When Duryodhana returned to Hastinapura, he succeeded in obtaining his father's permission even as Sakuni had suggested. Dhritarashtra then commanded that a great Assembly Hall be built; and when it was completed, ordered Vidura to go to Indraprastha and bring Yudhisthira and his brothers to see it and to play a friendly game of dice.
The Commission of Vidura: Vidura did not approve of the king's command and, much against his will, started for the city of the Pandavas. Arriving there, he gave the king's message to Yudhisthira, saying, "The king has commanded me to tell you that his Assembly Hall is equal to yours; and has asked you to come and see it and play a friendly game of dice with your cousins. There will be assembled those gamblers, the cheats who have been brought there by the illustrious king Dhritarashtra. Come let the king's command be obeyed by you. Yudhisthira then asked the names of the dishonest gamblers with whom he was required to play; and Vidura told him the names of Sakuni and others. "Then," said Yudhisthira, "it appears that some of the most desperate and terrible gamblers, who always depend on deceit, are present there. I do not desire to engage in gambling at the command of king Dhritarashtra, for a father always wishes to benefit his sons. You are our master, O Vidura. Tell me what is proper for us to do. I am unwilling to gamble; but if challenged by Sakuni, I will never refuse. That is my settled vow."
The Pandavas in Hastinapura: After this preparations for the journey were made; and Yudhisthira, accompanied by his brothers, relations and attendants, and taking Draupadi with himself, went with Vidura, and soon arrived at Hastinapura. They were welcomed by all; and having passed the day in happiness, they entered the Assembly Hall the next morning, and were saluted by the gamblers assembled there. Draupadi alone remained behind with the princesses in her apartments.
The Rules of the Game: Yudhisthira and others then took their seats. Then Sakuni said, "O king, the assembly is full, and we are waiting for you. Let the dice be cast and the rules of the game be fixed." Yudhisthira replied, "O king, deceitful gambling is a sin; there is no morality in it. Do not, like a cruel man, defeat us by deceitful means. O Sakuni, gambling is not a sport. By playing deceitfully and desperately do not seek to win from us our wealth intended to benefit the Brahmanas. Even enemies should not be vanquished by desperate stakes in a deceitful game. But, when challenged, I do not withdraw. This is my established vow. I know that Fate is all powerful; we are all in the power of Fate."
Sakuni and Yudhisthira as Players: Then Sakuni, playing on behalf of Duryodhana, and Yudhisthira engaged in the game; and, Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, Drona, Krpa and the rest took their seats in the Assembly Hall to watch this friendly match.
The Game of Dice: The stakes were high and equal; and Sakuni, taking up the dice, threw them and said, "Lo, I have won."
The Deceit of Sakuni: "O Sakuni, you have won by deceitful means," said Yudhisthira. The king then staked, one after another, many beautiful jars filled with gold, his royal car, a hundred yousand accomplished serving maids, a thousand serving men, a thousand elephants, a thousand cars and steeds, ten thousand wagons, and untold wealth of different kinds and each time Sakuni, ever ready with the dice, and using unfair means, cried, "Lo, I have won." Then Yudhisthira staked, one after another, his brothers Nakula, Sahadeva, Arjuna and Bhima; and each time Sakuni, adopting unfair means, cried, "Lo, I have won." Then he staked himself, the last of the Pandava brothers; and again Sakuni, adopting unfair means, cried, "Lo, I have won."
The Stake of Draupadi: Then Sakuni, addressing Yudhisthira, cried, "There is still one stake, dear to you, which is not yet won. Stake Draupadi, the princess of Panchala." Then Yudhisthira staked Draupadi, fair like Sri, and blooming like the lotus; and all who heard were filled with fear and shame, and tears began to trickle down their eyes. Dhritarashtra alone was glad, and could hardly conceal his emotion when Sakuni cried, "Lo, I have won."
Draupadi and the Assembly Hall: Duryodhana then asked Vidura to bring Draupadi into the Assembly Hall, but the latter indignantly refused. Then turning to Pratikamin, a man of the Suta caste, he commanded him to do so; and he went to Draupadi as he was bid.
The Question of Draupadi: The queen asked him to return to Yudhisthira and inquire whom he had lost first, himself or her; and when he did so, the king, like one deprived of reason, did not make any reply. Duryodhana interposed, saying that the princess of Panchala should put the question in the open assembly, and let all hear Yudhisthira's reply. Pratikamin returned to Draupadi, and she sent him back again for a reply to her question.
Yudhisthira's Message to Draupadi: Then Yudhisthira sent a trusted messenger to her, asking her to come before her father-in-law, though she was weeping and attired in one piece of cloth, with her navel exposed in consequence of her season having come.
The Outrage of Duhsasana: Then Duryodhana, finding that Pratikamin was reluctant to go again, sent Duhsasana to Draupadi; and he, with blood-red eyes, entered her apartments. She, much distressed, tried to hide herself; but he seized her by her long, blue, and Wavy hair; and, dragging her, brought her into the Assembly Hall, trembling like the banyan tree in a storm. Draupadi cried that she was not in a fit condition to be taken to the Hall, being in her season and attired only in one piece of cloth; but Duhsasana did not care, and with dishevelled hair and loosened dress, dragged her into the assembly before all those gathered there.
The Anguish of Draupadi: Draupadi was greatly agitated and cried, "O wretched man of cruel deeds, I cannot stand before these persons in this state. Do not uncover me and drag me thus; I am in my season. Fie on all the Kurus in this assembly when they look silently on this act which transgresses all Kuru morality! Why do Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and king Dhritarashtra, the best of Kuru elders, look silently on this great crime? Here, in this assembly, are present Kurus who are lords of sons and daughters-in-law. Let them all, reflecting on my words, answer the question I have asked."
