From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Raja Ravi Varma, Pleasing.jpg
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma
Texts Mahabharata Edit this on Wikidata
Personal Information
Spouse Yudhishtira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva Edit this on Wikidata
Children Prativindhya, Sutasoma, Shrutakirti Edit this on Wikidata
Siblings Dhrishtadyumna Edit this on Wikidata

Draupadi (Sanskrit: द्रौपदी, Sanskrit pronunciation: [d̪rəʊpəd̪i]) is one of the most important female characters in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata.[1] According to the epic, she is the daughter of Drupada, King of Panchala.

Draupadi is considered as one of the Panch-Kanyas or Five Virgins.[2]


Like other epic characters, Draupadi is referred to by multiple names in the Mahabharata. Her names are as follows:

  • Draupadi (द्रौपदी) – daughter of Drupada.
  • Krishnaa (कृष्णा) – one who has a dark complexion.
  • Panchali (पाञ्चाली) – one from the land of Panchala.
  • Yajnaseni (याज्ञसेनी) – one born from a Yajna or fire-sacrifice.
  • Drupadakanya (द्रुपदकन्या) – the daughter of Drupada.
  • Sairandhri (सैरन्ध्री) – an expert maid (her assumed name during her second exile in which she worked as Virat kingdom's queen Sudeshna's hair-stylist).
  • Parshati (पर्षती) – the granddaughter of Prishata.
  • Nityayuvani (नित्ययुवनी) – one who never becomes old.
  • Malini (मालिनी) – one who makes garlands.
  • Yojanagandha (योजनगन्धा) – she whose fragrance can be felt for miles.


Vyasa telling the secret of birth of Draupadi to Draupada

According to the epic Mahābhārata, Bareilly region (Panchala) is said to be the birthplace of Draupadi, who was also referred to as 'Panchali'. 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 yajña called Putrakameshti yajna to obtain a means of besting him. From the sacrificial fire, Draupadi emerged as a beautiful dark-skinned young woman after her sibling Dhrishtadyumna.[3] When she emerged from the fire, a heavenly voice said that she would bring about the destruction of the Kuru line.[4] Draupadi is described in the Mahabharata as a very beautiful woman of that time.[5]


Arjuna wins Draupadi in her Swayamvara

Drupada intended to wed his daughter to Arjuna. Upon hearing of the Pandavas' supposed death at Varnavata, he set up a Swayamvara contest for Draupadi to choose her husband from the competitive contest.[6] At the Swayamvara, almost all the assorted monarchs were unable to complete the challenge. When Karna attempts to do so (and in some versions, succeeds), Draupadi rebukes him saying she will not marry the son of a charioteer (in some versions, Krishna prods her to say this). Disguised as a Brahmin, Arjuna manages to complete the challenge. As the other attendees, including the Kauravas, protest at a Brahmin winning the competition and attack, Arjuna and Bhima protect Draupadi and are able to retreat. When Draupadi arrives with the five Pandavas to meet Kunti, they inform her that Arjuna won a fruit at a competition, to which Kunti says, "Share the fruit equally". This motherly command leads the five brothers to become the five husbands of Draupadi.[6]

Living in Indraprastha[edit]

With the Pandavas' survival revealed, a succession crisis was started. Upon the news of Yudhishthira's death, the title of crown prince had fallen to Duryodhana. Dhritrashtra invites the Pandavas to Hastinapur and proposes that the kingdom be divided. The Pandavas are assigned the wasteland Khandavprastha, referred to as unreclaimed desert. Drupada becomes enraged at the perceived insult towards his daughter; at Yudhishthira's prodding, Draupadi pacifies her father despite her own misgivings. With the help of Krishna, Pandavas rebuilt Khandavprastha into the glorious Indraprastha. The crown jewel of the kingdom was built at the Khandava forest, where Draupadi resided in the "Palace of Illusions".[7] Yudhishthira performed the Rajasuya Yagna with Draupadi by his side; the Pandavas gained lordship over many regions.[8]

Duryodhana's insult[edit]

Not present in older versions of the epic, there is a story that cements the hatred Duryodhana has for Draupadi.

