Draupadi is the most prominent female character in the Mahabharata. Her given name at birth is Krishnaa, but since she is the daughter of Drupada she is called Draupadi. She is also known as Panchali – or the ‘daughter of Panchala’.
Draupadi is often considered the primary reason for the destruction of the Kuru dynasty. She takes birth as a grown young woman in a sacrifice performed by Drupada, in which the king asks for a ‘weapon’ with which the Kurus can be defeated.
In this post, we will answer the question: Did Draupadi go to heaven?
Draupadi fails to reach heaven in her mortal body for the sin of loving Arjuna more than her other husbands. However, by the time Yudhishthir reaches heaven himself, he sees Draupadi and the other Pandavas seated in Indra’s hall. So Draupadi does reach heaven, but after dying and serving out punishments for her sins.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Draupadi went to heaven.
(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
Two ways of reaching heaven
It is accepted in the Mahabharata universe that there are two ways of reaching heaven:
- The first is to live a reasonably pious life so that after your death, the god of justice – Yama – weighs your good deeds against your bad, and decides that you should be a heaven-dweller. You’re first taken to hell to atone for all the misdeeds you have committed, and following that, you will go to heaven.
- The second is to bypass the process of death altogether and attain heaven in your mortal body. This method is considered to be much more exclusive. It is available only to those who have been incredibly virtuous.
Note that for the vast majority of people, after their respective periods of hell and heaven have elapsed, they are sent back to Earth for another lifetime – in a more evolved form.
This ‘soul evolution’ goes through a number of iterations before Yama determines that you can finally fuse with the eternal consciousness called Brahman. From here on, you have escaped the relentless birth-punishment-reward-rebirth cycle. You have attained what is called Moksha.
The Pandavas and Draupadi
During the Mahaprasthanika Parva, the Pandavas and Draupadi renounce their kingdom and set about visiting all the pious places of Earth – like hermitages, lakes, rivers and so on. They install Parikshit – the son of Subhadra – on the throne Indraprastha.
After this, at the beginning of the Swargarohana Parva, they begin to ascend the mountain Sumeru in the hope that their virtuous lives may allow them into heaven without first dying in their physical bodies.
We must not think of this as hubris. After all, the Pandavas and Draupadi are all born of divine intervention. They have lived with dignity, self-restraint and courage for the most part. They are well-loved by their subjects, respected by their enemies, and unflinchingly loyal to their friends.
Despite this, as they begin to ascend the mountain, they begin to fall to their deaths one by one. Yudhishthir alone succeeds in reaching the summit. He alone is taken by Indra in a grand chariot to heaven.
Draupadi is the first to perish in this manner.
Draupadi in Hell
In Yudhishthir’s opinion, the reason Draupadi has been denied entry into heaven is because she loved Arjuna most among all her husbands. Some other possible reasons for her failure:
- Her cruel and public rejection of Karna during her swayamvara.
- Her jealousy toward Subhadra and the other wives and sons of Arjuna.
- Her vengeful temperament which comes into view a number of times during the story – not least when after the war has ended she implores the Pandavas to avenge the death of the Upapandavas.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 55: Ashwatthama is Cursed.)
These are not serious enough to be called ‘sins’. But all of them taken together is enough to prevent Draupadi from entering heaven in her mortal body.
After her fall at the foothills of Mount Sumeru, Draupadi’s soul leaves her body and is taken to hell for a short period. Here, she is subjected to some suffering as penance for her unvirtuous deeds.
The other Pandavas
The four other Pandavas – with the exception of Yudhishthir – follow much the same path.
- Sahadeva falls because he is said to be vain about his wisdom.
- Nakula falls because he is vain about his looks and handsomeness.
- Arjuna falls because he is unable to shake off the pride in his skill and achievements as warrior.
- Bhima falls because he has been unable to give up his love of food.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 60: The Pandavas Die.)
These are all Yudhishthir’s pronouncements, but they are delivered in the tone of an all-seeing narrator. So we can assume that the story believes them to be true.
All four brothers are therefore forced to experience the process of death where their souls leave their bodies. They spend the requisite amount of time in hell before they are taken to heaven.
Draupadi in Heaven
When Yudhishthir reaches the mountaintop, Indra is waiting for him in a winged chariot. He takes Yudhishthir first to heaven, where all the villains are sitting and enjoying themselves: Duryodhana, Shakuni, Duhsasana and so forth.
Yudhishthir is aghast at this sight. He asks Indra how this can be. And Indra replies, ‘Duryodhana was a great king. He deserves to be here.’
Then Yudhishthir is taken to hell, where he witnesses his four brothers and Draupadi being subjected to untold punishments. While shocked at this turn of events, Yudhishthir makes the decision to stay there along with his loved ones – even if it means forsaking the pleasures of heaven.
Indra then reveals that this is just an illusion, that the Pandavas and Draupadi are already in heaven waiting for him.
Also, Indra explains that Yudhishthir himself needed to spend a tiny amount of time in hell as reparation for the lie he told Drona during the Mahabharata war.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 50: Drona Dies.)
When Yudhishthir is now taken back to heaven, he sees all his family and friends welcoming him in Indra’s hall. Draupadi is there too, gleaming like an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi.
All in all, therefore, Draupadi does go to heaven eventually. And indications are that she and the Pandavas have – with their lives on Earth – escaped the birth-rebirth cycle. They have attained Moksha.
But before she is permitted into heaven, she is required to go through the process of death – to experience that sensation of soul leaving the body – and to undergo punishment for the few misdeeds she had committed during her life.
Only Yudhishthir among the five Pandavas succeeds in reaching heaven in his mortal body. All his other brothers go through the same process as does Draupadi: a short period in hell to atone for their few sins, and then an eternity in heaven as reward for their numerous virtuous deeds.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered
- Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Karna: 41 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- 60 Mahabharata Episodes that Tell You the Whole Story
- 300+ Mahabharata Stories to Thrill, Delight and Enchant You