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 Draupadi Harana Parva.
(For a full summary of the Mahabharata with all hundred Parvas, see Mahabharata Summary: All 100 Parvas Explained.)
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.’
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, and the young prince smiles to himself at Draupadi’s naivety. Accompanied by six other men, he 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, O vile one.’
Draupadi Describes – Part One
Draupadi points out her husbands one by one. She says: ‘Look at the warrior at the head of the five chariots, 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 courses 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.’
Draupadi Describes – Part Two
Draupadi continues: ‘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.’
While Draupadi 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.’
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.
So ends the Draupadi Harana Parva.