Duryodhana and his entourage explored the keep during their visit to Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yagna. While touring the grounds, Duryodhana falls prey to one of the many illusions. 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 by the hidden pool. Draupadi and her maids saw this from the balcony and 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 son is blind".[9] In some other versions of the Mahabharatha, Bhima, Arjuna, and the twin brothers alongside their retinues witness Duryodhana's fall and laughed with their servants. Some say the popular insult of a "blind man's son" is believed to be a later addition. Duryodhana felt insulted by the behaviors of the four Pandavas, stoking his hatred of them. [9]

The game of dice[edit]

The Ordeal of Draupadi, a painting by Warwick Goble, 1913
Draupadi is presented in a parcheesi game where Yudhishthira 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.

Together with his maternal uncle Shakuni, Duryodhana conspired to call on the Pandavas to Hastinapur and win their kingdoms in a game of gambling. The plan's architect, Shakuni had magic dice that would never disobey his will, as they were made from the bones of Shakuni's father. As the game proceeds, Yudhishthira loses everything at first. In the second round, Yudhishthira's brother Nakula is stake, and Yudhishthira loses him. When Draupadi finds out about this, she immediately goes to the Rajsabha and asks that the game be ended. Shakuni manipulates Yudhisthira's mind and Yudhisthira commands Draupadi to leave. Yudhisthira subsequently gambles away Sahdev, Arjuna and Bheem. Finally, Yudhishthira puts himself at stake, and loses again. 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, 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 Yudhishthira'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 grabs her by the hair and brings her into the court, dragging her by the hair.[10]

Draupadi and Bhima, as depicted in yakshagana.

Dushasana drags Draupadi to the court by the hair. Seeing this, Bheem pledges to remove Dushasana's hands, as they touched Draupadi's 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 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 Duryodhana 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, no one has right to put a woman on bet according to shastras; not a husband, father, or even the gods. Hearing these words, and remembering how Draupadi had insulted him during her swayamvara, Karna gets angry and says that when Yudhishthira lost all his possession he also lost Draupadi, even specifically staking her.[11] A monogamist, Karna goes on to call Draupadi, a women with five husbands, a whore, adding that dragging her to court is not surprising act whether she be attired or naked. Duryodhana orders Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi.[12][13] Seeing her husbands' passivity, Draupadi prays to Krishna to protect her. A miracle occurs henceforward, which is popularly attributed to Krishna. As the Pandavas and the court looks away, Dushasana unwraps layers and layers of her sari. 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 drink the blood from his chest, at the pain of not seeing his ancestors/entering heaven. This vow unsettles the entire court.

The only Kauravas who object to the disrobing of Draupadi in the court are Vikarna and Vidura. 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. Gandhari counsels Dhritarashtra to action. Also fearing retribution from Panchal, Dhritarashtra intervenes and grants Draupadi three wishes. In her first wish, Draupadi asks that her husbands be freed from bondage so her sons would not be called slaves. In her second wish, she asks for all the wealth Pandavas lost in the dice game to be restored to them. When Dhritarashtra asks her for her third wish, she reminds him that a kshatriya woman can seek only two wishes,three would be a sign of greediness. The Pandavas and Draupadi return to Indraprastha , only to receive another invitation for a game of dice, in which the loser would be given an exile of 12 years followed by a year of Agnathavas.[clarification needed] Yudhishtira yet again accepts the invitation and loses,and goes on an exile with his brothers and wife Draupadi.

Living in exile[edit]

Abduction by Jayadratha[edit]

