Draupadi -The bold Queen!

Hope all of you are having a great week where you find the inner strength deep hidden within you to traverse the tough or challenging circumstances that could have been placed in your path. Every single experience in this earthly existence is a little bit more to know truly who we ourselves are. But many times in the chaos of the material realm we forget to capture the true essence of every experience.

Last week we delved into the realm called 'Collective Unconscious' where all the historical experiences and the struggles we as humankind had to go through gets recorded in the human collective psyche as the 'Collective Unconscious'. The struggles we are going through with the fundamentalist movements all over the world can be looked at as an example of the 'Collective Unconscious' trying hard to prevent us from taking a wrong step towards progression lest we are wiped out as a race. But then the 'Collective Unconscious' also has no knowledge of the new paradigms, new challenges or new solutions. This brings up the fear we mentioned in the previous post of change, new things or new societal structures.  

We also tried to see how some mythological behaviors can creep into our societal structures to either give the community a structure or keep us tied as a race exactly where we are. Today let us analyze the queen Draupadi more. As a mythological character, what can we (both women and men) learn from her? This also will be a post that shows how in mythology also there were strong ladies who were confident enough to speak their mind and get what they desired for their life, like the ladies movement happening whether for equal pay for equal work in America or voting rights in Saudi Arabia or treatment of ladies with equal respect in India. ( I am not against any country or section, but I am very much for equal opportunities, equal status, equal pay and equal respect for both women and men, as both divine masculine and divine feminine are the two sides of the same coin and very much needed for the whole known as Brahman, only it is a different manifestation of the same. The same applies to transgender, gay, lesbian or any other section. Everything is a manifestation of the Brahman, like the different colors in the same rainbow.)

Now let us talk about Draupadi. Draupadi was the daughter of the king Drupada in the epic Mahabharata. Drupada did a yagya (Fire ritual) called 'Putrakameshti' (To get desired kid, nowadays we debate about the ethical ramifications of designer babies ;-)). From the ritual fire, Draupadi and her brother  'Drushtadyumna' arose. Draupadi was dark skinned and extremely beautiful and appeared as a young woman. As she was dark skinned, another name for her was 'Krishna' (कृष्णा - the dark-skinned one.) She was also called Panchali, as she was the daughter of the king of Panchala. 

When Draupadi came of age, to marry her off, King Drupada set up a 'Swayamvara' (Swayamvara- choosing the husband oneself) where many times a competition was set up and all the princes/kings were invited to participate in the competition. Whoever wins the competition and if the girl likes the groom, then the marriage happens. Here even after the competition, if the girl doesn't want to marry that groom, she can reject him. So the competition was set and it was something like this. A fish was on the ceiling with a wheel having grids rotating below that. There was a vessel with water kept below the fish. Looking at the image the fish was making on the water, through the rotating grid the competitors were supposed to shoot an arrow at the eye of the fish. (This is the version, I have read). Talk about the challenges one has to face to acquire the hand/heart of a girl. Nowadays men go through a different set of challenges that is all :-)).

Many princes and kings came to give it a try and all were defeated. Now a very bright and splendorous young man approached the competition. Even though his clothes were that of a charioteer, he had an armor as well as ear drops (Kundala) that he was born with. His name was Karna, the son of a charioteer named Adhiratha. Karna was a well-known archer. As soon as he tried to take the bow to shoot the arrow, Draupadi came into the arena and declared herself that she was not willing to marry the son of a charioteer. Now Karna's shoulders dropped and with bowed head, he kept the bow and receded to take his place among the spectators.

After that, another young man who was in the dress of a Brahmin (the priest class) came forward. Even though he was dressed like a priest, he had all the marks of a warrior, with broad shoulders, muscled arms and callouses on fingers due to the use of archery and very bright in his disposition. He took the bow without a hitch, tied the string, made the sound with the string, took the arrow and with utmost concentration, shot the arrow at the eye of the fish through the rotating wheel. Talk about a person who truly knows his/her talents and takes action to achieve it. (But even Arjuna was taken over by self-doubt in the Mahabharata war and the guidance of the divine in the form of Krishna was needed to prod him to proper action. So there is absolutely no person who one time or other doubts oneself and that doubt can be easily removed by surrendering oneself to the intention of the divine.)

