DRAUPADI’S TRAUMA; READING FROM THE ‘SABHA PARVA’ OF THE MAHABHARATA
Abstract- Born of sacred fire, Draupadi, the heroine of the Mahabharata seems to be walking through the fire in her life. She is married off to the five brothers without consulting her. She was anointed as queen, but very soon was put as a stake during a dice game and was lost. Unaware of all the happenings in the dice game, Draupadi was suddenly announced that she has become a maid and now she had to do the bidding of her new master. This sudden twist of fortune seems to have shocked Draupadi. She was sitting in her private chamber wearing only one piece of cloth and was having her menstruation period. She refused to accept her status as a maid and also tried to avoid going in front of so many male member in the assembly. But she was forcibly taken to the assembly by pulling her hair. Stained with the blood, bleeding and trembling Draupadi was not only taken to the assembly, but an attempt was made to disrobe her in front of everybody. This paper looks at the savagery that was perpetuated on Draupadi in the epic.
Key words- Empress, Dasi, Fortune, Season, Revenge.
Born from the sacred sacrificial fire of Yagya, Yagaseni, better known as Draupdi, the heroine of the Indian epic Mahabharata seems to be walking through fire throughout her life. She was won by Arjuna, who was disguised as a Brahmin at a Swyamvara. But immediately after her Swyamvara a terrible fight breaks out, hinting that she may became a cause of much bloodshed in future.
She was married to five brothers without consulting her. The epic gives many justifications for her polyandry. But the epic also states that all the five brothers lusted after her.
“…after those princes of immeasurable energy had looked at Draupadi, the God of desire invaded their hearts and continued to crush all their senses….the ravishing beauty of Panchali… had been modeled by the creator himself” (Adi Parva, Section CLXLIII)
As all the brother had lusted after her, she was married to all of them to avoid any conflict among them. One can imagine the psychological trauma that a young girl may face, at least initially when she had to share her body with five different men. But epic do not say anything, the voice of women were suppressed. What was coming in future was worse for Draupadi.
During Sabha Parva, Yudhishthira was enticed to play a game of dice, one by one he lost all his possessions but like an intoxicated gambler he went on playing. He lost his brothers and then himself. When he stated that he have now nothing to stake, Shakuni suggested that he still have Draupadi and by staking her, he could win his freedom back. Shakuni plays very cunningly with Yudhishthira, he almost have him in his grip and Yudhishthira stakes Draupadi and while staking her, he describes her beauty and qualities,
“…neither short nor tall, neither spare nor corpulent…who is possessed of blue curly locks” (Sabha Parva, Section LXIV)
He further describes her beauty including her slender waist and other virtues expected of a woman, like sweet speaking and then stakes her. This description coming from a husband while he was putting her as stake almost sounds like he was enticing his opponents that ‘look what a beautiful, costly possession I am having! You can play and win it from me’. It is indicative of the way women were perceived and treated during the period. Yudhishthira looses this last throw as well!
Here now there is a dramatic change of fortune for the Pandavas and Draupadi. Draupadi who had been empress, is now suddenly reduced to the status of a Dasi, a slave maid. But she is unaware of it. Duryodhana without any hesitation commands to Vidura,
“……bring hither Draupadi, the dear and loved wife of the Pandavas. Let her sweep the chambers, force her there-to, and let the unfortunate one stay where our serving women are” (Sabha Parva, Section LXV)
Vidura however do not obey him, but tries to pursue him to refrain from such an evil action which may bring destruction of the whole Kuru clan. Vidura’s counsels however fell on the deaf ears and Duryodhana now sends Pratikami, the Suta servant to bring Draupadi. So much tension is already built up in the court during the dice game as one after another Yudhishthira looses all the throws, but Draupadi was unaware of her sudden change of fortune for worse. On the command of Duryodhana, Pratikami goes to bring Draupadi. He says to Draupadi,
“Yudhishthira having been intoxicated with dice, Duryodhana, O Draupadi, hath won thee. Come now, therefore to the abode of Dhritrashtra. I will take thee, O Yajnaseni, and put thee in some menial work” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
Draupadi who was conscious of being a Kshatrani and the queen was suddenly commanded by a servant of a Suta caste to come with him and he will put her to some menial work. She was also addressed by name Draupadi as well as Yajnaseni, instead of queen or princes, which were a usual form of address by which a servant was suppose to address the queen.
