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Raja Ravi Varma, Pleasing.jpg
Draupadi, painting by Raja Ravi Varma
Spouse(s) Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva
Children Prativindhya, Sutasoma, Srutasena, Satanika, Srutakarma they were called Upapandavas
Parents Drupada (father)

Draupadi, also referred to as (Agnijyotsna) Kṛṣṇə draupadī (Devanagari: कृष्णा द्रौपदी ; approximate pronunciation: [krɪʂɳə d̪rəʊpəd̪iː]) is the "emerged" daughter of King Drupada of Panchāla and the wife of the five Pandavas in the epic Mahābhārata. When Yudhisthira becomes the king of Hastinapura at the end of the war, Draupadi (again) becomes the queen of Indraprastha. She is also variously referred to as Panchali (meaning one from the kingdom of Panchala), Yajnaseni (meaning one born from a Yajna or fire-sacrifice), Mahabhaaratii (great wife of the five descendents of Bharata)[1] and Sairandhri (literally: an expert maid, her assumed name during her second exile in which she worked as Virat kingdom's queen Sudeshna's hair-stylist). She had five sons, one by each of the Pandavas: Prativindhya from Yudhishthira, Sutasoma from Bheema, Srutakarma from Arjuna, Satanika from Nakula, and Srutasena from Sahadeva. She is described in the Mahabharata as being extraordinarily beautiful, unsurpassed by any other woman of her time. Draupadi is one of the Panch-Kanya (The Five Virgins) of the ancient Hindu epic, as is her Mother-in-Law Kunti.[2]


Raja Drupada begs Shiva to grant him a boon

King Drupada of Panchala had been defeated by the Pandava prince Arjuna on behalf of Drona, who subsequently took half his kingdom. To gain revenge on Drona, he performed a fire-sacrifice (yajña) to obtain a means of besting him. Draupadi emerged as a beautiful dark-skinned young woman together after her sibling Dhrishtadyumna from the sacrificial fire.[3] She was named Kṛṣṇā for her dark complexion, though she is better known as Draupadī "daughter of Drupada". When she emerged from the fire, a heavenly voice said that she would bring about the destruction of the Kuru line.[4]

Draupadi's description[edit]

"Of eyes like lotus-petals and of faultless features endued with youth and intelligence, she is extremely beautiful. And the slender-waisted Draupadi of every feature perfectly faultless, and whose body emitteth a fragrance like unto that of the blue lotus for two full miles around who's existence could take away people's breath, she was the most beautiful women ever born.".[5] Draupadi is described to be a divinely beautiful woman with shiny black locks, a compelling dark complexion and lotus petal eyes. Mahabaratha 1.169.44-46: Eye-ravishing Panchali, black-and-smiling-eyed…dark -skinned Panchali, Lotus-eyed lady, Wavy-haired Panchali, Hair like dark blue clouds, Shining coppery carved nails, Soft eye-lashes, Swelling breasts and Shapely thighs…Blue lotus fragrance for a full krosha flowed from her body…She is known to be very chaste and virtous wife. She was born of the fire of her regal personality equally filled with spark and flame. She was a warrior princess. It is her anger that destroys the sinful Kauravas dynasty. As daughter of Drupada, she is Draupadi. As princess of Panchala, she was called Panchali. As Krishna, she was the dear friend of Krishna. Prashati indicated her being the grand-daughter of Prishata. Sairandhri is her reference to the maid-servant of Queen of Virata. In her youth, she is Nitayauvani. Yajnaseni is a reference to being born out of fire and the overseerof fire sacrifice and fire walking ritual.

PURANAS: Draupadi is described as radiant and graceful as if she had descended from the city of Gods. As per The Garuda Purana Draupadi is the incarnation of Bharati-Devi, The Consort of Lord Vayu. As per Narada and Vayu Puranas, Draupadi was composite Avatar of Goddesses Shyamala (wife of Dharma), Bharati (Wife of Vayu), Sachi (wife of Indra), Usha (wife of Ashwinis) and hence married their earthly counterparts in the form of the five Pandavas, most of the people believe that she was Sanchi, wife of Indra . Enraged at a jest by Parvati, Shyamala, Sachi and Usha, Brahma cursed them to human birth. Parvati thought of the solution wherein they will be born as one woman, Draupadi and hence share the earthly body for a smaller period of time. They requested Bharati to be with them in their human birth. Draupadi's characteristic fight against injustice reflects Parvati or her Shakti, Kali inhabiting Draupadi's mortal flesh at times. At other times, Draupadi was docile and even waited to be rescued (as in case of Jayadratha and Jatasura) showing the qualities of other goddesses like Sachi and Usha. Other times, she showed astuteness in hiding their true identity and asking Vayu putra Bhima to kill the evil Keechaka like Goddess Bharati would.

Incarnation of Kali[edit]

There is popular belief in South India that Draupadi was also an incarnation of Maha Kali, who was born to assist Lord Krishna (who is an avatar of Lord Vishnu , who is the brother of Goddess Parvati) to destroy all the arrogant Kings of India. That is why they are considered brother and sister although Draupadi was born from fire.

Marriage to the Pandavas[edit]

Arjuna wins Draupadi in her Swayamvara.
Arjun and bheema fights with princes

Drupada intended to wed his daughter to Arjuna. Upon hearing of the Pandavas' supposed death at Varnavata, he set up a swayamvara for Draupadi. The princes vying for Draupadi's hand had to string Pinaka and shoot only one arrow at the eye of a revolving fish, while looking only at its reflection in a bowl. Drupada and Draupadi were confident that only Arjuna could accomplish this task.

Karna, king of Anga, was a suitor for Draupadi. Unlike most other contenders, he was easily able to wield and string the bow, but Draupadi refused to allow him to take part. She rejected him for being the son of a charioteer and a man of low caste. In some versions, Draupadi is excused for her discrimination; when Karna was readying the bow, Draupadi looked at Krishna, who gestured to her to reject Karna. Draupadi's vocalized reason was then just an excuse. When Duryodhana angrily jumped to his friend's defense, Dhristadyumna reminded the Kuru prince that Panchal practiced equal primogeniture and Draupadi had every right to choose her own husband-the Swayamvara was only designed so that the suitors could get the king's permission.

Arriving with his brothers while disguised as brahmins, Arjuna successfully tackled the target as he was keen to win Draupadi, which other kings and prince were unable to accomplish. In some versions of the story, Arjuna swore an oath that if he won Draupadi's hand as he loved her so much, he would never again disobey his mother's command (having already done so by attending the swayamvara in the first place). He won Draupadi by shooting an arrow into a revolving fish's eye, only by seeing its reflection in a pot of oil. In some versions it is said that Draupadi and Arjuna were in love before the swayamvara and thats why she rejected Karna.

Upon returning home with Draupadi, Arjuna said to his mother, "Look mother, what we have brought." Assuming it was simply alms, Kunti un-mindfully and unassumingly asked her son to share whatever it was with his brothers. Arjuna, who was deeply hurt by his mother's decision, kept quiet. After realizing the horror of her words, Kunti took them back. But keeping in view the dharma of following one's mother, Yudhishtira agreed to such a marriage along with the other three brothers. Thus, in order to obey his mother's order (either on general principle or because of Arjuna's aforementioned vow), all five accepted Draupadi as their wife. Draupadi refused, saying that she loved Arjuna, but was made to agree by both Krishna and Arjuna.

When Vyasa/Krishna visited the family, he explained to Draupadi that her unique position as the wife of five brothers resulted from a certain incident in her previous birth. In her previous birth, Draupadi desired fourteen qualities and Lord Siva granted her this boon. Thus, she marries Yudhithira for his wisdom of dharma; Bhima for his strength; Arjuna for his courage and Nakula for his beauty and Sahadeva for his patience. The reason that Vyasa Muni gives is Draupadi’s prayer utterances to God five times ‘God, Give me a husband', Mahabharata 1.213. It is said that, in taking turns to live with each of the five husbands, she had the boon to be a virgin every year by walking through the fire to regain her purity. Thus, she gets to be called the eternal kanya. In any event, handling five men is symbolic of her strength as a woman. The conceptions are to be seen as symbolic also. Due to their result of karma, none of her children survived because of Ashwathama, who entered the Pandava camp and killed them.

Draupadi with her five husbands - the Pandavas. The central figure is Yudhishthira; the two to his left are Bhima and Arjuna. Nakula and Sahadeva, the twins, are to his right. Their wife, at far right, is Draupadi. Deogarh, Dasavatar temple.

Living in Indraprastha[edit]

Drupadi and her attendants

With the Pandavas' survival revealed, a succession crisis was started. Upon the news of Dharma's death, the title of crown prince had fallen to Duryodhana. With Duryodhana refusing to give up his crown, Dhritarashtra's own inability to take away anything from his son, and with the (truthful) rumors that the Duryodhana and Shakuni had been behind the fire at Varnavat, Bhishma proposed that the kingdom be split. The Kauravas took Hastinapur while the Pandavas were sent to Khandavprastha.

An infertile, untilled land, infested with snakes, covered with trees, and with many areas simply swampland, Khandavprastha was a poor consolation prize. However, with the help of Krishna, Balarama, and Mayasura (the architect of the Asuras who owed a favor to Arjuna for saving his life in the Khadav forest), the Pandavas rebuilt Khandavprastha into Indraprastha. The crown jewel of the country was the main palace, built in a valley. It was filled with books, art, mounted creatures, and with Mayasura's sorcery, there were awe-inspiring illusions everywhere.[6]

Not only that, but after Yudhisthira performed the Rajasuya Yagna, the Pandavas gained lordship over many regions of India.[7] With major powers like Madra, Dwarka, Kasi, Magadha, and now Panchala sworn to Indraprastha, the Pandavas were doing better than ever. Indraprastha earned the sobriquet the "jewel of India". However, the Pandavas' success earned the ire of Duryodhana and the Kauravas.

