I understand that there are many versions of this story in the Mahabharata, but in one of them, it is said that Arjuna had brought Draupadi home after winning her Swayamvaram. Arjuna had told his mother Kunti that he had brought alms, to which she said to share the alms equally amongst his brothers. Hence Draupadi was forced to marry not just Arjuna but also his four other brothers. Why was this the case? Surely it is worse to force someone to marry not just one, but four other people she never wanted to marry, than to disobey his mother's orders?

Edit: The answers to the question "Why did all the Pandavas marry Draupadi?" is not an answer to my question, as I am more interested to know why it wasn't stopped.

Edit 2: I will summarise what I understand to be the answer to my question:

  1. Arjun couldn't disobey his mother and his eldest brother because it would be adharmam.
  2. Draupadi was "bought" by Arjun through his show of valour, therefore from that moment onwards she had no say in who she married.
  • @ram I will wait for a while until someone else disproves the current answer.
    – Hari5000
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 10:36
  • 1. correct, disobeying mother is adharma. but that alone is not the reason. Kunti herself says that she didn't say "share" with woman in mind, but just with food in mind. What if mother says "kill all cows", should that also be followed implicitly ? Maybe, depends. That's why all Pandavas and Vyasa and Krishna debated the issue. Once Vyasa mentioned her previous life, her boon from Shiva, previous lives of 5 pandavas, then in addition to their mother's statement, they accepted it.
    – ram
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 7:01
  • 2. incorrect. she was won with the intention of marriage. even when Bhishma abducted Amba,Ambika,Ambaliksa, he stated the intention of marriage to his younger brother, Vichitraveerya. I am not aware of any instance, where someone won a woman, but then married her off to someone else. In this special instance, because of her previous life boons, in addition to the winner Arjuna, others married her. It's not like Arjuna made the decision to let her marry others. The decision was made by everyone - Vyasa, Krishna, Kunti, Yudhishtir, Dhaumya @sv
    – ram
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 7:05

2 Answers 2


force someone to marry not just one, but four other people she never wanted to marry

I'm not sure which version of Mahābhārata you are referring to, but in Vyāsa's Mahābhārata, Draupadī was purchased (vīryaśulka) by Arjuna showing his prowess in an archery contest. It wasn't the usual svayaṃvara where the bride chooses the groom.

Here's how the Purāṇic Encyclopedia defines 'vīryaśulka':

Vīryaśulka (वीर्यशुल्क).—In ancient days the Kings wanted to give their daughters in marriage to the most valiant youths. The custom of showing their valour before the people, before getting the damsel became more prevalent, than giving money to get the girl. Thus marrying a girl by showing his valour is called Marriage by giving Vīryaśulka. (Śulka means Nuptial gift). (Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 4).

Draupadī had no say in how the contest was conducted either, everything was planned by her father (Draupada) and brother (Dhṛṣṭadyumna) with the sole aim that only Arjuna would win the contest.

Ādi Parva - Chapter 176

Having been thus addressed, the Pandavas headed for the southern part of Panchala, ruled by King Drupada. On their way, the brave Pandavas met the great-souled, pure-souled, unblemished and illustrious sage Dvaipayana and paid their respects to him, in accordance with the prescribed rites. He too showed them his respect and after their conversation was over, on his instructions, they proceeded to Drupada's palace. Those maharathas proceeded slowly, stopping when they saw beautiful forests and lakes. At last, Kuru's descendants, devoted to learning, pure, amiable and sweet of speech, arrived in Panchala. After seeing the city and the royal residence, the Pandavas lodged in a potter's house. Adopting the lifestyle of Brahmanas, they begged for their food. No one recognized those warriors when they stayed there.

Yajnasena [Draupada] always desired to give Krishna [Draupadi] to Kiriti [Arjuna], Pandu's son, but he never revealed this to anyone...Thinking of Kunti's son, the Panchala got a very hard bow constructed, one that no one else would be able to bend. He had an artificial machine set up above and onto this machine he fixed a golden target.

Drupada said,

He who can string this bow and, after stringing, shoot the target above with these arrows, will obtain my daughter.

With these words, King Drupada announced the svayamvara everywhere.

Debroy, Bibek. The Mahabharata: Volume 1 (p. 440)

After she's been won, neither Drupada, Dhṛṣṭadyumna nor Draupadī herself had any say in what Pāṇḍavas and Kuntī planned to do with her. This is what Yudhiṣṭhira says to Drupada's priest who was sent to inquire about their identity:

Ādi Parva - Chapter 185


Yudhishthira then spoke to the Brahmana. "The king of Panchala gave his daughter away according to his wishes and according to his own dharma. He set a price and this brave one has won her in accordance with that. Therefore, no questions can be asked about his varna, action, intention, means of living, lineage or gotra. All those questions have been answered by the act of stringing the bow and striking the target. In doing that, this great-souled one has won Krishna in an assembly of kings. Since that is the case, the king of the lunar dynasty has no reason to regret his decision or be unhappy. O Brahmana! King Drupada's eternal desire will certainly come to be true for the king, because I think that this king's daughter was unattainable otherwise. No one weak in strength or of low birth or unskilled in the use of arms could have strung that bow and shot down the target. Today, it is therefore not proper for the king of Panchala to grieve over his daughter. No man on earth can now undo the fact that he succeeded in shooting down the target." While Yudhishthira was uttering these words, another messenger swiftly came from the king of Panchala, to announce that the feast had been prepared.

