Learning From Draupadi
July 19, 2014 1 Comment
Draupadi is the daughter of Draupad,of the King of Panchala. She is the wife of the five Pandavas and is their Queen.She is the only Sakhi (female friend) of Krishna.
Draupadi is motherless as she emerged fully formed out of the sacrificial fire in response to her father’s wishes for a means to avenge himself against Drona. She is not the product of her parent’s deep desire for a child,rather she is a result of her father’s need for a child to accomplish what he can’t.
Draupadi’s relationship with the Pandavas is complex and at the heart of the Mahabharata.Of the five Pandavas, Draupadi favors Arjuna the most. She is in love with him, whereas the others are in love with her. Arjuna has won her in the Swayamvar, Arjuna is her Lord, and she is devoted to him.On the other hand, she is not Arjuna’s favorite wife.Arjuna’s favorite wife is Subadhra, Krishna’s half-sister. He also dotes on Abhimanyu (his son with Subadhra) not so his sons from Draupadi and Chitrangada. All of Draupadi’s husbands married other women, but the only time Draupadi gets upset and distraught is when she learns of Arjuna’s marriage to Subadhra. Subadhra has to go to Draupadi dressed as a maid, just to assure her that she (Subadhra) will always be beneath Draupadi in status.
Dharmaraja Yudhisthir is a bastard. Yudhisthir does not win Draupadi in the Swayamvar, he has no right to her. He lusts for her, he cannot bear seeing her everyday and not be able to have her. So he takes a small chance that fate throws his way, when Kunti says, “Share whatever you have between yourselves, and bullies Draupadi and his brothers into the weird “Lets all marry her” situation. Bhima does not like this, he claims that it is not right and that people will laugh at them. Yudhisthir tells him of Rishis who have done this before, and that it is accepted in Dharma. He then rushes forward and says that since he is the eldest, he must get “first dibs” with Draupadi. The brothers marry her according to age, eldest to youngest.Then, Yudhisthir calls an assembly with his brothers and tells them the story of 2 powerful rakshasas, Sunda and Upasunda , whose love for the same woman led them to destroy each other. He says that the lesson to learn here is that the brothers must be careful when sharing Draupadi. She must be with one brother for a set period of time, and during this period the other brothers cannot touch her (carnally, that is). Yudhisthir decides that Draupadi will live for 1 year with each brother and that since he is the eldest, she will start the cycle with him. Yudhisthir doesn’t stop with this. He knows that Draupadi loves Arjuna. He does not want her to tempt him into breaking the rules. Hence he says that the brother who breaks this rule will have to go into exile for 12 years . Further, the same punishment will apply if any brother happens to disturb another when he is carnally engaged with Draupadi. This punishment actually comes into play when Arjuna disturbs Yudhisthir and Draupadi. Arjuna has to retrieve his weapons from the armory, in order to help a poor Brahmin whose cows have been stolen by thieves. Guess where Yudhisthir and Draupadi are doing it? That’s right. The Armory. Arjuna departs on his 12 year tour of India, where he visits his father Indra, gets cursed by Urvashi, learns a lot of new skills from multiple teachers (Shiva, Indra etc), meets and marries Subadhra, followed by Chitrangada, etc. However, what happens to the year that he is to spend with Draupadi? It reverts back to Yudhisthir, who promises to care for Draupadi on Arjuna’s behalf. Naturally.
After this morose tale of manipulation, let’s visit a slightly more cheerful tale of manipulation: Draupadi and Bhima, Bhima is silly putty in Draupadi’s hands. Of all her husbands, he is the one who loves her the most. He fulfills her every request, he cannot bear to see her hurt.Who brings her flowers from Kuber’s garden? Bhima. Who cries because his beautiful wife will have to serve as a Sairandhri (maid) to Queen Sudeshna of Matsya? Bhima. Who kills a 100 Kauravas to avenge the insult to Draupadi? Bhima. Who does Draupadi run to when she is molested by Keechak in Matsya kingdom? Bhima. The other Pandavas are not under Draupadi’s thumb. She is prone to outbursts of rage, she makes unreasonable, unwise demands. When she wants Keechak killed for molesting her, Yudhisthir tells her that it would expose their presence in Matsya kingdom, and advises her to “live with it”. (Model husband that). Bhima simply walks up to Keechak in the middle of the night and tears him limb from limb. No questions asked. Draupadi shows us Bhima’s human side. He is a savage monster with others, but he is always tender when it comes to Draupadi.