Duryodhana's insult[edit]

Duryodhana falling into water

Indraprastha was built at the site of the Khandava forest. The pride of buildings was the "Palace of Illusions", and this was where Duryodhana and his entourage explored during Hastinapur's attending of the Rajasuya Yagna.

The moment Duryodhana entered the palace he encountered an atmosphere of mystery. A retinue of maidservants appeared through a wall and lined up before the guests. The courtyard was divided in two parts. The surface of one part appeared to ripple like the surface of a lake. The surface of the other part appeared solid as granite flooring and when Duryodhana stepped on the apparently solid part of the courtyard, there was a splash and Duryodhana found himself waist deep in water, drenched from head to foot. When Draupadi saw this from the balcony they were amused. Duryodhana felt extremely insulted that Draupadi and her maids saw his embarrassing predicament. Draupadi joked "Andhasya Putra Andhaha" meaning "a blind man's (referring to Dhritrashtra) son is blind",

further infuriating Duryodhana because he thought that Draupadi called him with those words.

In the earliest versions of the Mahabharatha, the Pandavas, escorting the Kauravas, witness Duryodhana's fall and laughed with their servants. The popular insult of a "blindman's son" is a later addition.[9]

In any case, Duryodhana swore revenge on Draupadi; such a revenge that the Pandavas would fall at his feet begging for mercy.

The game of dice[edit]

Draupadi is presented in a parcheesi game where Yudhisthira has gambled away all his material wealth.

This key incident is often considered to mark a definitive moment in the story of Mahabharata. It is one of the driving reasons that ultimately led to the Kurukshetra war.

The catalyst of the incident was Duryodhana's desire to reunite Hastinapur, wrestle power from the Pandavas, and avenge the insults (perceived or otherwise) made against him by the Pandavas and Draupadi.

Together with his brothers, his friend Karna, and his maternal uncle Shakuni, they conspired to call on the Pandavas to Hastinapur and win their kingdoms in a game of gambling. The plan's architect, Shakuni was blessed with dice that would never disobey his will. The idea was that Shakuni would play against Yudhishthira and win at the gambling table what was impossible to win on the battlefield.

As the game proceeded, Yudhishthira lost everything one-by-one. Having lost all material wealth, he went on to put his brothers at stake, and lost them too. Ultimately he put himself at stake, and lost again. All the Pandavas were now the servants of the Kauravas. But for Duryodhana, the humiliation of the Pandavas was not complete. He prods Yudhishthira that he has not lost everything yet; Yudhishthira still has Draupadi with him and if he wishes he can win everything back by putting Draupadi at stake . Inebriated by the game, Yudhishthira walks into the trap and to the horror of everybody present, puts Draupadi up as a bet for the next round.

Playing the next round, Shakuni wins. Draupadi was horrified after hearing that she was staked in the game and now is a slave for Duryodhana. Draupadi questions Yudhishtira's right on her as he had lost himself first and she was still the queen. She refuses to present herself in court. Duryodhana, angry with Draupadi's behaviour, commands his younger brother Dushasana to bring her into the court, forcefully if he must. Dushasana barges into the living quarters of Draupadi, who was sitting there with Arjun and her son.[10] Dushasana grabs her by the hair and brings her into the court, dragging her by the hair.

Draupadi and Bhima, as depicted in yakshagana.

She is dragged to the court by the hair. Now in an emotional appeal to the elders present in the forum, Draupadi repeatedly questions the legality of the right of Yudhishthira to place her at stake; in Panchal, such a move would be unheard of. Everybody remains dumbfounded.

“The course of morality is subtle and even the illustrious wise in this world fail to always understand it.”

Bhishma, the patriarch of the Kaurava family and a formidable warrior, has only this explanation to offer to Draupadi

In order to provoke the Pandavas further, Duryodhana bares and pats his thigh looking into Draupadi's eyes, implying that she should sit on his thigh. In rage Bhima vows in front of the entire assembly that he would break that thigh of Duryodhana, or accept being Duryodhana's slave for seven lifetimes. At this time Vikarna, a brother of Duryodhan asks the kings assembled in the court to answer the question of Draupadi. He gives his opinion that Draupadi is not won rightfully as Yudhishthira lost himself first before staking her. Besides Draupadi is the common wife of all Pandavas.

