Abduction of Draupadi from Kamyaka forest

The majority of the Pandavas’ exile was spent in the Dvaitavana forest. Considering that their stay also meant the upkeep of an entire entourage, this must have been a considerable strain on the resou

Published: 16th July 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th July 2018 10:04 PM   |  A+A-

The majority of the Pandavas’ exile was spent in the Dvaitavana forest. Considering that their stay also meant the upkeep of an entire entourage, this must have been a considerable strain on the resources of the forest. One night, in the twelfth year of the exile, Yudhistira is visited by a group of deers in a dream. The animals remind him of the depletion in their numbers due to all the hunting and request him to leave the forest so that their species might yet be saved from extermination. When he wakes up, Yudhistira is full of compassion for the animals and orders his brothers to leave the Dvaitavana forest for the Kamyaka forest.
The deer dream is the first interspecies communication in the Mahabharata.

The plea for environmental consideration is quite against the grain in an epic where abundance, exaggeration, and wanton killing abound. It is also quite possible that the dream is merely a story promulgated to explain the Pandavas shift from Dvaitavana to Kamyaka, a shift that might have been politically necessary as well, given than Kamyaka is closer to Hastinapura than Dvaitavana.

The move to Kamyaka also makes it possible for the Pandavas’ biological grandfather, Krishna Dvaipayana a.k.a. Ved Vyasa, to visit them. Vyasa is perturbed by the lean bodies of the Pandavas, and convinces Yudhistira that their time of austerities is close to being finished. He declares that they will obtain the kingdom of their fathers and grandfathers.

He also tells Yudhistira the story of sage Mudgala who, even when granted access, refused heaven because he understood it as a hierarchical construct from where demotion and promotion were possible, whereas he would settle for nothing less than the ultimate elevation: nirvana. This story does not really make any sense for the Pandavas here, but perhaps we, like Yudhistira, can forgive the old sage the occasional lapse into irrelevance.

The Kamyaka forest is also, apparently, the forest more frequently crossed by other kings. Jayadratha, husband to Duryodhana’s sister and king of the Sindhus, crosses it while going towards Shalva for a second marriage. There, he sees Draupadi and is smitten. Draupadi’s husbands are at this time on a hunting mission.

Jayadratha proposes that Draupadi leave her husbands and travel with him. This makes Draupadi furious. She calls Jayadratha childish and compares his proposal to ‘trying to pluck eyelashes’ from a lion’s face. After this, she is forcibly abducted and pushed into Jayadratha’s chariot. The Pandavas’ house priest, Dhoumya, is unable to stop this.

When the Pandavas return to the camp, they are narrated the events by one of the maids. Swiftly, they move in Jayadratha’s direction. To a large extent, the Pandavas ignore the infantry, attacking instead the army of chariots containing the key members of the battalion.

The Pandavas wreak havoc. Jayadratha flees, but just when Bhima is about to begin pursuit, Yudhistira asks him to think about their cousin sister, Duhshala, and to spare Jayadratha’s life

Tanuj Solanki

Twitter@tanujsolanki

The writer is reading the unabridged Mahabharata

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