Rolling down her cheeks
Like boiling lava,
-The elders had sat there, silent.
Statues carved out of granite
Would have been more lively –
Draupadi had questions for all of them.
The questions ricocheted off the marble walls,
The marble pillars adorned with
Gold leaves and serpents,
And the stony silence.
The elders knew not the answer.
The Kauravas knew not that they had signed
Their own death warrant.
Doom and destruction had been invited into their household.
None would escape.
Cutting through the stony wall
A baritone rang out.
“Why do you ask these questions
That the elders can’t answer?
Or rather, they dare not answer.
For you are a woman fallen.
A woman with two husbands
Is devoid of character.
And a woman with more men around
To enjoy her body and youth
Is nothing but a harlot.
That’s what you are,
A harlot!” uttered Karna!
The vicious word rang across the hall
And echoed around.
Draupadi, the queen
Of the House of Kurus
Looking at her husbands.
It was not her doing!
It was not her choice!
Yet, she had to bear it.
The Pandavas sat, silent,
as if carved out of Granite.
It was Karna’s retaliation.
Draupadi remembered it all…
In another kingdom,
In another time.
There arose the auspicious sound
Of festal music from hundreds of instruments.
Dhrishtadyumna on horseback rode in front
His sister Draupadi seated on an elephant.
Unsullied from her auspicious bridal bath,
Clad in flowing silk.
The Princess dismounted
Entered the swayamvara hall,
Filling it with the charm
Of her appeal and beauty.
Garland in hand,
Coyly glancing at the valiant princes
Who stood there dumfounded,
She ascended the dais.
The brahmanas chanted mantras ,
Offered oblations in the fire.
After the flourish of music had stopped,
Dhrishtadyumna led her to the center of the hall.
Amidst applause and roars
Dhrishtadyumna proclaimed in loud, clear tones:
“Hear ye, O princes seated in state
In this assembly, here is the bow.
There is the target and here are the arrows.
He who sends five arrows in succession through
The hole of the wheel and unerringly hits the target,
If he also be of good family and presence,
He it is shall win my sister.”
When all failed
Even to lift the great bow,
Karna marched up,
Grabbed the bow effortlessly
In his left hand
And lofted it high,
Youth, valour and glamour personified
As he put the arrow to the bow
And set his sight
To aim for the eye of the fish
Hanging high up from the ceiling
Behind the rotating wheel
Merely by looking at its reflection
In the water.
“Stop!” said Draupadi, conceited as she was.
“I refuse to marry a person
Of low birth,
No matter how valiant he may be.”
Bowing his head
He set the bow down,
Where the sunlight was streaming in
Through the open window
And left the stage
With a smile
Of utter disdain and sarcasm.
Draupadi looked here, and looked there,
Where was Arjun?
King Drupad grew tense
With the passage of time.
What if any other Kshatriya
Succeed where all else had failed?
Where was Arjun.
Dhrishtadyumna was apprehensive.
What if he didn’t turn up?
What if all contraptions to make the target
Beyond reach of the common man
Proved to be futile?
Where was Arjun?