The killing of Kichaka

Be it forest or palace, Draupadi’s beauty is sure to create complications for her.

Published: 11th September 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th September 2018 10:30 PM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI : Be it forest or palace, Draupadi’s beauty is sure to create complications for her. In the kingdom of Matsya, as Draupadi takes the job of a hairdresser in the queen’s company, the queen’s brother Kichaka—also the general of the armies, and therefore an important man—begins to desire her. When she learns about it, Draupadi admonishes the general and reminds him that she is married to five gandharvas who will no doubt protect her honour fiercely (that she is married to gandharvas has been Draupadi’s pretext for not having to eat leftovers and not having to wash anyone’ feet).

Kichaka, however, conspires with his sister, the queen Sudeshna, to create circumstances in which Draupadi is forced to approach him alone one night. A predictable rape attempt transpires. Draupadi is protected not by her husbands—Yudhistira and Bhima get to see her attempting to escape Kichaka, but do not intervene for fear of having their disguises exposed—but by an invisible rakshasha tasked with guarding her. The rakshasha has been provided by Surya, the sun god. 

Yet the humiliation (at one point, Kichaka kicks her) is too much for Draupadi to take, and before king Virata she pejoratively calls her gandharva husbands eunuchs for not stepping in to save her. Yudhistira, in the guise of a dice-playing brahman named Kanka, is listening. Virata, presumably dependent on Kichaka for the upkeep of his armies, ignores the hairdresser’s complaints. Yudhistira advises her to go to the woman’s quarters. 

Later, when she secretly visits Bhima to plan to kill Kichaka, Draupadi openly laments Yudhistira’s lack of gumption and other shortcomings. ‘How can a woman, who has Yudhistira as a husband, not be sorrowful?’ she says. ‘He is now silent like a stupid person, reflecting about his own deeds,’ she later adds. To convince Bhima of her abjection, she shows him her calloused hands and recounts other humiliations as well.

The plan to kill Kichaka involves Draupadi inviting him to a dark place where Bhima shall lie in waiting. It comes to pass as expected, and at the end of it, Kichaka’s dead body, mangled into a single pound of flesh in which it becomes impossible to make out head and limbs and other body parts, strikes terror in the hearts of Kichaka’s relatives, convincing them that the queen’s hairdresser is indeed protected by superhuman gandharvas.

As the relatives then prepare a pyre for Kichaka, they suggest to king Virata that the Sairandhari (Draupadi) be also dropped into it so that no future calamity may befall on the kingdom on account of her. Draupadi wails for help, crying out the code names of her five husbands. Bhima is the only one to respond; in a swift action involving a heavy tree, he kills more than a hundred ofKichaka’s relatives. On hearing of this carnage, king Virata requests his wife to convince Sairandhari to leave the palace. Sairandhari asks for some time, which is equal to the remaining period of the exile of the Pandavas.

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