Draupadi was unaware of the things that had happened in the court and was at a loss how to react to Pratikami. She says,
“Why, O Pratikamin, dost thou say so?” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
She also expresses surprise that a prince can stake his wife! She also asks if the king did not find anything else to stake.
Pratikami explains the sequence in which the king had lost everything; his wealth, kingdom, then his brothers, then himself and finally Draupadi. Now when Draupadi was informed that Yudhishthira had first lost himself and then staked her, she probably thinks if she can save herself by argument that if Yudhishthira had lost himself first, he had no right to stake her. Draupadi gets angry with Yudhishthira, she refers to him in a very disrespectful manner as a gambler and says to Pratikami,
“O son of the Suta race, go, and ask that gambler present in the assembly, whom he hath lost first, himself, or me. Ascertaining this, come hither, and then take me with thee. O son of the Suta race” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
She addresses Pratikami as a ‘Son of the Suta race’ twice in the same vain as probably she is angry with the way Pratikami had addressed her and asked her to go with him and do menial job. By addressing her as a ‘son of the Suta race’ she shows him his position that he is from the group that should serve and obey the royalty. Her argument that whether Yudhishthira had lost himself first or Draupadi? Do not hold much water as it is proved later. Pratikami goes back to assembly and addressing Yudhishthira repeats Draupadi’s question. Yudhisthira do not reply, but Duryodhana says,
“Let the princess of Panchala come hither and put her question. Let every one hear in this assembly the words that pass between her and Yudhishthira” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
So here we see Duryodhana getting in the mood of enjoying the show. He must have guessed that Draupadi is furious and if she comes and scolds Yudhishtira in the assembly, it will be great spectacle.
Pratikami goes back to Draupadi once again. But as he was chastised earlier, now he is rather cautious while addressing her. He addresses her as princess. Now he is also uncomfortable, almost fearful that the things are not going in the right direction. He expresses a dreadful fear that as Duryodhana is asking the princess to come to the assembly, he is indulging in such an act that probably the end of the Kaurava is at hand.
Now as she was addressed respectfully by Pratikami and as he also do not approve the act of Duroydhana, Druapadi’s tone also mallows down. `She says rather philosophically now that probably what fear Pratikami has expressed about the destruction of Kaurva is ordained by God. She also adds that happiness and misery comes and goes for everybody, her only hope is that the Dharma should not go away from the Kaurava. It is difficult to translate the word Dharma in English, but roughly it is translated as righteous conduct/morality. K. M. Ganguli’s English translation that I am using, translates it as morality.
She makes appeal to the assembly on the name of the Dharma through Pratikami and sends message with him that she is ready to do what those elderly and virtuous persons conversant with morality will tell her. Though she sends the message, she was not at all in a mood to come to the assembly as is proved later. Probably she was sure that if she asks (through Pratikami) to the elders in the assembly they will definitely ask her not to come. She appears to be greatly hopeful that her philosophical argument and appeal for adhering to Dharma will cut ice with the elders of the assembly and she will be saved from the disgrace of going to the assembly when she was menstruating as the readers are informed later. She was unaware that what is going to come next is more dreadful. She did not try to take shelter with the Kuru women in the inner chamber of the palace, as she tries to do later, so probably she was hopeful that now the message will come that she do not have to go to assembly. Wishful thinking!
