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. Indeed, 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 have children?
Draupadi has five children – all of them sons. She has one son with each of the five Pandavas. Their names are Prativindhya (with Yudhishthir), Sutasoma (with Bhimasena), Shrutakarma (with Arjuna), Satanika (with Nakula) and Shrutasena (with Sahadeva). Together, her sons are known as Upapandavas.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Draupadi had children.
(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
In her previous life, Draupadi is a Brahmin woman who does not succeed in procuring for herself a husband. (We are not given the reason for this: perhaps she was not blessed with beauty; perhaps she was born into a very poor family.)
She prays to Lord Shiva in the desperate hope of getting married. Her austerities are strong enough to please the Destroyer enough to appear in front of her and grant her a boon.
But when she asks for a husband, Shiva says, ‘For this life, you have been destined to die a maiden. But in your next life, you will get married to five men of incomparable valour. And you will have sons with each of them.’
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 12: Draupadi Enters.)
The woman is smart enough to know that the precise number of husbands a maiden is supposed to have – in order to escape society’s judgement – is one. When she relays her misgivings to Shiva, he smiles and says, ‘During your prayers, in your desperation, you made the wish for a husband five times. Therefore you will have five husbands.’
The Brahmin woman immediately consigns herself to flames after this meeting with Shiva. She is then born at Drupada’s sacrificial ceremony as Draupadi.
In accordance with her destiny, Draupadi marries all five Pandavas – Yudhishthir, Bhimasena, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. She becomes queen to Yudhishthir after the latter becomes the emperor of the world following his Rajasuya.
Soon after this, Draupadi gives birth to five sons, one with each of the five brothers. Their names and derivations are given below.
- Yudhishthir’s son is named Prativindhya, in the hope that he will bear all the weapons hurled at him by foes with the strength of the great Vindhya Mountains.
- Bhimasena’s son is born after the Pandava performs a thousand soma sacrifices, so he gets the name Sutasoma.
- Since Arjuna sires a son after returning from exile, a period during which he performed many valorous deeds, the child is named Shrutakarma.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 14: Exile of Arjuna.)
- Nakula names his son Satanika after a renowned past sage born in the Kuru line.
- The son born to Sahadeva enters the world under the constellation of Krittika, so he is named after the general of the celestials, Shrutasena (also called Kartikeya).
No record exists in the Mahabharata of Draupadi ever birthing a daughter, or any child other than the five Upapandavas.
Order of birth
The order of the Upapandavas’ birth is sometimes contentious because it is not mentioned explicitly. Some people insist that Draupadi gave birth to the five sons in order of the Pandavas’ seniority.
But it is more likely that since her childbearing years coincide with Arjuna’s twelve-year exile, Draupadi has Shrutakarma last, after all the other Pandava brothers have brought forth their progeny through her.
In fact, as we have seen above, the name given to Shrutakarma commemorates all of Arjuna’s exploits during their exile.
This means one of two things:
- Either Draupadi gave birth to only Prativindhya and Sutasoma during the twelve years and waited for Arjuna to return from his exile. Then, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva’s sons were born in that order.
- Or Draupadi gave birth to Prativindhya, Sutasoma, Satanika and Shrutasena in that order while Arjuna was away, and on his return they have their son Shrutakarma.
Of these two possibilities, I hope you will agree with me that the second is far likelier than the first.
Status as warriors
During the exile of the Pandavas, the Upapandavas – along with Abhimanyu – are fostered at the palace of Krishna in Dwaraka. Pradyumna, one of Krishna’s sons, takes on the task of tutoring them in the science of arms and politics.
Before the war, when Duryodhana asks Bhishma to analyze the relative strengths of the two opposing armies, Bhishma puts the five sons of Draupadi – and Abhimanyu – into the ‘atirathas’ category.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 37: Rathas and Atirathas.)
Despite this, the five Upapandavas do not give much evidence of their supposed fighting ability. Among the sons of the Pandavas, only Abhimanyu and Ghatotkacha have extended scenes dedicated to them during the war.
Highlights of the war
Nevertheless, there are small mentions of the Upapandavas during the battle. Here are some of them:
- Prativindhya gains a victory against Shakuni on the first day. In later battles, he is defeated by Alambusha, Ashwatthama and Duhsasana. He kills a king by name Chitra.
- Like his father, Sutasoma is skilled both with the mace and at archery. His main battles are against Vikarna, Shakuni and against Vivinsati. He wins the second and third of these, but the first ends in a draw.
- Satanika’s moment of glory occurs on the seventeenth day, as he causes a large number of Kaurava forces to be destroyed. He also secures major victories against Vrishasena – the son of Karna – and Dushkarna, one of the sons of Dhritarashtra.
- Shrutasena kills Shala, the younger brother of Bhurishrava, on the fourteenth day of the war. He also defeats Dushmanara and Durmukha – sons of Dhritarashtra.
- Shrutakarma wins a challenge against King Jayatsena on the sixth day of battle. He fights against Duhsasana and Ashwatthama, but does not secure a decisive victory against them. He kills King Chitrasena on the sixteenth day.
Respective ages during the war
Assuming that Prativindhya was born to Draupadi on the first year of Yudhishthir’s reign as emperor, and that the other three Pandavas fathered their sons in consecutive years after that:
- Prativindhya is twenty seven at the time of the war. (Twelve years of Arjuna’s exile, one year after Arjuna’s return, thirteen years of the Pandavas’ exile, and one year for the Udyoga Parva.)
- Sutasoma is twenty six.
(Suggested: How Old was Bhishma? A Mahabharata Timeline.)
- Satanika is twenty five.
- Shrutasena is twenty four.
- Shrutakarma is fourteen. (He is born after Arjuna’s return.) He is the youngest of all the Pandava sons, younger than even Abhimanyu – who is described as sixteen years old during the war.
The Upapandavas are among the casualties of the night-time raid that Ashwatthama embarks upon after the fall of Duryodhana on the eighteenth day of battle.
That evening, inspired by an owl that kills a bunch of sleeping birds in a nest, and strengthened by the blessings of Mahadeva, Ashwatthama massacres all the surviving Panchala and Somaka soldiers and heroes in their tents.
(Suggested: 12 Mahabharata Stories from the Sauptika Parva.)
When news of the Upapandavas’ deaths reaches Draupadi, she is stricken by grief first, immediately followed by anger at Ashwatthama. She implores Bhima to chase down Ashwatthama and to kill him.
The Pandavas – reluctantly – set out on Ashwatthama’s trail. Though they do not kill him, Bhima brings back Ashwatthama’s gemstone – one which is buried inside his forehead – as proof for Draupadi that he had been defeated.
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