Draupadi and the Great Game

When Arjun grew to be a man, one of his first battles was against a King called Drupada. He and his four brothers, the Pandavas as they were called, put their soldiers in a ring round King Drupada’s fortress, and let no one pass out or go in.

In a week all the King’s servants were dead: and the brothers marched into the palace and took all that they wanted of gold and emeralds, of horses and chariots. The lady Draupadi also, the King’s daughter, became theirs by the rules of war.

And Draupadi lived happily with her mother-in-law and the princes.

And all went well, till an enemy of the brothers, jealous of their happiness and their power, tempted Yudhisthira, the eldest of the five. He challenged him to a game of chance in which he put down all he possessed, to lose or win. And Yudhisthira lost. He lost his palace, his chariots and horses, and his whole kingdom. He lost his brothers and himself, and last of all he lost Draupadi also.

Draupadi was the most beautiful of women, and Yudhisthira’s enemy was glad indeed when she was brought captive before him. But he was also afraid; for there was something so free in the spirit of Draupadi, that he knew it would not be well with the man who made her a slave.

So, thinking it were wiser to be content with the kingdom and let Draupadi go—

“Ask,” he said, “a boon, and it shall be granted.”

“I ask then,” said Draupadi, “for the freedom of Yudhisthira.”

“Granted,” said the enemy, for he did not dare break his word. But he marvelled that she did not ask for herself; so, “Ask again” he said.

Ask a boon, and it shall be granted

“Ask”, he said, “a boon, and it shall be granted”

“And for the freedom of his brothers with their weapons and chariots of war.”

“It is granted: but I give you a third boon. Will you not ask for your own freedom?”

“By no means,” said Draupadi. “The Pandavas, armed and free, can conquer the world. It is they who will rescue me. They need owe nothing to a boon; nor, with the Pandavas free, need I either, any longer.”

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