Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Draupadi and the Mango

This story in Kashiram Das’ Bengali Mahabharata does not occur in any of the Sanskrit versions, but is also found in the Tamil version of the epic. Both must be drawing upon a common source that has not yet been found.

During their wanderings in the 13 years of exile, the Pandavas and Draupadi came upon a lovely ashram with many trees laden with fruits. They decided to rest in that spot for some time. Suddenly Draupadi’s eyes fell upon a mango dangling unseasonal from a branch. She asked Arjuna to pluck that mango for her. Arjuna shot a divine arrow and brought that mango to his beloved wife.

As she was about to eat the mango, Lord Krishna appeared and told them that they had committed a grave misdeed. Yudhishthira grew most anxious and asked Krishna what he meant. Krishna told them all that the ashram belonged to the sage Sandipan who even the gods and the demons feared.

“For ages Sandipan muni has lived in this forest. Every day at dawn, he leaves for his meditation and fasts the whole day. Every day a single mango ripens on this tree. When the muni returns in the evening, in great satisfaction he plucks the mango from the tree and eats it. Returning from his penance to the ashram and not finding the mango, the muni will turn you all into a heap of ashes. Alas, Partha, what have you done?” said the lord.

With folded hands king Yudhishthira, asked Krishna a way to save them all from Sandipan’s wrath. Hearing his words, the lord said: “If the tree appears just as it was when the mango was on it, then all can be saved, O king.” When the eldest Pandava asked him how that miracle could be achieved, Krishna told them that that if they all spoke the truth about whatever was uppermost on their minds at any given moment, the mango would go back to the place it came from. All six of them undertook to do as Krishna asked them to.

First spoke Yudhishthira: “Every day I think that if only I could regain my past prosperity, day and night I would perform Brahmin-feeding yajna.” The unseasonal mango rose upwards to some extent, astonishing everyone.

Then said mighty Bhima: “This is what I think day and night: with blows of my mace, I’ll slay the hundred Kauravas. I will shatter Duryodhana’s thigh with my mace, and rip open wicked Duhshasana’s breast with my nails.” When Bhima had spoken, the mango rose further upward.

Aruna said: “This rises in my mind all the time: that with weapons as numerous as the dust will I cut down the wicked Kshatriyas. And I will slay valiant Karna with a divine arrow.” Then the mango rose further upwards. Now it was the twins’ turn.

Nakula said, “Ever I think that when the ruler of Dharma will be king again, I will examine and report to him the kingdom’s good and ill.” Sahadeva said, “Ever I think of how returning to the kingdom I will forget all sorrows in looking after our mother.” Then the mango rose further upwards, almost touching the branch.

Then, slowly, softly, spoke Draupadi: “This is what I think of day and night: all those wicked persons who have pained me so much, at the hands of Bhima and Arjuna, they all shall be slain. All their women will weep in sorrow and I, delighted, will secretly mock them.” The moment Draupadi said this, the mango dropped to the ground again.

Terrified, Yudhishthira burst out: “Why did the mango fall down? Tell us, Krishna.” The lord replied: “Drupadi ruined everything - she spoke all false words.” Hearing this, Arjuna became furious and strung an arrow on his bow. He said: “Quickly speak truthful words, otherwise I’ll slice off your head with this sharp arrow,”

When Arjuna spoke thus, Draupadi spoke the truth casting aside shame: “Lord, what shall I say? You know the spoken and unspoken thoughts of all. When I saw heroic Karna at the syayamvar, since that day I often think that had he been Kunti’s son, then I would have had six husbands.” When she said this, the mango shot up that very moment and was on the branch of the tree as previously. Acknowledging this a miracle, all were delighted.

But mighty Bhima, who loved Draupadi the most roared with anger, “Is this your conduct, evil-minded woman? You have five husbands, yet you secretly desire one more? What made you turn to such evil ways? As long as your mind and heart favour the enemy, who can trust you?” Saying this, lifting his mace, in mighty fury Bhima rushed to slay Draupadi.

With a slight smile, the lord seized Bhima’s hands. Then he said: “Without cause do you slander Draupadi. She spoke not what she desired but what she feared. The cause of this is secret and it is not proper to reveal all now. After the king has returned to his kingdom and has sat on his throne, then will I specially reveal all to everyone.”

Hearing this response from Krishna’s mouth, heroic Vrikodara sat down restrained. And they all thought about what Krishna said as he prepared to take his leave. But this was all his maya: Draupadi had always prided herself as the supreme sati nari, and to break her pride was all this arranged by the lord.


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Anonymous said...

I have been looking for this story for a long time as reference to the 'mango' tax in The great Indian Novel. Thank you

Anonymous said...


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2 suggestions:

1. Never sleepless IN Delhi
4th para, 6th line
'principle of of energy' will change to 'principle of of energy'

2. Draupadi and the Mango
3rd para, 3rd line
'all that the ashram belonged...' will change to 'all that the ashram belonged....'

Keep writing and posting more articles.