Pratikami goes back to court, repeat Draupadi’’s words in the assembly. The appeal for the adherence to Dharma was made to the whole assembly on the behalf of Draupadi by Pratikami, yet nobody in the assembly gives any answer to be communicated to Draupadi. The epic says that all sat with faces downwards, uttering not a word, knowing the eagerness and resolution of Dhritrashtra’s son i.e. Duryodhana. So everybody knew that Duryodhana is going to have his way as he had been used to it, there is no point in speaking.
Yudhishthira here anticipates that this repeated denial on the part of Draupadi will anger Duroyodhana further and the situation may become worse. He sends message with a trusted messenger the epic says,
“Yudhishthira…..sent a trusted messenger unto Draupadi, directing that although she was attired in one piece of cloth with her navel itself exposed, in consequences of her season having come, she should come before her father-in-law weeping bitterly” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
So here we see the realization on the part of Yudhishthira that the philosophical argument about the right and wrong and who lost first, is not going to be of any use. Their condition is precarious and instead of proving the point, Draupadi should cry and seek protection. He was desperate that she should come to assembly her own as he says you come even if you are having only one piece of cloth on you. It is through his words that the readers are first time informed that Draupadi was in season i.e. menstruating. He was hopeful that probably a damsel in distress will arouse chivalrous response among the people in the court. Not the argument! The message was delivered to Draupadi but as the subsequent events prove, Draupadi do not listen to his suggestion. Probably she was too traumatized by the sudden change of fortune to see reason behind Yudhisthira’s suggestion. She was not willing to accept her newly imposed status of a maid. She does not come to the assembly. Draupadi’s appeal to Dharma and her question to the elderly and virtuous in the assembly conveyed through Pratikami remain unanswered. The Pandavas and most of the members in the assembly were sitting with their faces downward. Duryodhana was eager to have Draupadi brought to the assembly. He asked Pratikami to go to Draupadi once again and bring her in the assembly. He says that the Kaurvas will answer her question here. Here Pratikami hesitates as he now fears the anger of Draupadi. Ignoring the command of Duryodhana, he asks the assembly that what should he say to Krishna i.e. Draupadi. Probably he was hoping that if some elders in the assembly intervene he could be saved from this difficult situation.
Here Duryodhana becomes more agitated and addressing Dussasana says that this son of Suta (Pratikami) fears Vrikodara i.e. Bhima and now Dussasana himself should go and forcibly bring the daughter of Yajnasena i.e Draupadi. He also says with contempt that the Pandavas cannot do anything to him as they are now dependent on their will.
Dussasana seems to be only waiting for the command of his brother. He rose with blood-red eyes and entered the place where Draupadi was. He addressed her,
“Come, come, O Krishna, princess of Panchala, thou hast been won by us. And O thou of eyes large as lotus leaves, come now and accept the Kuru for thy lords. Thou hast been won virtuously, come to the assembly” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
Here Draupadi do not get into argument as she had done with Pratikami, now she seems to have been desperate to save herself from disgrace, but she was too proud to appeal to Dussasana. She suddenly ran away from Dussasana. The epic describes,
“Draupadi, rising up in great affliction, rubbed her pale face with her hands and distressed she ran to the place where the ladies of Dhritarashtra’s household were.” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
Draupadi’s running away seems to have further angered Dussasana. He ran after her and sized her by her hairs. The epic says,
“Dussasana roaring in anger, ran after her and seized the queen by her locks, so long and blue and wavy. Alas! Those locks that had been sprinkled with water sanctified with mantras in the great Rajasuya sacrifice, were now forcibly seized by the son of Dhristarashtra disregarding the prowess of the Pandavas” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
Here she is mentioned as queen, probably to highlight her sudden fall from that position to the position of a slave. Beauty of her locks is also described and it is also mentioned that the hairs had been sanctified not very long during the Rajsuya sacrifice. Holding the hairs of somebody’s wife is also indicative of total disregard for the husband; it also symbolizes sexual control over the woman. Desire of the Kauravas to have sexual control over Draupadi is also mentioned later on during Vana Parva when Draupadi narrates her trauma to Krishna.
Dussaasna dragged Draupadi by holding her hairs towards assembly. The epic describes her position as ‘Nathvatimanathav’ (Sabha Parva, p.897), which means having protectors yet without protection. As Draupadi was dragged she was trembling. The text describes her as trembling like a banana plant in a storm, her body was bent and she faintly cried. But her anger do not leave her entirely, she calls Dussaasna a ‘wretch’ and then says that it do not suit him to take her to assembly as her season have come and she was clad in one piece of cloth. Dussaasna continued to drag her and his response to her appeal proves that anger and desire for revenge provokes a devil in human. He says to her that he do not really care if her season had come or not, if she is wearing one piece of cloth or entirely naked. As she had been won at the dice and became their slave, she had to listen to them.
Dussaasna continued to drag her and she continued to appeal, the epic describes,
“With hair disheveled and half her attire loosened, all the while dragged by Dussasana” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
Draupadi appeals to Dussaasna not to drag her in front of the respectable and elderly people. She appeals him not to uncover her. She even threatens that her lords, i.e. the Pandavas will not forgive him. She repeatedly says that she is in seasons. When she was saying all this and was continued to be dragged, they reaches assembly. Draupadi laments that nobody in the assembly was trying to rebuke Dusssaasna and the Bharata clan had lost its virtue. She also condemns Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and king Dhtritrashtra. She puts an open question to assembly that why the Kuru elders are looking silently at this crime?
Then she casts an angry glance over the Pandavas. The epic describes that the anger of the Pandavas was inflamed by her angry glance. They were not so distressed at having been robbed of their kingdom, but felt very distressed by the angry glance of Draupadi. When Draupadi was looking at her helpless husbands, Dussaasna noticed it and then dragged her more forcibly, addressed her as ‘slave, slave’ and laughed aloud. Karna became very happy at this and also laughed aloud. Sakuni also applauded Dussaasna. The epic describe that it is only four people i.e. Duryodhana, Dussaasna, Karna and Sakuni who felt happy at this plight of Draupadi, everyone else in the assembly was filled with sorrow.
As Draupadi had put an open question to assembly, Bhishma speaks but passes the buck on Yudhishthira. He says that Yudhishtira is well versed with Dharma, if he voluntarily staked himself, what he can say? He also adds philosophically that Dharma is very subtle! He also says that wives are always under the orders and at the disposal of their lords. Bhishma is very often criticized for not standing up to Druapadi, but here by not speaking openly, Bhishma was probably trying to save Draupadi from further embracement. It is most likely that according to the prevailing practices husbands had complete mastery over their wives and so they could put her as stake. In any case, Yudhishthira had already became a slave, after losing himself. What is Draupadi’s position? Being a wife of a salve or becoming slave after her slave husband had lost her in dice, in both the cases the stakes were against her. Was it a practice to put a wife as a stake during gambling?
In the epic, in the ‘Nalopakhayna’ i.e. the story of king Nala in the Vana Parva, section LXI, have a similar setting like Sabha Parva, where dice is played. The king Nala looses everything to his brother Pushkara. When all the wealth and kingdom of Nala was won over by Pushkara, Pushkara suggests that Nala should put on stake Nala’s wife Damyanti. But Nala seems to be more caring than Yudhishthira. He feels pain at this suggestion and goes away without playing anymore. But this suggestion from Pushkara itself indicates that probably these kinds of thing were practiced during those days. So if somebody in the assembly replies to Draupadi that ‘you had been won’ then her condition will become more precarious. So he chooses to hide behind the argument that ‘Dharma’ is subtle and he says that Yudhishthira himself is well aware of what Dharma is? In fact by putting that question to assembly Draupadi had put many people in the dilemma. Instead she should have just requested for protection. That she do not do! That does not however mean that the epic justifies what had been done to her. On the other hand the epic repeatedly points out that out of the different transgressions done by the Kaurava, the humiliation of Draupadi was the most heinous one.
