Draupadi - The Fiery Empress


Draupadi is the most important female character in the great Hindu epic Mahabharata. She is the main reason for the battle of Kurukshetra. She was born to king Drupad who was the king of Panchal. Hence she is also known as Panchali. Let us know her story in detail. During the early years of king Drupad when he was a child, he became friends with Dronacharya who was the son of sage Bharadwaj. As friends they decided to divide everything they had when they grew up. Years passed and Drupad became the king of Panchal. Dronacharya on the other hand was not doing too well in life during that time. He was poverty-stricken and would beg alms for livelihood. Dronacharya decided to visit his friend Drupad. He reminded Drupad of their pledge of dividing everything they had. However king Drupad was a changed man now. He laughed at Dronacharya and asked him to get lost as he was now a poor beggar and didn’t deserve to be a king’s friend. Years passed after this incident. Meanwhile Dronacharya regained his power as he was appointed as the royal teacher for the princes of the Kuru dynasty. He taught the Pandavas and Kauravas the skill of warfare. After their education Dronacharya asked the Kuru princes to fetch Drupad in front of him. King Drupad was an old man now. The Kuru princes attacked the kingdom of Panchal and held Drupad as a captive. Dronacharya told Drupad that this was his revenge against him for his misconduct. He also captured half of Panchal, leaving half the kingdom for Drupad as they had pledged to divide their possessions equally. Drupad was furious and wanted to take revenge. However he was old now and lacked the power to fight alone. He performed a Yagya to please Gods so that they would bestow him with a powerful son to take revenge on his behalf. The Gods were pleased with his worship and granted his boon. Along with a powerful son they also bestowed Drupad with a daughter. Both the son and daughter sprang out from the ceremonial fire. The Gods mentioned that the daughter in particular was born to end the tyranny of the Kuru Dynasty. This daughter was Draupadi. Draupadi was born from the fire of revenge and passion. She was strikingly beautiful and was known for her fiery nature. She lived on her own terms and had a voice of her own in this male-dominated world. She was close to Lord Krishna and treated him like her brother. Draupadi never experienced childhood as she sprang out of the fire as a woman. In a lot of other scriptures she is considered to be an incarnation of Goddess Adishakti. After a few years King Drupad decided to organize a Swayamvar for Draupadi where she would choose her husband. Draupadi being extremely beautiful a lot of princes from all over came to attend the Swayamvar. Even the Pandavas attended the Swayambar disguised as Brahmins. The Swaymavar was based on the competition of archery. Anyone who desired to marry Draupadi had to be an exceptional archer and had to hit a fish’s eye looking at the reflection of it. None of the princes were skilled enough for such a completion except Karna and Arjuna. When Karna came forward to take part in the competition, Draupadi didn’t let him and said that he was not qualified to take part in such completion as he was a commoner and not royal. This was Karna’s insult and he left the court with bitter feelings for Draupadi. Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers won the game and hence married Draupadi. After the wedding, the brothers along with Draupadi went to meet their mother Kunti Kunti was in the middle of worship when the Pandavas called her from behind. Arjuna told Kunti from behind that he had won a competition and had got a prize home. Kunti was busy worshipping and hence without turning back told the Pandav brothers to share the prize equally among themselves. Pandavas were devoted sons and had to keep their mother’s word. Hence all of them decided to marry Draupadi. Draupadi felt insulted but was helpless in this situation. She called Krishna for help. Krishna suggested that she should be with each husband for a period of 1 year. During this one year the other husbands shall not be allowed to enter Draupadi’s room. Draupadi and Pandavas agreed to this arrangement. Draupadi had 5 sons from each of the brothers and they were known as Upapandavas or Pandavputras. Meanwhile on the political front both Pandavas and Kauravas had equal rights to rule. King Dhritarashtra was the ruling king during that time. He was the father of Kauravas and uncle to Pandavas. He had become old now and also blind. He decided to divide the kingdom so that both Pandavas and Kauravas could rule their kingdoms respectively. Kauravas were handed over the region of Hastinapur while Pandavas were given Indraprastha. Pandavas built their kingdom with utmost care and perfection. It built by a demon architect Maya. Maya had built a palace of illusion as well where the Pandavas stayed. Everything was strikingly beautiful. When Duryodhana the eldest among Kauravas got to know about all this, he wanted to see for himself the beauty of Indraprastha. Duryodhana was a jealous person and didn’t like their prosperity. When he entered the palace of illusion, he fell into a pool of water as the pool had an illusion of land. Looking at Duryodhana fall Draupadi laughed her heart out. She said mockingly that the blind father’s son is also blind. Duryodhana felt humiliated and now wanted to take revenge. He and his wicked uncle Shakuni decided to cheat the Pandavas by inviting them for a game of dice gambling. Yudhishtra who was eldest among the Pandavas was very fond of gambling and Duryodhana knew of this weakness. Duryodhana’s wicked uncle Shakuni possessed a magical dice that would always drop down to Shakuni’s desired number. Manipulating Yudhistra’s weakness Duryodahana invited he Pandavas for a game of dice. The Pandavas went unaware of the disasters coming ahead. As expected Duryodhana kept winning with the help of the magical dice and Pandavas kept loosing. After losing their wealth .their kingdom and