Saturday, November 27, 2010


The attempted stripping

Draupadi humiliated. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.
This key incident is often considered to mark a definitive moment in the story of Mahābhārata. It is the one of the driving reasons that ultimately led to the Mahābhārata war, though it cannot be considered the central or the most important one.
Yudhishthira and his four brothers were the rulers of Indraprastha under the sovereignty of King Dhritarashtra. Dhritarashtra’s son Duryodhana who resided in the capital of the empire Hastinapura was always jealous of his cousins and the wealth they had acquired by building Indraprastha. To take revenge on the Pandavas, his uncle Shakuni came up with a plan and together with his brothers, his friend Karna and maternal uncle Shakuni, he conspired to call the Pandavas at Hastinapura and win their kingdoms in a game of gambling. Shakuni was skilled at winning by unfair means. The idea was that Shakuni would play against Yudhishthira and win at the gambling table what was impossible to win at the battlefield.
As the game proceeded, Yudhishthira lost all
his wealth and kingdom one by one. Having lost all material wealth, he went on to put his brothers at stake one by one and lost them too. Ultimately he put himself at stake, and lost again. All the Pandavas were now the servants of Kauravas. But for the Shakuni, the humiliation of Pandavas was not complete. He prods Yudhishthira that he has not lost everything yet; Yudhishthira still has Draupadi with him and if he wishes he can win everything back by putting Draupadi at stake. Yudhishthira walks into the trap and to the horror of everybody present, puts Draupadi as a bet for the next round. But Bhishma and Drona oppose this move recalling that a queen being a woman cannot be put at stake. However Yudhishthira ignores their call and puts her at stake much to the ire of Bhishma, who in his frustration breaks his chair. Shakuni wins. Duryodhana commands his younger brother Dushasana to forcefully bring her into the forum. Dushasana barges into the living quarters of Draupadi, who was "clad in one piece of attire"[1]. Dushasana grabs her by the hair and brings her into the court dragging her by the hair.
Bhima and Draupadi, as depicted in yakshagana.
Now in an emotional appeal to the elders present in the forum, Draupadi repeatedly questions the legality of the right of Yudhishthira to place her at stake when he himself had lost his freedom and as a consequence did not possess any property in the first place. Everybody remains dumbfounded. Bhishma, the patriarch of the Kaurava family and a formidable warrior, has only this explanation to offer to Draupadi - “The course of morality is subtle and even the illustrious wise in this world fail to always understand it.” Duryodhana now commands the Pandavas to strip themselves in the manner of dasa. They obey by stripping off their upper garments.
Then Kauravas demand the same from Draupadi who refuses. Then to the horror of everybody present, Dushasana tries to strip Draupadi of her sari. Seeing her husbands unable or unwilling to help her, Draupadi prays to Krishna to protect her. A miracle occurs henceforward, which is popularly attributed to Krishna but in Vyasa's Mahabharata, Draupadi's saviour is named as Dharma (who could be just morality, the god Dharma, Krishna as the Lord of Dharma, or even Vidura or Yudhishthira, or even a logical paradox of Draupadi's question - did Yudhishthira have the right to stake her when he had already lost himself). As Dushasana unwraps layers and layers of her sari, her sari keeps getting extended. Bhima is furious at Dushasana and says, "I Bhim, Pandu's son vows until I will tear open Dushasana's chest and drink his blood I will not show my face to my ancestors." Finally, a tired Dushasana backs off without being able to strip Draupadi.
Kichaka with Draupadi.
Duryodhana repeatedly challenges Yudhishthira’s four brothers to disassociate themselves from Yudhishthira’s authority and take their wife back. No one dares to denounce their loyalty to their eldest brother. In order to provoke the Pandavas further, Duryodhana bares and pats his thigh looking into Draupadi’s eyes, implying that she should sit on his thigh. In rage Bhima vows in front of the entire assembly that one day he will break that very thigh of Duryodhan in battle.
Finally, the blind monarch Dhritarashtra's conscience is stirred, in part fearing the wrath of Pandavas against his sons. He intervenes and asks Draupadi to wish for whatever she desires. Draupadi asks her husbands the Pandavas to be freed from bondage. Dhritarashtra grants her wish and also restores to Pandavas all they lost in the game of dice. Free from the bondage Bhima immediately proposes to his brothers to slay all Kauravas present then and there itself. Yudhishthira and Arjuna prevent him from taking any rash action. After many words of reconciliation between Pandavas and Dhritarashtra, Pandavas withdraw to their kingdom along with Draupadi and their entourage.
Shakuni, Karna and Duryodhana later convince Dhritarashtra to invite Pandavas for a new game of dice, with modified rules. It was following the defeat in this new game that Pandavas were sent into exile for 12 years.
However, not pledging her, given that the other Pandava brothers had already been pledged and lost, would also not have resolved the dilemma Yudhishthira faced. That the elders like Bhishma, Drona, and Dhritarashtra remained silent spectators of the entire episode adds valuable insight to their personalities too. Vidura was the only one who objected to the whole thing but he did not have the authority to stop it.

[edit] Devotion to Krishna

Krishna treats Draupadi as his sister. He protects her whenever she asks him for help as a sister. As per The Garuda Purana Draupadi is the incarnation of Bharati-Devi, The Consort of Lord Vayu. As per Narada and Vayu Puranas, Draupadi was composite Avatar of Goddesses Shyamala (wife of Dharma), Bharati (Wife of Vayu), Sachi (wife of Indra), Usha (wife of Ashwinis) and hence married their earthly counterparts in the form of the five Pandavas. Enraged at a jest by Parvati, Shyamala, Sachi and Usha, Brahma cursed them to human birth. Parvati thought of the solution wherein they will be born as one woman, Draupadi and hence share the earthly body for a smaller period of time. They requested Bharati to be with them in their human birth. Draupadi's characteristic fight against injustice reflects Parvati or her Shakti, Kali inhabiting Draupadi's mortal flesh at times. At other times, Draupadi was docile and even waited to be rescued (as in case of Jayadratha and Jatasura) showing the qualities of other goddesses like Sachi and Usha. Other times, she showed astuteness in hiding their true identity and asking Vayu putra Bhima to kill the evil Keechaka like Goddess Bharati would. Draupadi was also avatar of Goddess Shree or Wealth who was joint wife to five Indras, aka Five Pandavas. She was to be born several times for imprisoning the Indras. First time was as Vedavati who cursed Ravana (who is another goddess Avatar Swaha, wife to Agni). She then came again as Maya-Sita especially to take revenge from Ravana while Agni hid the real Sita. Third one was partial either Damyanti (whose husband Nala was equivalent to Dharma, Vayu, Indra just like the Pandavas) and her daughter Nalayani. She married Sage Mudgala. The fifth avatar was Draupadi herself. So we find in Draupadi, a composite avatar of Kali, Parvati, Sachi, Shyamala, Usha, Bharati, Shree, Swaha, the eight goddesses.
Krishna calls Draupadi His sister. He helps Draupadi because she prayed with utmost devotion. When Krishna had cut His finger on the Sudarshan Chakra, she bound it with her Sari, this act being the origin of Rakhi. Another story of the origin of Rakhi is Sachi tying a thread to Indra. Also, Krishna is the one who opposes her marriage to Karna and promotes her marriage to Arjuna.
Draupadi is regarded by most Hindus as the exemplification of bhakti to God. She shows utmost faith in Lord Krishna. And He protects her
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