Even when Bhishma tries to avoid saying much, Draupadi seems to be itching for the argument. The shock and humiliation had probably clouded her mind! She argues about the whole dice episode and says that Yudhishthira had no skill at the dice and he was made to play with the skilful, wicked, deceitful and desperate gamblers. How can it be said then to have staked voluntarily? Then she makes appeal to all saying that there are people in the assembly who have sons and daughter-in-law and they should reflect upon the point that she had raised. Was Draupadi hoping that whatever is lost, she will get back everything by arguing in the assembly?
Draupadi continued to weep and kept looking at her helpless husbands. Dussasana spoke many disagreeable and harsh words to her. Looking at her position, being dragged during her season, her upper garment loosened, Bhima gives way to anger. He holds Yudhishthira responsible for Draupadi’s plight and says he will burn Yudhishthira’s hands. He also says that many gamblers have women of disreputable character in their home, but they do not put them as stake while gambling Yudhishthira had put his wedded wife as stake. Here Arjuna intervenes and pacifies Bhima.
Now Vikarna, younger brother of Duryodhana intervenes. He reminds the assembly of the question that was put by Draupadi and says decisively that Draupadi is not won. Yudhishthira had lost himself first and Draupadi being a common wife of all five brothers, how can he stake her? He also expresses surprise that how Bhishma, Dhritrashtra, Drona and Kripacharya are not saying anything! When Vikarna made his statements there is a loud uproar in the assembly applauding Vikarna.
Vikarna’s defense of Draupadi and its approval from the assembly seems to have provoked Karna. The epic describes him as ‘deprived of sense by anger’ (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI). Karna rebukes Vikarna, saying that he is young and immature and that is a reason that he is bursting in rage. All other people in the assembly though urged by Draupadi did not utter a word, because they think that she is properly won. He, i.e. Vikarna does not know what Dharma is. Then Karna gives his argument about how Draupadi is won at the dice. He says Yudhishthira lost all his possession and Draupadi is also his possession and so forth. What he says further brings further humiliation for Draupadi. Addressing to Vikarna in particular and to assembly in general, he says,
“….if thou thinkest that bringing her hither attired in a single piece of cloth, is an action of impropriety, listen to certain excellent reasons I will give…... the gods have ordained only one husband for one women, this Draupadi, however hath many husbands. Therefore certain it is that she is an unchaste woman. To bring her, therefore, into this assembly attired though she be in one piece of cloth-even to uncover her is not at all an act that may cause surprise” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
So Draupadi is standing in the assembly, bleeding with only cloth on her and Karna says it does not matter even if she is stripped completely naked. Draupadi was married to five brothers without consulting her and Karna blames her for having five husbands! The patriarchy tries to put all the blame on women!
Karna was obviously having lot of influence with Duryodhjana. He was an outsider, but he intervenes in the feud between cousins and even scolds Vikarna, the younger brother of Duryodhana. Going further, he commands Dusssasana,
“O Dussasana, this Vikarna speaking words of wisdom is but a boy. Take off the robes of the Pandavas as also the attire of Draupadi” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVI)
The Pandavas took off their upper garments. Then Dusssasana seizes Drauppadi’s attire and starts pulling it. So it was on Karna’s provocation that the disrobing of Draupadi had actually started. Probably Karna now found an opportunity to take revenge on Draupadi, who rejected him at Swyamvara by saying that I will not marry a son of a Suta. Karna is stigmatized throughout the epic as Sutputra, son of a Suta, especially by Bhima. By inflicting such humiliation on Draupadi, he was having his revenge on them.
Here divine agency is brought in the epic, when Draupadi prayed to Krishna, and as the attire was pulled from Draupadi’s body, another attire appeared and so on. Here Bhima takes a vow of tearing the breast of Dussasana and drinking his blood. Dussasana tired of pulling the endless cloths from Drupadi’s body sits among the hips of the cloths.
