Draupadi is perhaps the most important character of Mahabharata after Shri Krishna. She was married to all five pandavas and all her sons were killed by Ashwaththama after the Mahabharata war. She is one of the Panchkanya in Indian mythology.
Rakshabandhan or Rakhi, is a popular festival in India which is celebrated on the day of Shravan Poornima. This day, sister tie sacred threads on the wrists of their brothers wishing good health and long life to them. Following are few stories which signifies the power of the holy thread or Rakhi.
Rakhi – Krishna and Draupadi
Draupadi and Lord Krishna shared a strong bondage and though they were not real brother and sister, but their love was never lesser than that. One of the popular stories in our mythology is that of Lord Krishna and Draupadi, the wife Pandavas.
Following incident is mentioned in the Mahabharata.
According to one version on a Sankranti day, Krishna to cut his little finger while handling sugarcane. Sathyabama, his queen immediately sent her help to get a bandage cloth while his other consort, Rukmini rushed to bring some cloth herself.
Draupadi who was nearby, tore off a part of her sari and bandaged his finger. In return for this deed, Krishna promised to protect her in time of distress.
There is an another narrative related to this incident which says that while killing Shisupala, Krishna, held the lightning fast Sudarshana on his finger and sent it the king’s way. Within a second, Shishupala was beheaded.
Lord Krishna’s finger started bleeding and Draupadi, an ardent devotee of the Lord and the Pandavas’ wife, rushed to bandage the bleeding finger of her beloved Lord. She tore a small piece from her sari and tied it to the Lord’s hand.
Krishna was touched by this selfless token of affection and pledged to rush to Draupadi’s protection whenever needed. Draupadi used to tie a rakhi to the Lord’s hand every year and Krishna always showered His protection on her.
The word he is said to have uttered is ‘Akshyam’ which was a boon meaning ‘unending’.
And that was how Draupadi’s sari became endless and saved her embarrassment on the day of Cheerharan in Dhritarashtra’s court.
Devi Draupadi is an important character in Indian mythology and there are stories related to her which are talked about most. One aspect of her personality which is controversial as well, is her having five husbands.
But as everything in life happens for a reason, this is no exception as well. We will look at some of the reasons on why she had five husbands.
Story from Vayu purana and Sage Narada
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.
Due to an incident happened, Lord Brahma cursed these goddesses to human birth. Devi 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. Draupadi’s resistance 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.
An avatar of Goddess Shree
Draupadi was also avatar of Goddess Shree or Wealth who was joint wife to five Indras, the 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 incarnated as Maya-(shadow of Sita) especially to take revenge from Ravana while Agni hid the real Sita. Third one was partial, as 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.
Boon from previous birth
When Kunti asked her sons to share draupadi as their wives, Lord Krishna took Draupadi aside and explained to her. “This awkward situation you find yourself in is of your own making. In your previous birth you had pleased Lord Shiva with your prayers. He granted a boon to you. You said that you wanted a husband and to ensure that your request was heard, you repeated it five times in all. Shiva then said that in your next life you would have five husbands.”
Some sources have a slightly different narration. Draupadi made her request only once but she added a long list of qualities that she wanted in her husband. Shiva said that it would be impossible to find one man with all these qualities. Hence she would have five husbands in her next life. All of them together would posses the qualities she had enumerated.
Lord Krishna then added,” You will spend one year with each husband. Others will be forbidden to enter the chamber in which you and the husband-of-the-year are staying. If one does so, even accidentally, he would be exiled for one year.”
Draupadi was an ambitious lady in her previous birth. This led to a strange situation. Please read through the article for details.
Some facts about Draupadi and story of her having five husbands
Draupadi, the wife of five pandavas, had an eventful life. She was born when Drupad performed yagya to take revenge from Drona. She was born alongwith Dhrishtdyumna, who fought the war of Mahabharata with pandavas.
Draupadi’s penance in last life
She became the wife of all Pandavas not by an accident, but by design. Shri Krishna explained to her that she prayed to Shiva to grant her a husband with fourteen desired qualities. Shiva, pleased with her devotion, tells her that it is very difficult to get a husband with all fourteen qualities that she desired. But she sticks to her ground and asks for the same. Then Lord Shiva grants her wish saying that she would get the same in her next birth with fourteen husbands. She asked for these qualities in her previous birth. She was Nalayani – daughther of Nala and Damayanti.
She queried Lord Shiva was this a boon or curse? Shiva promised that she would regain her virginity each morning when she took bath, this was the Lord Shiva’s boon to her. Thus, she had the unique quality of remain virgin throughout her life because of the boon from Shiva.
