Arjuna is the most powerful warrior in the Mahabharata universe. He is the third of the Pandavas in order of seniority, born after Yudhishthir and Bhimasena.
He is the last of Kunti’s children. After his birth, Kunti decides that she will summon no more gods and bear no more sons. Nakula and Sahadeva, the fourth and fifth of the Pandavas respectively, are born to Madri, Pandu’s second wife.
In this post, we will answer the question: Did Arjuna love Draupadi?
It is often taken as fact that Draupadi loved Arjuna the most among all her husbands. But whether Arjuna loved Draupadi is less certain. He must have had some affection for her, and he certainly desired her, but the fact that he had had to share her with four of his brothers would have made it tough for him to love her unconditionally.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Arjuna loved Draupadi in the Mahabharata.
(For answers to all Arjuna-related questions, see Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
The decision that the Pandavas should attend Draupadi’s swayamvara is not taken by them. Vyasa, the all-knowing sage, visits them in their humble dwelling at Ekachakra, and tells them the story of Draupadi.
At this time, the Pandavas have escaped the burning house of wax and have been living for a few months disguised as Brahmins. Attending the swayamvara of the princess of Panchala would have been the farthest from their minds; they are instead preoccupied with thoughts of staying hidden from Duryodhana’s spies.
Vyasa suggests that Draupadi will make a good wife for the Pandavas. He tells them a story regarding her previous life, in which she procures a boon by which she is destined to have five husbands.
The sage hints that Draupadi will be married to all five of them. And he appoints Arjuna as the tool by which she can be won.
(Suggested: Why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?)
Arjuna’s Right of Possession
Going into Draupadi’s swayamvara, therefore, Arjuna is not under any illusion that Draupadi is going to be his alone. He fully understands that he is only being assigned the task of winning her for all five of them.
There is therefore a certain detachment about Arjuna throughout the whole process. He never betrays any feelings of possession toward Draupadi.
He wins her without much fuss, after all the assembled kings have given up on the task set them by Drupada. When the suitors rebel, Arjuna receives help from Bhima in defeating the challenges thrown at them by Shalya and Karna.
While Arjuna and Bhima are engaged thus in fighting, the rest of the Pandavas leave from the palace in order to avoid discovery.
Strictly speaking, therefore, Arjuna has the first right on Draupadi because he is the one to have cracked the test successfully. The second right belongs to Bhima, for helping Arjuna secure their ‘prize’.
(Suggested: What Happens during Draupadi’s Swayamvara?)
Arjuna and Bhima join their other brothers on the edge of town, accompanied by their new bride. The five of them take Draupadi back to their hut, where Kunti utters her infamous line: ‘Whatever you have brought, divide it equally between you.’
But it is a mistake to believe that this is the primary reason for which Draupadi is shared by the Pandavas. Yudhishthir notes that all five of them are consumed by desire for Draupadi, and surmises that if she were to belong to any one of them, the other four would be besotted with jealousy.
So he decides – with the approval of Vyasa – that Draupadi will become wife to all of them.
This also fulfils what Vyasa has already declared to be Draupadi’s destiny. In more practical terms, Draupadi takes from Kunti the mantle of keeping the Pandava brothers united and working toward a common cause.
While this is an unusual arrangement – women of the time were not encouraged to take more than one husband, let alone five – it is made after proper consultation with sages and elders, and after gaining their consent.
(Suggested: How was Draupadi shared between the Pandavas?)
Yudhishthir is empathetic enough to take Arjuna’s opinion first before any decisions are made. ‘You are the one who has won Draupadi, Arjuna,’ he says. ‘Are you happy sharing her with the rest of us?’
And Arjuna replies: ‘Whatever I earn is yours by default, Brother. As our elder and our king, I believe you will only do that which is to our benefit. I have no qualms whatsoever.’
Note that the language used by Arjuna here relegates Draupadi’s status to a piece of wealth or property. While wives are considered the property of their husbands, they are also generally thought of as much more: a companion, a mother, a lover, a homemaker – in other words, a human being with agency of her own.
But in order to accept the thought of sharing Draupadi with the rest of his brothers, it appears that Arjuna has already begun to think of her less as a person and more as an object that can be passed around.
It is also likely that the rest of the brothers think of Draupadi the same way – with a deliberately cultivated sense of detachment that will allow them to share her amicably.
(Suggested: Was Arjuna happy to share Draupadi?)
Love for Other Women
Immediately after their marriage, Arjuna leaves on a twelve-year exile around the world. The ostensible reason for this exile is to punish himself for having transgressed on the privacy of Yudhishthir and Draupadi.
But some speculators point out that it may have been an act of protest. Or that he found the situation so intolerable that he distanced himself from it.
Whatever his motivation behind it, Arjuna takes three lovers during the exile, and has a son each with them. He only spends a night with Ulupi, but with Chitrangada and Subhadra he lives for an entire year, until they give birth to Babruvahana and Abhimanyu respectively.
All these unions are ‘traditional’, in the sense that the three women are wives to Arjuna only. With them, Arjuna shows indications of being affectionate and loving – secure in the knowledge that they belong just to him.
As Arjuna procures more lovers and wives, his mind becomes even more diverted from Draupadi. By the time he returns to Khandavaprastha and bears Draupadi a child (Shrutakarma), he appears to be driven primarily by duty – not love.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 14: Exile of Arjuna.)
During the Exile Years
Arjuna also happens to be the only husband of Draupadi who goes on another quest during their exile. This one lasts five years, and takes him to Indrakila and Amaravati. During this time, he earns a number of divine weapons, becoming the most powerful archer in the world.
By the time of his return, he and Draupadi have effectively been separated from one another for seventeen years. In this period, Draupadi has been distributing her affection between the other four Pandavas.
Ironically, therefore, despite having ‘first right’ on Draupadi, Arjuna is the one Pandava to have spent the least amount of time with her. All the other brothers mostly remain together, so they get their share of Draupadi more or less on equal terms.
This means that Arjuna’s attention is never allowed to settle upon Draupadi. He has other wives that are exclusively his own. He has sons with them. He has the friendship of Krishna. And he has the small matter of becoming the most powerful warrior in the world and fulfilling his destiny.
How did Draupadi feel?
Draupadi, on the other hand, is almost certain to have pined the most for Arjuna throughout her marriage. We’re not certain of this, though Yudhishthir claims at the end that this is the reason why Draupadi is denied entry from heaven.
Here are a few points of fact that support this theory:
- Draupadi does not know of the Pandavas’ story before they arrive at the swayamvara. All she knows is that the man who won her is her husband. That is the rule of a swayamvara.
- Until the decision is made that she will become a common wife, therefore, Draupadi has fixated upon Arjuna as her sole husband. All the other Pandavas are her brothers-in-law.
- All those seventeen years of separation from the man she thinks is her ‘true’ husband must have made her heart fonder for him.
Having said this, Draupadi does not resent being wife to Yudhishthir. After all, by marrying Yudhishthir, she gets to become queen of Indraprastha, and possible Queen Mother when one of her sons gets the throne.
(Suggested: Did Draupadi love Arjuna the most?)
All in all, therefore, we can conclude that Arjuna feels more dutiful than loving toward Draupadi, because he had never had the expectation that Draupadi will be his alone.
He reserves his love for his other wives: Ulupi, Chitrangada and Subhadra, of whom the last is considered his favourite.
On the other hand, Draupadi loves Arjuna the most of all the Pandavas, a ‘sin’ for which she pays by having to go through a short period of atonement in hell before entering heaven.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
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- In the Mahabharata, why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?