Arjuna, the third Pandava, had won the hand of the princess, and she had not cried out in protest even though he had done so as a poor Brahmin. She didn’t turn away, being the princess she was, even when the five brothers had took her on foot to their humble hut, ignorant of the real identity of her husband.
Then came the greatest upheaval in Draupadi’s life, when Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas had asked her sons to share between themselves whatever they had got, unaware that what they had got was a bride.
Draupadi married the five brothers, the sons of Kunti who could not disobey their mother’s words even if it applied to a woman. Did Draupadi protest. did the independent, brave and outspoken woman speak on her own behest? Did she return back home? She might have been spurned away but the Draupadi of Mahabharata we know, she was far more stronger than that. But it still didn’t matter, she was a woman in a great epic, made to do whatever she was told to.
Did Draupadi not enjoy being the queen of Yudhistira, the king of Indraprastha? Yes, she did. She was proud of it. But is it something to less to ask when she already was shared by the five brothers? But it came much later. As Draupadi had not set out to be the Queen when she had first married Arjuna, not knowing that he was actually a Pandava.
But if Draupadi could not be condemned for polyandry (it was Shiva’s boon, and curse, in her previous life that she will have five husbands), she had to be condemned for adultery. Imagination and speculation making a character colourful, and belittle the woman, Draupadi allegedly was in love with Karna. Indications of which do not appear in Mahabharata (Kashi Das/Kaliprasanna Singha). She probably had refused Karna on the urging of her brother, or even Lord Krishna, but there was no chronicle of her pining for Karna, even if Karna had pined for her. But then, so had Duryodhana. With no one to judge the veracity, condemned guilty for a wayward perception only, It was just another notch against her womanhood. The blame surfaced again. No woman could be powerful and virtuous, and left alone as such.
Draupadi became the queen of the Pandavas. The underlying jealousy and envy towards the Pandavas became even more pronounced with it. It was the envy towards a man with a beautiful, dynamic wife. But Draupadi was never just an ornamental wife to the five brothers. A princess by bearing and birth she was the ideal wife and woman who took it upon her the hardships and tribulations that came with her place in the Kuru clan.
Draupadi had fallen on her way to Heavens when she with the five brothers had started towards the end of their journey. Yudhisthira, the son of Dharma, the eldest Pandava had said it was because Draupadi had always been partial towards Arjuna in her heart of hearts. Again, Draupadi had been condemned and held in contempt in the tale of the warriors as no one ever bothered to think of the woman’s heart. A wife belonging to five men – how could it be expected that the woman in her will be impartial to all of them. It is not simple enough to be shared, but to set aside pieces of the heart for her five husbands equally, is it possible for even the greatest of characters in history?
But the irony was Draupadi was partial to that man, whom she never had completely. Arjuna wasn’t a man who was satisfied with one wife. Even knowing Draupadi’s possessive nature and obsessive love for him, Arjuna’s wife in the truest form had been Subhadra, sister to Lord Krishna, mother of Abhimanyu. Yudhisthira in Draupadi’s opinion was weak and a servant to the vice of gambling. She could never turn to him in her time of need. Bheema, the second brother was Draupadi’s solace and saviour. It happened when the Panadavas had to spend the final year of their exile unidentified. It happened in Virata’s palace when Keechaka, the commander of Virata’s troops happened to chance upon Queen Sudheshna’s maid, Sairandhri, Draupadi in disguise. Suffering humiliation and affront in the hands of Keechaka, whose advances the married Sairandhri had rejected over and over again, she had begged for justice in front of Virata and Kanka (Yudhisthira skilled as dice caster) but they had failed her. But what had hurt Draupadi was her husband, Yudhisthira who witnessed her humiliation but refrained from avenging it. And Draupadi had done what any woman would do, she had gone to that husband she knew who cared enough about her honour- Bheema. It was Bheema disguised as Ballava, the palace cook, who killed Keechaka for humiliating Draupadi who had been living in his terror. Draupadi indeed had used Bheema’s temper and outrage to her own ends but as the woman she did what she had to to protect her virtue, her honor when she had suffered the insult of having another husband turn a blind eye to her misfortune.
Even with her varied but not unwarranted opinions of her husbands, Draupadi had never turned away from any of them and had been an equal wife to them all, in luxury, in adversity, in gains and in losses.
But the blame, the final blame for the great war, the clash between brothers, the Kauravas and Panadavas, the near extinction of the Kuru clan lay on the shoulders of Panchali.
Being lost over a game of dice by her gambling husband, dragged out by her tresses in a single piece of clothing into the court of men by Duhshasana, insinuated and motioned by Duryodhana to sit on his lap, and finally tried being stripped off of her clothing in front of everyone, elders who stayed silent, husbands who stood with their heads hung, it was Draupadi’s “actions” that brought about the downfall of the clan.
It was not Duhshasana’s actions of dragging his sister-in-law and forcibly trying to unclothe her in court that brought about their deaths, it wasn’t Duryodhana and Karna’s taunts on Draupadi that sealed their fate, it wasn’t Yudhisthira’s gambling with the treacherous Shakuni where he had the audacity to wager his wife after he had wagered himself (along with his brothers) and lost, it wasn’t Dhritarashtra, father to Kauravas who cheered and rejoiced when Shakuni won wager after wager, it surely wasn’t Drona or Bhisma, the elders who did nothing throughout the humiliation of Draupadi that had only one culmination, the one that ended with war.
It wasn’t the men’s lust, their greed, their animal-like proclivity that was the reason of Kurukshetra. It was Draupadi’s fault. It was her fault as she was a woman, a powerful and a coveted one. Where was the Dharma, the righteousness here? Of Yudhisthira, of Karna, of Bhisma, Drona, Kripa or Dhritarashtra? Where was the justice?
When Bheema had broken Duryodhana’s thighs in the duel, Lord Krishna was faulted for reminding Bheema of his vow (after Duryodhana had gestured to Draupadi to sit on his lap) by patting his own thighs; Bheema was called unworthy by Balarama, teachers to both Bheema and Duryodhana over the same act. Where was this code of ethics, this adherence to righteousness when Draupadi was dishonoured? Yudhisthira, the Dharma putra, had to envision hell for his one small lie to Dronacharya about the death of Ashwatthama, the elephant, how come he wasn’t condemned to the same after he had subjected his own wife to suffer and be shamed and dishonoured?
But in a tale of great warriors, who is an insignificant woman?
Draupadi lost all her sons, her father, her brother but she was to blame for the massacre. After all she allowed herself to be humiliated and the war had to be fought.
At her birth, it was prophesied that she will be the cause for the end of the Kshatriyas, the fall of the great Kauravas. And so she was.
The blame is not with the Kauravas, not with the Pandavas, not with the elders of the court; it was not a war fought of greed, of lust, of envy or of pride but of gender. The blame of the the great war of Kurukshetra, of Mahabharata lies with Draupadi, a woman because she was one.
After all, it was easier, and there was no one else man enough to shoulder the burden and accept responsibility.
N.B. BPL @ GingerChai Super 3 Topic by the Inscribe Tribe player/blogger. Unofficial, of course. 🙂