Hearing these words Karna gets angry and says that when Yudhishthira lost all his possession he also lost Draupadi as she includes his possession. Draupadi had been mentioned by Shakuni and approved as a stake by the Pandavas that is why she is rightfully won. Besides the gods have ordained only one husband for a woman but as Draupadi has many husbands she is a harlot. Bringing her in a court of men is not an surprising act whether she be attired or naked. Then to the horror of everybody present, Duryodhana orders Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi.[11][12][13] Seeing her husbands unable to help her, Draupadi prays to Lord Krishna to protect her. A miracle occurs henceforward, which is popularly attributed to Krishna but in Vyasa's Mahabharata, Draupadi's saviour is named as Dharma (who could be just morality, the god Dharma, Krishna as the Lord of Dharma, or even Vidura or Yudhishthira, or even a logical paradox of Draupadi's question – did Yudhishthira have the right to stake her when he had already lost himself?). As the Pandavas and the court looks away, Dushasana unwraps layers and layers of her sari. But as her sari keeps getting extended, everyone looks upon in awe, and Dushasana himself is forced to stop due to exhaustion. At this point, a furious Bhima vows to remove Dushasana's arm (that had held her hair) and to drink the blood from his chest, at the pain of not seeing his ancestors/entering heaven. This vow unsettles the entire court.Draupadi vows not to tie her hair until she has decorated it with the blood of Dushasana.

The only Kauravas who object to the disrobing of Draupadi in the court are Vikarna and Vidura. Vikarna appeals the assembly to answer the questions raised by Draupadi, but in vain. Vidura openly calls Duryodhana a snake and a demon, but after finding no support, even from his own brother, Vidura is helpless. Draupadi herself verbally eviscerates the entire court, threatening that once Drupada heard of his daughter's insult, he would tear Hastinapur to the ground. Just as she is about to curse the Kuru dynasty, she is interrupted by the queen mother Gandhari.

Knowing how lethal a pious woman's curse can be, Gandhari counsels Dhritarashtra to action. Also fearing retribution from Panchal, Dhritarashtra intervenes and grants Draupadi three boons. Draupadi in her first boon asks her husbands to be freed from bondage so her sons would not be caalled Dasas. In her second boon she asks for all the wealth Pandavas lost in the game of dice to be restored to them. When Dhritarashtra asks her to wish for the third boon she refuses by saying that it would be greedy to ask for more.

Shakuni and Duryodhana later convince Dhritarashtra to invite Pandavas for a new game of dice, with modified rules. The loser here, would go for 12 years in exile and another one year of anonymity. Yudhisthira agrees and loses again. It was following the defeat in this new game that Pandavas were sent into exile for 13 years.

Abduction of Draupadi by Jayadratha[edit]

Draupardi taken to forest by Simhika, who plans to kill her

While the Pandavas were in the Kamyaka forest, they often went hunting, leaving Draupadi in the care of Dhaumya, their priest. At this time Jayadratha, the son of Vriddhakshatra, the husband of Duryodhana’s sister Dussala, passed through Kamyaka forest on the way to Salwa Desa. There he saw Draupadi. Jayadratha then started beseeching her to go away with him and desert her husbands who had fallen upon bad times. Draupadi pointed out that it was wrong to desert one’s spouses when they were in difficulty and then gave him a rather long and deliberately delaying speech on exactly the sort of bad time her husbands would give him on their return. Jayadratha then said “thou canst not frighten us(he was with several other Kings when he saw and abducted Draupadi) now with these threats. We, too, O Draupadi, belong by birth to the seventeen high clans, and are endowed with the six royal qualities.” and was sure that he could beat the Pandavas in battle. Draupadi said “Even Indra himself cannot abduct her for whose protection Krishna and Arjuna would together follow, riding in the same chariot.” And she spoke of the way in which Jishnu (Arjuna) would rout Jayadratha and his armies. She also said, “The warring princes of the Andhaka and the Vrishni races, with Janardana at their head, and the mighty bowmen of the Kaikeya tribe, will all follow in my wake with great ardour”. Failing with words Jayadratha tried violence and she called for Dhaumya’s help. Though she pushed him to the ground, he overpowered her and forced her onto his chariot. Meanwhile the Pandavas had finished their hunt and Yudhisthira observed that all the animals were disturbed in one direction and was suddenly overcome by premonitions. So he and his brother climbed their chariots pulled by horses of Saindhava breed and gave chase in the direction of the disturbance. And on learning of their wife's abduction by Jayadratha they rushed towards that host with great fury( like hawks swooping down on their prey. And possessed of the prowess of Indra, they had been filled with fury at the insult offered to Draupadi. But at sight of Jayadratha and of their beloved wife seated on his car, their fury knew no bounds). Then follows the exciting description of a battle in which the five pandavas routed the Sauviras, Ikshwakus, Sivis, and Saindhavas and their armies. Jayadratha in fear ran away, leaving Draupadi behind in all this confusion and she was taken back by Arjun. Dharmaraj urged Bhima to spare Jayadratha’s life for the sake of Dussala and Gandhari, much to the indignation of Draupadi. And that highly intelligent lady said to her two husbands, Bhima and Arjuna with indignation mixed with modesty, 'If you care to do what is agreeable to me, you must slay the chief of the Saindhava clan! That foe who forcibly carries away a wife, and he that wrests a kingdom, should never be forgiven on the battle-field, even though he should supplicate for mercy!'.Thus admonished, it was decided to make him humiliated. Then the two valiant warriors went in search of the Saindhava chief. Bhima and Arjuna caught up with Jayadratha and Arjuna asked him how an unmanly fellow like himself had the guts to take a woman away by force. Thereafter there was more running away than actual fighting and Bhima caught Jayadratha and wanted to kill him. Arjuna reminded him of Dharmaraj(Yudhisthira)’s words, so they brought Jayadratha to their hermitage.After bringing the chained Jayadratha back to the hermitage where he was to declare to be slave of Pandavas and was hence, shaved on his head at five places and then freed.(Book 3: Vana Parva-Draupadi-harana Parva)

