Reading Guide. Things will now take an unexpected turn: Arjuna won Draupadi as his bride at the swayamwara, but in obedience to their mother's accidental command, all five Pandavas will now become Draupadi's husbands. It is not uncommon for kings to have many wives in the epics, but for a woman to have five husbands at once is not something anyone would expect!
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [700 words]
The Pandava brethren went towards the house of the potter, and they entered and addressed their mother Kunti, saying, "A great gift have we obtained this day."
Said Kunti, "Then share the gift between you, as becomes brethren."
Yudhishthira said, "What hast thou said, O mother? The gift is the Princess Draupadi whom Arjuna hath won at the swayamvara."
Said Kunti, "Alas! What have I said? O Yudhishthira, my son, the fatal words have been spoken; you must devise how they can be obeyed without involving one another in wrong."
Yudhishthira pondered a time and then spake to Arjuna, saying, "My brother, thou hast won Draupadi by thine own merit. She must therefore be thy bride."
Said Arjuna, "Thou, Yudhishthira, art our elder brother and we are thy servants. The princess is for thee."
Yudhishthira said, "Let this matter be arranged in accordance with the will of the gods. It is for Drupada to say unto which of us his daughter will be given."
Now, as hath already been told, each one of the Pandavas yearned in his secret heart to have Draupadi for his bride.
King Drupada was sore troubled in heart after his daughter had been led away to the potter's house, and he sent his valiant son to watch her. Dhrishtadyumna went forth in disguise, and, listening at the window, he discovered to his joy that the brahmins were no other than the Pandava brethren. He returned to his royal sire and related all that had happened, and what had been spoken at the evening meal. The king was well pleased because that the brethren were kshatriyas and not brahmins.
Drupada sent a messenger bidding the brethren to come to the palace because that the nuptial feast was ready. The Pandava guests were made welcome, and the king and his son and all his counsellors sat down to feast with them.
Said Drupada, "In Indra's name, I adjure thee to reveal yourselves unto me now."
Yudhishthira said, "Know, then, that we are the Pandava princes. Our brother Arjuna was the winner of Draupadi. Thy daughter, like to a lotus, hath been but transferred from one lake to another. I have spoken what is true."
Drupada glowed with joy and satisfaction. He prevailed upon the brethren to remain at the palace, and entertained them for many days.
At length Yudhishthira was addressed by Drupada, who said, "Thou art the elder brother. Speak and say if it is thy desire that Arjuna be given Draupadi for his bride."
Said Yudhishthira, "I would fain speak with Vyasa, the great rishi, regarding this matter."
Now Vyasa was in the city of Panchala at that time, and he was brought before the rajah, who spake to him regarding Draupadi.
The rishi said, "The gods have already declared that she will become the wife of all the five Pandava brethren."
Drupada's son spoke and said, "With reverence I have heard thy words, O Vyasa, but to me it appears that Draupadi hath been betrothed unto Arjuna alone."
Said Yudhishthira, "Thou hast spoken truly, but there is wisdom in the words of Vyasa which in my heart I cannot condemn. Besides, our mother hath already commanded us to share our gift together."
Then Vyasa told that Draupadi was the re-incarnation of a pious woman who once prayed unto the god Shiva for a husband: five times she prayed, and the god rewarded her with the promise of five husbands in her next existence. Vyasa also revealed that the Pandava brethren were five incarnations of Indra, and thus were but as one.
Drupada then gave consent for his daughter to become the bride of all the brethren, and it was arranged that she should be married unto them all, one after the other, according to their ages. So on five successive days she was led round the holy fire by each of the five Pandava princes.
Drupada thereafter conferred great gifts upon his sons-in-law; he gave them much gold and many jewels, and he gave them numerous horses and chariots and elephants, and also a hundred female servants clad in many-colored robes, and adorned with gems and bright garlands. Unto the Pandavas Krishna gave much raiment and ornaments of gold, and rare vessels sparkling with jewels, besides female servants from various kingdoms.