Reading Guide. As the scene continues, Bhima in particular will swear some terrible oaths, and the rest of the epic will be driven by the cycle of revenge that has now been set into motion.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [800 words]
Draupadi wept and said, "Why this silence? Will no man among ye protect a sinless woman? Lost is the fame of the Kauravas, the ancient glory of Bharata, and the prowess of the kshatriyas! Why will not the sons of Pandu protect their outraged queen? And hath Bhishma lost his virtue and Drona his power? Will Yudhishthira no longer defend one who is wronged? Why are ye all silent while this deed of shame is done before you?"
As she spake thus, Draupadi glanced round the sons of Pandu one by one, and their hearts thirsted for vengeance. Bhishma's face was dark, Drona clenched his teeth, and Vidura, white and angry, gazed upon Duhshasana with amaze while he tore off Draupadi's veil and addressed her with foul words. When she looked towards the Kaurava brethren, Duhshasana said, "Ha! On whom darest thou to look now, O slave?"
Shakuni and Karna laughed to hear Draupadi called a slave, and they cried out, "Well spoken, well spoken!"
Duhshasana endeavored to strip the princess naked before the assembly, but Draupadi, in her distress, prayed aloud to Krishna, invoking him as the creator of all and the soul of the universe, and entreated him to help her. Krishna heard her, and multiplied her garments so that Duhshasana was unable to accomplish his wicked purpose.
Karna spake to Draupadi and said, "’Tis not thy blame, O princess, that thou hast fallen so low. A woman's fate is controlled by her husband; Yudhishthira hath gambled thee away. Thou wert his, and must accept thy fate. Henceforward thou wilt be the slave of the Kaurava princes. Thou must obey them and please them with thy beauty. ’Tis meet that thou shouldst now seek for thyself a husband who will love thee too well to stake thee at dice and suffer thee to be put to shame. Be assured that no one will blame a humble menial, as thou now art, who looks with eyes of love upon great and noble warriors. Remember that Yudhishthira is no longer thy husband; he hath become a slave, and a slave can have no wife. Ah, sweet Princess of Panchala, those whom thou didst choose at thy swayamvara have gambled and lost thee; their kingdom they have lost, and their power also."
At these words Bhima's bosom heaved with anger and with shame. Red-eyed he scowled upon Karna; he seemed to be the image of flaming wrath. Unto Yudhishthira he spake grimly, saying, "If you hadst not staked our freedom and our queen, O king and elder brother, this son of a charioteer would not have taunted us in this manner."
Yudhishthira bowed his head in shame, nor answered a word.
Arjuna reproved Bhima for his bitter words, but Kunti's mighty son, the slayer of asuras, said, "If I am not permitted to punish the tormentor of Draupadi, bring me a fire that I may thrust my hands into it."
A deep uproar rose from the assembly, and the elders applauded the wronged lady and censured Duhshasana. Bhima clenched his hands and, with quivering lips, cried out, "Hear my terrible words, O ye kshatriyas. May I never reach Heaven if I do not yet seize Duhshasana in battle and, tearing open his breast, drink his very life blood!"
Again he spoke and said, "If Yudhishthira will permit me, I will slay the wretched sons of Dhritarashtra without weapons, even as a lion slays small animals."
Then Bhishma and Vidura and Drona cried out, "Forbear, O Bhima! Everything is possible in thee."
Duryodhana gloried in his hour of triumph, and unto the elder of the Pandava brethren spake tauntingly and said, "Yudhishthira, thou art spokesman for thy brethren, and they owe thee obedience. Speak and say, thou who dost ever speak truly, hast thou lost thy kingdom and thy brethren and thine own self? O Yudhishthira, hast thou lost even the beauteous Draupadi? And hath she, thy wedded wife, become our humble menial?"
Yudhishthira heard him with downcast eyes, but his lips moved not. Then Karna laughed, but Bhishma, pious and old, wept in silence.
Then Duryodhana cast burning eyes upon Draupadi, and, baring his knee, invited her, as a slave, to sit upon it.
Bhima gnashed his teeth, for he was unable to restrain his pent-up anger. With eyes flashing like lightning, and in a voice like to thunder he cried out, "Hear my vow! May I never reach Heaven or meet my ancestors hereafter if, for these deeds of sin, I do not break the knee of Duryodhana in battle, and drink the blood of Duhshasana!"
The flames of wrath which leapt on the forehead of Bhima were like red sparks flying from tough branches on a crackling fire.