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Published by: Yadgiri on Sep 22, 2008
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Draupadi, the Woman: Epitome of Feminity and Feminism
"Draupadi has five husbands - but she has none -She had five sons - and was never a mother …The pandavas have given Draupadi … No joy, no sense of victory No honour as wife No respect as mother -Only the status of a Queen …But they all have goneAnd I'm left with a lifeless jewelAnd an empty crown …My baffled motherhoodWrings its hands and strives to weep".A long poem "Kurukshetra", written by Amreeta Syam, conveys this angst of Panchali (Draupadi), bornunasked for by her father, bereft of brothers and sons and her beloved sakha (friend) Krishna.Draupadi was a heroic princess of the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. One who was firm and a womanwith an unbending will. The Proud and angry heroine of the epic Mahabharata, Draupadi has remainedan enigmatic woman of substance.Draupadi was the daughter of Drupad, the king of Panchala, and the wife and queen of the five greatPandavas, renowned alike for her loveliness and her granite will. Volcanic, she reduced her enemies tothe ashes. This fiery princess bent on vengeance could be compassionate and generous, too. Draupadihad developed the strength to bear the trials of life. She had resolved firmly not to harm the good people, and not to bend before the wicked. Draupadi was a woman, but she became as famous as theheroic Pandavas because of such determination. Her personality was one of lightning and thunder. Thisunforgettable heroine is in no way less than Bheema or Arjuna in strength and spirit, valour and virtue.Her story is a saga of suffering and disgrace but she took everything in her stride and vanquished eachone of the perpetrators of her humiliation and agony. Draupadi finds her five husbands discarding her repeatedly: each takes at least one more wife; she never gets Arjuna to herself for he marries Ulupi,Chitrangada and has Subhadra as his favorite. Yudhishthira pledges her like chattel at a game of dice;and finally, they leave her to die alone on the roadside like a pauper, utterly rikta - drained in everysense.Draupadi, meaning daughter of Drupad, was known by several other names as well. As the princess of the kingdom of Panchal she was known as Panchali. As the grand daughter of Prushata she was knownas Parsati. [Draupadi is ayonija, not born of woman.] Draupadi is born of fire and therefore, oftenreferred to as Yagnyaseni. She is also called Krishnaa because she was copper skinned, fiery eyed andhad long, black hair. She was gifted with blue-lotus fragrance wafting for a full krosha (2 miles) andhence was called Yojanagandha (she whose fragrance can be felt for miles). [Draupadi alone enjoys theunique relationship of sakhi (female-friend) with her sakha (male-friend) Krishna. She was a truevirgin, and has a mind of her very own. ]For many years Drupad, king of Panchal, had no children. So, to havechildren he performed tapas (rigorous rituals); he thought only of Godday and night and prayed to Him. God blessed him, and two childrenwere born out of the haven fire lit by Drupad to fulfill hisdetermination of vengeance against Dronacharya, his enemy, throughhis death. The first to emerge out of the holy pyre was a son, calledDhrishtadyumna, and the second, a daughter called Draupadi. ThusDraupadi was born from the fire of vengefulness, anger and passion.Actually she arrives as a bonus because Drupad was performing theyajna for obtaining a son who would take revenge on Drona and hadnot asked for a daughter at all. Draupadi springs from the fire full grown, in the bloom of her youth,from the yajna vedi - the holy pyre - not requiring a human womb, ignoring the absence of Drupad'squeen who was unable to respond to the priest's summons because her toilet was incomplete.
Draupadi was extremely beautiful, intelligent and virtuous woman, with her body smelling like a fresh bloom lotus. There are few women in Hindu mythology who were aggressive and who spoke their mind in a world of men. Draupadi was one of them. She is considered by many as the first feminist of Indian mythology. At the time of her birth, a celestial voice had proclaimed: "This unparalleled beautyhas taken birth to uproot the Kauravas and establish the rule of religion". The circumstances leading toher birth began to take shape while her father was yet young.Drupad was the prince of Panchal. His father King Prushta sent him to the hermitage of sage Agniveshfor his education. There Drupad got acquainted with a brahmin, Drona, the son of sage Bharadwaj. In amoment of camaraderie Drupad swore that they would equally share whatever the two owned. Bothwent their different ways after completing their education.In due course Drupad became the king of Panchal. But life was not good to Drona and he was steepedin poverty. In despair he turned to Drupad, in hope for help, based on the promise once made byDrupad. However, Drupad insulted Drona and told him that friendship took place only between equalsand he could help Drona only if he came begging for alms, instead of quoting the promise of Drupad based on friendship. Drona left but the insult festered in his soul, waiting for an appropriate time to burst out.In time, Drona was appointed the instructor in warfare to the royal princes of Hastinapur, the sons of Pandu and Dhritarashtra. However, time could not douse the flames of revenge still burning within him.As gurudakshina (fees that were due to an instructor, after the students' education was complete) heasked the princes to get Drupad to him as a prisoner. The princes being skilled in the art of warfaresuccessfully brought King Drupad bound in chains to Drona. The brahmin laughingly said to the king,"Once you had promised me half your wealth, but had refused to redeem the pledge. Today I own allyour wealth, but I will honor our childhood bond, I will give half to you and let bygones be bygones."But Drupad was not willing to let bygones to bygones. It was now his turn to nurse the insult. He wastoo old himself to take revenge. None of his three sons, Shikhandi, Satyajit and Vikra, were skilledenough to defeat Drona. In order to obtain such an offspring he requested sage Yaja to conduct asacrifice. Yaja was assisted by his younger brother Upayaja (some text say that Yaja assisted Upayaja)and hence two offerings were prepared. From his first offspring to the sacrificial fire a full-grown sonemerged, armed with a sword and a bow. He was Drishtadyumna, destined to slay Drona. From thesecond offering a full-grown daughter emerged, whose dazzle blinded the eye. She was Draupadi.When Draupadi emerged from the fire there was an oracle that she would side with God against the evilKauravas.