their property they betted on themselves. They lost here as well and became Duryodhana’s slave. Finally Yudhistra did the most disrespectful thing. He put Draupadi as a bet in this wicked game as well. He lost again. The cunning Duryodhana got a chance to hit back at Draupadi’s insult in the palace of illusions. He instructed his brother Dussashana to get Draupadi in the court. When Dusshashana went and told Draupadi of the horrendous events, she was startled and torn apart. She didn’t expect her husband to disrespect her in this way. Already before she had been insulted enough when Arjun objectified her as a prize won in some completion. However this was the last thing to expect. However she had a mind and a voice of her own. She sent back Dussashana with a question for the court that when the Pandavas had lost themselves in the game and had become slaves to Duryodhana who gave them the right to put her on stake. Angered by this audacity Duryodahana asked Dussashana to fetch her by force. The Pandavas were boiling with rage but stood helpless as they themselves had created this situation. Few of the Kauravas like Vidur and Vikarana objected to this action of Duryodhana as this was an insult to womanhood. They also threatened him that such a disgrace to a woman will cost him heavily and will ruin him completely. Karna was also present in the court. He kept supporting Duryodhana with this malicious act and said that Draupadi anyway was a lady of loose character as she practiced polyandry and was married to 5 men at the same time. He said she was impure and should be disrobed in front of everyone. Dusshashana went again and dragged Draupadi by pulling her hair. Draupadi. When Dussashana dragged her to the court this way, Bheema was furious and pledged that he shall cut the hands with which he did such a disgraceful act. Draupadi was furious and took a pledge in front of everyone that she will now wash her hair with Dussashana’s blood when he dies. Duryodhana instructed Dussashana to disrobe her. This is when Draupadi calls on Krishna for help. Krishna as a brother protects her dignity in front of everyone. He provided with an endless cloth. No matter how many times Dussashana pulled her saree, it never got over and hence she was saved from the humiliation. Furious Duryodahana now instructed Draupadi to come and sit on his lap. Draupadi cursed him by saying that his thigh shall be cut for such an outrageous act. Meanwhile the seniors in the court like Draonacharya Bhisma Dhritarashtra kept silent. Queen Gandhari, the mother of Kauravas now intervened and asked them to stop this shameful act. Draupadi kept questioning the Royals that how could a woman be treated in such a fashion under their leadership. It was certainly a failure for them as rulers. Dhritarashtra tried to pacify her and calm her down. He told her to ask for anything she wants as a boon. Draupadi requested her husband's freedom in return. Despite all the insult Pandavas had brought in, she still chose to stand by their side and rescue them from being slaves to Kauravas. Duryodhana was furious as all that he won was given away by his father to Draupadi. He blackmailed his father that he shall commit suicide if the Pandavas did not play the game of dice for the last time. In the final game of dice, the losing party will have to go on an exile for 12 years and live a life with no identity in the 13th year. Pandavas lost again. However by now their patience had been put at an edge and they vowed to strike a war once back from the exile. Draupadi also went with them and they lived in the forest of Kamyaka. For 12 years they prepared for war. They would often go hunting leaving Draupadi alone in their hut. Once when Draupadi was alone, Jayadratha who was Duryodhana’s brother in law happen to see her. He wanted to force himself upon her. He abducted Draupadi and forced her onto his chariot. Meanwhile Pandavas finished hunting and came home to find about Draupadi’s abduction. They rushed to save her. They caught Jayadratha in the middle of the road. Draupadi wanted to kill him but Yudhistra decided to let him go as he was a relative to them. Draupadi was insulted again as her husband didn’t stand by her side. In some versions it is said it was Draupadi who let him go for the sake of the relations they served. Pandavas shaved off his head at 5 places in order to humiliate Jayadratha On the 13th year, they lived as peasants in the service of the royal family of Virat, the king of Matsya Draupadi also disguised herself as a hairdresser to the queen Sudeshna. Sudeshna’s brother Kichika happened to see Draupadi and was smitten by her beauty. He wanted to force himself upon her and sought for Sudeshna’s help. Sudeshna decided to help her brother by asking Draupadi to fetch wine for Kichika and go to his room. Draupadi resisted and didn’t want to go but had to follow the queen’s order. This is when Kichika tried to molest her. Draupadi escaped from there and ran into the court of Virata. Kichika followed her to the court and kicked her in front of everyone. Even Bhima and Yudishtra were present in the court but they chose to remain silent. Bhima again pledged to kill Kichika. Later that night Kichika was killed by Bhima. After 13 years of exile Pandavas return and demand Duryodhana to return their kingdom. Duryodhan refuses. This is when Lord Krishna himself goes to Duryodhana’s court to negotiate, but Duryodhana rejected his plea as well. Thus the war of Kurukshetra begins and Pandavas kills the Kaurava clan. They become the rulers of Hastinapur afterward. Draupadi lost all her sons during the war. Draupadi had to suffer the most in this tale. She was subjected to mockery for being married to 5 men. She was questioned about her integrity and chastity. Despite having 5 husbands none came to her rescue. It was her brother Krishna who came to help her always. She dealt with all the suffering courageously and had an unmatchable will. She is remembered for fearlessness and courage until today.

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