Chapter 76: Draupadi’s appeals fall on deaf ears

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.