Draupadi, Yudhishtira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva, Pandavas
Draupadi and Pandavas
Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Brahmin was the warrior archer Arjuna among Pandavas who were disguised as Brahmins during the time they were supposed to spend their life in disguise according to a condition in a bet with the Kauravas. So taking the new bride, Arjuna went with his brothers to his mother and knocked on the door. He spoke from outside to open the door and see what he has brought home that day. Their mother Kunthi without knowing the truth or facts told them whatever it is to share it with the brothers. (So it is always necessary to analyze and research properly to come to conclusions rather than to take decisions without proper analysis. Otherwise, such mistakes will happen). Now Arjuna, being a son who totally obeys his mother was not ready to have Draupadi as just his own wife and asked his brothers also to make her their wife. Thus Draupadi ended up having five husbands. 

Last week we went through  how Draupadi laughed at Duryodhana and how later he took  revenge on her by bringing her to the court of his father Dhritarashtra and tried to insult and undress her with the help of his brother Dussasana. Here with the help of the divine in the form of Krishna, she was able to protect herself and her chastity. There is also another story, during the period the Pandavas and Draupadi were living in disguise for one year in the kingdom of Virada, the brother in law and army chief of the King Virada, Keechaka was enamoured with the beauty of Draupadi, who was in the disguise of a maid called Sairandhri, for his sister and queen Sudeshna. He was behind Sairandhri always trying to flirt with her and asking to marry him and would not give her a respite. She was also a bit apprehensive lest the disguise of the Pandavas and Draupadi will come to be known and the bet due to which they were disguised becomes invalid. If they were to be found out, according to the bet they had to go for twelve years of forest life and one year of disguise again. After some time of this kind of bullying and botheration, Draupadi asked the help of her second husband Bhima (disguised as Valala, the cook) who made a paste out of Keechaka and hanged him to dry.

Draupadi, Bhima, Keechaka, Valala
Draupadi complaining to Bhima (Valala) about Keechaka
By Ramanarayanadatta astri, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After the Mahabharata war gets over, in the epic Draupadi finds herself with all her sons killed and having only her five husbands left behind. So now let us analyze was she a brave queen and what she teaches us through her life, to be passive and docile or to be assertive and brave? (This post is especially for us ladies who find ourselves many times tested in life and how to stand up tall alongside her husband, to be his pride, but be one's own person with individuality.)

Analysis: Drapaudi was born out of fire during the Yagya (fire ritual) her dad, Drupada conducted. He specifically wanted a girl who becomes the underlying cause of the destruction of the Kuru dynasty. This was due to the grudge he had for his friend and school (Gurukulam) mate, Drona who at one point with the help of his disciple Arjuna, defeated Drupada. Later Drona gave him back his kingdom and this embarrassed Drupada a lot. (Beware, when friends like Drupada become enemies they can bring a lot of damage). The same Drupada, brought a girl Draupadi using his devotion who married the same Arjuna and unintentionally became the cause of the war.

1, Rejection of Karna: Once Draupadi became of age, her Swayamvara was fixed and as mentioned above Karna was one of the first people to attempt the competition. But Draupadi being a princess was not willing to marry a charioteer and came into the arena and blatantly rejected him. Now let us think, this mythology took place some 1500- 2000 years ago, in case it really happened. Think about a person that too a lady even though a princess coming into the center of the competition arena to speak her mind. As she was a princess, she was educated and had knowledge of Dharma (virtues), Yudha tantra (strategy of war), and other life principles that need to be practiced like ethics, etiquette, and manners. If a person who has knowledge but has no courage cannot open his/her mind in the middle of a crowd. Here Draupadi had the knowledge to think that he may not be a good suitor for her, has the courage to come to the middle of the competition and have the assertiveness to speak her mind and reject Karna from being her husband. So Draupadi was not a docile lady who stood behind the scenes and let fate take the course on her life instead, she was a lady of bravery who was ready to take action or speak her mind in case such a thing was warranted.

