I read the following thing in the accepted answer to Where was Arjuna for 12 years when he was exiled?.

So the five brothers made a rule that they would spend time with Draupadi in turn and no one would interfere while any brother was with her. If anyone did so, then he would have to enter into exile for twelve years as a celibate.

But during exile, he married at least 2-3 times. He must have sexual relationships with his wives. So he clearly violated the oath. Didn't he?

  • Not about this case. The answer you quoted is fine but generally do not consider accepted answer as the correct one. Accepted answer just means which is more helpful to the OP who asked the question. In many instances answers which are not explaining the doubts raised are accepted. So, please don't consider accepted answer as right answer every time. It depends on votes, references also. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 6:11

2 Answers 2


Yes, Arjuna did violate the celibacy rule of his oath. In one instance (Ulūpī), the reasoning given is: Fulfilling the sexual urges of a woman who will otherwise commit suicide takes precedence over one's oath of celibacy!

Ādi Parva / Arjuna-vanavāsa Parva

Chapter 206


One day, when this was going on, the son of Kunti and Pandu entered the Ganga to have a bath. O king! He performed his ablutions and offered water to his grandfathers. He was about to climb out of the water, wishing to perform rites to the fire. O great king! The mighty-armed one was grasped and pulled into the water by Ulupi, daughter of the king of the nagas, who could travel where she willed. There, in the revered palace of the naga named Kouravya, the Pandava saw a fire that had been built up well. Kunti's son Dhananjaya performed his rites in that fire. Witnessing the unhesitating offering of oblations, Hutashana" was satisfied.

After having performed his rites before the fire, Kunti's son smilingly uttered these words to the daughter of the naga king. "O beautiful one! O timid one! How did you perform such a courageous act? What beautiful land is this? Whom do you belong to and whose daughter are you?" Ulupi replied, "O Partha! The serpent Kouravya is descended from the lineage of Airavata. I am his daughter and a serpent named Ulupi. O Kounteya! I saw you descend into the water to have a bath and was robbed of my senses by the god of love. O descendant of the Kuru lineage! The god of love is churning me. I am yet a maiden. Please me today by giving yourself to me."

Arjuna said, "O fortunate one! I have been commanded by Dharmaraja to observe brahmacharya for twelve years and do not have control over myself. O dweller in the water! I do wish to do that which brings you pleasure. But never before this have I spoken that which is untrue. O serpent-maiden! How can I bring pleasure to you and yet not do that which is untrue? How can I not violate dharma?"

Ulupi replied, "O Pandava! I know why you are roaming the earth. I know that you are observing brahmacharya on the instructions of your superior. This was the rule you made among yourselves for Drupada's daughter, that anyone deluded enough to enter would retire to the forest and observe brahmacharya for a period of twelve years. The exile is therefore for the sake of Droupadi. You are observing that dharma. But in this case, dharma does not suffer. O large-eyed one! It is your duty to save those who are distressed. By saving me, dharma is not violated. O Arjuna! Even if there is a slight transgression of dharma, by granting me life, you will achieve greater dharma. O Partha! O lord! I desire you. Desire me in return. That is the view of those who are rigid in their vows. Know that if you do not do this, I will certainly die. O mighty-armed one! Grant me life and achieve supreme dharma. O supreme among men! I am now seeking refuge with you. O Kounteya! You have always protected those who are weak and without protectors. I am miserable and weeping and am seeking refuge with you. I am overcome with desire and am seeking you. Do that which is pleasurable to me. Satisfy my desire by giving yourself to me." Hearing these words Kounteya then did what she wanted, accepting dharma to be the reason. The powerful one spent the night in the palace of the serpent. When the sun rose, he too arose from Kouravya's abode.

[Debroy, Bibek. The Mahabharata: Volume 2 (pp. 15-18)]

  • -_- can't trust anybody here. 1 will say 10 is greater than 9, other will say 9 is greater than 10
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 15:21
  • 1
    Seems like you want me to tell you what to believe. Look at the evidence and decide for yourself. @Vikas Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 17:56
  • If I had, I wouldn't ask here.
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 2:16
  • Who wrote this book anyway? Can it be trusted?
    – Vikas
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 8:28
  • You mean the Mahabharata translation by Bibek Debroy I used in my answer? Read this Introduction from Debroy's translation. As it says, his translation is based on the BORI Critical Edition. If BORI CE is most accurate/authentic Mahabharata version out there, then that makes Bibek Debroy's English translation the most authentic one too. @Vikas Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 0:28

The actual clause have the word बरह्मचारी (Brahmacharin):

  1. दरौपद्या नः सहासीनम अन्यॊ ऽनयं यॊ ऽभिदर्शयेत

    स नॊ दवादश वर्षाणि बरह्मचारी वने वसेत

And the rule they made was that when one of them would be sitting with Draupadi, any of the other four who would see that one thus must retire into the forest for twelve years, passing his days as a Brahmacharin. ~Mahabharata: Adi Parva: Rajya-labha Parva

The word Brahmacharin is wrongly translated into celibacy (the state of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations).

As per scriptures, Brahmacharin can be married and have sex with some rules and regulations. There are many answers under brahmacharya tag which explain this; for example Yajnavalkya Smriti verse mentioned in this answer:

LXXIX.—Sixteen nights are the "" Season " of women. Among these he should approach them during the even nights. Let him avoid the Parvana nights, &c. and the first four nights. By so doing he would be even a Brahmachari.—79

  • I think brahmacharya in the context of a punishment does mean chastity/celibacy. From here: "the state of an unmarried religious student, a state of continence and chastity" Commented Jul 20, 2019 at 21:42
  • The 'twelve years' clause probably has something to do with this: "His term of studentship might be long extended: it was normally fixed at twelve years, but much longer periods, such as thirty-two years, are mentioned. The age at which studentship began varied: śvetaketu commenced at twelve and studied for twelve years." Commented Jul 20, 2019 at 21:46
  • i heard in upanayasa that out of the 12 years of exile, the brahmacharya period was only for the first year.
    – ram
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 13:40
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    @YDS that's not beauty. Something is not clear to someone.
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 15:46
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    The reason why I'm telling you is this: One answer must have to be correct. If Arjuna didn't follow the rules fully, whole the Mahabharata war would be called their adharma.
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 2:15

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