Drupada the father of Draupadi set up a Swayamvara for her. The princes vying for Draupadi's hand had to string Pinaka shoot five arrows at the eye of a revolving fish, while looking only at its reflection in a bowl.
Draupada who was dreaming of getting Arjuna as his son- in- law was very much disappointed when he heard the news that Pandavas perished in the fire, when the wax palace was reduced to ashes. He was later comforted by a rumour about the escape of the Pandavas in secrecy. But the whereabouts of the Pandavas were not known. Drupada, his sons Dhristadyumna and Sikhandi and his ministers joined together in a conference to chalk out their future program. There is no point in waiting indefinitely for the Pandavas to come out of their self- imposed disguise. Draupadi has come up to the age of marriage. In fact the announcement of Draupadi's Svayamvara may be an opportunity for Arjuna to come out openly. Accordingly the Svayamvara of Draupadi was proclaimed. However the Panchala King took all the necessary precautions so that nobody other than Arjuna could secure the hand of Draupadi. A mechanical device of mobile fish called "Matsyayantra" was arranged. A steel bow and fine steel arrows were provided. The candidate aspiring the hand of Draupadi must first string the bow and then shoot the revolving disc which contains the mechanical fish, looking at the reflection in the water pond constructed at the foot of the flag staff. Of course the Matsyayantra was poised at the upper end of the flag staff. For successful hitting at the target obviously superhuman skill and strength were required.
The news of Draupadi's svayamvara spread far and wide. Brahmans from all over Bharatavarsha were thronging to Pancahala as they were sure of being rewarded with the customary gifts. Preparations for the function were taking place on a grand scale. Pandavas quite naturally wanted to go to the function. Kunti anticipated their feelings and said to them, "We have overstayed in this city. You are young and must go in search of new horizons. Let us therefore go to Draupada's kingdom Panchala which is reputed for its prosperity and fair play." On their way they met Veda Vyasa once again. He exhorted them to go to Panchala and said that good luck awaited them there. He said, "I further advise you to select a suitable Brahman well versed in the Vedas and sacred scriptures as your family priest, who will be your life long well wisher. The Pandavas met Dhaumya at Utkacha and requested Dhaumya to be their family Purohit. Dhaumya accepted their offer with pleasure. Pandavas felt very happy and told him, "Your holiness, your acceptance to be our family Purohit is, we feel, our greatest asset and it is more valuable, we know, than the acquisition of a vast empire." Dhaumya showered his blessings on the Pandavas who proceeded on their journey, taking his leave with all the reverence at their command. Elaborate arrangements were made by Draupada on an unprecedented scale for the svayamvara which was proclaimed as a festival of fourteen days, with all the royal pomp and pageantry. Public entertainments, puppet shows and musical concerts were daily arranged.
A gigantic marriage hall was arranged and the Matsya yantra with the steel bow and the steel arrows together with the water pond at the foot was installed in the middle of the marriage hall. Duryodhana and his brothers, Karna, Sisupala, Jarasandha, Salya and many other Princes arrived. On the auspicious day fixed for the marriage and at the appointed moment Dhristadyumna came as a pilot on horseback and Draupadi arrived seated on an elephant. Dressed in flowing silk, she was holding the bridal garland of vernal flowers in her hand. Dhristadyumna standing beside his sister read out the royal proclamation: "Princes of noble birth, the steel bows and the five steel arrows are here. There is the target, the Matsya yantra. My sister will marry the hero who hits this target." Then he described in detail the pedigree of the various Princes present there to the bride. Many valiant Princes rose up and tried in vain to string the bow. Sisupala, Jarasandha and Duryodhana were among the unsuccessful candidates. When Karna rose from his seat there was spontaneous jubilation and applause. Many thought that he alone had the potential prowess to hit the Matsya Yantra. But Draupadi said in crisp, "I am not prepared to marry one who lacks pedigree." There was almost pandemonium in the hall. But suddenly a youth advanced forward out of the Brahmins. He stood up and asked in a gentle tone, "Can a Brahmin try?" Dhristadyumna replied, "O best of Brahmins, you can try if you belong to a noble family."
