Drupada heard the words of Dharmarāja sent through the purohita and was yet unable to determine the clan and the family lineage of the groom; so he thought of a plan to find that out. By the time the Pāṇḍavas arrived in Pāñcāla, in their honour, he had arranged a collection of flowers, fruits, animal hide, armours, chairs, beds, and suchlike objects; in another part of the house, there had been placed cattle, bells, and all those implements used for agriculture; in yet another portion, there were various objects related to sculpture; so also there were excellent chariots, horses, armours, knives, bows, arrows, and other weapons of war. They arrived. Kuntī took Kṛṣṇā with her and went to the inner chambers; there, all the womenfolk offered their respects [to the newly-wed bride.] Accompanied by minister, son, and friends, Drupada welcomed the Pāṇḍavas. Although they were dressed in antelope hide, their gait was like that of a lion with valour in every step; each one was like a huge bull; their long arms reached their knees; they were endowed with broad shoulders; Drupada was delighted to see them. Without a hint of suspicion, inhibition, or wonder, they sat down on the best of seats with excellent footstools, one after another. The royal feast was brought to them on golden and silver plates. Male and female servants dressed in pure clothes served the food to them. After their meal, they rose and walked past all the objects placed in front of them finally reaching the section with all the equipments related to warfare; they positioned themselves there. The king was pleased to see this. Drupada offered his respects to all of them in a manner befitting brāhmaṇas and then told Yudhiṣṭhira, “O great men! Who should we take you to be? Kṣatriyas? Brāhmaṇas? Vaiśyas? Śūdras? Or are you siddhas with magical powers who can move about anywhere with different appearances, and have descended from the heavens in pursuit of Kṛṣṇā? Please tell me, for we have a great doubt in this matter. Our hearts will find solace if our doubts are cleared; our fortune will bear fruit; speak out without hesitation; tell the truth; do not lie to us; truth alone adorns kings. Soon after you reply, I shall make the arrangements for the wedding as per the tradition.” Yudhiṣṭhira said, “Mahārāja! Don’t worry; your wishes have indeed come true; we are Kṣatriyas; we are the children of the great Pāṇḍu; I am the eldest; these two are Bhīma and Arjuna—those who won your daughter in the assembly of kings; these are the twins Nakula and Sahadeva. Discard your anxiety, O king! We are Kṣatriyas. Your daughter is a beautiful lotus that has been shifted from one lake to another. You are our elder and we greatly respect you; therefore I am laying bare the truth in front of you without any concealment.” At that time the joy that engulfed Drupada transcended words. His eyes were filled with tears of joy; he held on to his clothes tightly and wasn’t able to utter a single word. With great effort he controlled his emotions and asked them how they escaped from the fire. Dharmarāja narrated the chain of events in great detail. Drupada cursed Dhṛtarāṣṭra and then spoke words of reassurance to the Pāṇḍavas. He told them that he would help them in getting their share of the kingdom. All of them went into the palace and were recipients of the royal respect offered to them. After they had rested [their bodies and minds], Drupada said, “I must now find an auspicious day and perform the wedding of my daughter with Arjuna!” Yudhiṣṭhira said, “Mahārāja! I too must get married.” Drupada said, “Well, if you wish, you get married to her; else, give her in marriage with whoever [whichever brother] you like.” In response, Yudhiṣṭhira said, “O king! Let Draupadī be a queen to all of us! Our mother has instructed us in this manner. Bhīma and I have not yet married. Arjuna has won your jewel-like daughter. We have made an agreement that every jewel we obtain, we will equally share; we do not desire to break that pact now; therefore let Kṛṣṇā marry each one of us, in order, with Agni as the witness, and become a lawfully wedded wife to all of us.” Drupada said, “O Kaunteya! One man may have many wives; but how can one woman have many husbands? Is this even possible? You being an adherent of dharma as well as a pure-hearted person, how could you think of such a course of action that runs counter to both the words of the Vedas and the customs of the people?” Yudhiṣṭhira replied, “Mahārāja! Dharma is extremely subtle; we don’t realize its nuances; we tread the path trodden by our elders and ancestors; but I never utter a lie; my mind never thinks adharma; Mother has said so; it is my desire too; this is dharma indeed, Mahārāja! Don’t hesitate and mull over this back and forth; make arrangements for the wedding without any doubts in your heart!” Drupada pronounced his decision by saying, “My good man, if that is the case then you, Kuntī, and my son Dṛṣṭadyumna contemplate upon this matter and whatever the three of you decide, we shall do accordingly tomorrow.” Kuntī and Yudhiṣṭhira did not change their stance; Dṛṣṭadyumna had to agree with their view. Drupada thought, “Can one avoid what fate has ordained? What can I do?” and made arrangements for the wedding. The relatives and friends of the king, all those close to the royal family, and noble brāhmaṇas came [to be a part of the wedding]. The vivāha-maṇṭapa (wedding pavilion) was adorned with lotuses and blue lilies and embellished with precious gems; it looked like the night sky that is resplendent with stars. Kṛṣṇā and the Pāṇḍavas took the traditional maṅgala-snāna (auspicious bath), adorned themselves with various ornaments, donned expensive clothes, anointed themselves with various perfumes, and then proceeded to the pavilion. After the purohita completed the rituals of havana and homa, Yudhiṣṭhira took Kṛṣṇā by the hand and walked around the ceremonial fire. The next day, Bhīma was married to Kṛṣṇā in a similar fashion. On the following days, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva were married to Kṛṣṇā one after the other. Although Kṛṣṇā was married [to the elder brother] the previous day, she would become a kanyā (bride/ virgin) the following day! In that great lady’s wedding, this was an extraordinary occurrence. After the wedding, Drupada gifted the Pāṇḍavas a great deal of wealth; a hundred excellent chariots, each adorned with golden garlands and with golden bridles tied to the four horses drawing each chariot; a hundred elephants adorned with gold; a hundred maid servants dressed in wonderful clothes and ornaments; and expensive jewellery. The mighty Pāṇḍavas, newly married, having received all this gold