Here the mood of the assembly swings further in favor of the Pandavas, people start censuring Dritrashtra’s sons. Vidura now requests the king to answer Draupadi’s question. The king and the assembly again became silent. All indicators point out that probably they feared Duryodhana and Karna.
Draupadi’s plight is however not yet over. After saving the honor of Draupadi from being stripped naked, the divine agency seems to have withdrawn. The plot is brought to the Laukika (temporal) level from the Alukika (Supernatural) level. Karna seems to have not yet satisfied, he asks Dussasana to take this serving women i.e Draupadi to his home. Dussasana seem to have recovered by this time and he again started dragging Draupadi.
Draupadi tries her best to avoid going with him. Because that will be acceptance of her position as a maid! She asks Dussasana to wait a little as she want to pay her respect to the elders that she could not do earlier. Here probably she is gaining time to put her case once again as she has not yet lost hope that somebody will stand for her in the assembly.
Draupadi’s this attempt irritates Dussasana. Who now drags her with more force and she falls down and cries. The epic describes,
“ Dragged with greater force than before, the afflicted and helpless Draupadi, undeserving of such treatment, falling down upon the ground, thus wept in the assembly of the Kurus” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVIII)
She cries, lamenting that she a high born, whom even the wind do not touch and sun do not see is brought in the assembly. Pandavas do not suffer even the wind touching their wife is now suffering that she is being dragged by a wretch. The Kauravas are also suffering their daughter-in-law to be suffered like this. She laments that the virtue had left the Kauravas and again puts her questions to the assembly, if she had been won or not? Here we can understand the struggle going on in the mind of Draupadi. She expects somebody in the assembly should stand for her for the protection of morality. She did not directly ask for protection as probably she was too proud to do that. It is likely that as the elders in the court are not coming forward in her support, she is counting them among the perpetuators and do not want to directly ask for help from those who are party to her humiliation.
Bhishma speaks again. But instead of answering directly, he again starts philosophizing. But probably that was also his attempt to save Draupadi. Because if somebody in the assembly says that Draupadi had been won, that will make Draupadi’s situation worse. Bhishma however hints that it is mainly the powerful people who twist the concept of Dharma. The world also follows the strong. If a strong person calls something as Dharma, others also call it a Dharma. He again admits that he is unable to answer her question with certainty but also hints that Kuru race had gone towards Adharma, and it will have bad consequences. He says,
“..it is certain that as all the Kurus have become the slave of covetousness and folly, the destruction of this our race will happen on no distant date” (Sabha Parva, Section LXVIII)
Bhishma also says that these persons, Drona and others of mature years and conversant with morality are sitting with their heads downward like dead men. He then passes the buck on Yudhishtira again stating that Yudhishthira is an authority on this question and he should declare if you had been won or not. So here we see the dilemma of Bhishma, who must be angry not only by the acts of Duroydhana but also with Yudhishthira for putting his wife in such a difficult situation. Nobody else in the assembly responds to Draupadi’s question. Vaisampayana, the narrator of the episode says,
“The kings present in that assembly, from fear of Duryodhana, uttered not a word, good or ill, although they beheld Draupadi crying piteously in affliction like female osprey and repeatedly appealing to them” (Sabha Parva, Section LXIX)
Draupadi is described as a female bird that is appealing for help.
Further the narrator says about Duryodhana,
“..the son of Dhritarashtra beholding those kings and sons and grandsons of kings all remaining silent, smiled a little” (Sabha Parva, Section LXIX)
Duryodhan’s smile at the distress of Draupadi and at the helplessness of the assembly brings out the villainous nature of Duryodhana. Duryodhana now tries to explore the possibility of dividing the Pandavas. He speaks soft words to Druapdi. Addressing her as Yajnaseni, he says that the Kauravas are floating in the ocean of her distress as they are not able to answer her question. But the question that she was asking has to be answered by her husbands. As Yudhishtira had put her as a stake, let her other husbands Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahdeva for her sake revolt against the authority of their elder brother. He says,
“….let them for thy sake declare in the midst of these respectable men that Yudhishthira is not their lord” (Sabha Parva, Section LXIX)
Others keep quiet, but Bhima says that Yudhishthira is definitely their lord and that is the reason that he is keeping quiet, otherwise there is no one who could prevent him from punishing the Kauravas. Bhishma, Drona and Vidura pacify him and also say that everything was possible for him.
