale and the Kauravas the antagonists – though many retellings have appeared over the years that flip this structure.

In this post, we will summarize the Vaivahika Parva.

(For a full summary of the Mahabharata with all hundred Parvas, see Mahabharata Summary: All 100 Parvas Explained.)

Yudhishthir’s Decision

As soon as Krishna and Balarama leave, the matter returns to the question of what Kunti has said and whether the Pandavas should obey the words of someone when they were clearly said by mistake.

However, as the deliberations begin, Yudhishthir notices that all his other brothers are consumed by desire for Draupadi.

He thinks to himself that if Draupadi was to be given just to one of them, the others will burn with envy, and that envy will one day wrench them apart.

His own desire is kept secret from us at this stage of the story, but it would not be presumptuous to assume that he also felt it.

So he makes the decision that Draupadi will take all five brothers as husbands.

What does Arjuna make of it?

Whether this angers Arjuna is not clear. From one point of view, Arjuna must have thought that Draupadi would be his because it was he who passed the challenge of Drupada.

But then, it might have been that he had all the while thought of himself as a regent of the king, so whatever he won in that capacity belongs to the king first.

By that logic, Draupadi belongs to Yudhishthir, and it is he who decides what should happen to her. The practice of a regent winning the princess’s hand on behalf of the king is not new: an example of it is Bhishma winning the princesses of Kasi for Vichitraveerya.

Which of these two was Arjuna’s stance at that moment, we are not told. But when Yudhishthir asks Arjuna to wed Draupadi himself, the younger brother says:

‘Everything we brought back from the palace of Drupada is for you, my king. And that includes the prize we have won in the form of this princess. We therefore await your command on how we must proceed so as to not fall foul of the path of virtue.’

So in a sense, Yudhishthir does take permission from Arjuna to make a decision on the matter.

Drupada Discovers the Truth

Dhrishtadyumna also follows the Pandavas back to their hut. And he arrives just in time at the window to see Kunti advising Draupadi on how to divide alms between themselves.

Later, Dhrishtadyumna overhears the five brothers speak of wars and fighting. This strengthens his suspicion that they’re not Brahmins.

He goes back to Drupada with a report.

‘I think these are the sons of Pandu,’ he says. ‘I have heard some rumours that the bodies they found amid the ashes at Varanavata belong to some imposters, and the real sons of Pandu are still alive with their mother.

‘I tell you, Father, the second of these five brothers bears a great resemblance to Bhimasena from the stories we have heard, and the youth who shot that target this morning – could he be anyone else but Arjuna?’

Drupada then invites the Pandavas to his palace, and asks Yudhishthir who they are. Yudhishthir tells them the truth.


After the Pandavas have revealed themselves to Drupada, and after the customary pleasantries have been exchanged, the king asks Yudhishthir, ‘Shall I call the priest now, to unite Arjuna and Draupadi in marriage?’

To which Yudhishthir replies, ‘O King, I shall have to marry her.’

Drupada, not understanding, says, ‘If you wish to marry her, that is permissible too. Or you can bestow her unto any of your four brothers. The choice is yours, Prince.’

‘No, Your Majesty,’ says Yudhishthir. ‘It has been decided by us that all five brothers will wed Draupadi by the fire, one after the other. Please make arrangements for such a ceremony, for she shall become our common wife.’

Drupada is shocked at this suggestion, but he keeps his thoughts to himself and says with considerable restraint, ‘I have heard of men taking multiple wives, O Prince.

‘But has a woman of virtue ever had more than one husband? By doing this, are you not sending yourselves and my Draupadi down the path of sin?’

Yudhishthir’s Response

‘There is no sin in obeying my mother’s command, Your Highness,’ Yudhishthir says. ‘Morality is subtle and subjective. What we consider sinful today was once pure, and what we consider pure today might one day become blasphemous.

‘All we can do is be true to our hearts, O King, and I am being true to mine.’

At a loss as to how to deal with this situation, Drupada instructs Dhrishtadyumna to enter into a discussion with the Pandavas overnight. ‘You talk among yourselves, and tell me of your decision tomorrow. I shall myself deliberate upon it and do what is proper.’

