During Draupadi's marriage, there was a dilemma regarding whether five brothers can marry a single bride. Draupadi's father, King Drupada, and her brother were all against it, quite naturally. In this context, Yudhisthira said - (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Vaivahika Parva, Section 198)

'My tongue never uttereth an untruth and my heart never inclineth to what is sinful. When my heart approveth of it, it can never be sinful.'

My question is not about why all Pandava brothers married Draupadi.

I am concerned with the specific logic that Yudhisthira offered. In my humble opinion, if society accepts this kind of logic, it won't take much time when everything will fall apart. For example, imagine a terrorist is justifying his terror by saying, "I think it is dharma, so it is dharma."

How come a person becomes the authority? Is Yudhisthira above Vedas and Smritis (social rules based on the Vedas, as far as I know)? Or is this kind of attitude approved in the Vedas, Smritis itself? Is there any such provision, which says whatever you think is dharma? Can somebody give any reference from authoritative texts which supports this kind of statement?


1 Answer 1


When such questions arise, it is always a good idea to go to the original text to understand what exactly is happening. Often ideas are lost in translation. Almost always it is useful to rely on authentic commentaries.

'When my heart approveth of it, it can never be sinful'

Let's look at the actual text.

yudhiṣṭhira uvāca
na me vāg anṛtaṃ prāha nādharme dhīyate matiḥ
vartate hi mano me 'tra naiṣo 'dharmaḥ kathaṃ cana

Yudhishtra is making the following 3 points:

  1. He never speaks untruth,
  2. His mind never dwells in adharma,
  3. What's currently in his mind is not even a tiniest bit of Adharma.

He then continues to provide examples of how there are examples of polyandry followed by virtuous people. Kisari Mohan Ganguly's translation goes:

I have heard in the Purana that a lady of name Jatila, the foremost of all virtuous women belonging to the race of Gotama had married seven Rishis. So also an ascetic's daughter, born of a tree, had in former times united herself in marriage with ten brothers all bearing the same name of Prachetas and who were all of souls exalted by asceticism.

He also says that the current situation is an issue of conflicting Dharmas where on the one hand he has to obey his mother's words and implement polyandry and on the other hand polyandry being normally forbidden.

O foremost of all that are acquainted with the rules of morality, it is said that obedience to superior is ever meritorious. Amongst all superiors, it is well-known that the mother is the foremost. Even she hath commanded us to enjoy Draupadi as we do anything obtained as alms. It is for this, O best of Brahmanas, that I regard the (proposed) act as virtuous.'

If you add the context that follows, one can see that Yudhishtra is not claiming that whatever he feels right in his heart is Dharma. Rather, he is saying:

  1. This an exceptional situation of conflicting Dharmas.
  2. There is well-known precedence of clearly virtuous people following this normally-forbidden practice.
  3. Thus my mind feels that this is okay

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