Debroy, Bibek. The Mahabharata: Volume 1 (p. 458)

Why didn't Arjuna alone marry Draupadī? Why had to Kuntī intervene and suggest that all five brothers marry Draupadī?

As the conversation between the five Pāṇḍavas below shows, they had developed feelings for Draupadī sometime during or after the archery contest so it's possible the backstory that 'Kuntī mistakes Draupadī for alms and then orders them to share' was invented later to justify five men marrying the same woman which was forbidden at the time. You have to remember that, at the time, the Pāṇḍavas were in hiding so Kuntī must have felt Draupadī is the bond that will keep the five brothers together for the moment and also later in their lives if they were to have any chance of defeating Duryodhana.

Ādi Parva - Chapter 182

Pritha's two illustrious sons went to the potter's house and to Pritha. With happiness in their hearts, those chiefs among men presented Yajnaseni and said, "See what alms we have got." She was inside the house and without seeing her sons, replied, "Share it together." Later, Kunti saw the lady and was miserable at what she had said.

She was anxious not to commit adharma and began to think about what might be done. She took the happy Yajnaseni by the hand and went to Yudhishthira and said, "This daughter of Drupada was presented to me as 'alms' your younger brothers had obtained. O king! O son! As I am in the habit of doing, but in ignorance, I said what I thought was proper, 'Share it together.' O bull among the Kurus! Now tell me how those instructions of mine don't become a lie. How can the Panchala king's daughter not be touched by adharma, committing that which hasn't been done before?" Having been thus addressed by his mother, the wise king Yudhishthira, chief among the Kurus, sat for a while and thought.

He consoled Kunti and spoke to Dhananjaya. "O Pandava! You are the one who won Yajnaseni. It is proper that you should make this princess happy. Let the sacred fire be lit and offerings made. You should marry her in accordance with the proper rites." Arjuna said, "O king of men! Since this is not the law that others accept, do not make me tread this path of adharma. You should marry her first, followed by the mighty-armed Bhima of wonderful deeds, then I, then Nakula after me and finally the energetic Sahadeva. O king! Vrikodara, I and the twins think that the lady should be yours. This is the state of affairs. After reflecting on it, please do what is appropriate, in accordance with dharma and fame and the welfare of the king of Panchala. Instruct us. We are all waiting for your command." Then they all looked at the illustrious Krishna who was standing there. They looked at each other and sat down, her image in their hearts. 'When those immensely radiant ones looked at Droupadi, their love for her arose and put their senses into turmoil. Panchali's charming form was created by the creator himself. It beguiled all living beings and was supreme to all others. Kunti's son Yudhishthira knew from their appearance what was going through their minds. O bull among men! He remembered Dvaipayana's words. Fearing that conflict might arise between the brothers, the king said, "This fortunate Droupadi will be a wife to all of us."

Debroy, Bibek. The Mahabharata: Volume 1 (pp. 451-452)

It's clear from the above the conversation too that Draupadī was not consulted. It's possible she was too young to understand what was happening so a decision was made for her first by her father and later by Kuntī and Pāṇḍavas.

  • Why did Arjuna consent to this arrangement is the actual OP's question. The sense I'm getting from this answer and the other one is that he did so out of deference to his mother and his brothers
    – iruvar
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 18:39
  • 1
    You're right, Arjuna was bound by Kunti's and Yudhishthira's words (Arjuna said, '... Since this is not the law that others accept, do not make me tread this path of adharma. You should marry her first, followed by the mighty-armed Bhima of wonderful deeds, then I, then Nakula after me...'). OP's whole argument rests on his assumption that Arjuna-Draupadi's was a svyamvara but she was "forced" to marry five men. I'm arguing that the premise of the question itself is wrong. Since Draupadi was bought by Arjuna's show of valour, whatever is done to her is no longer up to her. @iruvar Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 19:02
  • @SayNoToCensorship Bought by her show of valour? If Draupadi can deny to marry Karna she had every right to deny pandavas for marriage. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 17:01

Actually they all fell in luv with draupadi even after knowing that she is wife of their brother ( Arjun ). All pandava developed desire for draupadi from long time.

And the sons of Pritha also, of mighty arms, and the illustrious twin heroes, beholding Draupadi, were all likewise struck by the shafts of Kama.

