Why were the defenceless sons of Draupadi killed in sleep?

In his reply, the Holy Birds narrated the strange happenings of a famous Ruler of the Yore.The most virtuous and ideal King Harischandra was an outstanding Ruler of the Satya Yuga when Dharma, Truth and Honesty were at the peak; he treated his subjects as his own children who in turn reciprocated his fatherly love totally. During his time, none feared of illness, untimely death and unfulfilled desires of life; even Deities being fully convinced of his high qualities and merit cooperated in ensuring that his Kingdom was peaceful and unparalelled. Once, King Harischandra went to a nearby forest for hunting, when he heard loud shrieks of women saying ‘help us, help us’. The King wondered that in his Kingdom, there were such pitiful screams and hence shouted back to say that hewas approaching the direction from where the crying squeals emerged. Actually, the shouts were the illusions created by the Vighnaraja Vinayaka. Harischandra knew that Sage Viswamitra was performing severe penance in that very forest. With a view to test the King, the Lord of Hindrances Gajaanana entered Harischandra’s body that was in search of the illusory shrieking women and faced Viswamitra whose penance was disturbed.The Sage grew angry at the King but the illusion created by Vighnaraja in the King’s body made the latter argue with the Sage in harsh words. After realising his folly, soon after Vighnaraja exited his body, the King apologised to the Sage profusely and offered all kinds of help for a Yagna that the Sage was to perform soon. The Sage told the King that presuming whatever assistance that the King would provide for the Yagna, he would also have to offer ‘dakshina’ (Fees) to the Sage. Harischandra thus entered into the Sage’s trap; Viswamitra said:

Rajanpratigruheethoyam yastey datthah,
Prayaccha Prathamam thavathdakshinaam Rajasuyakeem

(Raja! Let us presume that whatever you would have liked to give me, might have been given away to me, but how about the Dakshina to me for performing the Rajasuya Yagna?).

Harischandra replied: Brahmam-Staamapi dasyami dakshinaam bavathohyamam, vriyatam Dwijashardula yastaveshtah Pratigruham/ (Hey Brahman! I shall nodoubt provide dakshina too as you desire). The reply from Viswamitra was indeed unsavoury as he said:

Sasaagaram dharaametam Sabhubhrudgramapathanaam Rajyamchasakalam Veera rathaaswagajamsakalam Koshtaagaaramcha koshamcha yacchhanyadwidyatey tava/
binaa bharya cha putram chashariramcha tavaanagha/
Dharmam cha Sarva Dharmanjna yoganthamunigacchati,
bahunaava kimuktena sarvametatpradeeyataam

(Hey Vira! These entire Seas, Bhumi, Townships, villages, mountains, chariots, horses, elephants etc.; Koshtaagaar (Interior Courts, Treasury and all the rest would belong to me, excepting your wife, son and your-self as they would belong to you as per Dharma Sastras; why all this, you have to give me each and everything else!) Vishwamitra then asked Harischandra to confirm as to who was the King ; if so the latter should immediately leave the place devoid of ornaments, Royal Insignia and even the dress that he and his wife Shaibya and son Rohitasya wore and be better dressed by tree barks and leaves! While they were getting ready to leave the Place, Viswamitra stopped them and asked Harischandra about the dakshina that he had to give to the Sage for performing the Rajasuya Yagna; the former King replied that since he had nothing else with him, he would have to wait to pay the dakshina; Viswamitra asked for the time frame to pay the dakshina and insisted that till then, he and his wife and child would be his slaves and even resorted to maltreated him, his wife and son. It was at this miserable moment that the Five Lokapalas (Deities of the Five Directions) were annoyed and expressed their resentment to the Sage, but the latter gave a curse to them that they would be born as human beings; the Lokapalas were frightened and entreated Viswamitra to withdraw his curse. The Sage then softened the curse that they would not get entangled with their worldly affairs, that they would remain as bachelors and aviod ‘Samsara’ and that they would get killed without much prolongation of life. It was at that curse of Viswamitra that Draupadi’s five sons were born and murdered by Aswatthama, the son of Dronacharya; thus explained the Holy Birds to the Sage Jaimini in reply to his query in the context of Maha Bharata.)

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at raovdn@yahoo.co.in