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DRAUPADI. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] Daughter of Draupada, king of Panchala, and wife of the five Pandu princes. 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."

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; for although in such contests the lady was entitled to exercise her swayamvara or own choice, it generally followed that the champion of the arena became her husband. Most astonishing feats of arms were performed, but Arjuna outshone all by his marvellous use of the bow, and he became the selected bridegroom.

When the five brothers returned to the house where their mother, Kunti, was staying, they told her that they had made a great acquisition, and she told them to share it among them. These words raised a great difficulty, for if they could not be adroitly evaded they must be obeyed. The sage Vyasa settled the matter by saying, "The destiny of Draupadi has already been declared by the gods; let her become the wife of all the brethren." So she became their common wife, and it was arranged that she should stay successively two days in the house of each, an that no one of them but the master of the house should enter it while she was there. Arjuna was her favourite, and she showed her jealousy when he married Subhadra.

In the great gambling match which the eldest brother, Yudhisthira, played at Hastinapura against his cousins, the Kauravas, he lost his all - his kingdom, his brothers, himself, and their wife Draupadi. So she became a slave, and Duryodhana called her to come and sweep the room. She refused, and then Duhsasana 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 and tore off her veil and dress, while Duryodhana invited her to sit on his thigh. Krishna took compassion upon her, and restored her garments as fast as they were torn. She called vehemently upon her husbands to save her, but they were he was prevented from action; but he vowed in loud words that he would drink the blood of Duhsasana and smash the thigh of Duryodhana in retaliation of these outrages, which vows he eventually fulfilled. Draupadi vowed that her hair should remain dishevelled until Bhima should tie it up with hands dripping with the blood of Duhsasana. The result of the gambling match was that the Pandavas, with Draupadi went into exile for twelve years, and were to dwell quite incognito during another year. The period of thirteen years being successfully completed, they were at liberty to return.

Twelve years of exile were passed in the jungle, and in the course of this period Jayadratha, king of Sindhu, came to the house of the Pandavas while they were out hunting. He was courteously received by Draupadi, and was fascinated by her charms. He tried to induce her to elope with him, and when he was scornfully repulsed, he dragged her to his chariot and drove off with her. When the Pandavas returned and heard of the rape, they pursued Jayadratha, and pressed him so close that he put down Draupadi, and endeavoured to escape alone. Bhima resolved to overtake and punish him; and although Yudhishthira pleaded that Jayadratha was a kinsman, and ought not to be killed, Draupadi called aloud for vengeance, so Bhima and Arjuna continued the pursuit. Bhima dragged Jayadratha from his car, kicked and beat him till he was senseless, but spared his life. He cut off all Jayadratha's hair except five locks, and made him publicly acknowledge that he was a slave. Draupadi's revenge was then slaked, and Jayadratha was released at her intercession.

In the thirteenth year, in which her husbands and she were to live undiscovered, they entered the service of the king of Virata, and she, without acknowledging any connection with them, became a waiting-maid to the queen. She stipulated that she should not be required to wash feet or to eat food left by others, and she quieted the jealous fears, which her beauty excited in the queen's mind by representing that she was guarded by five Gandharvas, who would prevent any improper advances. She lived a quiet life for a while, but her beauty excited the passions of Kichaka, the queen's brother, who was commander-in-chief, and the leading man in the kingdom. His importunities and insults greatly annoyed her, but she met with no protection from the queen, and was rebuked for her complaints and petulance by Yudhishthira.

Her spirit of revenge was roused, and she appealed as usual to Bhima, whose fiery passions she well knew how to kindle. She complained of her menial position, of the insults she had received, of the indifference of her husbands, and of the base offices they were content to occupy. Bhima promised revenge. An assignation was made with Kichaka, which Bhima kept, and he so mangled the unfortunate gallant that all his flesh and bones were rolled into a ball, and no one could discover the manner of his death. The murder was attributed to Draupadi's Gandharvas, and she was condemned to be burnt on Kichaka's funeral pile. Then Bhima disguised himself, and tearing up a tree for a club, went to her rescue. He was supposed to be the Gandharva, and every one fled before him. He released Draupadi, and they returned to the city by different ways.

After the term of exile was over, and the Pandavas and she were at liberty to return she was more ambitious than her husbands, and complained to Krishna of the humility and want of resolution shown by Yudhishthira. She had five sons, one by each husband - Prativindhya, son of Yudhishthira; Srutasoma, son of Bhima; Srutakirtti, son of Arjuna; Satanika, son of Nakula; and Srutakarman, son of Sahadeva. She with these five sons was present in camp on the eighteenth and last night of the great battle, while her victorious husbands were in the camp of the defeated enemy. Aswatthaman with two companions entered the camp of the Pandavas, cut down these five youths, and all whom they found. Draupadi called for vengeance upon Aswatthaman. Yudhisthira endeavoured to moderate her anger, but she appealed to Bhima. Arjuna pursued Aswatthaman, and overtook him, but he spared his life after taking from him a celebrated jewel, which he wore as an amulet. Arjuna gave this jewel to Bhima for presentation to Draupadi. On receiving it she was consoled, and presented the jewel to Yudhishthira as the head of the family.

When her husbands retired from the world and went on their journey towards the Himalayas and Indra's heaven, she accompanied them, and was the first to fall on the journey. See Mahabharata.

Draupadi's real name was Krishna, She was called Draupadi and Yajnaseni, from her father; Parshati, from her grandfather Prishata; Panchali, from her country; Sairindhri, `the maid-servant' of the queen of Virata; Panchami, `having five husbands;' and Nitayauvani, `the ever-young.'

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM