Thursday, December 31, 2009

Draupadi: The Heroic Princess of the Mahabharat, by Aparna Garg | Tattva

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    • A personification of shakti (strength) and bhakti (devotion), Draupadi was one of the bravest and strongest characters in the Mahabharat. Despite being both born and wed into powerful royal families, Draupadi went through countless hardships. She nevertheless emerged victorious and will always be remembered as a valiant woman who stood for the protection of Dharma.
    • A Source of Inspiration for the Pandavas

    • In her resolve to protect Dharma, Draupadi kept the Pandavas motivated and inspired to fight. She vowed to keep her hair unkempt (which was considered undignified at that time) until she had washed her hair with Dushasan’s blood. This was a constantly reminder to the Pandavas to defeat those who had wronged her. She kept her vow and tied up her hair only after Bheem had killed Dushasan.

      During their years in exile, there were several times when the Pandavas lost their motivation to fight for Dharma, particularly Yuddhishtir. During these times, Draupadi recounted the horrendous acts committed by the Kauravas and reminded them of their duty. Throughout the thirteen years of exile, Draupadi did not let her husbands forget how she was dishonored and how they were deceitfully deprived of their kingdom.

    • Sought Revenge, but not for Herself
    • Draupadi is sometimes criticized for being too self-centered in terms of her desire for revenge. However, a closer look at her actions shows that this is not the case. She did not encourage the war because she was trying to carry out her own personal vendetta against the Kauravas; rather, she knew that the Kauravas had to be defeated for the protection of Dharma. Evil acts were flourishing under the Adharmic rule of the Kauravas. When even the queen could not find safety in her kingdom, how could any ordinary citizen hope for protection? Duryodhana was a menace to society, and it was for this reason that Draupadi, Krishna, and others sought war. As a counterexample to this, after the war, when Ashwatthama cowardly killed Draupadi’s five sons in their sleep, Draupadi did not allow the Pandavas to kill Ashwatthama. She argued that in this case, killing Ashwatthama would not be for any greater cause but simply for personal revenge.
    • Draupadi also demonstrated her selflessness after the dice game. Furious at all those who silently watched as she suffered, Draupadi was ready to curse everyone in the court. She exercised self-control at the request of Queen Gandhari; at this point Dhritirashtra, fearful of Draupadi’s power to curse him, finally spoke up. He offered her as many wishes as she wanted, but she asked only for her husbands’ freedom and for their weapons. She said that if she asked for anything more, she would consider it greedy. With their freedom, the Pandavas would be able to get back all they needed by their own karma.
    • Because of her virtuous nature, Draupadi is considered one of the panchakanya, a group of five women who are especially venerated in the Hindu tradition. The other four are: Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas and an accomplished scholar of the Atharva Veda; Tara, the wife of Vali who was instrumental in reconciling Rama with Sugreev; Ahalya, Sage Gautam’s wife who was given a blessing of purity from Shri Ram; and Mandodari, the virtuous wife of Ravan who had the courage to speak out against her husband when he abducted Sita. Simply remembering these virtuous women destroys great sins.
    • Aparna is an undergraduate student at Boston University, studying economics and journalism. You can contact her at

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