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Draupadi’s Swayamvara

Having witnessed the beauty and valour of Arjuna when he fought on behalf of Drona, Drupada was nurturing the desire that the prince who married his daughter would stand up in comparison to the Pandava hero. To test the valour of the suitors, an archery competition was devised for the Swayamvara. An elaborate machine was installed in which there was a moving object. The aspiring prince should shoot five arrows through an orifice and hit the object, a task which none inferior to Arjuna could perform. The bow itself was so heavy that only an Arjuna could lift it.
On the appointed day the city was gaily decorated, even as hundreds of princes rode into Panchala as participants or observers of the Swayamvara. The list of kings read like a who-is-who of royalty of that period. Kalinga, Salya, Duryodhana and his brothers, Sakhuni, Radheya, were all there. Even Balarama and Krishna, the illustrious sons of Vasudeva, turned up for the event.
In the crowd of spectators were the five Pandava brothers, disguised as brahmins. They however did not escape being observed by Krishna who whispered to Balarama, “Behold those five. They must be the Pandavas, escaped from the house of lac.”
One by one the suitors tried their hand at the bow. Amidst ‘hoos and haas’ from the crowd, those who could lift the mighty bow, fixed the arrow and had a go at the target. None succeeded in even clearing the orifice, and it looked as though that Draupadi would have to spend the rest of her life as a maiden.
When Radheya walked into the arena and stringed the bow, there was hope that he would be successful. But the princess declared that she would not marry a person of low class. Radheya had to leave the bow on the ground and withdraw.
When all the assembled princes had failed in the contest, there emerged from among the spectators a brahmin youth, tall, handsome and radiating brilliance. He boldly stepped into the arena and offered to string the bow. There was mixed reaction all around, some of those assembled ridiculing him and some encouraging him. The young man, ignoring all comments, took his stand. Even as the entire assembly watched him with bated breath, he performed the task of hitting the target with consummate ease. And lo! A hero had emerged to claim Draupadi’s hand. Drupada himself was gladdened by the brahmin’s feat and felt relieved that someone in the assembly could pass the test and win Draupadi for his bride.
Yudhishthira and the twins left the hall immediately to carry the happy news of Arjuna’s success in the Swayamvara to their mother.


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