Why Draupadi continues to be a role-model for true feminists

One of the five chaste women or Panchakanyas, whose name when repeated in the morning removes our sins, is none other than Draupadi. Ayonija or not-born from a mother’s womb, she appears from the flames during the King Drupad’s Yajna for a son who can defeat his enemy Drona. An added bonus, she is sent by the divine mother as her own incarnation, ordained to be the cause of destruction of evil.

In short, ‘A woman of substance’ can be the best description of Draupadi. It is only can a woman who trigger a war is true not only in Ramayana and Mahabharata but in many other parts of the world history. Unlike Sita who is an Uttamanayika, a perfect wife who does not exhibit any hatred towards her abductor and other demons around her, Draupadi spews revenge at the Kauravas and every other man who has demeaned her. She stands for relentless courage in questioning her husband whether he pledged her before himself or afterwards in which case he did not have the right to do it being a slave. She calls the entire game of dice as one-sided treachery as the opposite side had not placed any matching stake to start with.

Later in the same scene, Draupadi epitomizes the self-surrender to the One Divinity- Krishna, professing that the Lord is the only true sakha or faithful friend in times of distress. The Lord in turn seemed to have reciprocated her help. She had once tied his bleeding finger with a torn piece of her saree displaying tremendous presence of mind and when she was in dire need, he spun yarns to protect her from dishonor.  A volcanic outburst of a curse from her shows her power and pride despite being humiliated. This became a turning point for Bheema to tear apart Duryodhana’s thighs and wet her hair with his blood, untied until then as an oath.

She served her husbands with loyalty, love and dedication even after the court episode. When asked for three boons from Dhritarashtra, she chooses freedom from slavery and return of the weapons for her husbands but resists from asking any more as she feels these two would be sufficient for the mighty Pandavas to win even a war. She truly brings forth five sons for the five Pandavas but assumes great magnanimity when Ashwattama visits her after slaying them. Her universal spirit rises to the forefront at every instance and guides, incites and also offers succor to the Pandavas. She could once satisfy the hunger of sage Durvasa and his disciples from the Akshaya Patra with blessings from Krishna.

Draupadi cannot ever be forgotten. She is far too significant a character and personality. Bringing the age-old legends close to us through arts is the richest and most satisfying part of a journey that connects us to our deep roots. In the classical dances, performing the role of Draupadi is tellingly depicted through the Vastrapharana episode. This act, however, retold and re-enacted does not seem to tire the audiences which get enraptured by the stage dramatization, along with extremely moving lyrics. We have almost every saint poet from the Bhakti era who has referred to Krishna who saved Draupadi, on par with Narasimha who rescued Prahlada, Narayana who blessed Gajendra and Ajamila and so on. This is a treat to the Rasika as well as a highlight for performer. The ritualistic Karaga festival of Karnataka, associated with Draupadi is celebrated during Chitra Pournami, a time that is very auspicious for the descent of the supreme Goddess. It is believed that towards the end of the Mahabharata, it was Draupadi who took to fight Tripurasura as Adishakti when a glimpse of hell was given to them while ascending the Himalayas. At this moment, she took help from Veerakumaras. Their descendants, the Tigalas, a community of warriors perform this ritual Karaga in honour of Draupadi who is their deity as Adishakti and invoke her to appear on this sacred day.

One has to read our legends with true understanding of not only the literal but also the implied meaning. Pada and Vakhyartha meaning is important for students of Indology as well as art in order to sincerely relate and represent them either in prose, poetry or performing art. It is more challenging when we are faced with several interpretations of truth in any field. If we were to think deep without any prejudice nurtured within us or false conditions imposed on us by others, then it is certainly possible to logically analyze the larger picture in any story.

Draupadi was brought home after she chose Arjuna who had won the great task at the swayamvara. She was initially taken aback when Kunti proposed that the prize had to be shared equally as is the case with every other thing they owned but then she did not want to go against the word of a mother. She managed her duties to each one very well, due to the advice of her dearest friend, Krishna. The fact that Kunti Devi herself knew that the beauty and qualities of Draupadi should not become a cause of rivalry among brothers [if they had other wives], made them united in allegiance to her.

In the battle for Dharma, they were equally in rage although each one had different skills that were used for this purpose. Each one of the Pandavas, born from a different lineage like Vayu, Indra and others, possessed traits that manifested due to the exuberance of one of the natural elements. As a collective force, they were invincible, ruled by a unifying force, Draupadi.

Draupadi in this manner happens to be the symbolic yoke, the spirit that combines all the five elements not only embodied in Pandavas but also allegorically in every human being in the subtle body. She is that Adishakti who instills Iccha, Gnyana and Kriya to make the five Panchendriyas function from the phases of will and knowledge. And above all, her constant remembrance of Krishna is the eternal brother-sister relationship of Narayanee and Narayana.