This praise of Bhima seems to have provoked Karna once again. He says that these three people i.e. Bhishma, Drona and Vidura never wish for the prosperity of their master and always censure him. Addressing Draupadi now he says that the slave, the son and the wife are always dependent. They cannot earn wealth, because whatever they earn belongeth to their master and she is the wife of a slave, who is incapable of possessing anything. He asks her to go to the inner apartment of the king and serve the kings relatives and that is her proper business. Addressing her as princess, as if mockingly, he further says,
“ …all the sons of Dhritarashtra and not the sons of Pritha are now thy masters. O handsome one, select thou another husband now” (Sabha Parva, Section LXX)
He further says that she should now select a husband who will not make her slave by gambling and it is normal for a slave woman to freely select her husband. Bhima gets angry at this and says to Yudhishthira that he is forced to listen to all this because Yudhishthira played by staking Draupadi. After this Duryodhana uncovers his left thigh and shows it to Druapdi, which is a very offensive sexual gesture! The epic says that it was his deliberate act to provoke Bhima further. Bhima as expected gets provoked and make a vow that in the war he will break Duryodhana’s thighs.
Vidura intervenes now and cautions Dhritrashtra about the danger that may fall upon the Kurus and says that as Yudhishthira had lost himself first, he cannot have anything and so cannot stake Draupadi. Duryodhana also seems to have mellowed down and he puts a condition to free Draupadi. He says,
“I am willing to abide by the words of Bhima, of Arjuna and of the twins. Let them say that Yudhishtra is not their master. Yajnaseni will then be freed from her state of bondage” (Sabha Parva, Section LXX)
Arjuna throws the ball at the assembly once again. He says that Yudhishtra was certainly their master before. But once he lost himself, whether he could be master of anybody after that let the assembly judge that.
At this stage, a jackal began to cry loudly in the homa chamber of the king. Howling of a jackal is considered as ill omen. Along with it asses begin to bray, terrible birds also starts shouting from all sides. Vidura and Gandhari understood that ill omens are begin to surface because what is going on is terribly wrong. Here we see the divine intervention is brought again in the epic. Vidura and Gandhari tell something to the king. The king then scolds Duroyodhana. He says consoling words to Drupadi and tells her to ask for any boon. Draupadi asks that Yudhishthira may be freed. Then Dhritrashtra asks her to take a second boon. Now she asks that her other four husbands should be freed from the bondage along with their arms and chariot. Dhritrashtra grants that also and tells her to ask for the third boon. Here Drupadi comes out very fine. She says,
“..Covetousness always bringeth about loss of virtue. I do not deserve a third boon” (Sabha Parva, Section LXX)
She further says that as per tradition being a Kshatriya lady, she have a right to ask for two boons only. She also expresses a confidence that as her husbands are now freed from the bondage of slavery, they will be able to achieve prosperity by their own act. She does not ask anything for herself. This indicates that either she was too proud to ask anything for herself, or she did not considered herself to be won at the dice. By showing balance of mind and keeping control over herself, Draupadi proves that she have strength of character, she appears to be transcending the trauma that she had experienced few moments back. She probably does not want to ask much from the king who was also a party to her humiliation.
After this act of giving boon by the king, Karna praises Draupaid by saying that she became like a boat, that has brought the Pandavas to the shore who were sinking in a bottomless ocean of distress. Throughout this act of giving boon to Draupadi by Dhritrashtra, Duryodhana seems to be absent.