[Draupadi is the only instance we come across in epic mythology of a sati becoming a kanya. It isstated that in an earlier birth as Nalayani (also named Indrasena), she was married to Maudgalya, anirascible sage afflicted with leprosy. She was so utterly devoted to her abusive husband that when afinger of his, dropped into their meal, she took it out and calmly ate the rice without revulsion. Pleased by this, Maudgalya offered her a boon, and she asked him to make love to her in five lovely forms. Asshe was insatiable, Maudgalya got fed up and became an ascetic. When she remonstrated and insistedthat he continue their love-life, he cursed her to be reborn and have five husbands to satisfy her lust.Thereupon she practiced severe penance and pleased Lord Shiva with her prayers. He granted a boon toher. Nalayani said that she wanted a husband and to ensure that her request was heard, she repeated itfive times in all. Shiva then said that in her next life she would have five husbands. She obtained the boon of regaining virginity after being with each husband. ] Thus, by asserting her womanhood andrefusing to accept a life of blind subservience to her husband, Nalayani, the sati, was transformed intoYajnaseni, the kanya. Some sources have a slightly different narration. Draupadi made her request onlyonce but she added a long list of qualities that she wanted in her husband. Lord Shiva said that it would be impossible to find one man with all these qualities. Hence she would have five husbands in her nextlife. All of them together would posses the qualities she had enumerated. [According to BrahmavaivartaPurana, she is the reincarnation of the maya Sita (shadow Sita - wife of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and hero of Ramayana) who, in turn, was Vedavati, reborn after molestation at Ravana'shands, and would become the "Lakshmi of the Indras"] (one of the forms of Goddess Lakshmi, eternalconsort of Lord Vishnu) in heaven.
Draupadi and Lord Krishna shared a very special relationship. As is known to admirers of the great epic poem Mahabharata, Draupadi always considered Lord Krishna as her Sakha or beloved friend andKrishna addressed her as Sakhi, this as symbolic of the platonic love existing between the fieryDraupadi and the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna. Draupadi is the instrument of LordKrishna. Using her, he realized his mega-plan of annihilating the evil Kauravas. The choice of Draupadi as the instrument, which caused his actions, explains the special place she had in his schemeof things, Draupadi was put through severe tests in her life. The only true friend, who validated her  persona and came to her rescue each time she found herself in dire circumstances, was Krishna, whosedivine presence she experienced constantly in her life.It was the Swayamvara (a ritual in which the princess wasallowed to choose her groom from amongst a group of contenders) of Draupadi, the princess of unequalled beauty,where the Kings and Princes gathered in hundreds, each eager to marry the princess. King Drupad, father of Draupadi arrangeda contest. At the center of the hall a mechanical device waserected; on it was placed a revolving object in the shape of afish. The reflection of this revolving fish could be seen in thewater below. A very heavy bow was kept nearby. Any one whodesired the hand of Draupadi in marriage had to lift the huge bow, bend it and tie the bowstring, then, looking at the reflection, he had to take aim with five arrowsand bring down the rotating fish. Such a one would be a hero worthy of Draupadi's hand. Many of theassembled kings retreated, as soon as they heard of this contest. The hundreds of princes who had cometo marry Draupadi were all beaten.Both Krishna and Draupadi appear for the first time together in theSwayamvara Sabha and make decisive interventions. It is Panchali'scategorical refusal - wholly unexpected - to accept Karna as a suitor thatalters the entire complexion of that assembly, and indeed, the course of the epic itself. The affront to Karna sows the seeds of the assault on her inthe dice-game. Pandavas in disguise of brahmins came to theSwayambhara Sabha, and Arjuna won Draupadi by piercing with arrow,the eye of a moving fish on a high pole. Other than Pandavas, kings and princes became very angry and it is her Sakha-to-be, Krishna, who stepsin to put an end to the skirmish between the furious kings and thedisguised Pandavas.The Pandavas and Draupadi returned home from the Swayamvara hall.The princess, who had not seen the midday sun, had to walk miles in thesweltering heat to reach her new home. Arjuna announced to his mother that he had brought home a prize that he so skillfully won. When Kunti(mother of Pandavas) heard this without seeing them, she asked them toshare whatever they had brought among themselves. This was how she daily greeted them in order toensure they remain united. Keeping their mother's word, they divided Draupadi amongst themselves asif she were an object. It is true that Arjuna was able to receive Draupadi's hand by completing adifficult and skillful task, but she was not a prize that he won because it was Draupadi's Swayamvara;she had the right to choose her husband. Arjuna proved himself worthy, Draupadi herself made the truedecision. She could have married Karna who could have also performed the same task, but she deniedhim permission to participate. In certain ways therefore, Arjuna degraded Draupadi by claiming her as a prize and his elder brother, Yudhishthira, further insulted her by carrying out their mother's wish bytreating her as if she were an object won in a contest.The five Pandavas were regarded as handsome and gallant and they definitely would not have had a problem wedding women of high birth and beauty, yet they all chose to be the husband to the fair Draupadi. She was a victim of circumstances and had no control over the situation when she was toldthat she had to marry five men at the same time. She was expected to love all her husbands equally,which indeed is a difficult thing to do. She was afraid of the kind of sexual commitment she was being

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Despite being shared by five husbands due to no fault on her part Samraggi (Empress) Draupadi is venerated as one of the Pancha Satis of this universe. She was an astounding lady of unmatched beauty, unbelievable strength of character, insurmountable intellect and unwavering faith and trust in the supreme Lord Vishnu. Single-handed, she brought about the destruction of the evil Kauravas.
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