Source: Mahabharata Virata Parva, Keechaka Vadha Upa Parva: Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya
The Virata Parva is one of the most interesting sections of the Mahabharata. The exile period of the Pandavas reaches a climax here and lays the ground for the final war. It is in this Parva that the demon Keechaka is killed.
The circumstances under which Keechaka is killed makes for very interesting reading. Of course, this portion again has been distorted in popular literature. My humble attempt here at portraying the incident true to the moola and also the Tatparya Nirnaya of Srimadacharya.
After 10 months of the 1 year exile-in-disguise period had passed, Keechaka, the Senadhipati of the Virata Kingdom and defacto ruler, comes back to the capital. He would be away on a mission to conquer more kingdoms. Within a few days of his arrival, he notices the presence of Sairandhri – Draupadi in disguise. He is completely enchanted with her beauty and wants to obtain her at any cost. Note that Draupadi, by this time, is already over 60 years and mother of 5 children! Still, the fact that Keechaka falls for her is testimonial to her age defying beauty and grace.
Keechaka approaches his younger sister Sudheshna, the Queen, and seeks her help in obtaining Draupadi. Sudheshna advises him against it and informs him that Sairandhri is protected by her “Gandharva” husbands. Keechaka, intoxicated by lust, listens to nothing of her advise and demands that she send over Sairandhri to him. Sudheshna, without any alternative, thinks of a plan and calls Sairandhri. She asks him to go to Keechaka’s palace and fetch wine. Sairandhri refuses to do so and tells her that Keechaka has been eyeing her for a while now and therefore it is extremely inappropriate for her to visit his palace. Sairandhri also reminds Sudeshna that one of her conditions prior to joining work was that she wouldn’t ever fetch wine.
Sudheshna overrules Draupadi and orders her to go to Keechaka’s palace. Draupadi prays to Surya Deva who creates a Rakshasa and sends him behind Draupadi for her protection. Draupadi reaches the palace and Keechaka tries a great extent to convince her. Upon her refusal, he starts to misbehave with her. He tries to hold her forcibly but is pushed down by Draupadi and she runs towards the King’s palace.
King Virata at that time is playing a game of dice with Kanka, who is Yudhisthira in disguise. The entire assembly is also present. Bhimasena, in the guise of Ballava the cook, is also present in the hall. Draupadi pleads with the King to help her. Virata, utterly scared of Keechaka, asks her not to disturb their game and orders her to go away! Keechaka meanwhile tries to get his hand on her. Lord Mukhyaprana enters into the Rakshasa and gives a push to Keechaka. Keechaka has a bad fall but doesn’t learn any lessons.
Bhimasena gets completely infuriated with this. He starts eyeing at a huge tree just outside the assembly. Yudhisthira notices the anger in Bhimasena’s eyes and quickly realizes what his brother is thinking of. In order to avoid an open challenge in the palace, Yudhisthira speaks to his brother in code language. He tells Ballava that if he is looking for firewood, then he should go get them from the wild rather than break the nearby tree. Bhimasena understands this code and decides to finish Keechaka outside of the town.
Draupadi gets back to Sudheshna and cries a lot. In the middle of that night, she goes to the King’s kitchen. Bhimasena is lying down there when Draupadi approaches him. The two meet and Bhimasena is extremely annoyed to see the trouble Draupadi is going through. Draupadi tells him that anyone who is associated with Yudhisthira (Dharma) has to go through pain and trouble. Bhimasena promises to end her misery and asks her to go invite Keechaka to the dance hall just outside the city, at the middle of the night.
Draupadi approaches Keechaka and tells him to meet her the next night at the dance hall. Keechaka is too excited and eagerly gets ready. At the right time, Keechaka enters the dance hall. Bhimasena who is seated in the middle is approached by Keechaka who is suddenly greeted by the iron arms of Bhimasena. A duel ensues between the two and very soon, Keechaka is overpowered. The moola Mahabharata describes in great detail the gory way in which Keechaka meets his end. His arms and legs are crushed and inserted into his anus and his body is pulped into a ball.
Bhimasena returns to his kitchen. Draupadi then informs the attenders of Keechaka’s fate. Their wails are heard by Upa-keechakas, the brothers of Keechaka. These brothers are 105 in number. They see the terrible state of their leader and decide to avenge by burning alive Draupadi along with their brother’s body. Draupadi gives out a shout in code language calling for her Gandharva brothers. Bhimasena hears the shout and reaches the place in a flash, jumping over walls and trees.
Within a matter of minutes, the 105 brothers of Keechaka join him in his journey to the netherworld. The attenders then reach the King and inform him of the killing of the 106 keechakas at the hands of Sairandhri’s Gandharva husband. The terrified, at the same time extremely relieved, Virata orders for a common pyre to be prepared and for a quick cremation of all of them!
Thus, one of the evil demons of the Mahabharata age, Keechaka, was killed by Bhimasena further aiding the establishment of Dharma.
1) In the popular TV series Mahabharata, it is shown that Bhimasena dresses up like a lady and sits in the dance hall waiting for Keechaka. This is neither mentioned in MBH nor in the Tatparya Niranaya.
2) In the TV series, it is shown that Arjuna is a part of the plan to eliminate Keechaka. In fact, he is shown playing Mridangam during the Keechaka killing. This again is unfaithful to the original MBH and Tatparya Nirnaya. The MBH clearly records the conversation between Draupadi and Brihannala the day after Keechaka’s death. Arjuna asks her the reason for her joy and she literally snubs him and gives him an indirect answer.