“Draupadi! I have followed the path of righteousness not with any expectation of fruits. I have chosen the Vedic path. I have adopted the righteous path in the same way as other righteous ones have followed. By nature, my mind is fixed on the pursuit of dharma. Do not have doubts about dharma which is sustained by Vedic authorities and proclamations. Whoever has a penumbra of doubt in dharmic matters will at the end of this life be reborn as an animal or bird. Higher attainments recede from him. There is a huge gulf between followers of adharma and salvation. Even if a youngster follows the Vedic path and the Vedic injunctions, elderly protagonists of dharma ignore his ego and worship him as a Rajarshi for his knowledge and enlightenment flowing from his dharmic pursuit. What do you think of Markandeya Maharshi whom you met a few days ago? The Maharshis earned immortality by steadfast adherence to dharma. Maharshis like Vyasa, Vasishta, Maitreya, Narada, Somasha and Shuka became personifications of purity by pursuit of the dharmic path. Have you not had darshan of them? They are great and invincible; capable of conferring blessings or of cursing anyone. They are great thapasvis. They are worshipped by Gods and greater than Gods. They are all wedded to the Vedic ways and have been propagating the Vedic path as the greatest one for adoption. So it is not proper for you to criticize the Gods or to entertain doubts about the tenets of dharma.”
“The wicked one,” said Yudhishtira, “thinks that he is a Sarvajna (knower of all) and indulges in atheistic comments and derisive digs at dharma and divinity. He has scant respect for the Rishis, the great knowers of the secrets of time, who know the past, present and future. His world is one of sensual pleasures. He has no time for the other world or the other force. He thinks of none. Whoever rejects the authority of Vedas, or puts up an erroneous construction of meaning or spends his whole time after sensual pleasures – will eventually be consigned to hell. On the other hand, whoever follows the Vedic path faithfully, will get higher worlds without doubt.”
“Draupadi! Think of your own birth. How did the great Dhrishtadyumna take birth? Aren’t both of you products of a dharmic pursuit? No better evidence is necessary to prove that dharma begets good results. Whoever observes celibacy, remains contented and indulges in good karma, will be rewarded with fulfillment of aspirations.”
“Ordinary people not knowing the subtleties of dharma, delude themselves into thinking that Avidya is Vidya and Vidya is Avidya and act accordingly only to imprison themselves and their spirit in bondage and ignorance for thousands of Kalpa, not being able to see the light of any redemption whatsoever. The spell of the Gods is a secret one and the Gods know how to save and protect divine secrets. Only the yogis who are peaceful, kind and bereft of desires and who have purified themselves through thapas and who are practicing austerities and other spiritual exercises are capable of knowing the divine secrets and subtleties of dharma. Do not suspect dharma and the Gods merely because you have not seen the fruits of dharma right now. Draupadi! Na phalaadarshanaaddharmaha Shankitarvo na devataaha.”
“For every karma, there is a precise fruit. This is the edict of dharma. So said Brahma to his sons. Sage Kashyapa came to know about this secret in this fashion. Let your doubt disappear like the disappearance of fog by the emergence of the Sun. Do not neglect the Supreme Being who is the all-pervading force, permeating all the inanimate and animate as a witness. Do not despise Him. Try to know the ways and means of reaching Him by thapas, yagna and gifts. Surrender yourself to Him through whose grace a mortal becomes an immortal!”
Yudhishtira’s words were not acceptable to Draupadi. Her thesis was that one should not rely solely on dharma by seeking God’s grace and sit pretty without indulging in human effort. She emphasized the need for human effort backed up by divine support. She goaded Yudhishtira to action to redeem the Pandavas from their difficulty.
“Dear brother Yudhishtira,” said Bheemasena, “Duryodhana has robbed us our kingdom by treacherous means. Now that I am subject to your control, dictates of conscience prevents us from doing anything at a time when we are causing displeasure to our friends and joy to our enemies. It is the same loyalty to you that came in the way of our dispatching Dhrutharashtra’s sons to Yama’s regions, and we have to admit that it was a major lapse on our part in his royal court the other day when Draupadi was thrown into a situation of unparalleled distress. The moment I think of it, my heart sinks into deeper distress.”
“Bhimasena!” replied Yudhishtira, “What you have said is true. I am not blaming you for your critical and piercing words. It is my mistake in participating in the game that has brought you all into this and pitiable position. But do not forget that the hand of God is also there in this play landing us into misfortune. Though we lost everything to Duryodhana, it was Draupadi who saved us from bondage. Although we lost the game a second time I cannot break the vow I took and the undertaking I gave about the forest life in the assembly of great people. Bhimasena, the wicked ones there shamed Draupadi in our very presence and we were helpless at that time and I feel very sad about it. The moment I remember the scene of Draupadi’s distress, my heart begins to boil in the same way as the burning heart of one who has taken poison. No doubt, I cannot go back on my word but do not delude yourself into thinking that this misfortune will last for ever. Good days are definitely in store for us. We have to bide our time. Listen to my words of re-dedication to truth. To me dharma is superior to life itself and even to the state of immortality.”