Meanwhile Arjuna took hold of the bow, stringed it with the precision due to a musical instrument and the spectators looked at him in spellbound silence. Then he took the five arrows and without pause or hesitation shot them in quick succession through the revolving disc right into the target which came crashing down. The crowd cheered him lustily. Draupadi descended the rostrum with the gait of a royal elephant and placed the garland around the neck of the Brahmin youth gracefully while the royal orchestra played the national anthem of the Panchala kingdom. However there was a great uproar amongst the Princes who said that the Svayamvara was an exclusively Kshatriya custom, outside the fold of the Brahmin tradition and the Brahmin youth should not be allowed to wed the Princess. The Brahmins who assembled there in large numbers shouted with joy waving aloft their deer skins. A fight seemed imminent. Sri Krishna and Balarama tried to pacify the Princes as they could easily spot out the Pancha Pandavas among the Brahmins like embers of fire amidst the ashes. Draupadi simply followed Arjuna holding his deer skin silently. The Kshatriyas told that Draupadi should immolate herself on a pyre rather than marry a poor Brahman. The Brahmans as a group supported Arjuna and challenged the Kshatriyas for a fight. The Kshatriya Princes of those days were not prepared to kill Brahmans. The expected fight fizzled out. However Arjuna was challenged by Karna and a lively exchange of arrows ensued ; their display of the art of archery delighted the onlookers.
Karna quickly appreciated his talented opponent and said that I am not ready to fight with a Brahmin. Now the Pancha Pandavas walked to the potter's house which was their temporary house where Kunti was waiting for their return. The Princess followed the Pandavas to their residence without any reservations. She could see that all the brothers who looked handsome and heroic, dignified and dynamic possessed the royal gait and imposing personalities though they posed themselves as Brahmins. When they reached home Yudhisthira knocked at the door and said, " Mother, we have come with a precious prize," When Kunti came near the door she found out that the precious prize was the Panchala princess Draupadi. The diligent Kunti devi, without deviating from the tradition, blessed her daughter-in -law thus: "May you become the mother of many children and God bless you." Later in the day Sri Krishna paid a visit to them. He was extremely happy that the Pandavas who were his brothers-in -law and bosom friends were alive and looking forward to their future with renewed vigour and refreshed enthusiasm. Krishna instructed them to safely return to Hastinapura where they are bound to be received with open arms. Now the Kaurava court cannot afford to estrange the Pandavas completely and drive them into the fold of Pancahalas permanently. Kunti forgot all the sufferings they underwent at the healing touch of Sri Krishna's words of consolation and encouragement. Dhristadyumna who was naturally anxious to know about the fate of their sister followed them and returned only to report to his father very happily that they are the Pancha Pandavas along with the mother Kunti Devi.
The ingenious priest of the royal family was consulted and was sent to the Pandavas with an invitation from the King of the Panchala requesting the brothers to stay as honoured guests in their royal palace. The Pandavas came to the Panchala palace fully attired as Kshatriya Princes, seated in royal chariots. Draupada, Dhristadyumna, Sikhandi and the nobles of the royal court welcomed the Pandavas. At the very first encounter Yudhisthira confided to king Draupada that they were the Pancha Pandavas. Draupada's joy knew no bounds as well. The derogatory shame to which Draupada was subjected to by the Kshatriya kings that he had bestowed his daughter of exceptional beauty born out of the celestial fire of the holy sacrifice on a penniless Brahmin of unknown origin instead of wedding her to the Prince of his ambitious dreams, was suddenly transformed into the exhilarating ecstasy of exemplary achievement. When Draupada proposed formal marriage of Draupadi with Arjuna, Yudhisthira told him that they, the Pancha Pandavas, had decided to marry her as the common wife. Draupada exclaimed with surprise and concealed disgust, "This is against all canons of propriety and righteousness." Yudhisthira told him that the decision was forced upon them by destiny and added that it was their family tradition as well. Draupadi who was privately consulted did not oppose the proposal. The marriage was celebrated on a grand scale with usual pomp and pageantry.