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Fear gripped the heart of Dhritarashtra as he heard these noises. He swore at Duryodhana for having brought about the ruin of the Kauravas. Turning to Draupadi, he told her in a conciliatory tone that he would grant her a boon.

Draupadi asked the king, “Let my husband Yudhisthira, the personification of truth, be freed from his bondage,” The king granted her wish and told Draupadi to seek a second boon. Draupadi desired her other four husbands should be freed from slavery as well. “Granted,” said Dhritarashtra, urging Draupadi to ask for a third boon. Draupadi declined. There was no need for a third boon. She said that her husbands could get back to their old glory, now that they were free.

Dhritarshtra told Yudhisthira, “You are now a free man. Go to Khandavaprastha and rule over your kingdom in peace. Forgive Duryodhana for his rashness. Let brotherly love be restored between you and your cousins.”

Inflamed at Duryodhana’s gesture in showing his bare lap, the angry Bhima flared up once again and swore to the assembly, “When the great fight comes, I would break that offending thigh. If I failed to do so, may I not deserve salvation?”

When Duryodhana taunted the four brothers again to answer Draupadi’s question, Arjuna said that before the game started they were under the sway of Yudhisthira. Now that they have all become slaves, it was for the Kauravas and their king to decide. As he said this, the shrieking whine of a jackal issued from the king’s prayer room. Donkeys brayed and birds shrieked from all sides. Vidura, as well as Gandhari, read the omen very well. This was the signal that the Kauravas were on their way to doom, they thought.

Gloating over their success, Duryodhana and his friends left the hall.

Karna urged Dushasana to drag the dishonoured princess away to where the workingwomen were lodged. He tauntingly told Draupadi that she should abandon her husbands and marry someone who would give her freedom and not gamble her away again. Draupadi stood up and turning to the elders, demanded of them an answer to her question, whether she was won by the Kauravas or not.

Bhishma squirmed in his seat and repeated what he had said before. He confessed that he did not know what was right and what was wrong.

 Draupadi’s question went a-begging. Vidura repeated that having himself become a slave, Yudhisthira had no authority to stake his wife.

Duryodhana jeered at Yudhisthira. “You who are knowledgeable in all departments, you tell the assembly that you have lost Panchali to me.” But Yudhisthira uttered not a word. Baring his left lap and showing it to Panchali, the wicked Duryodhana said that since Yudhisthira had failed to give an answer, let the other four answer the question.
The Pandava brothers removed their upper garments and sat with their heads dropped. Dushasana caught one end of the cloth Draupadi was draped in and started to pull at it. Closing her eyes, her palms joined in prayer, Draupadi cried, “Hey Krishna, thou protector of the weak and the faithful, see thou not the well into which we have fallen? See thou not how the Kauravas are humiliating us? Thou art our only salvation.” And Krishna heard her voice. Appearing in the scene but invisible to everyone, he covered his faithful devotee with many layers of clothes of different colours.

As the miscreant Dushasana tried to remove her scanty dress, Draupadi found herself draped once again in different apparel. Once more Dushasana pulled and yet again new apparel appeared on her. Soon there was a hillock of clothing as Dushasana, his energy giving way, continued in his attempt to disrobe the Panchali princess. Like a river flowing from its source, the clothing kept coming. Until Dushasana fell on the ground, exhausted and numb.

His eyes fiery and his countenance terrible, Bhima swore, “I shall one day kill this Dushasana who has caused blemish to the Bharata race. I shall tear his breast and drink his blood. If this happens not, let me not deserve to join my ancestors when I am dead.”

As she was dragged to the gambling hall, Draupadi appealed to the elders who were seated frozen in silence. “Do not let this wretch abuse me,” she cried. She turned to her husbands and her fiery glance seemed to scorch them. Witnessing her misery, Dushasana kept calling her “Slave”. He received applause from his brother and the vicious Karna and Shakuni. All the others in that great assembly sat benumbed, as if hit by a thunderbolt.

Draupadi turned to the grandsire and pleaded, “Have I been won?” Looking at the floor, Bhishma said, “Lo! What can I say? Indeed, morality is subtle. Yudhisthira himself is silent. I do not know if I can justifiably intervene.”

 Dushasana continued to mouth profanities, pulling at Draupadi’s clothes. Inflamed though they were, the Pandava brothers sat as if their hands were tied. Bhima however could no longer bear to witness the abuses suffered by their queen. Looking at Yudhisthira’s hands he swore, “All this misery is due to those hands. Let me burn them.” Arjuna remained self-possessed and he pacified his brother, “Be not angry with our venerable elder brother. He has done nothing wrong. He has followed truth. Have faith in him.” Bhima remained silent.

 From the shocked and confused assembly of kings there arose one voice defending Draupadi. It was that of Vikarna, one of Dhritarashtra’s sons. “Draupadi has not been won,” he declared. “She was not the wife of Yudhisthira alone. Besides, there was deceit practiced by Shakuni. He made Yudhisthira gamble her away. Yudhisthira had no right to stake her when he himself had been won. Why are the great Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Vidura silent when such a travesty of justice is taking place?” So argued Vikarna, the only one of the hundred brothers who, showed sympathy for the Pandavas.

It was Karna who spoke now, ridiculing Vikarna as immature and ill informed. “When her own husbands are not defending her, it is obvious that Draupadi has been lost by them in a fair game. She is a slave. Strip her clothes.” screamed to Dushasana. “What is the impropriety in this action on a woman who could submit herself to five husbands? Take off her husbands’ clothes as well.” Thus Karna spew the poison.


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