Draupadi Swayamvara: Why Arjuna, and not Bhima?

In the Mahabharata, the episode of Draupadi Swayamvara is an extremely interesting one. Depending upon the version of Mahabharata one is reading, the same story can be interpreted differently. Also, many of the incidents that occur in this episode are difficult to comprehend if one sticks to just the original. This is where commentaries such as the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya by Sri Madhvacharya come in very handy.

One of the questions that is constantly asked with regard to the Swayamvara is – why did Bhimasena not attempt to lift and string the bow?

One naive conclusion drawn usually is that it would not have been possible for him to lift or string the bow. It is established beyond a doubt, in the original Mahabharata itself, that Bhimasena is incomparably stronger than Arjuna.  Further, Draupadi herself declares in the Mahabharata that the three people who can string the Gandiva are Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima.

http://www.mahabharataonline.com/translation/mahabharata_03012.php Page 31

Therefore, the bow that Drupada had arranged for the contest would not have been a challenge for Bhimasena.

The other question – Did the Pandavas want Draupadi to marry Arjuna only? Is that the reason why Bhimasena did not attempt stringing the bow? That is also not true. Even before the Pandavas enter the city of the Panchalas, Lord Veda Vyasa visits them in the forest and informs them that the daughter of Draupadi will become the wives of all five Pandavas.

http://www.mahabharataonline.com/translation/mahabharata_01172.php Page 344

So all the Pandavas, especially Bhimasena, knew very well in advance that Draupadi would marry all of them. So it was a question of who would string the bow. And Arjuna did it.

One reason for Arjuna getting up ahead of Bhimasena is that, according to the Shastras, an achievement by the younger brother is also considered as an achievement of the older ones. The reverse is not true. Hence one could say that Arjuna stringing the bow is equivalent to Bhimasena stringing it as well. But that is just a less important reason. The real reason has been brought out beautifully by Sri Madhvacharya in the MBTN.

To understand that reason, we need to briefly recall the story associated with Drupada and the birth of Draupadi.

When Bhishma brought Amba, Ambika and Ambalika to Hastinapur as wives for Vichitravirya, Amba reveals that she likes Salva. Bhishma releases her and she approaches Salva. Salva refuses to accept her as he was defeated by Bhishma. She returns to Hastinapur and there she is rejected by Bhishma also. Dejected, she performs a penance. Lord Shiva appears in front of her and grants her two things. Firstly, he grants her a boon saying that she would, in her next life, be a important part of the plot in killing Bhishma. The same Amba is born as Shikhandini in her next life and later turns into a man called Shikhandi. Shikhandi is the reason why Bhishma lays down arms on the tenth day of the great war!

Secondly, Lord Shiva grants Amba a celestial garland and tells her that the person who wears the garland would kill Bhishma. Amba goes around many kingdoms asking people to wear the same. Knowing the boon of Shiva, and utterly scared of Bhishma, no one dares to accept the garland. Amba finally places the garland on the gates of Drupada’s palace and ends her life.

Drupada keeps the garland with him. During the early years of Shikhandi, the garland is worn by him once. Now, the same garland is given to Draupadi during the Swayamvara. Which means the person whom Draupadi garlands in the Swayamvara will (have to) kill Bhishma. Bhimasena, a true follower of the Bhagavata Dharma, would never kill a devotee of Krishna (Vishnu). And it is well known that Bhishma is a great devotee of Krishna (he gave us the Vishnu Sahasra Nama).

Therefore, since Bhimasena would not kill Bhishma at any cost, he would not accept that particular garland from Draupadi. Another thing to note is that Bhimasena in this case, decides to honor the boon, unlike in the cases of other Rakshasas who had boons from various Devatas. In those cases, Bhimasena simply disregards the boon and proceeds to destroy them. Amba, in her original form, is the wife of the Vasu Dyaus, who incarnates as Bhishma. The fulfillment of Amba’s vow would only unite them back and hence Lord Shiva’s boon was to be honored.

So, the real reason for Arjuna stringing the bow ahead of Bhimasena is because it is Arjuna who has to kill Bhishma and not Bhimasena.