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

While the Pandavas were in the Kamyaka forest, they often went hunting, leaving Draupadi alone. At this time Jayadratha, the son of Vriddhakshatra and the husband of Duryodhana's sister Dussala, passed through Kamyaka forest on the way to Salwa Desa. Jayadratha met Draupadi and then started beseeching her to go away with him and desert her husbands. Draupadi pointed out the immorality of deserting one's spouses when they were in difficulty, and attempted to stall and dissuade Jayadradtha by describing how the Pandavas would punish him. Failing with words, Jayadratha forced her onto his chariot. Meanwhile, the Pandavas finished their hunt and found Draupadi missing. Learning of their wife's abduction by Jayadratha they rushed to save her. On seeing the Pandavas coming after him, Jayadratha left Draupadi on the road, though ultimately the Pandavas managed to arrest him. Yudhishthira urged Bhima to spare Jayadratha's life for the sake of Dussala and Gandhari, much to the indignation of Draupadi. In some versions of the story, Yudhishthira asks Draupadi to pass the sentence since it was she who was attacked, and she begrudgingly counsels to spare him because of the relations they share. Before freeing him, the Pandavas shaved Jayadratha's head at five places in order to publicly humiliate him.[citation needed]

Kichaka's death[edit]

Draupadi in Virata's palace, by Raja Ravi Varma

On the year they had to go into exile, the Pandavas chose to stay in the Matsya Kingdom.

One day Kichaka, and the commander of king Virata's forces, happened to see the Draupadi. He was filled with lust by looking at her and requested her hand in marriage. 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 Sudeshna, to help him win Draupadi. Sudeshana ordered Draupadi to fetch wine from Kichaka's house, overriding Draupadi's protests. 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 Yudhishthira. 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. Yudhishthira 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 Yudhishthira'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.

Death of Kichaka

Kurukshetra War[edit]

During the war, Draupadi stays at the Pandavas' camp. Though initially very eager for combat, even volunteering to fight herself, she sours on the war as it progresses. The fall of Bhishma and the death of Abhimanyu hit her very hard. On the 16th day, Bhima kills Dushasana, fulfilling his oath, and Draupadi gleefully washes her hair with her brother-in-law's blood.


Ashwathama, in order to avenge his father's as well as other Kuru warriors' deceitful killing by the Pandavas, attacks their camp at night with Kripacharya and Kritavarma.Ashwathama killed Dhrishtadyumna, Shikhandi, Upapandavas, and the remaining Pandava and Panchala army.[14] In the morning, Yudhishthira hears the news and asks Nakula to bring Draupadi from Matsya kingdom.[15] Draupadi vows that if the Pandavas do not kill Ashwatthama, she would fast to death. Yudhishthira tries to console her, reminding her of Ashwatthama's immortal status. Draupadi then says she will be pacified if the Pandavas can bring her the jewel from Ashwatthama's head[16][17] The Pandavas find Ashwatthama at Vyasa's hut. Arjuna and Ashwatthama end up firing the Brahmashirsha astra at each other. Vyasa intervenes and asks the two warriors to withdraw the destructive weapon. Not endowed with the knowledge to do so, Ashwatthama instead redirects the weapon to Uttara's womb, killing the Pandavas' only heir. Krishna curses him for this act; as part of his penance, Ashwathama gives his gem to the Pandavas and thus, Draupadi is pacified.[16]

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 heaven, she accompanied them, and was the first to fall on the journey. When Bhima asked Yudhishthira why Draupadi had fallen, Yudhishthira names Draupadi's partiality towards Arjuna as the reason.

On the remaining journey, the rest of the Pandavas all fall, with only Yudhishthira surviving. Eventually, he is taken to a palace where he sees his brothers and Draupadi.


Draupadi had five sons, one son each from the Pandava brothers. They were known as Upapandavas. Their names were Prativindhya, Sutasoma, Shrutakarma, Satanika, and Shrutasena.[14] Ashwatthama killed Upapandavas during his surprise raid on Pandava camp. According to legends and folktales, She had a daughter called Suthanu as well, from Yudhishthira. She was born when they were in exile and after Kurukshetra War, she married Swarabhanu, Krishna-Satyabhama's son.


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, Yudhishthira cites Gautam-clan Jatila (married to seven Saptarishi) and Hiranyaksha's sister Pracheti (married to ten brothers).[18]

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. The cult believes that Draupadi is the incarnation of the goddess Kali. Fire walking or theemithi is a popular ritual enacted at Draupadi Amman temples.[19]

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, Karnataka and other countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, Réunion, South Africa.[19] In these communities, Draupadi is worshiped mainly by people of the Vanniyar caste.[20] 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.[21]

In media and television[edit]

In B.R.Chopra's Mahabharat, Draupadi was portrayed by Roopa Ganguly.