Now the same Draupadi selected a Brahmin (even though he was Arjuna disguised) as her husband. She was a Kshatriya (King/warrior) lady. So sometimes the question does come to my mind, how did she select a Brahmin (who according to his Dharma is supposed to have priestly duties) instead of a warrior or  King. My conclusion is that even though Arjuna was disguised as a Brahmin, due to his constant practice of Archery and other martial arts, would have had the body of a warrior with broad shoulders, tall stature, lean hips and strong arms. This would not have been unnoticed by Draupadi and somehow she had an intuition that he is not a Brahmin but a warrior/King and was ready to marry him. (I welcome other perspectives and would love to hear them through the comments.)

2, Becoming wife to five princes: Here again, Draupadi is asked to be the wife of five princes. (There is a story, in a previous birth she did penance to Lord Shiva to whom she asked five times in her devotion to Shiva for a good husband and Lo! in the next birth she ended up with five good husbands. ;-)) Think now, these are five different people each having their own personality, attitude and opinions. With each one of them, she had to be slightly different according to their nature and interests while keeping her own interest in matters as solid as steel. Isn't it a very tough job for a lady? 

Yudhishthira was thought as a person of Dharma and interested in morality. So with him, she should be wise and talented enough to have debates on Dharma and morality. Bhima was considered the strongest and with him, she needed to give him the opportunity to show his strength with asking for promises and asking him to do things that capture her mind. Draupadi asked Bhima to kill Duryodhana and Dussasana and it was to Bhima she asked for a flower called'Kalyanasougandhikam' (कल्याणसौगन्धिकम ), while they were doing the forest life. The same way Arjuna was a warrior and archer, Nakula was an awesome horse rider and Sahadeva was a good cowherd. So each of them excelled in a different thing and Draupadi had to have an all-around knowledge and keep all five of them happy and in love with her. Think about it, isn't she one of a kind?

3, Laughing at Duryodhana: Already in the previous post, we discussed how Duryodhana was misled to believing that there was a pond where there was none and how he removed his clothes to par the pond and Draupadi who was watching this laughed at him. (As mentioned before there are conflicting opinions that this incident didn't really happen according to Mahabharatha.) Here also Draupadi is not repressing her emotions and is brave enough to laugh at something which she found funny. (I don't recommend laughing at anybody, but fully support laughing with somebody.). She didn't hold back what she felt, thinking what Duryodhana will think about her manners or etiquette. Manners and etiquette are good to accentuate the real person that we are and it never should be something which tends to diminish us as a person. There is a wording in Hindi, 'Sone pe suhaga' ( or gold and over that with fragrance). Like that etiquette and manners should be the fragrance that accentuates the gold that we represent. But to be the gold, we also should embrace virtuousness, honesty, and our very own authenticity.

4, Insult of Draupadi: As mentioned before when Duryodhana got a chance to insult Draupadi after her husband Yudhishthira lost in the dice game, he sent a messenger to bring Draupadi to the court. So instead of coming to the court directly, Draupadi sent a question back with the messenger. It was this," Before losing me in the dice game did he lose himself or did he lose me first and then put himself up for the bet?" 

As mentioned before Draupadi was astute in Dharma principles. So according to her question, if Yudhishthira has himself become a slave before pawning Draupadi, he has become a slave who used to be a king and Draupadi was still independent and the queen, she can have her own will and not come to court. Now another angle can be because her husband became slave first and she is married to him, by virtue of her marriage, can she be considered a slave as well? These were the questions where subtle Dharma is concerned. Another proposition can be because she is a lady that too a queen and because there are etiquette and manners for ladies, due to that decorum she doesn't have to come to the court due to all the men such as elders, her husbands, their cousin brothers, other courtiers, and soldiers are present and due to her being a lady even though a queen can stay back in her ladies quarters. See when we are aware of Dharma (virtues), how each scenario can bring up questions of morality and ethics. At this point, all the elders of the court started debating on these points.