The fourteen qualities which she wanted were available in five pandavas.The just Yudhisthira for his wisdom of Dharma; The powerful Bhima for his strength that exceeded that of a thousand elephants combined; The valiant Arjuna for his courage and knowledge of the battlefield; the exceedingly handsome Nakula and Sahadeva, for their love.
She also had a wooden bowl, which will always be filled with food. It was presented Draupadi when thepandavas were exiled. This bowl helped the Pandavas to survive during their exile in inhospitable forests. It is said that Dhanyalakshmi presented Draupadi this bowl.
Draupadi refused participation of Karna in swayamvar. She refused to be the wife of a suta-putra (son of a charioteer). Though Karna could also have won the competition of pierecing the fish’s eye.
The seeds of Mahabharata war were sown by her. It is said that Draupadi said about Duryodhana that blind’s son are also blind. This happened when Duryodhan slipped in the fabulous palace of Indraprastha.
Avatar or incarnation of Goddesses
According to Narada Purana and Vayu Purana, Draupadi is the composite Avatar of Goddesses Shyamala (wife of Dharma), Bharati (Wife of Vayu), Shachi (wife of Indra), Usha (wife of Ashwins), and Parvati (wife of Shiva), and hence married their earthly counterparts in the form of the five Pandavas.
In earlier lives, she did assume important avatars. The first time was as Vedavati who cursed Ravana (who is another goddess Avatar Swaha, wife to Agni). She then came in place of Sita’s avatar, to be the cause of Ravana’s death, while Agni hid the real Sita. Her third incarnation was partial: either Damayanti (whose husband, Nala, was equivalent to Dharma, Vayu, and Indra, just like the Pandavas) or her daughter Nalayani. She married Sage Mudgala. The fifth avatar was Draupadi herself. So, we find in Draupadi, a composite avatar of Kali, Parvati, Shachi, Shyamala, Usha, Bharati, Shree, and Swaha, the eight goddesses.
Draupadi wished someone else as her husband apart from Pandavas
Though this is not a verified fact, but Draupadi had a wish to have someone as her husband outside her marriage with Pandavas.
The Jambul episode
This secret of Draupadi, may be considered to be an important aspect of human thinking and also highlights that no one is immune to wandering thoughts. This is also known as the “Jambul episode (Jambhul Akhyan)”.
This incident is Draupadi’s hidden love towards Karna.
Draupadi plucks a ripe fruit and warned by Lord Krishna
According to a legend from Mahabharata, during the last year of the exile of the Pandavas, Draupadi saw a ripe jambul (rose apple), hanging from a tree. She wanted to eat and hence plucked it. When Lord Krishna saw this, he stopped her from eating it. He told her that the Jambul fruit was supposed to be the fruit with which sage Amitra was supposed to break his twelve-year fast. Not finding the fruit at its place, the Pandavas could earn the wrath of the sage, resulting in more trouble.
A solution was proposed
Lord Krishna gave a solution to this problem. In order for that to happen, each one of Pandavas must speak only the truth. Saying thus, he took them to the tree. He placed the fruit under the tree and told that each one of them should reveal all secrets about them without hiding anything and without any deceit. Then the fruit will go and cling to the tree on its own accord. One by one, the Pandavas and Draupadi reveal their truths, with the fruit moving up each time
Draupadi confesses her secret wish
At last, Draupadi professes her love for the Pandavas, and reveals her own faults in their situation. However, the fruit doesn’t move, and Krishna says that she is hiding something. With great trepidation, Draupadi looked into the eyes of her husbands and laments that she wished that she had married Karna, saying that had she done so, she wouldn’t have suffered such misery. This was a shock to all the husbands, but none said anything.The fruit went back on the branch of the tree and all was well. The Pandavas got the message that in spite of five brave husbands, they had failed their wife when she needed them the most.
There are many stories which establish the fact that why Draupadi had to become wife of five brothers, but this story is rather less known, where it was due to curse of Goddess Parvati, Draupadi became wife of five Pandavas. Similarly, it was curse of Lord Shiva, which resulted in five gods to bore children in Pandavas.
Ketaki and Daksha
Ketaki was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati. She was very beautiful. Because of her beauty and demeanor, she earned lot of fame. This made her arrogant. When her father asked her to get married, She refused saying that she can not find any person worthy of marrying her. So, she decided to spend her entire life under the shelter of Lord Shiva in Himalayas. Accordingly, She went to Himalayas and started her penance.
Curse of Goddess Parvati
Once Goddess Parvati thought of testing her. Parvati disguised as a cow reached the plac ewhere Ketaki was meditating and started bellowing loudly. Ketaki was disturbed so she uttered some foul words for the cow. Hearing this, Goddess Parvati came into her real form and cursed her. She said in your arrogance you can’t find any male worth marrying you so you will have to go down to earth and be common wife of five men.