In the 2008 Television series, Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki, Draupadi was enacted by Anita Hassanandani Reddy.

In 2013 Mahabharat TV Series, Draupadi was played by Pooja Sharma.

In Dharmakshetra (2014), Draupadi was portrayed by Kashmira Irani

In Suryaputra Karna (2015 TV Series) Draupadi was portrayed by Pankhuri Awasthy

In Draupadi (DD Kisan) Mitali Nag essays the role of Draupadi

Druapadi as an epitome of feminism[edit]

Draupadi in Mahabharata is one of the only examples that participated in the practice of polyandry. She actively participated in her husbands’ political affairs.[22] When her husband Yudhishthira, put her at stake in a game of dice, she questioned his act instead of submitting to what he wanted. She also questioned the court as to why was it that when Yudhishthira had bet himself and lost the game, he has the right to still bet against her.[23] This showed that in a predominant male society, she raised her voice. She argued and pleaded to defend her honour several times. After the shameful incident of her attempted disrobing, she cursed the Kauravas that they would pay for their acts. Her form became so fearful, that the King had to apologise for his sons’ disorderly conduct and offer her a boon. That’s when Draupadi asked back for her husbands’ titles and lands, and nothing for her own self.[24] During the Agyaata Vaas in King Virata’s kingdom, Draupadi was disguised as one of the queen’s maids. Keechaka, the King’s brother-in-law, tried to have his way with Draupadi, who turned to the king for help. This shows that Panchali had a firm belief in the law of the land, and was not afraid to take matters into her own hands if justice was at stake.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bhattacharya, Pradip. Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred Myths (PDF). Manushi. 
  3. ^ Jones, Constance (2007). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 136. ISBN 0-8160-5458-4. 
  4. ^ Doninger, Wendy (2009). The Hindus: An Alternative History. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 301. 
  5. ^ Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. "Section CLXXXVI: Swayamvara Parva". The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa: English Translation. Munshirm Manoharlal Pub Pvt Ltd. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D. (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 136–137. 
  7. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 166. 
  8. ^ Parmeshwarananad, Swami (2001). Encylopaedic Dictionary of Puranas. New Delhi: Sarup and Sons. p. 524. 
  9. ^ a b "Sabha parva". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved July 13, 2015. 
  10. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 2: Sabha Parva: Shishupala-badha Parva: Section LXVI". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  11. ^ Pattanaik, Devdutt. "The Clothes of Draupadi". Devdutt. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  12. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 2: Sabha Parva: Shishupala-badha Parva: Section LXVII". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  13. ^ "Mahabharata with the Commentary of Nilakantha". Archive.org. Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  14. ^ a b K M Ganguly(1883-1896). The Mahabharatha Book 10: Sauptika Parva section 9 Ashwatthama killing Dhrishtadyumna ,October 2003,Retrieved 2015-04-17
  15. ^ K M Ganguly(1883-1896). The Mahabharatha Book 10: Sauptika Parva section 10 Yudhishthira crying over the death of Upapandavas ,October 2003,Retrieved 2015-04-17
  16. ^ a b "The Mahabharata, Book 10: Sauptika Parva: Section 11". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  17. ^ "Asvathama and Kripa are born immortals and unslayable by any kind of weapons". Retrieved June 28, 2015. 
  18. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 1: Adi Parva: Vaivahika Parva: Section CLXLVIII". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  19. ^ a b Hiltebeitel, Alf (1991). The Cult Of Draupadi Mythologies:From Gingee To Kuruksetra. 1. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-1000-6. 
  20. ^ Madhusudhan, N.R. (2012). "Ancient tradition comes alive". New Indian Express. 
  21. ^ "Drowpathi Sametha Dharmaraja Swamy Temple". Desibantu. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  22. ^ Critical Terrorism Studies: A New Research Agenda
  23. ^ Bhagavad Gita - The Song of God
  24. ^ Signposts: Gender Issues in Post-independence India
  25. ^ http://scs.sagepub.com/content/1/1/56.short


External links[edit]