After this the king returns the Pandava’s kingdom and asks them to go back. But on the insistence of Duryodhana, the Pandavas are called back again and they play the dice once again with only one throw and with Yudhishthira loosing that also, the Pandavas are banished for thirteen years. When they leave the city of Hastinapur, Dussasana again humiliates Draupadi and asks her to leave the Pandavas and elect another husband.
The departure of the Pandavas and Draupadi is also described in very pathetic manner.
“Draupadi bathed in tears, and clad in one piece of cloth, stained with blood, and with her hair disheveled ………. went away weeping and wailing” (Sabha Parva, Section LXXVIII)
The Pandavas and Draupadi leave Hastinapur with different gestures. When Dritrashtra asks what the Draupadi’s departure in a blood stained cloths and disheveled hair signifies. Vidura says,
“ the wives of those for whom I have been reduced to such a plight, shall on the fourteenth year hence be deprived of husbands, sons and relatives and dear ones and smeared all over with blood, with hair disheveled and all their feminine seasons enter Hastinapore having offered oblation of water” (Sabha Parva, Section LXXIX)
Disheveled hair is a sign of mourning. The loss of blood signifies the loss of life and the women in her season without husband signifies the end of the linage. So the terrible war and destruction which hangs on the considerable part of the epic since beginning is reinforced by this symbolism.
Draupadi’s traumatized experience casts its shadow over the epic at least till the time the perpetuators die. During the Vana Parva, there is a constant provocation from Draupadi’s side to Yudhishthira to wage war and avenge the insult. She laments her plight to Krishna and asks him how she who is a wife of the Pandavas, sister of brave Dhrishtdhumya and Krishna’s friend can be dragged to the assembly. She further says that I was getting smeared with the blood and was shivering due to shame and fear and the sons of Dhritrashtra expressed their desire to enjoy her as a slave. Here we see the sexual gesture from the side of the Kauravas is mentioned by Draupadi. Krishna assures her that,
“Duryodhansya Karnsya Shkunesch Duratman:
Dushasanachathurthanam Bhumi Pasyasi Shonitam” (Vana Parva, p.55)
(The earth shall drink the blood of Duryodhana and Karna, of Dussasana and the wicked Sakuni!)
During the Udyoga Parva, there is a preparation for the Great War from both the side and at the same time both the side tries to explore the possibility of having an amicable settlement. But Draupadi constantly reminds the Pandavas and Krishna about her humiliation. She shows her hairs and prods for the war. She kept her hair untied throughout the thirteen year period of their exile as a constant reminder of her humiliation. As if she continued to nurture her trauma and her hatred for the perpetuators. All the perpetuators are reminded about their treatment of Draupadi at the time of their death during the war.
Draupadi goes through similar kind of traumatizing experiences, once when she was abducted by Jayadratha during the Vana Parva and once again when she was molested and kicked by Kichaka during the Virata Parva.
But it is difficult to say if the nurturing of the trauma and subsequent revenge on the perpetuators had brought long lasting peace to Draupadi. In the cycle of violence and counter violence she also lost all her sons, brother and father. Probably, her revenge had inflicted traumatized experience on many including herself. But human life is too complicated to be judged as what is entirely good or what is entirely bad! Probably that is one of the message that the Mahabharata conveys.
1. Ganguli K.M., ‘The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa’, Munsiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2008
2. Pandeya Ramnarayandatta Shastri, ‘Mahabharata’, (Six Vol) Gita press, Gorakhpur. (Year of publication not mentioned) (Sanskrit-Hindi)
Explanatory note- I had used above two texts for the preparation of the paper. Where the section No. in roman letter is given, it is taken from Ganguli’s translation. Where the page no. is mentioned, it is from Gita press edition.
Submitted By- Dr. Ravi Khangai, Asst. Prof. , Department of History, Ambedkar College, Fatikroy, Dist- Unakoti, Tripura-799290. E mail- firstname.lastname@example.org, M- 9402168854, 9862799912.