On recognizing Parvati, Ketaki fell in her feet for apology. Parvati said her curse is immutable, but this will be as a blessing in disguise for her. Even after being a common wife of five husbands, your wifely devotion shall remain intact and then realms Parvati left.
Sadness of Ketaki and Indrani’s wish
Ketaki was sitting at the bank of Ganga, her tear drops that fell on the water become golden lotus and began to float in the current. Indra spoted them and took few flowers for his wife Indrani. Indrani was delighted to have them. Indrani longed to have more of them and said that the right place of blooming was the pond in the heaven.
Indra sends Gods to find the flower
Indra send Dharamraj to find the origin of the flower. When he didn’t return, Indra send Vayu dev behind him. But, when he also failed to return Indra send Ashwini Kumars to find the golden lotus. But after long time when none of them returned Indra decided to go and search himself.
Indra meets Ketaki
Indra found Ketaki sitting on the bank of Ganga. Charmed by her beauty he sought her identity. Ketaki said she is daughter of Daksha Prajapati and she was there to do her penance and meditation. Indra said that meditation and penance are for elderly sage and offered her to marry him and enjoy the pleasure of heaven.
Keatki was hurt by the offer and said your four deites have already suffered the consequence of giving me such offer and if you seek your welfare you should return to your abode.
Ketaki shows helpless gods to Indra
Indra immedately understood that the four deities referred to by her were none else but Dharamraj, Vayu, Ashwini Kumars. When Indra inquired further about them. Ketaki took him to a deep cave where four deities were lying tied down. On seeing them Indra lost temper and said though you pretend to be ascetic, but your heart is full of demonic tendencies. Do you know the consequence of holding them in captive.
Indra meets the protector of Ketaki
Ketaki said, thet they are being held n captive by her protector. Indra found an ascetic with long matted hair lost in meditation in a cave. Indra in arrogance began to utter some foul words for the ascetic. But when the ascetic came in his real form Indra was shocked to see that he he was no one else then Lord Shiva himself.
Lord Shiva curses five Gods
Lord Shiva thundered that Ketaki is like a daughter to him and since Indra and his deities have insulted her so you five have to go down on earth as human being.
Lord shiva said that in Dwapar Age, Lord Vishnu will incarnate as human being, at that time you five will also live on earth as human being, and at that time Ketaki shall be your common wife. In this way, your desire to have her shall be satiated and you five will also help Lord Vishnu to establish the rule of righteousness on the earth. This way your curse will fructify as boon to you all.
Thus due to the effect of the collective curse of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati, Pandavas got Draupadi as a common wife.
Draupadi was the beautiful girl of King Drupad. When she attained youth, Drupad wanted her wedding to happen. Thus, Draupadi swayamvara ( the ceremony of choosing a groom) was organised with great fanfare. When this ceremony happened, Pandavas were supposed to be dead in the house of Lakshagriha.
Many dignitaries, who hoped to win her hand were present. Duryodhana was present along with Karna. Shri Krishna was also present. Balrama, the brother of Shri Krishna present there. Kings of Kosala, Madra and Chedi were also present in the swayamvara.
And last, but not the least, the Pandavas were also present at the Swayamvara, but in the guise of Brahmins. No body knew that they were alive and participating in this event.
Draupadi’s father, Drupad was fond of Arjuna and secretly hoped that Arjuna will win her daughter’s hand. Thus he set forth a condition which was impossible for anyone except Arjuna, to fulfill.
The challenge was to pierce the eye of a revolving fish, which was erected on a pole, by looking at the reflection in a water filled vessel. The bow was a heavy one, and very few could lift it.
Announcement by Dhristadyumna
Dhristadyumna, the brother of Draupadi, announced that whosoever can bend the bow and pierce the eye of the fish, may marry Draupadi.
Having spoken thus, the prince recited to his sister the names of the royal guests, their lineage and their deeds of fame, and bade her award the golden garland to the successful archer.
The rajahs then descended from their gorgeous thrones and gathered around Draupadi as the bright gods gather around Párvati, the mountain bride of Shiva. Their hearts were filled with love for the maiden and with hate for one another. Rivals frowned upon rivals. Those who had been close friends became of a sudden angry enemies because that Draupadi was so beautiful. Shri Krishna, and Balarama alone remained aloof; calmly and self-restrained they stood apart, while rajah opposed rajah like to angry elephants.