Kichaka's death[edit]

Draupadi in Virata's palace, by Raja Ravi Varma

While the Pandavas were leading their normal life in their own disguised form, one day Kichaka, the brother of Sudeshna, and the commander of king Virata’s forces, happened to see the Draupadi. He was filled with lust by looking at her. He asked her to marry him, but Draupadi refused him saying that she was already married to Gandharvas. She warned Kichaka that her husbands were very strong and that he would not be able to escape death at their hands. Later, he forced his sister, the queen, to help him win Draupadi. Sudeshana ordered Draupadi to fetch wine from Kichaka's house. Draupadi tried to dissuade the queen, but fails. When Draupadi went to get wine, Kichaka tried to molest her. Draupadi escaped and runs into the court of Virata. Kichaka kicked her in front of all the courtiers, including Yudhisthira. Fearful of losing his most powerful warrior, even Virat did not take any action. Bhima is present, and only a look from Yudhishthira prevents him from attacking Kichaka. Furious, Draupadi asked about the duties of a king and dharma. Draupadi then cursed Kichaka with death by her husband's hand. Laughing it off, Kichaka only doubted their whereabouts and asked those present where are the Ghandaravas were. Yudhisthira then told Sairandhri to go to the temple, as Kichaka would not do anything to her there (in some versions, he recommends she seeks refuge with the queen). With this, the king asked Kichaka to leave and praised Yudhistira's reply as he himself could not think of anything.

Later that night, Arjuna consoled Draupadi, and with Bhima, they hatched a plan to kill Kichaka. Draupadi meets with Kichaka, pretending to actually love him and agreeing to marry him on the condition that none of his friends or brothers would know about their relationship. Kichaka accepted her condition. Draupadi asked Kichaka to come to the dancing hall at night. Bhima(in the guise of Draupadi), fights with Kichaka and kills him, with Arjuna playing the mridangam in order to mask the sounds of battle. (Book 4: Virata Parva, Kichaka-badha Parva)

Death of Kichaka

Unflinching Faith,Surrender and Devotion to Krishna[edit]

Draupadi’s most exceptional quality was that Shri Krishna considered her his sakhi (friend) and sister. Krishna cut his finger while beheading Shishupal, Draupadi immediately tore off a piece of her sari and bandaged his cut. Krishna said that with this loving act, she wrapped him in debt and he would repay each “thread” when the time arrives. Indeed, whenever Draupadi needed Krishna’s protection she fervently prayed for his help, he came to the rescue and gave her unlimited cloth. This is one of the stories of the origin of the Raksha Bandhan festival.

Once, while the Pandavas were in exile, Durvasa Muni, who was known for his quick anger, suddenly decided to drop in along with his many thousands of disciples. He would naturally want something to eat for himself and his followers. The bowl that gave unlimited amount of food was with them. But the Pandavas and Draupadi had just eaten. The bowl would provide food for that day only until Draupadi had finished eating.There was no more food left. Fearful of Durvasa’s anger, Draupadi prayed to Krishna. When he appeared, Krishna asked if she had anything to eat because he was hungry. when Draupadi answered that she had nothing Krishna pointed out at the one grain of rice which was sticking to the vessel and asked Draupadi to bring it. He ate that single grin of rice. When Durvasa and his disciples arrived after bathing in the nearby river they were all so full that they did not want anything to eat, and thus left peacefully.

Draupadi is an exemplification of bhakti, and she experienced God’s divine presence constantly in her life. When she questioned Krishna about everything that had happened to her, he reassured her: “Soon wilt thou, O Draupadi, behold the ladies of Bharata's race weep as thou dost. Even they, O timid one, will weep like thee, their kinsmen and friends being slain. They with whom, O lady, thou art angry, have their kinsmen and warriors already slain. With Bhima and Arjuna and the twins, at Yudhishthira's command, and agreeably to fate, and what hath been ordained by the Ordainer, I will accomplish all this. Their hour having arrived, the sons of Dhritarashtra, if they do not listen to my words, will surely lie down on the earth turned as morsels of dogs and jackals. The mountains of Himavat might shift their site, the Earth herself might spilt into a hundred fragments, the firmament itself with its myriads of stars might fall down, still my words can never be futile. Stop thy tears, I swear to thee, O Draupadi, soon wilt thou see thy husbands, with their enemies slain, and with prosperity crowning them." Her bhakti was unwavering, unflinching, exceptional, pure, divine and true. She was most dear to Lord Sri Krishna and earned his affection, kindness and mercy. When Lord Krishna was prepared to return to His abode (Vaikuntha), He said, "Alas! I could not repay the debt of Draupadi for the word Govinda (when she uttered Govinda at the time of vastraharan). I am going without repaying it!"