The insult meted out by Duryodhana to Draupadi and the rest was too much for Bhimasena. “The agony”, he said to Yudhishtira, “is more than that caused by keeping fire literally on the heart. Draupadi and I are unable to bear it. For a Kshatriya, there is the better dharma of waging a war against the enemy!”
Arjuna prepared himself to go in search of more divine strength by performance of thapas. He was to seek the grace of Indra, Shiva and other great gods in order to make himself invincible in a possible war against the Kauravas as the enemy force was adorned by such upholders of dharma like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and a host of others besides great warriors like Karna and Duryodhana themselves. Arjuna’s parting moment brought out probably the best in Draupadi’s feminine frame.
“Arjuna!” she said to Arjuna, “The wicked Duryodhana addressed me in the august assembly as an object of pleasure by all, like a cow; that was the most painful episode in my life. The daggers he spoke to me are piercing my heart even now. In addition, he helped himself to use of some highly objectionable words and disparaging remarks. Although the entire episode that took place in the assembly culminating in the most humiliating treatment to me has been causing me pain by remembrance of it every moment, I should tell you that this moment or parting and the prospects of a long period of separation is hundred times more agonizing and painful to me. In your absence, your brothers extol the merits of your bravery in the past, to make matters worse. Partha! Long as you are away from us, we cannot have any kind of fun or pleasure. Life will become a matter of drudgery. Our happiness, sorrow, life, death, empire and wealth all depend upon you. I wish you success in your endeavor. Without impediments, come back with an armoury of divine and superlative arrows. I pray that you shall be free from any kind of danger. God bless you!” Draupadi’s eyes were wet. She went inside the ashram.
Dhrutharashtra was a worried man. He was worried about Arjuna’s thapas and the divine powers and powers of invincibility in any war. “Sanjaya!” he said, “Brahma has created Arjuna whose powerful arrows flow out of his hands like an avalanche, defying attempts to stall them. Do you think we can fight his flaming passions engendered by my children’s wrong doings?”
“Maharaja!” said Sanjaya to the agitated king, “What you have said is true. The Pandavas naturally got angry because Draupadi, their righteous and reputed spouse, was dragged to the august assembly hall and to make matters worse, the harsh and cruel words of Karna and Dusshaasana added insult to injury. Whatever your sons did the other day, I believe the Pandavas will not pardon. They provoked them and invited great danger to themselves. Do you remember, Maharaja, the protestations of Bhimasena against Duryodhana’s arrogant exposure of his thigh to helpless Draupadi to humiliate and dishearten the Pandavas. Her being dragged to the sabha signaled the beginnings of the gulf of animosity between the Kauravas and Pandavas. Dhrutharashtra! For the sacrilege committed by your children against Draupadi and the consequent provocation caused, I have come to the unhesitating conclusion that the Pandavas will put an end to Duryodhana and his whole group.”
“True, Sanjaya!” said Dhrutharashtra agreeing with him. “I feel very bad when I remember the heinous act that reinforced the roots of their enmity. In a very low profile, Karna added fuel to the fire by indulging in very harsh expressions that were painful to hear. Duryodhana does not believe in listening to me. Blind as I am, I do not have the capacity to bring him back to the righteous path. Duryodhana will not listen to wise counsel. Among his ministers, Karna and Shakuni are ignorant, wicked and unrighteous. Instead of making an effort to remove the seamy side of Duryodhana’s personality, they do everything possible to promote his defects. If Arjuna shoots arrows in a war against my sons even indifferently, I know, they will all be killed. That apart, whoever has Sri Hari, the Lord of the three worlds as minister, protector and friend, nothing in universal creation is there that cannot be conquered. We heard that Lord Shiva himself embraced Arjuna with his long arms. Don’t you think it is most amazing?”
Deep in the forest, Dhrishtadyumna and others, after hearing Yudhishtira ‘s dharmic expressions, pacified Keshava who was a picture of resentment. They consoled Draupadi and said, “Shubhangi!” As you are angry, Duryodhana is certain to be killed. One cannot be in any doubt. Whoever has insulted and humiliated you will have to pay the penalty consistent with the magnitude of crime. Whoever it was, you will see that those responsible for pulling your lock of hair and the sari will face certain death and the vultures and foxes will quench the vampire’s thirst for blood! Just as they dragged you, the wild ones will drag the dead bodies to feed themselves.”