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42 Responses to “Draupadi Swayamvara: Why Arjuna, and not Bhima?”

  1. Niraj Says:

    Going purely by Tattvavada Sri Vishnu is on a higher designation than Lord Shiva.
    Warriors fight with astras. Ie a divyastra will have an energy of that deity. Hence by this logic a Vishnu astra is superior to a Shiva weapon since Vishnu is superior. Question If that’s the case then doesn’t Karna a weilder of Vishnu weapon ( Bhargava astra ) automatically supercedes Arjuna the wielder of pashupat astra. Both karna and arjuna did have brahmastra. There is no record of arjuna wielding or nullifying a Vishnu weapon. Krishna rescued him from Bhagdatts Vaishnav astra Ashwatthamas naryanaastra and as regards Karna he fired the bhargavastra twice. First Arjuna went to see Yudhishthira and the next time Bhargavastra nullified arjunas indra astra – confirming tattvavada that a superior deity will nullify the wepon of an inferior deity.
    Foot note I know MBTN record Bhima sena did nullify bhargava astra. But strictly talking from Karna vs arjuna visa vis superiority debate this is non contextual as its bhima who nullified it not arjuna.

  2. harivayu77 Says:

    Also a point to note that is when the pandavas were under the tutilage of Drona, Bheema had allowed arjuna to arrest drupada and drupada inturn wanted arjuna to be his son in law to fight against drina for the insult he received from him

  3. Arijeet Takkar Says:

    For all karna’s Fans:

    (SOURCE-TRANSLATION OF ORIGINAL MAHABHARAT OF VYAS BY KESARI MOHAN GANGULY
    & WHICH IS THE ONLY PRECISE TRANSLATION AVAILABLE ON PUBLIC DOMAIN):

    Incident 1:Karna fled rom battlefield from Arjuna(Virata Yudh):

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m04/m04060.htm

    Incident 2:Karna defeated by Gandharwa chitrasena:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03239.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03240.htm

    Incident 3:Arjuna defeat Ghandarwas & rescued Duryodhan & kurus:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03243.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03244.htm

    Incident 4:Karna defeated & freightened by Abhimanyu in chakruvyuhu:

    Hearing these words, Karna, afflicted with the shafts of Arjuna’s son, once more said unto Drona, ‘Exceedingly afflicted with the shafts of Abhimanyu, I am staying in battle, only because (as a warrior) I should stay here. Indeed, the arrows of this south of great energy are exceedingly fierce. Terrible as they are and possessed of the energy of fire, these arrows are weakening my heart.’

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m07/m07045.htm

    What Karna’s own friend Ashwathama & kripacharya think of karna:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m04/m04049.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m04/m04050.htm

    what Lord Krishna think of karna’s bravery:

    Krishna said(To Arjuna):.I swear by Truth to thee, O friend, that my limbs are burning at the thought that while the son of Subhadra was thus advancing, consuming the hostile army with his shafts, even on that occasion the wicked-souled Karna was engaged in acts of hostility to that hero,Unable, O Partha, to stay in that battle before Abhimanyu’s face, mangled with the shafts of Subhadra’s son, deprived of consciousness, and bathed in blood, Karna drew deep breaths, inflamed with rage. At last, afflicted with arrows, he was obliged to turn his back upon the field.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08073.htm

    & Finally karna himself accepting Arjuna’s supeority:

    Narrative:

    “‘Karna said(about Arjuna), “As far as I have heard,
    such a superior car-warrior has
    never been born on earth! Behold
    my prowess, since I will contend in
    battle with even that Partha who is
    such. This prince of Kuru’s line, this
    foremost of car-warriors, careers in
    battle, borne by his steeds white in
    hue. Perhaps he will despatch me to
    Yama’s abode today. Know, however,
    that with Karna’s death, these all
    will be exterminated. The two arms
    of this prince are never covered with
    sweat. They never tremble. They are
    massive and covered with cicatrices.
    Firm in the use of weapons, he is
    possessed of great skill and endued
    with great lightness of hands.
    Indeed, there is no warrior equal to
    the son of Pandu. He taketh a large
    number of arrows and shooteth them
    as if they were one. Quickly fixing
    them on the bow-string, he
    propelleth them to the distance of
    two miles. They always fall on the
    foe. What warriors is there on earth
    that is equal to him? That Atiratha,
    endued with great activity, with
    Krishna as his ally, gratified the god
    Agni at Khandava. There, on that
    occasion, the high-souled Krishna
    obtained his discus, and Savyasaci,
    the son of Pandu, obtained his bow
    Gandiva. There that mighty-armed
    one, endued with might that knows
    no decay, also obtained his terrible
    car unto which are yoked those white
    steeds, as also his two great
    celestial and inexhaustible quivers,
    and many celestial weapons, from
    the God of Fire. In the region of
    Indra he obtained his conch
    Devadatta and slew innumerable
    Daityas, and all the Kalakeyas. Who
    is there on earth that is superior to
    him? Possessed of greatness of soul,
    he gratified Mahadeva himself in fair
    fight, and obtained from him the
    terrible and mighty weapon Pasupata
    that is capable of destroying the
    three worlds. The several Regents of
    the world, united together gave him
    their weapons of immeasurable
    energy, with which that lion among
    men quickly destroyed in battle
    those united Asuras, the
    Kalakhanjas.

    So also, in Virata’s city,
    moving on a single car he
    vanquished all of us, and snatched
    from us that wealth of kine, and took
    from all the foremost of car-warriors
    (portions of) their garments.
    Challenging that foremost of
    Kshatriyas, that hero having him of
    Vrishni’s race for his ally, that
    warrior who is endued with such
    energy and such attributes, I regard
    myself, O Shalya, to be the foremost
    of persons in all the world in point
    of courage. He is, again, protected by
    that Keshava of great energy, who i
    Narayana himself and who is without
    a rival, that high-souled Vasudeva,
    that ever-victorious Vishnu armed
    with conch, discus, and mace, whose
    attributes all the world united
    together, cannot (in narrating)
    exhaust in 10,000 years. Beholding
    the two Krishnas together on the
    same car, fear entereth my heart
    together with courage. Partha is the
    foremost of all bowmen!

    Source:origial mahabharat by vyas..trans by km ganguly!

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08079.htm

    FINAL KARNA ARJUNA BATTLE(DAY 17 OF MAHABHARATA):

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08089.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08090.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08091.htm

    ACCORDING TO MY ANALYSIS OF THIS TRANSLATION IN THE FINAL BATTLE OF MAHABHARATA,ARJUNA & KARNA ASSAULTED EACH OTHER 35 TIMES WITH NUMEROUS, THOUSANDS & LAKHS OF ARROWS ………8 TIMES THEY NULLIFIED EACH OTHER ARROWS ,12 TIMES BOTH KARNA & ARJUNA PIERCED EACH OTHER BUT THE REMAINING 15 TIMES ARJUNA PIERCED KARNA IN EVERY PART OF HIS BODY & KARNA’S LIMBS,YOKE,STANDARD,STEEDS,CHARIOT WERE RIPPED APART & KARNA WAS LEFT MANGLED BATHED IN BLOOD & KARNA HAD NO ANSWER FOR ARJUNA’S ARROWS!!!

    Authenciaty of vyas original mahabharat by km ganguly:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kisari_Mohan_Ganguli

    OTHER MISCONCEPTIONS:

    MAHADEV SHIV HIMSELF ACCEPTED ARJUNA SUPERIOTY WHEN LORD SHIVA FOUGHT A DUEL WITH ARJUNA IN HUNTER DISGUISE WHEN ARJUNA DID SEVERE PENANCE ON HIS TWO THUMBS OF HIS FOOT TO OBTAIN PASHUPATASTRA FROM LORD SHIVA..ARJUNA WAS CALLED NARA & HE WAS THE MOST IDEAL MAN HIMSELF & LORD KRISHNA HIMSELF ACCEPTED IN GITA PRAISING HIS MORAL CHARACTER!READ WHAT MAHADEV HAS TO SAY ABOUT ARJUNA..IF YOU WANT I CAN POST ENTIRE NARRATIVE!!

