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.”