The Pandavas had been staying in Ekachara were they killed Bakasura and they decided they wanted to leave and started traveling around and met bhramins. They sat with them around there evening fires and they started talking. The Bhramins were all talking about the latest event they could go. The king of Panchala was going to marry his daughter away and he called all the kings in attendance. He built giant marble guest houses for all the kings. He also built a giant arena so people can test there skill. He will be giving profuse charity throughout the day to all brahmins. Giving charity giving cows giving gold, all these things. Everyone talked as this being the place they needed to go,the mood was kind of like how these days there is some big deity installation or 24 hour kirtan or rathyatra.
The Pandavas began to inquire since they were not aware of Drupada having a daughter
The assembled priests explained that Drupada had a sacrafice because he had wanted a daughter who would marry Arjuna so he could obtain the Pandavas as allies. He also wanted a son who could kill Drona. Hearing this Pandavas all looked at each other in surprise. one sage continued. " However now since the Pandavas have been killed in the house of lack he holds a swayambara with a test which only a hero who is the equal of Arjuna could win."
Arjuna spoke up and said. "yes we will go with you to this swayambara."
They traveled to Panchala to a great arena which was always packed with people. For many days there was different entertainment while they waited for all the participants to arrive. Wrestlers mimes and dancers.In the center of the arena was placed a bow and arrows. There was a spinning target which was placed above a pool of water. Santoor and flute played to calm down the crowd and Dristadyumna entered the arena and spoke to the crowd. Whoever can lift and string that bow and hit the target may have Drupadi as his wife. All the kings sat on thrones which were placed along the edge of the arena. In the sky the demigods crowded the sky with there airplanes to see the event. Drupadi entered the arena carrying a gold plate with a flower garland of roses. All kings had herd of her beauty but the words could not come close. There was one ancient king named Bhagadatta ( not the same as the son of Narakasura king of progjotish) and he was a great great grandfather. He was so old that the only way he could keep his eyes open was attaching the eyelashes to the eyebrow with bowstring. He had come to see how his great grandchildren would do in the contest, and when he saw Drupadi he picked up his bow and entered the arena.
All the kings became agitated and began bragging and saying. "She is mine." "You are all weak and I will win her." and other such words
All the great kings from all over the world had come to win the hand of Drupadi and many could not even lift the bow. Still others could lift the bow but could not string it and of those who could string it none could hit the target. Karna, Duryodhana, and others attempted to hit the target but missed. This is the version given by the Acharya and not the Karna Fan boy sympathy cult. Krishna and Balaram were present and they comanded the Yadus not to participate since they new the Pandavas were there and they wanted them to win.
When none of the kings had hit the Target Arjuna dressed as a Bhramin adressed Dristadyumna and asked if he could try.
Dhristadyumna said "It does not matter the cast. he that strings this bow and hits the target be he a Bhramin, Shudra, Vaisya or other he may win her hand." (-;
Arjuna stood up and walked before the crowd. Some Bhramins tried to stop him and they thought that he would make a fool of their cast. Others could tell that he was very powerful since he had the power of the God of Thunder and convinced the others to let him go.
Arjuna walked to the great Alter and raised the bow with one hand. All the crowd was amazed. He then strung the bow and placed an arrow on it in the blink on an eye.
Arjuna walked to the Target and before anyone knew what was happening the target was hit.
He walked before Drupadi and stared into her eyes. She looked down very shyly and she placed the garland around his neck.
All the kings were outraged and they said that Arjuna was not fit to marry her since he was simple Bhramin and a princess needed a man of more worth.They said that Drupada had offended them and they planned to punish him and kill this upstart Bhramin so that things like this would not happen in the future. (Most Swayambara would end up in a fight even ones with certain events. It was a way of making sure only the strong would get to have children.)
The kings Gathered and Arjuna stood to face them. Yudhistera Nakula and Sahadeva escorted Drupadi from the scene while Arjuna stared down the assembled kings. At this point the Bhramins lifted there dandas and water pots and stood next to Arjuna. The Kings looked at each other and laughed.
All at once a huge black shadow descended upon the arena which grew smaller and smaller and then the kings beheld bhima landing on the grounds of the arena a huge salla tree in his arms. Then ripped off all the branches and tossed them about like a child taking the pedals off a flower. Standing next to Arjuna he gripped the tree as if it was some giant mace his stern face and fire like eye glaring at his foe. All the kings stood back save Shallya king of Madra who was a mighty man himself with arms like wale bone and steel cable. Bhima charged with the Giant tree like some hideous rod of death. Shallya stood arms crossed and a slight mocking grin on his face. All the other kings fled and jumped back when bhima swung the tree crashing it into Shallya. A giant dust cloud was raised and when it cleared Shallya stood with his arms still crossed and the tree splintered.
Bhima and Shallya then began to wrestle like two giant bull elephants in rut.
Drupada ordered a large stock of arrows be supplied to Arjuna and he began a great duel with Karna. They fired arrows across the arena breaking each-others arrows and causing huge piles of broken arrows to fill the arena. They both shot at the speed of mind and none could mark any time from when they reached for their quiver and when they strung the bow and fired. It was all I a great blur. The arrows sped out of their bows hissing fire caused by the friction of the air.
At this time Sri Krishna stepped in and began to lecture the kings. I find it significant that he waited for the Pandavas to show their prowess some before he did this. It was the Ksatria Dharma to fight at Swayambara and he allowed them to do that since he is the upholder of Dharma.
Krishna told the kings that their was no shame in a Bhramin winning the contest since they were of higher cast. He made many other philosophical points along these lines. The kings agreed since they felt that these two priests must be gods or some other beings in disguise.
With that The kings gave there ascent Arjuna was declared victor and he and Bhima walked out of the arena to catch up with Yudhistera and Drupadi