The competition begins
One by one , the kings came and tried to lift the bow. But none of them were able to do so, putting the arrow on the bow was a tough ask. Duryodhana and Dushashana also failed to lift the bow. Thus, to defend the honour of Hastinapur, Karna decided to take part in the competition.
Karna lifts the bow
Karna, arguable the best archer along with Arjuna, could lift the bow easily. It appeared that he would achieve the condition which Drupada set forth. Drupada and his son were alarmed, fearing he might succeed and claim the bride. Suddenly Draupadi intervened, for she would not have the son of a charioteer for her lord. She said, speaking loudly: “I am a king’s daughter, and will not wed with the base-born. . . .
Thus Karna, left the competition without having to try.
As the day passed and Kings failed, it appeared that no one could be able to fulfill the condition set forth by Drupada. A gloom was descending over the court.
A young brahmin arises
Just when it looked at no body could fulfill the target, Arjuna , clad in the guise of Brahmin, rose.
All kings thought that how a weak looking Brahmin can achieve the feat where all the kings have failed. But Arjuna, took the permission of Dhristadyumna and confidently walked towards the target.
Some ridiculed his efforts, while some said that the Brahmin knows best his own skill. He would not go forward if he were not sure of success.
An aged priest endeavoured to restrain Arjuna, lest he should by his failure bring ridicule upon the Brahmans; but the hero would not be thwarted. He strode forward like to a stately elephant and bared his broad shoulders and ample chest. He was nimble as a lion, and calm and self-possessed.
Ere he lifted the bow, he walked round it; then he addressed a prayer to the gods. He stood up unmoved and serene as a mountain peak, and he bent the bow and fixed an arrow in it.
The young brahmin pierces the target
All eyes watched him. He drew the cord, and the arrow flew upwards with a hissing sound; it hit the target eye, and the golden fish fell over and clashed upon the ground.
Like distant thunder arose the plaudits of the multitude; hundreds of Brahmans shouted in ecstasy and waved their scarfs. A thousand trumpets clamoured in triumph, and the drums were beaten loud.
Draupadi is overjoyed and garlands Arjuna
The heart of Draupadi was filled with joy, and, smiling coyly, she advanced towards Arjuna and flung the golden bridal garland over his shoulders. Celestial blossoms fluttered, descending through the air, and the sound of celestial music was heard. Drupada is also visibly pleased.
Finally, the objective of having Draupadi swayamvara was fulfilled.
The protest of Kings
When the reality dawned over the kings, they felt humiliated that what they could not do, a weak Brahmin has achieved. Citing that Draupadi should be married to warrior class (Kshatriya), they attacked the humble Brahmin.
Pandavas rose in unison
As Arjuna was attacked, Bhima gave him company with an uprooted tree. Yudhishthira and the younger brothers were soon helping them, and the Brahmins also came forward to give their aid.
For a moment the kings paused, pondering at the daring of the priestly band, but impatient Karna and angry Shalya, King of Madra, dashed forward like two infuriated elephants against Arjuna and Bhima.
The duel of Karna and Arjuna
The brothers sustained the attack, and soon Karna was struck by Arjuna. Karna was amazed with the skills of the Brahmin, and enquired that who was he to possess the great skill of an archer. He said “There is no man who can thwart me with defiance as you have done even now, save Arjuna alone.”
Arjuna politely replied that I am a humble Brahmin who wants to protect himself. Soon Karna withdrew, realizing that this was no ordinary Brahmin, but Bhima and Shalya fought valiantly. Fighting furious like two elephants, they continued for a while, before Bhima defeated him.
Arjuna takes Draupadi
Soon enough, Arjuna took Draupadi by the hand and led her away in peace from that scene of angry strife. So ended the Draupadi swayamvara, and Krishna declared that the bride had been fairly won.
Pandavas were recognised
Drishtdyumna, Draupadi’s brother, followed them to find out who the Brahmin was. When they reached their hut, the Pandavas called out to their mother, Kunti, “Look, Mother, what we have brought.” Kunti replied from inside the hut, “Share it among yourselves,” thinking that they had brought food.
Draupadi marries Pandavas
When she saw the bride and was told that she was Arjuna’s wife, Kunti was very unhappy at what she had said. As a custom, the Pandavas would have to obey every word that she had said – Draupadi would have to become the wife of all five brothers. Just then Krishna came to their hut. He told Kunti, “in her previous life Draupadi had worshipped Shiva to get a husband with certain qualities. So, Lord Shiva had given her a boon which has resulted in her having five husbands” On hearing this Kunti felt satisfied and Draupadi became the wife of all five Pandavas.