The Pandava brothers looked on, silent and helpless; and seeing this, Duhsasana dragged her all the more forcibly, and repeatedly called her "Slave, slave," and laughed aloud. Karna was glad and he laughed too; and so did Sakuni and Duryodhana, and applauded him.
Bhishma's Reply: But Bhishma was sad at heart and said, "O blessed lady, I am unable to decide the point put forward by you, whether Yudhisthira, having lost himself, could stake and lose you thereafter. The ways of morality are subtle, and I am unable to decide the matter."
The Unrobing of Pandavas and Draupadi: Then Vikarna, the son of Dhritarashtra, gave his opinion that, as Yudhisthira, having been excited by deceitful gamblers, staked Draupadi after he had lost himself, he regarded Draupadi as not properly won. At this Karna was filled with rage; and, after rebuking Vikarna, ordered Duhsasana to take off the robes of the Pandavas as well as of Draupadi. At this the Pandavas took off their upper garments and, throwing them down, sat silent in the Hall. Then Duhsasana, in the presence of all, began to pull the cloth of Draupadi.
Krshna to the Rescue: When he did so, she thought of Krshna and prayed, "O Janardana, save me, save me!" Krshna, hearing her, was deeply moved; and, unseen by all, came to her protection and by his will, as the cloth of Draupadi was being removed, more and more of it appeared and covered her. Seeing this extraordinary sight, all those present there applauded Draupadi and censured the sons of Dhritarashtra.
The Vow of Bhima: Then Bhima took a terrible vow that for this deed of Duhsasana he would tear open his heart on the field of battle, and drink his blood.
The Question of Draupadi: Then Draupadi, sore afflicted at heart, cried out, "Tell me, O kings, whether you consider me won or not. This day I have been allowed to be persecuted by wicked men in the presence of all. I have been brought before this assembly and exposed. Never before was I seen in public except on the occasion of my Svayamvara. I am the daughter and wife of a king, born in the same order to which you belong. Tell me, am I a servant woman or not? I shall abide by what you decide."
The Answer of Bhishma: Then Bhishma answered that, from the importance of the issue involved, from its intricacy and subtlety, he was unable to answer with certainty the question of Draupadi. Thereupon Duryodhana asked her to get an answer from her husbands; but the Pandavas, specially Yudhisthira, spoke not a word.
Duryodhana's Thigh: Then Karna called upon her to go into the inner apartments, as a slave, and choose another husband, for the Pandavas were slaves themselves; and Duryodhana, to encourage him, uncovered his Right thigh and showed it to Draupadi. Seeing this, Bhima was filled with rage, and cried out, "Let me perish if I break not that thigh in a great battle."
Dhritarashtra's Intervention: Thereafter a jackal cried aloud in the sacrificial chamber of king Dhritarashtra; asses began to bray, and fearful birds to shriek. All knew the import of this, and spoke to the king to intervene: Then the wise old king addressed Draupadi, and said, "O Panchali, ask from me any boon you desire. Chaste and devoted to virtue, you are the foremost of my daughters-in-law." Then Draupadi asked for the freedom of her husbands, and this the king gladly gave. He returned to the Pandavas their kingdom and wealth, and asked them to forget the harshness of Duryodhana, saying, "It was to meet with our friends and to examine the strength and weakness of my sons that I allowed this game of dice to proceed. Return to your kingdom, and let there be brotherly love between you and your cousins." Then Yudhisthira, accompanied by Draupadi and his brothers, took his leave, and they all started for the best of cities, Indraprastha.
The Second Game: They had not gone far, however, when Duryodhana again succeeded in persuading his father to call them back; and, much against the wish of his advisers, the old king agreed to their playing again. This time the wager was that he who lost should live in exile in a forest for twelve years and spend the thirteenth in some inhabited place, unrecognised; and, if recognised, the period of exile was to be renewed again.
Pratikamin was sent in haste to recall the princes; and Yudhisthira, when he heard of the king's command, knowing full well the deception practised by Sakuni, came back to sit at the game again. The nature of the new stake was explained to him by Sakuni; and Yudhisthira, knowing the consequence, yet agreed. Sakuni took up the dice, threw them, and cried, "Lo, I have won!"
Preparations for Exile: Thereupon the vanquished sons of Prtha attired themselves in deer skins and prepared themselves for exile in the forest. Duhsasana was beside himself with joy and, dancing about in the midst of the Kurus, cried, "O cow, O cow!" Duryodhana was equally transported, and mimicked the lion-like movements of Bhima. But that hero controlled himself, saying, "If ever we engage in battle again, I shall be the slayer of Duryodhana, Dhananjaya (Arjuna) will slay Karna, and Sahadeva the gambler Sakuni. As regards the wicked-minded Duhsasana, I will drink his blood."
Then each of the Pandavas took a vow; Arjuna that he would slay Karna; Sahadeva that he would slay Sakuni; and Nakula that he would destroy the wicked-minded sons of Dhritarashtra.
Farewell: Yudhisthira bade farewell to all; and, at the desire of Vidura, left his mother, Kunti, behind to stay with him (Vidura). Vidura bade them take Narada and their priest Dhaumya for their instructors, and blessed them all. Kunti blessed Draupadi and embraced her sons, and her heart was choked with grief. But she controlled herself, and blessed them. Then Yudhisthira, accompanied by his brothers and Draupadi, departed for the forest.