Mahābhārata – Episode 48 – Kīcaka Assaults Draupadī

This article is part 48 of 112 in the series Mahābhārata

Kīcaka’s joy knew no bounds when he saw Sairandhrī. He felt like a person who had found a boat just by chance when he badly wanted to cross a lake. He said, “Sairadhrī! Welcome, my lady! Please come in! Today’s night is going to be a happy one. Come, give me pleasure!”[1]

Draupadī said, “The queen has sent me here; it appears she's really thirsty. I must get her a drink.”

Kīcaka said, “Well, someone else will go and give it to her!" and held her right hand. She wriggled out of his clutches, pushed him to the ground, and ran to the court hall where the king and Yudhiṣṭhira were seated. Seizing her long hair, he chased after her and in the presence of the king, he kicked her and she fell down on the ground, helpless.[2] Yudhiṣṭhira and Bhīmasena, who were also present in the hall, were witnesses to this. Bhīma began grinding his teeth with anger sufficient to kill Kīcaka but Yudhiṣṭhira made signs to him, reminding him about their incognito exile. Bhīma was forced to control himself.

Draupadī stood at the entrance of the court, profusely in tears, and looked at her husbands who were helpless. She spoke the following words, without revealing her identity: “This son of a sūta has kicked me, a respectable lady.[3] He has tried to harm the wife of men, who are valorous, dhārmic, and honest. He has tortured me, the wife of the protectors of the world. Where are those mahārathis? Though brave and strong, how do they stand the pain their wife is facing at the hands of the wretched one? Have they turned into eunuchs? Has their ferociousness vanished? They are not people who will remain silent seeing their wife being humiliated!  There is no point in cursing this king as an adharmi! Everyone who’s keeping silent at this critical hour are siding with adharma, indeed! O king! You seem to have lost your kingliness as Kīcaka is around? Where has your dharma as the king vanished? Your behaviour is like that of highway robbers.[4] The king of Matsya-deśa seems to share Kīcaka’s wicked characteristics too! Those seated here in the court have also taken to adharma, since they are silent spectators to the injustice here. O king! I don’t intend to insult you! May the dignitaries here contemplate upon the humiliation that I am facing in the open court!”

Listening to her words of pain, Virāṭa merely said, “Sairandhrī! Your fight has taken place without my knowledge, elsewhere; and I wasn’t witness to it; without knowing the truth, if I dispense justice, will good things happen to me?” But the courtiers respected Draupadī’s words and pointed a finger at Kīcaka. Dharmarāja silently swallowed the anger that was blazing within him. He started sweating in the forehead as a result. He told Draupadī, “Sairandhrī, don’t stand here; go to Sudeśna’s house. Great and valorous wives tread the path indicated by their husbands. I am of the belief that your husbands feel that this is not the time to be overcome by anger. Go, go away; don’t obstruct the king’s game of dice. The gandharvas will bring you happiness and do what is dear to you.”[5] Enraged and red-eyed, Draupadī stormed out of the court and rushed to the house of Sudeśna, weeping profusely. The queen saw her and asked, “O beautiful lady! Why do you cry? Who hit you? What did they do to you that isn’t dear to you?” Draupadī replied, “I went to fetch you something to drink and at that moment Kīcaka tried to force himself on me, like it was a deserted place and in the presence of the king, he kicked me in the assembly.” In response, Sudeśna said these words of solace: “If you so desire, I shall award strict punishment to Kīcaka, who is overcome by lust and tried to assault you, who was unattainable by him.” Draupadī replied, “Let that be, there are others who will punish him; indeed, today he shall attain the other worlds (i.e. he shall die); I know that for sure!” With her body burning with rage, she walked away to her apartments.[6] She washed her body and then wet the clothes that she was wearing, even as tears welled in her eyes. Sobbing, she told herself, “What to do? Where should I go? What should happen if my work should be done? How will my sorrows go away?” She thought of Bhīma. She decided that there was none who could undertake the activity that was to her liking with the sole exception of Bhīma. She rose from her bed and with a stricken heart she went to the kitchen and woke Bhīma up with these mocking words: “Rise Bhīmasena! Why are you sleeping like a corpse? How can you get sleep when my enemy Kīcaka has committed such a terrible act and is yet alive!” Bhīmasena awoke and sat up. He said, “What’s this Kṛṣṇā! You’ve come here at this hour? Tell me, what is bothering you, what is causing displeasure to you? Whatever might be your difficulty, I will liberate you from it in a trice! But be quick; tell me what you want and get back to your bed as soon as possible, lest someone sees you here!”

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 review and astute feedback.



[1] Translators' Note: Kīcaka words at this point are lewd and dishonourable. He says, "O damsel with beautiful tresses! Night has turned to day! I've now attained you as my mistress. Now, pleasure me. Let them bring golden garlands, conches, earrings, silken robes, and antelope skins. I've prepared a pure bed for your sake. Come with me to my bed and drink the honey-like liquor!"

[2] At this point, the rākṣasa appointed by the Sun pushed Kīcaka down with the force of the wind. He fell to the ground, motionless, like an uprooted tree.

[3] Translators’ Note: In the original, while Draupadī complains to Virāṭa, the line “This son of a sūta has kicked me, a respectable lady, with his foot” repeats as a motif.

[4] Translators’ Note: The original has ‘dasyu,’ which was the general name given to people who did not adhere to the rules and regulations of civilized society.

[5] Translators’ Note: Before storming out of the court Draupadī tells Dharmarāja, “I adhere to dharma for the sake of those who are very tolerant! When the eldest one is addicted to gambling, is it difficult to overpower them?”

[6] Translators’ Note: In the original, the narrator (Vaiśampayana) says, “Having been kicked by that son of a sūta, the princess Kṛṣṇā shone in the radiance of her anger and plotted the death of the army general.”







Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh


Hari is a writer, translator, editor, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written/translated and (co-)edited 25+ books, mostly related to Indian culture and philosophy. He serves on the advisory board of a few educational institutions.

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