Saturday, June 12, 2010


Draupadi is one of the most enigmatic characters in the Mahabharata. Daughter of Drupada, the king of Panchala, and the wife of the Pandavas, she was a heroic princess and queen who became well known for her great beauty as well as her strength of mind. A woman who had to undergo great tribulations, she was at once compassionate and generous to the good, but could be fiery and vengeful against her enemies. She was no less heroic than Arjuna or Bhima, for it was she who brought about the ruin of the Kauravas, who had tried to strip her of her dignity.

She shared a very special relationship with Krishna – that of friendship mixed with devotion. She considered Krishna her only true friend; and he too treated her as his best friend. Shree Krishna had taken birth to annihilate the evil kings, and for the destruction of the Kauravas, it was Draupadi, who was his instrument. He gave her the courage to handle all the problems she had to face, coming to her aid each and every time, and he stood by her while she wreaked vengeance on Duryodhana and his brothers.

Her devotion and love for Shree Krishna was great, and she never hesitated to do what she could for him. Once, during the Sankranti festival, Krishna, surrounded by his wives and gopis, was having the fresh sugarcane offered to him. Inadvertently, he cut his finger, and at once, the gopis rushed here and there looking for something to stem the flow of blood. Satyabhama, the dearest wife of Krishna, with characteristic pride, ordered the maids to get a bandage. Meanwhile, Draupadi, who was also present, calmly tore off the end of her new saree and tied it as a bandage. The mutilation of a brand new saree meant nothing to her, but the sight of blood on Krishna’s finger was an unbearable sight to her. Such was her love and devotion to him!

Krishna’s love and affection for her was no lesser, for he always came to her aid, no matter what the situation.

Once, Duryodhana planned to cheat the Pandavas out of their kingdom of Indraprastha by inviting them to a game of dice. Yudhishtra was a skilled player, but he was no match for Shakuni, the evil uncle of Duryodhana, who was a cunning and deceitful player, with exceptional skills. Duryodhana’s plan worked, and Yudhishtra lost all his possessions, his kingdom, and finally his brothers and himself. Finally, he staked Draupadi, and lost her too!

Thrilled at having the Pandavas and Draupadi as his slaves, Duryodhana ordered Draupadi to be dragged to the court. Yudhishtra hung his head in shame, realizing the unjustness of his action in staking his wife, but it was too late. Draupadi was dragged into the court full of men, dazed and unbelieving in the turn of events.

Draupadi was no meek wife who followed her husband blindly. In the court full of men, she, a lone woman, challenged her husband with questions – Had he lost her before or after he had lost himself? If he had already lost himself, what right did he have to pledge her, since as a slave he had lost all rights over her?  As Yudhishtra hung his head, unable to answer his wife, she turned to the old and wise men in the court. “How had they allowed such an act to occur in their presence? Why had none of them protested at such an injustice? She further challenged the game itself – why was Shakuni playing on behalf of Duryodhana? Why had Duryodhana not placed his brothers or his wife as a matching stake?

Draupadi’s spirited questioning made the elders squirm in their seats, but none of them had the courage to oppose Duryodhana, who grew even bolder and ordered Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi.

As Dushasana dragged Draupadi by the hair to the centre of the court, she cast her pleading eyes towards her husbands who did not have the courage to look at her, and the elders present – Bhishma, Dronacharya, Kripacharya and Vidura, who sat silent in their misery, regretting their inability to stop the wicked act. She reprimanded them all for tolerating wickedness and allowing it to flourish.

Any other woman would have drowned in her tears at such humiliation, but Draupadi was no ordinary woman. She was a true Kshatriya queen, fiery and intense. She was knowledgeable and intelligent, and did not hesitate to take a stand against evil. Even as she was being dragged by Dushasana, she ridiculed him for choosing to show his prowess against her, an unarmed woman. She challenged him to do the same with her husbands, taunting him that he wouldn’t dare to take on any of her husbands in a fight!

Not finding one soul in the entire court ready to come to her help, she turned to the only one who would aid her – her Krishna! If there was anyone who could help her and save her from disgrace, it was her friend and mentor, Shree Krishna. She started repeating his name again and again, believing fervently that he would come to her aid.

The lord never abandons a devotee in distress, and Krishna did not wait a moment! As soon as Draupadi uttered his name with devotion, he came to her aid, providing unending lengths of cloth to preserve her modesty!

As the wicked Dushasana began the despicable act of disrobing Draupadi, he was stunned to see that as one saree left her body, another miraculously appeared to clothe her, not allowing an inch of the great woman to lie exposed! He continued to pull her saree, and more appeared, to the growing awe of the whole court, and the utter bewilderment of the wicked Kauravas. At last, Dushasana was so tired and fatigued that he collapsed on the floor, while Draupadi stood tall and proud, surrounded by the unending yards of cloth, her gift from her beloved friend, Krishna.

This was not the only occasion Shree Krishna came to Draupadi’s aid. He continued to come to her aid, no matter when and where she remembered the Lord. Once, when the Pandavas were in exile in the forest, the sage Durvasa arrived with thousands of his disciples. As was the custom in those days, Yudhishtra invited him to partake of food, to which the sage agreed, saying that he would come to eat after having a bath in the river. When Yudhishtra informed Draupadi, she was crestfallen, for she had just cleared up all the vessels for the day, and there was no food left!

Scared at the prospect of inviting the wrath of the sage, who was known for his anger, Draupadi turned to Shree Krishna again, calling out to Him with all her heart. Krishna appeared at once, and mischievously asked her for food. The exasperated Draupadi showed him her cleaned vessels, from which Shree Krishna picked up a bit of rice stuck to the rim, and teased her saying that she did not know how to clean vessels! As Draupadi bowed her head, Krishna ate the rice, and said, “Ah! That has satisfied my hunger! Now go and call the sage for food!” Draupadi looked on in amazement, but she trusted Shree Krishna, and immediately obeyed him.

Meanwhile, the sage and his disciples, emerging from their bath, suddenly felt so full and satiated that they realized they could not eat another morsel, and excusing themselves from Yudhishtra, left the forest at once!

Shree Krishna continued to help Draupadi through all her troubles, while his wives wondered what was so special about her. Krishna’s two principal wives, Rukmini and Satyabhama asked him in what way Draupadi’s love and devotion superior to theirs. To answer their question, Shree Krishna took them along when He went to visit the Pandavas. Draupadi had just had a bath and was drying her hair when they arrived. Krishna asked Rukmini and Satyabhama to comb Draupadi’s hair, since it was tangled. Usually, combing hair is the duty of the maids, but when Krishna asked them to do so, they agreed, for none of them could refuse Shree Krishna. Imagine their surprise, when, as they combed the hair, they heard the name of Krishna repeated again and again. After searching all over for the source, they realized that the sound was coming from the hair itself! Each hair was calling out Shree Krishna’s name! Such was the devotion of Draupadi. Rukmini and Satyabhama realized that Draupadi was indeed one of the greatest devotees of Shree Krishna.

Draupadi’s story teaches us to develop the mental strength to face all sorts of trials and tribulations that life may throw at us. While we should never harm or hurt the good, we must never tolerate wickedness. We should always be devoted to the Lord, and have firm faith in His protection.

We must always remember how Draupadi never wavered from her devotion to Shree Krishna in spite of all the troubles she had to face, and how the Lord proved repeatedly that he always responds to our sincere prayers.

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