Adi Parva: CLXXXIX

Words of Kunti were only excuse for them. They married Draupadi for satisfaction of their desires.

and taking their seats, they began to think of Draupadi alone. Indeed, after those princes of immeasurable energy had looked at Draupadi, the God of Desire invaded their hearts and continued to crush all their senses. As the lavishing beauty of Panchali who had been modelled by the Creator himself, was superior to that of all other women on earth, it could captivate the heart of every creature. And Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, beholding his younger brothers, understood what was passing in their minds. And that bull among men immediately recollected the words of Krishna-Dwaipayana. And the king, then, from fear of a division amongst the brothers, addressing all of them, said, 'The auspicious Draupadi shall be the common wife of us all.

Adi Parva

See,Dharma-raj gave that obscene suggestion. How could Arjuna disobey him. He was not Vibhishana who could leave his brother for a women's respect. If he could allow Yudhishthira to stake his Draupadi, how could he deny his brother in this case. After all, his brother was important for him than Draupadi.

Many people are in misconception that Draupadi had a boon of Lord Shiva. Let's analyse it!

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Saying this, that sacred Brahmana Vyasa of generous deeds, by means of his ascetic power, granted celestial sight unto the king. Thereupon the king beheld all the Pandavas endued with their former bodies. And the king saw them possessed of celestial bodies, with golden crowns and celestial garlands, and each resembling Indra himself, with complexions radiant as fire or the sun, and decked with every ornament, and handsome, and youthful, with broad chests and statures measuring about five cubits. Endued with every accomplishment, and decked with celestial robes of great beauty and fragrant garlands of excellent making the king beheld them as so many three-eyed gods (Mahadeva), or Vasus, or Rudras, or Adityas themselves. And observing the Pandavas in the forms of those Indras of old, and Arjuna also in the form of Indra sprung from Sakra himself, king Drupada was highly pleased. And the monarch wondered much on beholding that manifestation of celestial power under deep disguise. The king looking at his daughter, that foremost of women endued with great beauty, like unto a celestial damsel and possessed of the splendour of fire or the moon, regarded her as the worthy wife of those celestial beings, for her beauty, splendour and fame. And beholding that wonderful sight, the monarch touched the feet of Satyavati's son, exclaiming, 'Ogreat Rishi, nothing is miraculous in thee!' The Rishi then cheerfully continued, 'In a certain hermitage there was an illustrious Rishi's daughter, who, though handsome and chaste, obtained not a husband. The maiden gratified, by severe ascetic penances, the god Sankara (Mahadeva). The lord Sankara, gratified at her penances, told her himself. 'Ask thou the boon thou desirest' Thus addressed, the maiden repeatedly said unto the boon-giving Supreme Lord, 'I desire to obtain a husband possessed of every accomplishment. Sankara, the chief of the gods, gratified with her, gave her the boon she asked, saying, 'Thou shall have, amiable maiden, five husbands.' The maiden, who had succeeded in gratifying the god, said again, 'O Sankara, I desire to have from thee only one husband possessed of every virtue?' The god of gods, well-pleased with her, spake again, saying, 'Thou hast, O maiden, addressed me five full times, repeating, 'Give me a husband.' Therefore, O amiable one, it shall even be as thou hast asked. Blessed be thou. All this, however, will happen in a future life of thine!'


This story is full of contradictions.

  • Above, it is written that Arjuna was incarnation of Indra but we all know that he was Nara. How he could be both Nara and Indra in his previous birth?

  • Maiden was desires to obtain a single husband. Just because he repeatedly asked him and Lord Shiva gave him 5 husbands.

  • If according to this story, Draupadi was given 5 husbands, why Lord Krishna offered Druapdi to Karna?

During the sixth period, Draupadi also will come to thee (as a wife).

Adi Parva : CXL Hence this story of boon is an interplotation.

  • 2
    FYI: The reason is boon of Draupadi from Shiva asking for husband 5 times. And these 5 pandavas are Purva-Indras born as result of curse from Shiva. And Draupadi is an amalgamation of 5 (pancha-shakti-mayi-devi) into one body, which she would gain kanya-tvam after each year by doing Agni-Snaan.
    – ram
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 9:04
  • 4
    @ram That is the reason why Draupadi was fated to marry five people. But that is not the reason why the Pandavas chose to marry Draupadi. They could've disobeyed their mother in the name of preserving the respect of a woman, but they chose not to. What is the reason?
    – Hari5000
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 10:50
  • 1
    @ram BORI version is authentic version of Mahabharat which is prepared by scholars after research. All the scholars beeleive it as the most authentic mahabharat. Now on whom we should beleive, you or these scholars? Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 6:44
  • 1
    @ram I recommemd you to learn that what is critical edition. It is based on the ancient manuscripts. Shlokas which were present in ancient scripts were kept and other were removed. So CE is actually the pure words of our ancient sages and not an interpretation of BORI scholars. Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 12:57
  • 1
    I think it's important to realize that texts sometimes are contradictory. However, no one seems to admit it. I myself have some questions regarding the texts and the above discussion and have not received a satisfactory answer. The Parvas around the marriage of the Pandavas (especially Vaivahika parva) leave too many loose ends in the original text (original = Bibek Debroy that I am reading). Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 7:54

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