Draupadi is definitely the most talked/written/scrutinized about heroine from Indian Mythology (Mahabharata). Draupadi was a damsel of dark complexion but of great beauty, "as radiant and graceful as if she had descended from the city of the gods.” She gets her Patronymic name (Draupadi) because of her father who was King Drupada. Draupadi, born of Agnigarbha (womb of fire) is a boon to her father King Panchal.
Revered on one hand as one of the Pancha Kanya- (Ahalya, Tara, Mandodari, Satyavati and Draupadi) the five supremely virtuous women of Hindu myth, her name still bears stigma, so much so that no girl is ever named after her.The tales of the flame like beauty of the enchanting princess of Panchala , of her rivetingly lovely dark looks , of her captivating blue lotus fragrance spread like forest fire far and wide. It set aflame the hearts of countless princes. Even the sage Vyasa went into a rapture describing her extraordinary beauty. It was the only time he described his heroine in such detail.“ Eye-ravishing Panchali, black-and-smiling-eyed… Shining coppery carved nails, Soft eye-lashes, Swelling breasts Shapely thighs… Neither short nor tall, neither dark nor pale, with wavy dark-blue hair, eyes like autumn-lotus leaves, fragrant like the lotus…extraordinarily accomplished, soft-spoken and gentle… Her sweat-bathed face is lovely, like the lotus, like the jasmine; slim-waisted like the middle of the sacred Vedi, long-haired, pink-lipped, and smooth-skinned. She a dream incarnated of gods and men alike.” (Adi Parva 169.44-46, Sabha 65.33-37)
- Krisnā or Krsnā : the dark-skinned one: That is actually her first name.
- Pānchālī : Because she was the princess of "Panchāla" and not because she had five (Paanch) husbands.
- Yajnaseni : From Yajnasen (i.e. King Drupada)
- Sairindhri: the maid-servant' of the queen of Virata
- Parshati: Because of her grandfather Prishata
- Panchami: for having five husbands
- Nitayauvani: the ever-young
There are a couple of different versions about Draupadi's birth. Though most of them pretty much state that she was born off a Yagya (sacrificial fire) , performed by King Drupada. Drupada was defeated by Pandavas in a war (initiated by Drona: who was their Guru). To gain revenge on Drona, he performed a great fire-sacrifice to beget a powerful son who could kill him. Draupadi thus emerged with Drishtadyumna from the sacrificial fire.
Some versions state that Drupada just wanted a son from that sacrificial fire. After his defeat Drupada undertook a putrakami yagna, a sacrifice to please the gods and obtain offspring by their blessing. Drupada desired a son who could kill Drona who had humiliated him in battle and taken half his kingdom. When the Yagna was being performed, the sage who was performing the Yagna asked the King to get his wife, as she was required to be there for the final sacrificial offerings. The Queen was taking a bath at that time and the sage was irritated by that so he offered the final offerings himself. Hence Draupadi (already a woman) also emerged from the sacrificial fire.
Another version states that the king wanted a son to kill Drona as well as an exceptionally beautiful daughter who could marry Arjuna, because he immensely was struck by Arjuna's valour.
Marriage to Arjuna
Her hand was sought by many princes, and so her father determined to hold a swayamvara and allow her to exercise her own choice in the selection of a husband. The swayamvara was proclaimed, and princes assembled from all parts to contend in the lists for the hand of the princess. Yet again there are few different versions:
- Her father wanted her to Marry Arjun, but she didn't want to marry Arjun because he defeated (and hence insulted) her father to please his teacher. She wanted to marry someone who could defeat Arjun. She instantly fell in love with that adorable youth of proud bearing , looking fearless and handsome as he emerged out of the crowd of Brahmin's squatted in the far corner of the hall. She was delighted when as he shot down the target with remarkable skill , grace and accuracy. When it came to light that he was none other than Arjuna the Pandava prince , she was bemused and she smiled within herself in slight amusement at the irony of fate.
- She always wanted to marry Arjuna, hence when Karna picked up the bow and was about to aim at the target she announced in the court that he is a "soot-putra" (Charioteer's son : of low birth) and hence she will not marry him. That pain and humiliation burned deep into Karna's soul searing his self esteem. Karna later in his life did not let go a slightest opportunity to hurt and humiliate Draupadi.