Anyway, all these questioning didn't bode well with Duryodhana, the master of evil and he asked his brother Dussasana to go and bring Draupadi, dragging her by her hair. Once she was brought to the court, Dussasana upon the command of Duryodhana started undressing her. Again Draupadi put forth a question, "According to the modalities of Dharma how can the elders and the knowledgeable of the court allow such an atrocity to happen? Where is the Dharma in insulting a lady, because of the virtue of her husbands being slaves have suddenly become helpless?"

Insult, Draupadi, Dussasana, Disrobe
Insult of Draupadi by Dussasana
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Again the elders kept quiet due to the wrath they could expect from Duryodhana. At this time Dhritharashtra, the King could have stopped this atrocity from happening. He just had to command to his sons, Duryodhana and Dussasana to stop. But he loved his son Duryodhana (whom he used to call Suyodhana - meaning someone who does a good fight, really? :-o) so much he allowed whatever he wanted to do and kept quiet. So Dhritarashtra is also very much responsible for the Mahabharata war to happen as well as all the elders of the court. They could have prevented the atrocity from happening and all of them finally ended up with the wipeout of the Kuru dynasty. It is very much the responsibility of the elders to show the correct way to the younger generation whether in a family, society, country or even an epic. Otherwise, the younger generation will lose its way without proper guidance and a good citizen, whether a male or a female is an asset to a family, society, country and the world. But someone like Duryodhana (can see numerous examples all over the world) can and will bring down a society, country, the world or the Kuru dynasty.

Here again, we can see the bravery of Draupadi. First, she sent a question through the messenger and later she again questioned the elders, her husbands and all the otherwise people of the court about the morality of insulting a lady in the middle of the court with all the men being present as spectators. So think about the courage Draupadi embodied to question the elders and others in the middle of the court where even a wise man may get tongue-tied. (It is always my opinion and intuition that all the epics, sacred books, and mythological stories are there for us to go back, research and find things that speak to us about our current life and society and find the best possible solution needed when we find ourselves in a dilemma. Otherwise what is the use of all these historical stories, mythology and epics, if they have to just sit as books in some library without people getting to put into practice the wisdom lessons these books represent. This blog itself is a tiny attempt towards that purpose.)

5, Asking the help of Krishna: Once Draupadi got insulted in the court she thought because of her chastity, she will be protected by the divine. It is a truth that in the eternal scheme of things whoever does their activities with Dharma and justice will be ultimately protected by the divine. But when she was first imploring to Krishna to help her due to her own egoSelf, she had kept one hand on her dress and with the other hand called out to Krishna to help her. Krishna being the divine and who always likes to test his devotees on their faith (This is true even today, where when we walk the path of our sacred purpose we are constantly asked the question of inner trust and faith) didn't help her first and didn't show up. Only when Dussasana was on her last piece of cloth and she asked for help to Krishna with both her hands up imploring to the divine, Krishan appeared and started helping her with unending yards of cloth. Finally, Dussasana got tired and Dhritharashtra knowing the immorality and atrocity that happened gave all the wealth back to Pandavas and gave them back their kingdom.

Krishna, Draupadi, court, cloth
Draupadi being helped by Krishna with Vastra
By Vintage prints [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here it shows that Draupadi due to all her knowledge had a slight ego and thought that she could help herself out of the dilemma she was in. But there was only so much she could do and after that, she had to ask the help of the divine to come and interfere in her affairs. She had to leave the ego she was having and had to surrender totally to the divine and had to listen to the guidance of the divine and allow that divine intention to happen. This is also true for us. Every time there is some huge experience or dilemma we are in we can only do so much ourselves. But once we bring the God, divine, Krishna, Jesus, inner voice, Soul, inner faith or whatever we call into the picture along with us, then the dynamics of the situation takes a 180-degree turn. Doors, avenues or paths which we thought were closed for us starts to open. Even when we think we are doing everything ourselves, there is and will be an invisible hand that indeed guides us, whether we know it or not.

