Friday, February 19, 2016

The Mahabharata: Draupadi’s Svayamvara

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Mahabharata: a Book Report, in which I'm slowly reading through the Hindu epic poem The Mahabharata, and writing a book report on what I read. 

The five Pandavas, their mother Kunti, and their new priest friend Dhaumya all traveled together to the kingdom of Pancala, dressed as Brahmin ascetics.  They went to check out princess Draupadi’s svayamvara—a coming-of-age party in which various noble men would compete for her hand in marriage.

Draupadi’s father, king Drupada, had created a challenge for the suitors of his daughter—they must string a very strong bow and use it to strike a high target.  Drupada made this challenge secretly hoping that the great Pandava prince Arjuna would win.  Draupadi’s svayamvara was very well-attended—many suitors came, seeking the princess’s hand.  Also in attendance were many Brahmins, gods, and demons who understood the significance of this event.

One by one, different suitors tried, and failed, to defeat the challenge of the bow.  And then the mighty archer Arjuna stepped forward.  His appearance sparked a debate among learned men, because he was dressed as a Brahmin.  Though Brahmins were the highest caste, they were not usually trained warriors.  And so, it was thought that should Arjuna the “Brahmin” try, and fail, to defeat the challenge, it would bring dishonor to all Brahmins.

But Arjuna knew who he really was.  He was a Ksatriya—a warrior-prince, the greatest archer in the world.  In a flash, he strung the large bow, shot five arrows, and pierced the target!  To everyone’s amazement, this “Brahmin” had defeated king Drupada’s challenge.  Princess Draupadi, seeing that Arjuna was her victorious suitor, gave her husband-to-be a garland of flowers, and the two left the arena together, to thunderous applause.

Arjuna defeats the challenge.

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