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Draupadi – Do We Really Know Her?

  • JWB Post
  •  December 24, 2014

“Mother today god has been great and I have won a wonderful prize.”

“Divide it among your four brothers equally.”

Sounds familiar? Yes that was what Arjun; the undisputed hero of the Mahabharata had to say to his mother Kunti after winning the hand of Draupadi in her Swayambar. Most of us know the story that on returning home how Arjun had said to Kunti that he had won a prize and Kunti, who was not aware that the prize was her daughter in law had asked the Pandavas to divide it equally among each other.


So what comes to your mind when you hear of the Mahabharata? Do you think that it is an epic story of the heroisms of the Pandavas? Remember the time we discussed interpreting the Ramayana in a feminist way from the POV of Sita? Recently the thought to see the Mahabharata in the same light crossed my mind. The first name that comes to our mind if we think of feminism and Mahabharata is Draupadi.

To what extent do you think that thinking of a woman as a prize is fair? Well it is true that many of us regard love as a gift and may also feel extremely lucky to be with the person that we love. But a prize?? What comes first in our mind when we hear the word prize? Maybe a trophy or a possession of which we are proud of? So if a person thinks of his wife as a prize then in one way or the other he might also regard her as his possession.

Does the phrase trophy wife sounds familiar to you? Trophy wife means that a woman who is young and attractive and is married to a man, who is more attached to her so that he can display her as a status symbol and with a desire to impress others. Does it really matter what other people has to say about your spouse as long you are in a relationship strengthened by mutual trust and love?

In the Mahabharata, Draupadi had to become the wife of all the five Pandavas because they couldn’t go against the words of their mother Kunti. She herself was regretful that she had spoken without knowing that Arjun was speaking about his wife and not any other prize, but she couldn’t take her words back. A wife divided amongst five brothers! Both physically and emotionally. Throughout the Mahabharata, it is evident that Draupadi had always loved Arjun more than the other four Pandavas. For this sin, she was also deprived from heaven initially during the Mahaprasthana yatra of the Pandavas.

Can we really blame her? It was Arjun with whom she had fallen in love during her swayamvar and had come to think as her husband. It was because of the irony of fate that she had to marry his four brothers as well. From a 21st century perspective doesn’t it seem pure injustice?

1940s Indian Hindu Print Draupadi Vastraharan 1

Wait there is more! Most of us have seen Mahabharata on the T.V. and remember that infamous scene where Dusshasana tries to strip Draupadi in a crowded courtroom in front of the all five Pandavas and other elders present there. What led to this is that Yudhishtir had entered into a gambling match where he had lost all his possessions and became a slave of Duryodhana, the erstwhile villain of the Mahabharata. It was when yudhishtir had lost all his palaces and empires, wealth and power and even his own brothers; he had decided to put their wife Draupadi on stake. After he had lost her too, Draupadi was asked to come to the courtroom by Duryodhana. She initially didn’t believe this and through a messenger had put her counter question to her own husbands that if yudhishtir had pledged himself first in the game then he had no right over her as he already was a slave and the fact that how could be a wife ever be a mere possession of her husband?

So we all know that how Dusshasana tried to strip her of her clothes and finally Lord Krishna saved her, but it does make us to think that why Draupadi, who was the wife of the Pandavas, the mighty heroes of Mahabharata whose strength was unparalleled had to endure this humiliation. The way the elders present in the courtroom disagreed when they heard Draupadi being spoken as a possession does give a hint that in those days it was not the general custom to think that husbands own their wives. But yet no one did anything to put an end to the way Draupadi was being treated.

Can you make out the similarities between our modern day society and the story of Draupadi? Today the cases of violence and injustice dealt to a woman that we often come to know about do seem to have this underlying assumption that a woman is a commodity always at the disposal and mercy of men. There have been some feminist interpretations of Mahabharata such as The Palace of illusions, written by Chitra Banerjee Divakurni and also the research done by writer Devdutt Pattnaik on Draupadi. For a change it does sound interesting that what the Mahabharata can offer to the new age woman and man alike. It’s about time that we start interpreting our mythologies moving from the conventional ways.

By Deep Mukherjee,


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