Did Draupadi love Abhimanyu?

Did Draupadi love Abhimanyu - Featured Image - Picture of a broken heart

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 love Abhimanyu?

The relationship between Draupadi and Abhimanyu is not explicitly referred to in the Mahabharata. The two characters inhabit almost different universes. But given that Abhimanyu is known as Arjuna’s favourite son, and given that Draupadi is jealous of Subhadra’s place in Arjuna’s life, we can assume that between Draupadi and Abhimanyu, relations were civil but cool.

Read on to discover more about whether or not Draupadi loved Abhimanyu.

(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)

A Love Triangle

Draupadi, Subhadra and Arjuna form the three corners of an uncomfortable love triangle. Consider:

  • Draupadi thinks of Arjuna as her primary husband even though she is Yudhishthir’s queen. This is because despite everything, Arjuna is the one who actually completed the task set at her swayamvara.
  • It is not a stretch to suggest – as Yudhishthir does at the end – that of her five husbands, Draupadi loves Arjuna the most.
  • Arjuna’s feelings for Draupadi are a bit more complex. He thinks of her as a woman he just happened to have won for his elder brother Yudhishthir’s sake.
  • It is not true to say that he does not love Draupadi, but his affection for her is not as intense as her affection for him.

(Suggested: Why did Draupadi Marry Five Pandavas?)

  • Subhadra, on the other hand, is someone Arjuna is smitten by on their first meeting. Urged by Krishna, he abducts her and does everything that he can to marry her.
  • This is not to suggest that Arjuna only had love in his mind while pursuing Subhadra – he would have been awake to the political advantages too – but the truth remains that he exhibits more desire for Subhadra than he does for Draupadi.
  • Subhadra, for her part, is devoted to Arjuna and is Draupadi’s junior. Like all younger co-wives, she is motivated by the need to remain Arjuna’s favourite while not ruffling Draupadi’s feathers too much.

All this sets up interesting dynamics between Draupadi and Subhadra, and also between each woman and her co-wife’s sons.

What about Arjuna’s other wives?

Arjuna does have other wives – Ulupi and Chitrangada – and other sons – Iravan and Babruvahana. But both these women stay back at their fathers’ kingdoms after their marriages to Arjuna.

Ulupi is from a Naga kingdom. Her union with Arjuna lasts but one night, after which she allows Arjuna to resume his travels around the country.

(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 14: Exile of Arjuna.)

Chitrangada is the princess of Manipura. She is the only daughter of her father, who makes her his ‘putrika’. This means that her children will be required to stay at Manipura and look after the affairs of the kingdom.

Only Subhadra, therefore, accompanies Arjuna back to Indraprastha to threaten Draupadi’s status as wife. The other women are too far away to matter.

Favourite Wife?

Though it is not stated as such, Arjuna gives enough indications that Subhadra is his favourite wife. This is understandable because after all, Draupadi is a woman he is sharing with all his other brothers, so it is impossible for him to think of her as his own.

Subhadra, on the other hand, is the woman who is solely his. He can open up to her in ways that he would hesitate to open up to Draupadi.

(Incidentally, this same line of argument applies to every other Pandava as well. They are probably closer to their ‘personal’ wives than they are to Draupadi.)

The fact that Subhadra is the sister of Krishna is another factor in her favour. Arjuna is smitten by Krishna so much that he is bound to think of his sister affectionately.

Further, we must remember that Draupadi has to divide her attention between five husbands (and also to her queenly duties) whereas Subhadra can focus all her energies on Arjuna alone. This, in turn, makes Arjuna like her more.

First Meeting

Arjuna spends a whole year in Dwaraka after his wedding to Subhadra, which happens to be the twelfth and last year of his exile. Soon after, he brings her to Indraprastha.

Accompanying the couple are armies of servants and noblemen from the various Yadava tribes, with Balarama and Krishna at their head. They bring untold wealth with them as Subhadra’s dower.

It is said that Draupadi gets jealous at her husband’s philandering ways, and when she first meets Arjuna, she asks, ‘Why have you come here, Partha? Go to the Vrishni princess. After all, has it not been said that a man’s second wife is always the favoured one?’

Though the two women reconcile with each other afterward, this blast of envy from Draupadi is indicative of the hidden layer of discomfort that will forever remain in their relationship.

Abhimanyu versus Shrutakarma

In addition, Arjuna seems to be much more in love with Abhimanyu than he is with Shrutakarma, his son by Draupadi. We do not know the reasons for this, but from Draupadi’s perspective this must have felt like yet another betrayal by the man she loves.

Arjuna teaches Abhimanyu alone – among all his sons – the art of penetrating the Chakra Vyuha. When Iravan dies in the war, Arjuna’s grief is short-lived. But at the death of Abhimanyu, Arjuna goes out of his way to take it as a personal affront. And he takes an oath to kill the man most responsible for his son’s passing.

(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 45: Arjuna Takes an Oath.)

There is hardly a passage in the Mahabharata that records Arjuna’s feelings with Shrutakarma. The boy almost feels like an afterthought: someone Arjuna was merely duty-bound to have with Draupadi.

Arjuna’s indifference is understandable. By the time he returns from his twelve-year exile, he sees that all four of his brothers have already had sons with Draupadi, the woman he won and over whom he should have had the first right.

Draupadi and Abhimanyu

All of this would have ensured that there is a certain amount of coolness between Draupadi and Abhimanyu. Add to this the fact that Abhimanyu – by all accounts – is a better warrior and fighter than any of her own sons.

By all means they would have been cordial with each other, but it may not be blasphemous to suggest that Draupadi would not have mourned the death of Abhimanyu as bitterly as she later weeps over the deaths of the Upapandavas.

Finally, one must remember that this is all conjecture. There is very little recorded evidence of any interaction between Draupadi and Abhimanyu. The two characters inhabit two different, non-overlapping universes.

Further Reading

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