Karna's insult[edit]

When Draupadi was at her lowest, Karna insulted Draupadi by saying that Pandavas were all like sesame seeds removed from the kernel and she should now find some other worthy husbands. He told Draupadi to take Duryodhana for a husband, saying "you already have five husbands. What is one more?". When the Pandavas became enraged, Karna replied that a woman with five husbands was a whore with no honor, and that it would not be improper to bring her to the courtroom nude. He askes Dussasana" Take off the robes of the Pandavas as also the attire of Draupadi."[14] Hearing these words the Pandavas, O Bharata, took of their upper garments and throwing them down sat in that assembly. . Because of this, Arjuna swore an oath to kill Karna.[15]

Draupadi's conduct following the game, when she did not take full advantage of Dhritarasthra's boons, raises her estimation in Karna's eyes. Karna said "I have seen prettier woman, but no one with such a sharp tongue (sic)".

This act of Karna is regarded as the only unrighteous act done by him in his life. During the self choice ceremony (Swayamvara) of Draupadi, until the arrival of Arjuna, Karna was the only king of all the kings and princes of India, who was successful in picking the bow up and aiming it at the fish. But Draupadi loudly said, 'I will not select a Suta for my lord.'[16] thus rejecting him. This rejection finally led her to be called as a whore in game of dice.

Her Existence And Personality[edit]

Vyasa telling the secret of birth of Draupadi to Draupada

Draupadi's service to her husbands, she had said that she rises before anyone else, tolerates hunger and thirst, and goes to bed after the others. She also gave birth to five sons, all of her sons were killed by Ashwatthama. But since he was the son of the family guru, and she had such respect for their gurus, She forgave him. When the Pandavas had reached the end of their lives and were setting out to ascend to heaven by climbing up into the mountains, she was the last in line. But she was the first to fall and thus rise to heaven after her death. Her dedication and devotion make her one of the great personalities of Vedic culture.[17] she was a multifaceted personality: she could be fiery and angry when the situation called for it, but she still had a compassionate nature. She encouraged people to face life with the same inner strength that she did. After the war, Draupadi looked after Gandhari and Dhritarashtra with respect and affection, even though their sons had wronged her in so many ways.

Perceptions of Draupadi[edit]

Draupadi is eulogized as the epitome of chastity and truth. She is praised for her extreme devotion to her husbands, mother-in-law and Sri Krishna.She is worshiped as a goddess in South India. Draupadi was a brave woman, she demanded justice directly from the King Dhritarashtra in Hastinapur kingdom when she was insulted by his sons. She as Sairandhri (literally: an expert maid, her assumed name during her exile in which she worked as Virat kingdom's queen Sudeshna's hair-stylist) again demanded justice directly from the king Virata when she was insulted by Kichaka(the brother of Queen Sudeshna, and the commander of king Virata’s forces) She criticised those kings(Virata and Dhritarashtra) for failing to give Justice to her and failing to protect a woman and Dharma. She even criticised great warriors such as Bhishma, Drona, Kripacharya and even her five husbands for not saving her from the humiliation in Hastinapura.

Draupadi demands the inherent gem of Ashwathama[edit]

Ashwathama in order to avenge his father's death attacks the camp of the Pandavas' with his uncle Kripa and Kritavarma breaking the rules of the battle. He makes an atrocious massacre killing Dhrishtadyumna, Shikhandi and the soldiers who were in sleep. He kills the Upapandavas. Many scriptures say that he mistook Upapandavas for Pandavas. At morning Yudhishthira hears the news and asks Nakula to bring Draupadi from Matsya kingdom. Draupadi blacks out reaching there and vows that if the Pandavas don't kill the evil son of Drona she will kill herself by prayopaveshan( fasting till death ). Yudhishthira tries to console her but she says,"I have heard that Drona's son hath a gem on his head, born with him. I shall see that gem brought to me after the slaughter of that wretch in battle, Placing that gem on thy head, O king, I shall endure to live. Even this is my resolve."[18]Then she says to Bhima,"Remembering the duties of a kshatriya, O Bhima, it behoveth thee to come to my rescue. Slay that man of sinful deeds like Maghavat slaying Samvara. There is no one in this world who is equal to thee in prowess. It is known throughout the world how on an occasion of great calamity thou becamest at the town Varanavata the refuge of all the Parthas. When again we were seen by Hidimba, it was thou that becamest our refuge in the same way. Like Maghavat rescuing (his spouse) the daughter of Puloma, thou didst rescue my afflicted self, in Virata's city, from a great calamity. Like those great feats, O Partha, that thou didst achieve in former days, slay now, O slayer of foes, the son of Drona and be thou happy!"[18] Afterwards remain successful to do so and placing that gem on crown Yudhishthira looked like a mountain adorned with moon.[18][19]

Quality of mercy and purity[edit]

Draupadi told duryodhan to accept his sins on the 17th day of battle and she will save his life even if he insulted her many a time. Draupadi's mercy towards Ashwatthama at such a time is evidence of the purity of her heart. She saw beyond her own pain and forgave Ashwatthama his crime of killing her children for the sake of his mother Kripi. She also, even in the midst of her grief, prevented her husbands from committing a bad deed. She did not want them guilty of killing a Brahmana. She reminded them of their guru Drona and protected Ashwatthama. Draupadi's had a heart of gold. She thought of everyone.

