After Druapadi was won over by Arjuna in the Swayamvara, Drupada, after confirming that the person who won the contest was Arjuna in the guise of a Brahmin, offered Draupadi’s hand in marriage to Arjuna.
Yudhishtira told Drupada that since their mother Kunti, without knowing that Arjuna had brought Draupadi, told the Panadavas that they should all enjoy what was won by Arjuna, Draupadi should be the common wife of the five of them, they had to carry out their mother’s command.
Drupada found it difficult to accept this. He sought the advice of Sage Vyasa, who happened to visit Drupada’s palace, when this issue was being discussed.
Vyasa took Drupada aside and told him that Yudhishtira's proposal was acceptable. He narrated him a story to convince him. .
Long time back, the Devas (celestials) performed a grand yagna (sacrifice) in the Naimisaranya forest. During the sacrifice, Yama, the son of Vivaswat, was given the responsibility of slaying the animals for the sacrifice. After taking up this responsibility, he stopped performing his duty of taking away the lives of human beings. As a result, the population of the world began to increase.
Soma, Indra, Varuna, Kubera, the Sadhyas, the Rudras, the Vasus and the Aswini Devatas went to Brahma, the Creator and expressed their alarm and sought relief.
Brahma said, “You are all immortal. You need not be frightened by the increase in human population.”
The celestials said, ”With the humans becoming immortal, there will be no distinction between us and them. We are unhappy about this lack of distinction. Please create some distinction between us and them.”
Brahma said, ”This situation is only temporary. Once, the sacrifice is over, Yama will resume his job of taking away the lives of human beings. Yama will become stronger by the energy gained from the sacrifice and perform his duty even more rigorously.”
After hearing these words of Brahma, the celestials returned to the spot where the grand sacrifice was being performed.
Indra, the head of the celestials, who was sitting by the side of the river Bhagirathi (Ganga) saw a golden lotus being carried along the river.
Curious to find out the place from which the lotus came into the stream, he walked on the river bank upstream. When he reached the starting point of the river, he saw a woman with the glow of fire. As she was drawing water from the river into a pot, she was shedding tears.The tear drops released by her transformed themselves into golden lotuses, when they hit the stream.
Approaching that woman, Indra asked her why she was weeping. Recognizing him as Indra, she asked him to go with her and see for himself what caused her to weep.
Indra followed that woman. After walking a short distance, he found a young person sitting on a throne placed on a peak of the Himalayas and playing dice with a young woman.
Addressing him, Indra said, “You should know that this universe is under my control.”
The young person was so engrossed in the game that he seemed to have taken no notice of either the presence of Indra or the words spoken by them.
Indra became angry and, raising his voice, said once again, “I am the lord of the universe.“
The person who was playing dice was Lord Siva. Annoyed by the arrogance of Indira, Siva cast a glance at him. Indra instantly became paralyzed and remained immobile like a stone.
Siva continued playing the game. After completing the game, he told the weeping woman, “Bring Indra to me. I will deal with him appropriately to ensure that pride would never enter his mind again.”
When the woman touched the paralyzed Indra, he fell on to the earth.
Siva told Indra not to act haughtily again. He then asked Inrdra to remove a stone at the entrance of a cave nearby and look inside.
When Indra removed the stone and looked inside the cave, he saw four other persons resembling him sitting inside the cave.
Siva told Indra, with his eyes glowering in anger, “Since you insulted me, you will also enter the cave. These four people were also Indras like you and they came to this state because of pride. You will also join their ranks. All the five of you will be born in the world as men. You will accomplish many things, kill many people and then will return to the celestial world as Indras.”
The four former Indras Vishwabhuk, Bhuadhaman, Sivi and Santi prayed to Siva, “We will be born as men as ordained by you. But let the Gods of Dharma (righteousness), Vayu (air) and Megha (cloud) and the Aswini Devatas be our fathers.
Indra appealed to Siva to allow a part of his energy to be born along with the other four, allowing him to remain where he was. With Siva acceding to his request, a portion of Indira named Tejaswin joined the four former Indras.
Siva also ordained that the woman would be the common wife of the five Indras, when they were born in the world.
Siva, accompanied by the five Indras, went to Narayana (Lord Vishnu) of immeasurable energy, the Infinite, the Immaterial, the Uncreated, the Old, the Eternal, and the Spirit of the endless universes. Narayana approved of everything.
The Indras then were born in the world as human beings.
Narayana took up two hairs from his body, one black and the other white. The two hairs entered the wombs of two women of the Yadu race, Devaki and Rohini. The white hair was born as Balarama and the black hair as Krishna.
Vyasa said, “The five Indras are the Pandavas and Arjuna is a portion of Indra. The celestial woman ordained by Lord Siva to be the wife of the five Indras is your daughter Draupadi. That is why she was born in the sacrificial fire.”
Vyasa then enabled Drupada to see the Pandavas in their celestial forms and Drupadi as the celestial woman.
Aftere seeing the Pandavas and his own daughter Draupadi in their celestial forms, Drupada touched the feet of Vyasa.
Vyasa then told him the story of a young girl, who prayed to Lord Siva seeking an accomplished husband for her. When Siva appeared before her, pleased by her austere penance, she repeatedly prayed to Siva, “I desire to obtain a husband possessing all accomplishments.”
Siva told her, “You will have five husbands possessing all accomplishments.”
The girl said, “I asked for just one husband.”
Siva said, “Since you asked me five times, I granted you five husbands. However, this will happen in a future birth.”
Vyasa explained to Drupada that that girl was born as Drauadi and that as per Lord Siva’s boon, she would have five husbands.
Drupada then accepted the proposal that his daughter Draupadi would be the common wife of the five Pandavas.