But just as the prince of Panchala and the Pandavas are about to begin discussions on the matter, Sage Dwaipayana arrives at the palace in course of his wanderings, and he intervenes to advise Drupada on what must be done.

The Intervention of Vyasa

Vyasa listens to all the stakeholders on the issue, and finally takes Drupada aside to talk to him.

In an attempt to convince the king of the merits of bestowing Draupadi as common wife to the Pandavas, narrates the following story:

There was once a time on Earth when Yama, the son of Vaivaswata (Surya), was otherwise employed in killing animals for a great sacrifice in the forest of Naimisha.

This meant that he could not pay attention to his real job, that of taking human lives. Thus, death became eradicated from the planet among men, and the celestials, alarmed at this turn of events, came to Naimisha to implore Yama to get back to his duties.

During this time, Indra noticed a bunch of golden lotuses floating down the Ganga, and pinched by curiosity as to their origin, travelled all the way up to the origin of the river, where he saw a beautiful maiden sitting at the foot of the glacier, shedding tears.

Each tear, when it hit the water, became a golden lotus and got swept away.

‘Who are you, O maiden?’ asked Indra, approaching the woman. ‘And why are you crying?’

The maiden said, ‘Come with me,’ and led Indra to where a handsome youth was sitting atop a mountain peak and playing a game of dice with his consort.

Here, Indra said to the young man, ‘Why do you not stand in my presence, boy? I am the king of the gods. Pay your respects.’

The Five Indras

The young man was none other than Shiva, and the woman he was playing dice with was Parvati. He assumed his real form, and with a movement of his arm, caused the rock behind him to shift, revealing a cave behind it.

‘Enter this cave, Indra,’ he commanded the king of gods. ‘And you shall find four more just like you, who have come to my abode and insulted me. All five of you shall take birth in the land of men for your crime.’

Indra, upon entering, found four more Indras that resembled him in looks and voice. These four were Vishvabhuk, Bhutadaman, Sivi and Santi. The fifth, the one who followed the maiden upriver, was of the name Tejaswin.

Tejaswin now said, ‘If the lord Mahadeva wishes that we should take birth on Earth, then that is so. I shall give a portion of mine in the form of a son to take my place, if that is permissible to you.’

Shiva nodded assent, and then the four other Indras said, ‘We wish to be sired by Vayu, Yama and the Ashwin twins.’

Finishing the story, Vyasa tells Drupada, ‘It is thus that the five Indras came to be born on Earth, O Drupada, and the maiden whose tears were golden lotuses was none other than Sri, the goddess of wealth.

‘She has now taken birth in your house as Draupadi. She is the ordained wife of these five men.’

The Five-day Wedding

This convinces Drupada, and on that very day the wedding of Draupadi to the five Pandava brothers is performed.

Dhaumya, who has accompanied the Pandavas from his hermitage, performs all the required rites. It is said that the five brothers marry Draupadi on five successive days, one after the other.

Kunti blesses Draupadi that she might be as good a wife as Shachi is to Indra, Swaha to Vibhavasu, Rohini to Soma, Damayanti to Nala, Bhadra to Vaishravana, Arundhati to Vasishtha, and Lakshmi to Vishnu.

Krishna, the Yadava prince, heaps gifts upon the newlyweds (cannot say couple) brought from Dwaraka and a host of other countries of Aryavarta, thus establishing himself as a staunch ally of Panchala.

The Vyvahika Parva ends on this note, amid cheers of celebration in Panchala.

Vidura is Sent

Meanwhile, news of this wedding reaches Hastinapur.

Duryodhana and Karna are eager to attack the Pandavas right then, but when the proposal is put before Bhishma and Drona, the two elders aver, recommending instead that the Pandavas should be invited back to Hastinapur.

‘Maybe we should give them a share of the kingdom,’ says Bhishma.

Though reluctant to pursue this course of action, Dhritarashtra finds himself without a choice but to accept. He sends Vidura to the court of Panchala to act as an emissary of peace.

Thus ends the Vaivahika Parva.