Chapter 198

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“Vaisampayana said, ‘Then all the Pandavas and the illustrious king ofthe Panchalas and all others there present stood up and saluted withreverence the illustrious Rishi Krishna (Dwaipayana).

The high-souledRishi, saluting them in return and enquiring after their welfare, satdown on a carpet of gold. And commanded by Krishna (Dwaipayana) ofimmeasurable energy, those foremost of men all sat down on costly seats.A little after, O monarch, the son of Prishata in sweet accents asked theillustrious Rishi about the wedding of his daughter. And he said, ‘How, Oillustrious one, can one woman become the wife of many men without beingdefiled by sin? O, tell me truly all about this.’ Hearing these wordsVyasa replied, ‘This practice, O king, being opposed to usage and theVedas, hath become obsolete. I desire, however, to hear what the opinionof each of you is upon this matter.’

“Hearing these words of the Rishi, Drupada spoke first, saying, ‘Thepractice is sinful in my opinion, being opposed to both usage and theVedas. O best of Brahmanas, nowhere have I seen many men having one wife.The illustrious ones also of former ages never had such a usage amongstthem. The wise should never commit a sin. I, therefore, can never make upmind to act in this way. This practice always appeareth to me to be ofdoubtful morality.

“After Drupada had ceased, Dhrishtadyumna spoke, saying ‘O bull amongstBrahmanas, O thou of ascetic wealth, how can, O Brahmana, the elderbrother, if he is of a good disposition, approach the wife of his youngerbrother? The ways of morality are ever subtle, and, therefore, we knowthem not. We cannot, therefore, say what is conformable to morality andwhat not. We cannot do such a deed, therefore, with a safe conscience.Indeed, O Brahmana, I cannot say, ‘Let Draupadi become the common wife offive brothers.’

“Yudhishthira then spoke, saying, ‘My tongue never uttereth an untruthand my heart never inclineth to what is sinful. When my heart approvethof it, it can never be sinful. I have heard in the Purana that a lady ofname Jatila, the foremost of all virtuous women belonging to the race ofGotama had married seven Rishis. So also an ascetic’s daughter, born of atree, had in former times united herself in marriage with ten brothersall bearing the same name of Prachetas and who were all of souls exaltedby asceticism. O foremost of all that are acquainted with the rules ofmorality, 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 obtainedas alms. It is for this, O best of Brahmanas, that I regard the(proposed) act as virtuous.’

“Kunti then said, ‘The act is even so as the virtuous Yudhishthira hathsaid. I greatly fear, O Brahmana, lest my speech should become untrue.How shall I be saved from untruth?’

“When they had all finished speaking, Vyasa said, ‘O amiable one, howshall thou be saved from the consequence of untruth? Even this is eternalvirtue! I will not, O king of the Panchalas, discourse on this before youall. But thou alone shalt listen to me when I disclose how this practicehath been established and why it is to be regarded as old and eternal.There is no doubt that what Yudhishthira hath said is quite conformableto virtue.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then the illustrious Vyasa–the masterDwaipayana–rose, and taking hold of Drupada’s hand led him to a privateapartment. The Pandavas and Kunti and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata’s racesat there, waiting for the return of Vyasa and Drupada. Meanwhile,Dwaipayana began his discourse with illustrious monarch for explaininghow the practice of polyandry could not be regarded as sinful.'”

Chapter 199
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