and wealth, equaled Indra in brilliance. Drupada was delighted that his daughter was married to the Pāṇḍavas. “Let even the gods come! I have no fear!” – such was his confidence; his fears were allayed. The ladies from the inner chambers offered their worship to Kuntī; as for Kṛṣṇā, she wore fresh silken garments and bangles, offered her salutations to her mother-in-law and stood with folded hands; looking at her beautiful, high-souled daughter-in-law of impeccable character, Kuntī blessed her with the words, “Just as Indrāṇī is to Indra, just as Svāhādevī is to Agni, just as Rohiṇī is to Soma, just as Damayantī is to Naḻa, just as Bhadrā is to Kubera, just as Arundhatī is to Vasiṣṭha, and Lakṣmī is to Nārāyaṇa, you too must be to your husbands – a perfect companion! Give birth to children who are healthy [long-lived] and courageous! May you get all the comforts of life, attain great prosperity, be a partner to your husband while he performs yajña, and become a practitioner of austerities! Spend your years offering the appropriate reverence to guests, noble people, saints, children, elders, gurus, and wise people! Yudhiṣṭhira is the great champion of dharma in the kingdom of the Kurus and beyond; you must crown him as king and be anointed as the queen! Get your mighty husbands to win over the earth, make them perform the Aśvamedha yajña and offer all their wealth to brāhmaṇas. O auspicious one! May you get all the great and precious jewels of the earth! Live for a hundred years in joy! Just as I bless you today, upon seeing you in silken garments, may you be the recipient of more such blessings, having given birth to sons and continuing to be endowed with the highest qualities!” Kṛṣṇa sent several gifts to the Pāṇḍavas after their marriage; he sent them wedding ornaments of pearls and intricately carved ornaments that he had sourced from several countries, expensive gifts, blankets, animal hide, beds, vehicles, chariots, elephants, horses, male and female servants, and gold pieces and coins. With a view to please Govinda, Dharmarāja accepted all these gifts with joy.
 Just as they got together to discuss the matter, Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana came there. Drupada then asked him about the wedding of his daughter with the Pāṇḍavas. “How can a woman become the wife of multiple men?” In response, Vyāsa said, “This dharma is no longer practiced since it is against the Vedas as well as existing customs. What do you all think about this?” Drupada said, “This practice leads to sin. Where can we find a woman who is the wife of many – either now or in the past? This seems immoral to me.” Dṛṣṭadyumna said, “If one has to tread the path of dharma, how can he sleep with his younger brother’s wife? The ways of dharma are subtle and we don’t know it all, so we can’t be sure! When there is doubt, I am not sure how to perform an act!” Yudhiṣṭhira said, “Never will my tongue lie or my mind sin. In the past, there was a virtuous lady named Jaṭilā from Gautama’s lineage who co-habited with seven ṛṣis. Among gurus, the mother is the first and when she said that we must share what we receive, how can this be against dharma?” Kuntī said, “I agree with my son. I am afraid that my words might prove to be false. How can I be saved from telling a lie?” Vyāsa said, “You will be saved from telling a lie, for this is the eternal dharma. Drupada, I won’t reveal this to everyone; you alone shall hear how this practice was established and why this is ancient. Indeed, what Kaunteya has said is in accordance to dharma!” Vyāsa held Drupada’s hand and led him to the king’s private chambers. Then Vyāsa said, “In ancient times, when the deities performed a great yajña in Naimiṣāraṇya, Indra saw a radiant woman who was weeping near the river Gaṅgā. When Indra asked her why she was crying, she led him to a handsome young man surrounded by women, seated on a throne atop the mountain, playing dice. Since Indra behaved arrogantly with that young man, who was actually Mahādeva, he was cursed to be born on the earth, along with four other Indras who were similarly arrogant. After their human births, during which they would undertake great acts of violence, they would find release. Goddess Lakṣmī herself will incarnate as their common wife in the human world. The former Indras took birth as the Pāṇḍavas and Lakṣmī was born as Draupadī. O king, I will grant you a boon – you can see Kuntī’s sons in their previous forms!” Drupada beheld the sight and touched Vyāsa’s feet. Then the great ṛṣi continued, “In a forest hermitage, there lived a daughter of a seer who couldn’t find a husband and so she worshiped Śiva; when he appeared before her and asked he what she wanted, she repeated five times that she wanted a good husband. Śiva then blessed her with five excellent husbands in a future birth. She was born as Draupadī. Knowing all this, do as you wish!” Drupada was finally convinced about giving his daughter’s hand in marriage to all the Pāṇḍavas.
 After speaking with Drupada, Vyāsa told Dharmarāja, “O Pāṇḍava! Today the moon has entered Puṣya and it is an auspicious day; accept Kṛṣṇā’s hand in marriage today!”
 Translators’ Note: This included their purohita Dhaumya, whom the Pāṇḍavas had approached after their encounter with Citraratha.  The word kanyā can mean ‘maiden,’ ‘virgin,’ ‘girl,’ etc.
To be continued…
This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh for his thorough review and astute feedback. Additional segments from the epic and notes by the translators have been added in the footnotes after going through the Critical Text of the Mahābhārata.