The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "Binding her black, soft, fine, long and faultless tresses with crisped ends into a knotted braid, Draupadi of black eyes and sweet smiles, throwing it upon her right shoulders, concealed it by her cloth. And she wore a single piece of a black and dirty though costly cloth. And dressing herself as a Sairindhri, she began to wander hither and thither in seeming affliction. And beholding her wandering, men and women came to her hastily and addressed her, saying, 'Who are you? And what do you seek?' And she replied, 'I am a king's Sairindhri. I desire to serve any one that will maintain me.' But beholding her beauty and dress, and hearing also her speech that was so sweet, the people could not take her for a maid-servant in search of subsistence. And it came to pass that while looking this way and that from the terrace, Virata's beloved queen, daughter of the king of Kekaya, saw Draupadi. And beholding her forlorn and clad in a single piece of cloth, the queen addressed her saying, 'O beautiful one, who are you, and what do you seek?' Thereupon, Draupadi answered her, saying, 'O foremost of queen, I am Sairindhri. I will serve anybody that will
maintain me.' Then Sudeshna said, 'What you say (regarding your profession) can never be compatible with so much beauty. (On the contrary) you might well be the mistress of servants both, male and female. Your heels are not prominent, and your thighs touch each other. And your intelligence is great, and your navel deep, and your words solemn. And your great toes, and bust and hips, and back and sides, and toe-nails, and palms are all well-developed. And your palms, soles, and face are ruddy. And your speech is sweet even as the voice of the swan. And your hair is beautiful, and your bust shapely, and you are possessed of the highest grace. And your hips and bust are plump. And like a Kashmerean mare you are furnished with every auspicious mark. And your eye-lashes are (beautiful) bent, and your nether-lip is like the ruddy ground. And your waist is slender, and your neck bears lines that resemble those of the conch. And your veins are scarcely visible. Indeed, your countenance is like the full moon, and your eyes resemble the leaves of the autumnal lotus, and your body is fragrant as the lotus itself. Verily, in beauty you resemble Sri herself, whose seat is the autumnal lotus. Tell me, O beautiful damsel, who thou art. Thou canst never be a maidservant. Art thou a Yakshi, a Goddess, a Gandharvi, or an Apsara? Art thou the daughter of a celestial, or art thou a female Naga? Art thou the guardian goddess of some city, a Vidyadhari, or a Kinnari,--or art thou Rohini herself? Or art thou Alamvusha, or Misrakesi, Pundarika, or Malini, or the queen of Indra, or of Varuna? Or, art thou the spouse of Viswakarma, or of the creative Lord himself? Of these goddesses who art renowned in the celestial regions, who art thou, O graceful one?'
"Draupadi replied, 'O auspicious lady, I am neither a goddess nor a Gandharvi, nor a Yakshi, nor a Rakshasi. I am a maid-servant of the Sairindhri class. I tell thee this truly. I know to dress the hair to pound (fragrant substances) for preparing unguents, and also to make beautiful and variegated garlands. O beauteous lady, of jasmines and lotuses and blue lilies and Champakas. Formerly I served Krishna's favourite queen Satyabhama, and also Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas and the foremost beauty of the Kuru race. I wander about alone, earning good food and dress; and as long as I get these, I continue to live in the place where they are obtainable. Draupadi herself called me Malini (maker of garlands).'
"Hearing this, Sudeshna said, 'I would keep thee upon my head itself, if the doubt did not cross my mind that the king himself would be attracted towards thee with his whole heart. Attracted by thy beauty, the females of the royal household and my maids are looking at thee. What male person then is there that can resist thy attraction? Surely, O thou of well-rounded hips, O damsel of exquisite charms, beholding thy form of superhuman beauty, king Virata is sure to forsake me, and will turn to thee with his whole heart. O thou of faultless limbs, O thou that art endued with large eyes casting quick glances, he upon whom thou wilt look with desire is sure to be stricken. O thou of sweet smiles, O thou
that possessest a faultless form, he that will behold thee constantly, will surely catch the flame. Even as a person that climbs up a tree for compassing his own destruction, even as the crab conceives for her own ruin, I may, O thou of sweet smiles, bring destruction upon myself by harbouring thee.'
"Draupadi replied, 'O fair lady, neither Virata nor any other person will be able to have me, for my five youthful husbands, who are Gandharvas and sons of a Gandharva king of exceeding power, always protect me. None can do me a wrong. It is the wish of my Gandharva husbands that I should serve only such persons as will not give me to touch food already partaken of by another, or tell me to wash their feet. Any man that attempts to have me like any common woman, meeteth with death that very night. No one can succeed in having me, for, O beautiful lady, O thou of sweet smiles, those beloved Gandharvas, possessed of great energy and mighty strength always protect me secretly.'
"Sudeshna said, 'O thou that bringest delight to the heart, if it is as thou sayest, I will take thee into my household. Thou shalt not have to touch food that hath been partaken of by another, or to wash another's feet.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by Virata's wife, O Janamejaya, Krishna (Draupadi) ever devoted to her lords, began to live in that city. Nor could anyone ascertain who in reality she was!'"
Next: Section X