"Much later when Draupadi was asked what hurt the most about losing her children she replied that they died in their sleep. "If they'd been awake my brave sons would have remembered Krishna's name and faced salvation (moksha). Those who remember the Lord at the time of death are granted salvation from this material world. But since my children were asleep, they couldn't do that. They couldn't remember Krishna. That is what hurts the most."

Draupadi's grief was not selfish or focused on her own pain. She thought only of her children and of the fate of their souls. We can learn so much from Draupadi's story. From her compassion. From her love. From her intelligence. Her capacity to forgive was without doubt her greatest strength. She was Krishnā, Krishna's dear one.[20]

Draupadi's description of the Pandavas[edit]

Her description of Pandavas to Jayadratha when he abducts her, "With a complexion like that of pure gold, possessed of a prominent nose and large eyes, and endued with a slender make, that husband of mine is known among people by the name of Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma and the foremost of the Kuru race. That virtuous prince of men granteth life to even a foe that yields. Therefore, O fool, throwing down thy arms and joining thy hands, run to him for thy good, to seek his protection. And that other man whom thou seest with long arms and tall as the full-grown Sala tree, seated on his chariot, biting his lips, and contracting his forehead so as to bring the two eye-brows together, is he,--my husband Vrikodara! Steeds of the noblest breed, plump and strong, well-trained and endued with great might, draw the cars of that warrior! His achievements are superhuman. He is known, therefore, by the name of Bhima on earth. They that offend him are never suffered to live. He never forgetteth a foe. On some pretext or other he wrecketh his vengeance. Nor is he pacified even after he has wrecked a signal vengeance. And there, that foremost of bowmen, endued with intelligence and renown, with senses under complete control and reverence for the old—that brother and disciple of Yudhishthira—is my husband Dhananjaya, known to the world as Arjun! Virtue he never forsaketh, from lust or fear or anger! Nor doth he ever commit a deed that is cruel. Endued with the energy of fire and capable of withstanding every foe, that grinder of enemies is the son of Kunti. And that other youth, versed in every question of morality and profit, who ever dispelleth the fears of the affrighted, who is endued with high wisdom, who is considered as the handsomest person in the whole world and who is protected by all the sons of Pandu, being regarded by them as dearer to them than their own lives for his unflinching devotion to them, is my husband Nakula possessed of great prowess. Endued with high wisdom and having Sahadeva for his second, possessed of exceeding lightness of hand, he fighteth with the sword, making dexterous passes therewith. Thou, foolish man, shall witness today his performances on the field of battle, like unto those of Indra amid the ranks of Daityas! And that hero skilled in weapons and possessed of intelligence and wisdom, and intent on doing what is agreeable to the son of Dharma, that favourite and youngest born of the Pandavas, is my husband Sahadeva! Heroic, intelligent, wise and ever wrathful there is not another man equal unto him in intelligence or in eloquence amid assemblies of the wise. Dearer to Kunti than her own soul, he is always mindful of the duties of Kshatriyas, and would much sooner rush into fire or sacrifice his own life than say anything that is opposed to religion and morals." (Book 3: Vana Parva, Section 268)


The marriage of Draupadi with five Pandava men, i.e., polyandry, was not regarded without censure by the society spoken of in the epic. The Indo-Aryan texts almost never mention or allow polyandry, although polygamy was common among men of higher social ranks. Her marriage to five men was controversial. However, when questioned by Kunti to give an example of polyandry, Yudhisthira cites Gautam-clan Jatila (married to seven Saptarishis) and Hiranyaksha's sister Pracheti (married to ten brothers).[21]

Draupadī's polyandrous marriage seems to have been a historic event; otherwise the author of the Mahābhārata, who is at his wit's end to justify it, would have quietly kept silence about it. ... The Mahābhārata proceeds to give several fantastic reasons in justification of Draupadī's marriage; only one of them may be given by way of illustration. Draupadī got five husbands in this life because in one of her previous existences she had five times uttered the prayer to God, 'Give me a husband' (Mbh 1:213). [See also Mbh 1:206:2,27; 1:210:29 for contemporary cultural responses to polyandry.][22]

Draupadi has longed for a husband who will have wisdom and moral values, will be strong and well built, a good archer, handsome and intelligent.

