Here’s a story about Draupadi and Bheem I read a long time ago -
At the time of her marriage to the five Pandavas, she had declared that she would spend one year with each of the brothers and during that year, no other brother would enter the chambers that she and her husband-of-the-year shared.
During one of the years that Draupadi was with Yudhishtir, Bheem took a wrong turn in the palace and entered their chamber. There he saw Yudhishtir kneeling on the floor, washing Draupadi’s feet and worshipping her. This scene disturbed Bheem who thought that his brother had become a slave to Draupadi, something he thought was unbecoming of a kshatriya. Bheem did not know then that Draupadi was an avatar of Goddess Durga and Yudhishtir – who was well aware of the impending deaths in the yet-undeclared Kurukshetra war – was appeasing the Goddess of death and destruction.
Lost in thought Bheem wandered about the palace till he came across Krishna.
He described what he had seen to Krishna and announced that he would confront Draupadi and ask her to explain why she had degraded his brother’s kshatriya status. Krishna became serious and asked Bheem not to say anything to Draupadi. Instead, he took Bheem to the very middle of the nearby forest. He asked Bheem to climb to the top of the tallest tree and stay there till the next morning. Krishna warned Bheem to remain extremely silent and ensured that no one noticed he was there.
Bheem was confused but he stayed there on Krishna’s instructions. Bheem stayed on the tree all day without food and water. Bheem was getting hungry and thought that this must have been Krishna’s idea of some joke. The moon was high in the sky and Bheem thought he should go back to the palace for his meal. He looked down to start his descent but what he saw amazed him. Down below on the forest floor, thrones had been laid out like it was the court of the Gods. One by one, he saw the Devas arrive and take their seats in the court. Finally he noticed that two large thrones had been set down just below his tree.
These seemed like the thrones for the persons presiding the court. Curious, Bheem decided to stay in his position at the top of the tree and witness the court of heaven.
Suddenly, all the murmuring of the Devas below stopped and all that he could hear was Krishna begging for forgiveness. What Bheem saw next sent a jolt through him. Had he not been afraid of being noticed, his teeth would have surely chattered in fear. There below him, Draupadi rose from the throne next to Krishna’s. But this was a Draupadi Bheem had never seen before. Her hair was loose, there was a fire in her eyes and rage had taken over her person. There she was, in her true avatar of Goddess Durga with a ‘ghada’ (loosely translated as a bowl) in her hands looking at Krishna. In a voice that echoed throughout the forest, she asked “Why is my cup empty? It should be filled with the blood of Bheem who broke his vow.”
Bheem didn’t hear anything that followed because he had fainted with fear. The next morning he woke up in the tree and slowly climbed down and went back to the palace. The scene he had witnessed had disturbed him so much that he ate less than half the breakfast that Kunti had sent for him. Kunti was worried because Bheem had never returned food on his plate before. She went to him and asked him if he was alright. Bheem was worried and told her what he had seen and heard the night before. Kunti understood the gravity of what Bheem had witnessed and decided that she would do something to save him.
Later that day Kunti sent for Draupadi. Draupadi went to her mother-in-law’s chambers and touched her feet. Before blessing her, Kunti asked Draupadi to promise that she would spare Bheem’s life in the war. Draupadi looked up and understood what must have happened. Draupadi knew that in this human avatar she had to obey the instructions of her mother-in-law. She bit her lip and nodded her assent. Blood trickled down her bitten lip and worried, Kunti tore the edge of her clothes and wiped off the blood. Kunti then told her that her cup would not remain empty and Bheem would fill it for her.
Unknowingly Kunti had made the Kurukshetra war even more certain. Draupadi’s act of biting her lip had made Kunti tear a part of her clothes. This would be repeated for Draupadi when Duhshaasan would try and disrobe her in front of the entire Kuru courtroom. Bheem would then vow to avenge her humiliation with the blood of Duhshaasan’s chest, thus filling her empty cup with blood.