Dhrishtadyumna who had followed them, heard all this. He went back to his father Drupada and said, “I have good news for you. The brave Brahmin who married Draupadi was none other than the great Arjuna.” Drupada was delighted to hear this. But when he came to know that Draupadi was to be the wife of all the five Pandavas, he was sad, because this was against the law. At that time, Sage Vyasa came there. He told Drupada, “Though such a marriage is not permitted in the Holy Scriptures, this particular marriage is a result of a boon by Shiva himself, so it is not against the law.” Satisfied Drupada arranged for a reception at the palace. The Pandavas were invited and the wedding between the Pandavas and Draupadi was performed with great splendour.
The statement that Krishna did not save her, may appear as untrue. When we read the following facts, we may find there are other stories regarding how Draupadi was saved on that shameful day, when Yushishthira lost everything. All gurus and sages remained silent while Dushashana was trying to disrobe Draupadi. Duryodhana, Dushashana and even Karna did not hesitate in this wrong doing.
This presents a bigger problem and this is prevalent in today as well. Everyone on that day had a reason not to interfere on that shameful day. It was good that someone was able to retrieve or save Draupadi’s modesty. But if we look at today’s scenario, we will find Bhsihma’s and Drona’s who are blind to all the evils, but we could not find “the saviour” who can do something about present day’s situation.
So, as we know that Shri Krishna, whom Draupadi summoned to save her from disrespect. But, in Vyasa’s mahabharat, the saviour from cheer haran is someone else. This is attributed to Dharma and it is symbolic. This means it can be the god Dharma, Krishna as the Lord of Dharma, or even Vidura or Yudhishthira. So it is not clearly stated that who was indeed the saviour of Draupadi.
Story of Krishna saving Draupadi
in the famous TV serial named Mahabharat, Draupadi summons Keshav (Krishna) in her hour of peril(cheer haran) and Shri Krishna saves her. There is a story related to this. Once Shri Krishna cut his finger with sudarshan chakra. Draupadi tore her veil to put it around Krishna’s bleeding finger. Lord Krishna was very touched by the gratitude done by Draupadi. He promised her to repay the debt and to protect her from all evils. He protected Draupadi when Draupadi prayed when her sari was being pulled after Duryodhan won her in the dice game.
Story of Durvasa saving Draupadi
There is also an interesting story of Durvasa saving Draupadi from cheer haran which is narrated below.
Shiva Purana attributes her miraculous rescue to a boon granted by Durvasa. The story goes that the sage’s loincloth was once carried away by the Ganges’s currents. Draupadi quickly tore a piece of her garment to cover him. The sage was pleased with her. He granted Draupadi a boon which caused an unending stream of cloth to cover her when Dushasana was trying to strip her in Hastinapura’s royal dice-hall.
Of all characters of Mahabharat, Draupadi’s character is probably the most complex and interesting, barring the Shri Krishna’s character. If I dare say, one can paint her as a positive character or a negative one, if one wants to. One can find enough of both, positive and negative indicators about her personality, such is her character.
She is said to be the prime reason for war of Mahabharat, by referring Duryodhana as a blind’s son. If possible, people will also attribute her beauty as a bad thing. What is important here to understand that Draupadi was not influencing Dhritrashtra or Duryodhana to become greedy and thus not allowing pandavas to have what was rightfully theirs, which is the main reason behind Mahabharat war in my opinion. Also, how one can explain the numerous wrongdoings, which duryodhana has inflicted on pandavas with the sole purpose of acquiring a kingdom, which was not theirs. Duryodhana has gone to the extent of killing pandavas, but strangely, somehow people choose to blame Draupadi and ignore these factors. Certainly, these things cannot be attributed to Draupadi and citing only one incident as the reason for Mahabharat war is probably going a bit too far.
On the other hand, lets examine the circumstances which Draupadi faced, and try to gauge reactions to these events. For example, how would a lady feel if she has to become a wife of five persons simultaneously, or how one would feel if someone is used as a material object and was lost to Duryodhana by her own husband, Yudhishthira. Being a queen, she was subjected to ultimate dishonour by Dushashana, that too before all the great people who were present there, like Bhishma, Drona, Vidura etc.
Draupadi vowed to not to tie her hair until they are dipped in Dushashana’s blood. I consider this fair, as she was subjected to lot more wrongdoings, and the pain of humiliation is much more to handle than anything else. And above all, I would have agreed this as a wrongful thing, if Dushashana would have been a nice human being, which I think is far fetched thing. Duryodhana even went further to suggest her as a fallen lady because she was a wife of five persons. What we forget that she was just obeying the wishes of her mother in law, Kunti. But history is full of such incidences, where a person is treated wrongfully even the person has acted fairly. Draupadi’s is one of these.