    #####& EVEN IF FOR ANY REASON YOU WANT TO ARGUE WITH LORD SHIVA REGARDING ARJUNA PROWESS,THEN YOU ARE MOST WELCOME!!

    Moreover karna himself praised arjuna that everytime he cut thread of bow arjuna in such a speed rejoin his thread that karna cant notice..this is clearly memtioned in karna parva..for god’s sake read carefully..Moreover Arjuna wasnt responsible for karna shaap so why do u blame arjuna..why dont you people dont notice how abhimanyu single handedly hold at bay 5 kaurava generals simultaneously including karna when he was chariotless!!

    Moreover karna himself said to kunti(in ved vyas version) & to shalya ( in some telugu version) dat anybody except Mahadev Shiva would fear to fight arjuna wid krishna as his charioteer!

    Moreover about the kavach kundal u claimed of karna better get to know even if shakuni or even blind dhritrashtra had dat kavach kundal nobody not even demigods can penetrate his kavach..the fact of matter is that having impenetrable kavach kundal makes karna invincible in battle & battle will become 1 sided so karna having deprived of his kavach kundal makes the battle equally challenging for both & not 1 sided…So having kavacha kundal will definietly make you invincible in battle but wont show your archery talent!

    Moreover I laugh at your fact that kunti saved arjuna even though karna only promised he would spare all 4 pandavas except arjuna as karna was determined to kill arjuna even though knowing arjuna was his younger brother..On the other gand arjuna gandiva fell from his hand & he cried for fraticide he had done after karna death after kunti desclosed of karna reality as his elder brother to arjuna & after dat Arjuna developed great affection for karna last suviving son named Vrishaketu, & personally arjuna trained him & took utmost care of him.. This is Arjuna!!

    Arjuna wasnt even seduced by queen of all apsaras Urvashi whom even great rishis cant resist..Arjuna has an unmatched control of lust & respect for women which draupadi & krishna themselves praised!But what karna did-Karna encouraged cheer haran of draupadi & called drapadi A PROSTITUTE(VAISHYA)..god krishna doesnt like anybody without any reason!!

    Now coming at your brahmin curse for karna,aruna didnt gave him dat shap so why you blame arjuna..it was his destiny dat even arjuna cant change..in gitaopdesh lord vasudev showed arjuna his vishwaroopam in which karna alongwith all kaurava commanders were engulfed by lord krishna bigg mouth which arjuna saw..everybody knew those on path of adharm are sure to get defeated & stop blaming arjuna for dat!

    you r wrong again mate…If you read mahabharata properly shikhandi in her previous birth has a boon from lord shiva dat in her next birth as shikhandi,she will be d reason for bhishma death & krishna himeslf enginered bhishma death by arranging shikandi behind arjuna after bhishma himself told d way of his death becoz of shikhandi so u better stop blaiming arjuna for dat..dis was lord shiva boon dat was bound to happen.& according to u arjuna causing bhishma death was unjust..but dear it was again lord shiva boon dat shikandi obtained in her previous birth & dats d truth which ur ego cant change!dis was bound to happenn..then better blame lord shiva & lord krishna both dude..argue with gods then..u can assume however whatever u want in ur own version of mahabharata written by urself!but in actual mb,sorry mate dis doesnt happen dude.. accept dat!
    Now coming to your point dat karna forgot mantra for brahmastra invocation better read d last part sec 90-91 of karna parva. It was CLEARLY mentioned dat karna after initial struggle karna was able to recall mantra for brahmastra which he invoked & directed at arjuna which was queched by another brahmastra fired by arjuna..

    Jai Hind..
    satsriyakal..

  4. Aniket777 Says:

    For all those who call Arjuna inferior to Karna visit the link,& find out the truth yourself from original Ved Vyasa Mahabharata:

    https://www.facebook.com/karnavsarjuna?ref=hl

  5. Sanchit Says:

    Thank you for this, but I think or I have seen is that Arjun was good for that particular task, as it was not just to pick up the Bow, but to shoot in the eye of the Fish too. Bhima couldn’t have done that.


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