Of course all these qualities are with Pandavas as well but only equally divided (Yudhistira for moral values, Bhima for physical strength, Arjuna for archery, Nakula is handsome and Sahadev is the most intelligent).

Its fate or destiny which made Draupadi herself preventing Karna from participating in the Swyamvar, calling him a Suta Putra. He could have been a better 'only' husband for her than the five she got as he was as good as any of the pandavas when it came to virtues and valour.

Owing to her marriage to five husbands, Draupadi had to live with each one of them turn-by-turn for one year each. She had the boon to be born virgin every year, and is therefore called an eternal Kanya (a virgin).[23] In the Svargarohana Parva of Mahabharat, during their final journey to heaven, Draupadi and all Pandavas but Yudhisthira fall on their way. The reason for the fall of Draupadi is quoted as she being more doting towards Arjuna than the rest of the brothers. Draupadi always loved Arjuna more because Arjuna was the one who won the swayamvara and was also the close friend of Krishna.

Death and to heaven[edit]

Draupadi falls as the Pandavas proceed.

When her husbands retired from the world and went on their journey towards the Himalayas and Indra's heaven, she accompanied them, and was the first to fall on the journey. When Bhima asked Yudhisthira, "This princess never did any sinful act. Then why is she fallen on Earth?" to this Yudhisthir replied that, "Although the princess has always been faithful to all of us, yet she loved Arjun the most and hence the reason for her fall." On hearing this Arjun cried very much.

"Beholding his brothers fallen on the Earth, King Yudhishthira the just said unto that deity of a 1,000 eyes these words: ‘My brothers have all dropped down here. They must go with me. Without them by me I do not wish to go to Heaven, O lord of all the deities. The delicate princess (Draupadi) deserving of every comfort, O Purandara, should go with us. It behoveth thee to permit this."

"He also beheld the princess of Panchala, decked in garlands of lotuses. Having attained to Heaven, she was sitting there, endued with a form possessed of solar splendour. King Yudhishthira suddenly wished to question her. Then the illustrious Indra, the chief of the gods, spoke to him, ‘This one is Sree herself. It was for destroying the evil , that she took birth, as the daughter of Drupada, among human beings, issuing not from any mother’s womb, O Yudhishthira, endued with agreeable perfume and capable of delighting the whole world. She was born in the race of Drupada and was married to and liked by you all."


Draupadi had at least five sons one from each husband. There names were Prativindhya (Yudhisthira's son), Sutasoma (Bheema's son), Shrutakarma (Arjuna's son), Satanika (Nakula's son), and Shrutasena (Sahadeva's son). Together they were called as Upapandavas. None of Draupadi's children survived the end of the epic. Ashwatthama went to torch the camping tents of the Pandavas at night, but he got confused with the Upapandavas. So instead of torching the camps of Pandavas, he ended up torching the camps of Draupadi's children. In some versions of the story, Ashwatthama, unable to find the Pandavas (who were staying in the conquered Kaurava camp), decides to kill the Upapandavas out of spite.

Parikshit, the son of Abhimanyu, and his wife Uttarā(grandson of Subhadra and Arjuna), is the sole Pandava descendant who survives at the end of the Mahabharat battle.

Draupadi as a village god[edit]

The Draupadi Amman cult (or Draupadi cult) is a tradition that binds together a community of people in worshipping Draupadi Amman as a village goddess with unique rituals and mythologies. Fire walking or theemithi is a popular ritual enacted at Draupadi Amman temples.[24]

Reclining Draupadi's head - near Auroville.
Draupati Amman idol in Udappu, Sri Lanka

There are over 400 temples dedicated to Draupadi in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.[25] In these communities, Draupadi is worshiped mainly by the Vanniya Kula Kshatriya caste people.[26] There are a few processions and festivals which are conducted for about 3 weeks a year. The most famous festival is in the village Durgasamudram, Tirupati of Chittoor district.[27]

Modern interpretations and television[edit]

  • In the 1988 Mahabharat TV series, Draupadi was portrayed by Roopa Ganguly.
  • In the 2013 Mahabharat TV series, Draupadi was portrayed by Pooja Sharma. Even though it was her first TV show, Pooja did such a tremendous job of playing Draupadi that she won world wide acclaim for her fantastic portrayal.


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  2. ^ Bhattacharya, Pradip. Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred Myths. Manushi. 
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  16. ^ http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01190.htm
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  18. ^ a b c http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m10/m10011.htm
  19. ^ http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m10/index.htm
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  22. ^ Anant Sadashiv Altekar, The position of women in Hindu civilization, from prehistoric times to the present day, 2nd revised and illustrated edition, (Motilal Banarsidass, 1959), p. 112–113.
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  25. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf (1991). The cult of Draupadi: Mythologies: From Gingee to Kurukshetra. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 25. 
  26. ^ Madhusudhan, N.R. (2012). "Ancient tradition comes alive". New Indian Express. 
  27. ^ "Drowpathi Sametha Dharmaraja Swamy Temple". Desibantu. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 


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