As with most of the Mahabharat, Nakul and Sahadev don’t really matter here. Nakul and Sahadev are more loyal to Yudhisthir than anyone else. They don’t share father or mother with Yudhisthir, yet they follow him everywhere and do exactly as he asks. They could have gone and ruled over Madradesh (their birthright through Madri), and lived a life of luxury and ease, but they stuck with their brother through thick and thin.
Draupadi’s curse is that men,starting from her father,want to use her in some way or the other and no one cares much for what she desires or feels. Her husbands gamble her away as if she were property. When Dusshasana strips her in view of a full court, she has to beg Krishna to save her. Her husbands don’t lift a finger. Even at the end of their 13 year exile, the Pandavas are not intent on war. They worry that the losses in the Kurukshetra war will be too big to warrant it. Draupadi has to turn to her friend, Krishna, to heal her soul. Krishna promises 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…. I will accomplish all this.”And thus comes about the Mahabharat war. However,Draupadi’s friend Krishna too sees good use value in her.She is his instrument to defeat the Karuvas.
Not just men,women too,including her mum-in-law Kunti choose to try and use the motherless Draupadi .Such as when Kunti goes to try and get Karna to forsake the Kuruvas by disclosing that he is the brother of the Pandavas,and offering him his share of time with Draupadi. This when Draupadi had humiliatingly rejected Karna at her Swayamvar and it was common knowledge that he nursed his resentment against Draupadi.
So what can a woman do in a less than perfect world to improve her life?
1.It helps if you are the product of your parent’s deep love for each other and their desire for a child.It helps to have your dad on your side,helping you get ahead in life.Here’s an altogether different story where the woman’s lot is different on account of her father’s efforts.Link.
2.You’ll be happier if you pick a Bhima over an Arjun, ie a man who adores you rather than a man you are crazy about.In the latter case you will always be the one begging for love and making all the moves to gain his love rather than have it freely given to you.A man in love will take on the world for you and treat you with tenderness.His focus is always making you happy.On the flip side,Bhima types are often simple souls,not given to scheming and manipulation.So you will have to be the clever one and make sure he is not manipulated to your disadvantage.
3.By being more into a man than he is into you,you set yourself for needless agony while he replaces you with other women,in reality or at least in his thoughts.Your children are just not likely to be as adored as they could be.
4. Dharma is a very subtle thing.And the moral codes that apply to the public sphere are not the same as those of the private sphere.Virtuous men are impossible to live with.Avoid them in your personal relationships.
5.Men driven by lust will go to great lengths to get what they want.A man not wanting to compromise his principles for you is just not that into you.So see excuse for what they are.Also living with a man merely in lust with you is not likely to make you very happy.His focus is on maximizing his happiness not yours.
5.Have sakas (male friends). Many of them.Be sure that you are essential for them to accomplish their goals.Be sure that you continue to remain useful.
6.A mother-in-law is always the mother of your husband first.Forget that and you will be disappointed.
7.Men have fragile egos.Don’t needlessly buy trouble by puncturing them.Be silent.Be diplomatic.Use your tongue,intelligently,only when necessary.
8.Remember that in the final instance,all of Draupadi’s husbands abandoned her on the Himalyan slopes.Her sons were not there on her journey.The only person you can fully depend on in this life is you.So build your assets and control them yourself.Never be without them and expect others to provide for you.A time will come when you cease to be of much use to the rest of the world.