Draupadi was the beautiful daughter of Drupada, the king of
Panchala. Drupada arranged a swayamvara for Draupadi's marriage in the
Panchala court. At the centre of the court a pole was erected over which
there was a revolving wheel. On the wheel was a wooden fish. At the bottom
of the pole there was a pan of water. The one, who could shoot an arrow at
the eye of revolving fish while looking at its reflection in the water
below, would marry Draupadi. This was the condition for the swayamvara.
Princes from all over assembled for the swayamvara. The Pandavas who were
at that time living as Brahmins were also present. Duryodhana, Karna, and
Shri Krishna were also present. As the Swayamvara began, many brave
princes tried to win the hand of Draupadi, but failed to perform the
difficult task of shooting the fish's eye. When Karna came forward to show
his skill, Draupadi stopped him and said, "I will not marry a
charioteer's son." Insulted, Karna left the court.
When all the princes were unsuccessful in performing the feat, Drupada
became worried about the marriage of his daughter. Suddenly, Arjuna
dressed as a Brahmin rose to try the feat. Nobody was able to recognise
him. All the princes objected to the participation of a Brahmin in a
competition that was meant for them. But looking at the build and
confidence of the Brahmin, no one dared to say anything. Arjuna easily
shot the fish's eye. Draupadi was very happy and she put the wedding
garland around Arjuna's neck.
All the princes felt humiliated and were jealous of Arjuna. They
attacked him. Bhima came to his rescue. The mighty Pandavas easily
defeated all the princes and took Draupadi with them. Drishtdyumna,
Draupadi's brother, followed them to find out who the Brahmin was. When
they reached their hut, the Pandavas called out to their mother, Kunti,
"Look, Mother, what we have brought." Kunti replied from inside
the hut, "Share it among yourselves," thinking that they had
brought food. When she saw the bride and was told that she was Arjuna's
wife, Kunti was very unhappy at what she had said. As a custom, the
Pandavas would have to obey every word that she had said - Draupadi would
have to become the wife of all five brothers. Just then Krishna came to
their hut. He told Kunti, "in her previous life Draupadi had
worshipped Shiva to get a husband with five qualities. But Shiva had given
her a boon that in her next life she would marry five men each having one
quality." On hearing this Kunti felt satisfied and Draupadi became
the wife of all five Pandavas.
Dhrishtadyumna who had followed them, heard all this. He went back to
his father Drupada and said, "I have good news for you. The brave
Brahmin who married Draupadi was none other than the great Arjuna."
Drupada was delighted to hear this. But when he came to know that Draupadi
was to be the wife of all the five Pandavas, he was sad, because this was
against the law. At that time, Sage Vyasa came there. He told Drupada,
"Though such a marriage is not permitted in the Holy Scriptures, this
particular marriage is a result of a boon by Shiva himself, so it is not
against the law." Satisfied Drupada arranged for a reception at the
palace. The Pandavas were invited and the wedding between the Pandavas and
Draupadi was performed with great splendour.