It was long long ago. There
was a kingdom called Panchala. Drupada was the king. For many years he had no children.
So, to get children he performed tapas; that is, day and night he thought only
of God and prayed to Him. God blessed him, and two children were born. The first was a
son, called Dhrishtadyumna, and the second, a daughter called Draupadi.
Draupadi was as good as she was beautiful. When she grew
up, she charmed everyone with her soft words and sweet conduct. Her father wanted her to
marry the most heroic prince. So Draupada arranged a "Swayamvara. (That was a
method by which a princess cold herself choose her husband.) Invitations were sent out to
kings and princes of all countries, far and near. The palace was bedecked with sparkling
diamonds and other precious tones.
It was the Swayamvara of Draupadi, the princess of
unequalled beauty; her wedding by her own choice. Naturally kings and princes gathered in
their hundreds, each eager to marry the princess.
Now, how to find out who among them was the most heroic and
valiant? Let it be decided in this assembly, thought King Draupada and
arranged a contest. At the center of the hall a mechanical device was erected; on it was
placed a revolving object in the shape of a fish. The reflection of this revolving fish
could be seen in the water below. A very heavy bow was kept nearby. Any one who desired
the hand of Draupadi in marriage had to lift that huge bow, bend it and tie the bowstring;
then, looking at the reflection, he had to take aim with five arrows and bring down the
rotating fish. Such a one would be a hero worthy of Draupadis hand. Many of the
assembled kings retreated, as soon as they heard of this contest. Of those who came
forward to try their hand, some could not even lift the heavy bow. The hundreds of princes
who had come to marry Draped were all beaten.
"Is there no hero here to wed my daughter?" the
worried Draupada asked.
Then stood up one who was seated among the Brahmins in that
assembly. The whole gathering burst into laughter at this. A bow that had humbled so many
princes and kings, would it bend in a Brahmins hands? A Brahmin could eat his fill
at the royal banquet after the marriage, and be happy with the gifts and money. But why
these mad adventure? Everyone thought it a big joke.
But lo and behold! The man walked boldly towards the bow
and saluted it. And he lifted it easily as if it was light like a straw! He twanged the
bow-string and aimed five arrows. Looking down at the water, he shot an arrow and
down came the revolving fish!
At once the bands struck. And Draupadi garlanded the hero.