It is well known that after the swayamvara was won by Arjuna he and his brothers went back to their hut and from the door informed their mother that they have received a wonderful Bhikhsa (alms) so as to surprise her. Kunti (their mother) without looking at the Bhiksha, told them that whatever it is that they have received, all the brothers should share "it".
According to some scholars Kunti had come to know of the Victory so she had purposely asked Arjuna to share whatever he had received with all his brothers , for being a Woman , she knew that if just one brother enjoys the ‘togetherness & intimacy' with a beautiful lady, the others might feel jealous or lonely and thus the brotherhood might just get ruined. They were on Earth for a great purpose – thus Kunti could not allow any mishap among the brothers for a Beautiful woman – and there were high chances for the same for it has been observed since eons that Men forget everything – JUST EVERYTHING – in order to impress or win the ‘love' of a Beautiful woman – more so Beautiful to look at.
While others believe that it was just destiny. While they are contemplating (Dharam-Sankat) what to do Lord Krishna reaches their hut. Lord Krishna intervened and tells everyone that Draupadi was too much obsessed about perfection (in her previous life) and she had done a lot of ‘tapasya' for a husband having many a righteous qualities – which was not possible for ‘one' human to have:
- Someone who is a Symbol of Dharma and truth (Yudhishtar)
- Someone who is as strong as great Hanuman (Bheema)
- Someone who is a great archer like Brahmin Parushuram (the sixth avatar of Vishnu, Guru of Bhishma, Drona and Karna) (Arjuna)
- Someone who is Exceptionally Handsome (Nakul)
- Someone who is Extremely Tolerant and enduring (Sehdeva)
In Draupadi’s previous birth as Nalayani she is married to an aged sage, Maudgalya, who is happy with her loyalty and grants her a boon by which he becomes young and both of them enjoy their youth taking different forms. Yet Nalayani’s lust is unquenched. The sage curses her that she will have her desires fulfilled only in her future births. Before she meditates and immolates herself, Lord Shiva appears to her while she utters ‘Patim dehi’ five times. Shiva grants her 5 husbands in her next birth.
The Dice Game and द्रौपदी का चीर हरणIn the great gambling (Dice) match Yudhisthira played at Hastinapura against his cousins, the Kauravas, and lost his all - his kingdom, his brothers, himself, and their wife Draupadi.
Draupadi who was menstruating at that time was in separate chambers. The custom in those days was so; when a queen was having her periods she was suppose to be in seclusion. She was to rest in separate chambers and not to see anyone. At that time she was clad in just one piece of cloth in her chamber. First a sentry was sent over to call her to the court. She refused to come to the court stating
"If my lord (Yudhishtar) did stake himself and become a slave, he could not wager me, for a slave owns neither his own life nor the life of another. Speak, therefore, unto my husband these words, and unto Duryodhana say: 'Draupadi hath not been won'."
That was when Duryodhana asked Dussasana to drag her to the court. Karana, Shakuni and Duryodhana call her a whore since she has five husbands. Dussasana dragged her by the hair into the pavilion before all the chieftains, and tauntingly told her that she was a slave girl, and had no right to complain of being touched by men. He also abused her, while Duryodhana invited her to sit on his thigh.
Dussasana attempts to disrobe her, but she prays to Krishna who mysteriously gives clothes to Draupadi and saved her from dishonour.
In another version it was Surya, the Sun god to saved Draupadi. Krishna of course did have a distinct role, but it was rather indirect, and also unknown to the humans, including Draupadi. Draupadi prayed to Krishna and Krishna asked her not to worry and pray to Surya. She didnt understand the connection, but nevertheless did as instructed. Anyway, with that Krishna left. Unknown to any human, he met the Sun god on his way back, and reproached him for having forgotten his debt to Draupadi, and not helping her at the time of her need. He reminded him that he had borrowed clothes from Draupadi in an earlier existence of hers, for the wedding of his son, Sani, and told him that the pay back time had come. Dussasana was trying to disrobe Draupadi and he should redeem his debt. The sun god instructed Chhaya (literally, “Shadow”) and Maya (literally, “illusion”) to dress Draupadi. Unseen by everyone including Draupadi, these two celestials kept dressing her, as Dussasana kept disrobing her.
As she rescued her hapless husbands from slavery , even the embittered Karna could not help exclaiming in admiration that none of the world’s renowned beautiful women had accomplished such a feat: like a boat she has rescued her husbands who were drowning in a sea of sorrows (Sabha 72.1-3).