6, Revenge of Draupadi: After the insult that happened to her Draupadi asked Bhima, her second husband for a promise. She asked for the death of Duryodhana and Dussasana and to bring the blood of Dussasana so that she can anoint her hair with it. Until then she left her hair untied. This was a constant reminder to Bhima and the other Pandavas that in the time of her need they were not able to protect her. It was also the reminder for them to take the revenge on the Kauravas who brought untold atrocities to her as well as them. Say about reminding one's husbands about things that they are supposed to do but with silence, no constant nagging, but standing up exactly for what one wants in their life. That is also a great example how many of us ladies can make things work in our life. Not bowing down when things get tough, but to stand up tall, assertive and bring things that we want in our life. Isn't she a great role model?

7, Death of Draupadi's sons: Finally Mahabharatha ends with the murder of her sons by Aswathama, the son of Pandava and Kaurava's teacher (Guru), Drona. Drona was killed by a lie told by Yudhishthira in the war field, that his beloved son Aswathama was killed in the battle. This left Drona very depressed and he kept his bow and arrow and sat down with great sorrow, and at this time Draupadi's brother Drushtyadumna (who also came out of the fire ritual of Drupada) killed Drona. Later hearing this lie Ashwathama became angry and wanted to take revenge on Pandavas and he kills all of Draupadi's kids. 

Finally, at the end of the war, Daupadi had to pay the highest price of losing her kids, even though the Pandavas won the war. The sadness of Draupadi is inconsolable. What a price to pay even though they got their kingdom and kingship. But even then without the sadness overtaking her she undertook the responsibility of the queen of the kingdom. Later at the end of the epic, she is still with her husbands, while they are going towards Swarga (heaven), never leaving her husbands, but very much speaking her mind as well. What a woman!

Lessons we can learn from Draupadi: Even though Draupadi was very much a wife and a mother (like many of us), she never allowed that to interfere with what she wanted in her life. She was her own woman who had individuality, her own interests, assertiveness and rejects whatever she didn't want for her life. In many circumstances, she didn't hesitate to question, the elders or even her husbands. But then every time she was always with her husbands whether they went to the forest, went on a disguise for one year or running away from the palace made of lacquer. She never abandoned her husbands to pursue her own whims and fancies. But very much stayed in the marriage while keeping her individuality, the freedom to express her thoughts and opinions and had the willpower to ask one of her husbands to avenge her insult.

She kept her own individuality and personality while being very much undertaking the responsibilities of being a wife and a mother. Even in those ancient times there were strong ladies who expressed their thoughts, spoke their minds and had their own personality and individuality. Draupadi was not someone who just kept her thoughts and opinions to herself. She was very much her own woman and her own advocate. Same way her husbands respected her opinion, was allowed to speak her mind and was very much a part of their conversation and had all the freedom to be a queen. 

If such princes like Pandavas can exist in the mythological stories, why can't the twenty-first century husbands be strong and supportive of the women in their life to pursue their dreams, aspirations and their ambitions? To such husbands, the ladies will give their hearts wholeheartedly without any hesitancy. If such a lady who can speak her mind, be bold, assertive and give importance to her thoughts, aspirations, and dreams can exist in a mythological story, why can't the same caliber of ladies exist in this twenty-first century? Ladies, go, chase your hopes,dreams, and aspirations!! ;-))

I wish you a good weekend and I'll see you next Friday! 😉

Next week: Seetha-The brave Queen!
Images from Wikimedia Commons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance ; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried".  

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SwaroopaStargazer and Swaroopa, 2017- Eternity.


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