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 Arjuna the most?
While one cannot answer for certain about another person’s love, and while love cannot be measured, it is likely that Draupadi had a special place in her heart for Arjuna. Arjuna is the man who did win her at the swayamvara. He is the most celebrated among the Pandavas. And he is the one who is denied her by circumstances for twelve years.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Draupadi loved Arjuna the most.
(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
The Final Journey
We hear of the notion that Draupadi loves Arjuna the most of the all the Pandavas for the first time after her death. The Pandavas and Draupadi are about to begin their ascent up the mountain of Meru. They are about to make a bid to enter heaven as part of their mortal bodies – without having to first go through the torturous process of death.
But very early on in their journey, Draupadi silently drops to her death.
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When Bhimasena asks Yudhishthir why Draupadi – the most virtuous of wives – was denied a passage into heaven, Yudhishthir explains, ‘Despite being wedded to all of us, Draupadi loved Arjuna the most.’
Until now, the story does not make any explicit mentions about Draupadi’s favourite husband. In fact, we are told very little about the marital relationship that Draupadi and the Pandavas shared.
How right is Yudhishthir?
One way to look at this is as simply Yudhishthir’s opinion. He may have surmised this to be the reason after having seen Draupadi fall. He may be mistaken about two things here: (a) about Draupadi’s favouritism toward Arjuna, and (b) about that being the reason for her death.
On the other hand, Yudhishthir is the eldest of the Pandavas. At the time of their final journeys together, he is the wisest of men, the most successful of kings. He has known his brothers and wife for decades. Perhaps he is right in his assessment.
But there are at least two other opinions about Draupadi’s love for the Pandavas that I will offer here.
First: Along with Arjuna, Bhima is the one constant in Draupadi’s life. Even when Arjuna is away on his self-imposed exile, and when he leaves on his five-year quest to procure divine weapons, Bhima keeps Draupadi company.
Yudhishthir is absorbed in learning all that he can about ‘truth’, and Nakula and Sahadeva are not significant enough characters in the story to become Draupadi’s main men. That leaves Bhima.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 22: Adventures of Bhima.)
Also, Draupadi leans on Bhima for protection multiple times. During her swayamvara, Bhima fights off Shalya before taking her back home. Bhima is the one who kills Kichaka, and he is also the one who brings back to her Ashwatthama’s diadem after avenging the Upapandavas.
So there is a less-than-zero chance that Bhima is Draupadi’s favourite husband.
Second: even if Yudhishthir is right and Draupadi loved Arjuna more than anyone else, it is a stretch to conclude that is the reason for her death. It may just be pure fatigue – and the fact that she is a woman – that causes her to fall before everyone else.
How fair is Yudhishthir?
Let us assume here that Yudhishthir’s assessment is right in both respects: yes, Draupadi did love Arjuna most, and yes, that is the reason for her death before her husbands’.
Now we have to ask: how big a sin is this compared to all that the Pandavas have done during their lives?
It is not uncommon for a man to distribute his love unequally among his loved ones. After having been cajoled into marrying five men, Draupadi is now being held to the standard of whether she loved all of them equally.
It is not enough that she made a good fist of a highly unconventional arrangement; it is also necessary that she remains absolutely impartial while doing so. How fair is this?
(Suggested: Why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?)
For instance, all of the Pandavas have also taken other wives during their lives. Are we to believe that all of them loved all of their wives equally, without favouritism?
The answer to this, of course, is no. At least in Arjuna’s case, we know that Subhadra holds a special place in his heart. Bhima, after all, must always have fond memories of Hidimbi, the first woman to give him a son.
If we accept this as true, why is it such an unbearable crime that Draupadi perhaps loved Arjuna more than the rest of her husbands?
Draupadi’s Relationship with Arjuna
Having said all of the above, one must admit that Draupadi thought of Arjuna alone as her true husband. The other four merely tagged along to fulfil some familial and political needs.
The reason we can state this with confidence is that Arjuna is the one who performed the task for winning her hand. And in a small way, Bhimasena helped when the suitors at the swayamvara rebelled. But even if Bhima had not been around, Arjuna would have been more than capable of handling the situation on his own.
The moment she is given to Arjuna by Drupada, Draupadi thinks of herself as Arjuna’s wife. She cannot help but think this way, because of the social conditioning of the age. Once the swayamvara is complete, the suitor who has won you is your husband. End of story.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 14: Exile of Arjuna.)
After this, circumstances conspire to change the nature of their relationship in the following ways:
- The authorities in Draupadi’s life decide that she should marry all five Pandavas, and that she should be the queen of Yudhishthir.
- Early on in their marriage, Arjuna leaves on a twelve-year exile to atone for disturbing her private time with Yudhishthir.
- As a result of this exile, Arjuna becomes the last of the Pandava brothers to father a son with Draupadi. He who should have ‘first right’ over her ends up being the last in line.
- Even during the exile, Arjuna is away for six out of the thirteen years.
All of these would have contributed to intensify Draupadi’s love for Arjuna.
Arjuna’s Other Wives
Also added to the mix is the fact that despite the promise that his exile is going to be a celibate one, Arjuna takes not one or two but three different wives during the twelve-year-period.
And he has sons with all of them: Iravan with Ulupi, Babruvahana with Chitrangada, and Abhimanyu with Subhadra.
This effectively means that Draupadi also becomes the last of Arjuna’s wives with whom he has a son. She who should have had ‘first right’ over Arjuna ends up being the last in line.
That is perhaps the reason she reacts with such venom during her first meeting with Subhadra. Draupadi insults the princess of Dwaraka and calls her a seductress for having stolen Arjuna from her.
Would Draupadi have traded places?
Despite all of this, one may wonder: if Draupadi had been given the choice of being Arjuna’s wife alone in return for giving up her position as the queen of Indraprastha, would she have done it?
In other words, would Draupadi have accompanied Arjuna on his twelve-year exile and be content being the first wife of the third brother in line to the throne?
First of all, this is not Draupadi’s decision to make. But even if it were, I do not think she would have given up the power and status that came with being Yudhishthir’s official wife. Not only does this make her an empress, but it is also virtually guaranteed that her sons will become kings in time.
No woman of that time – let alone Draupadi – would have made this trade.
Overall, therefore, we may say that Draupadi was largely happy with her lot. But somewhere in the corner of her heart, she cannot help but feel a pinch of longing toward Arjuna.
Strictly speaking, it is Yudhishthir’s opinion alone that Draupadi loves Arjuna most. But there is enough logical and circumstantial support for this theory.
After all, Arjuna is the most celebrated warrior of his time, the chosen hero. He is the one who shot the arrow that won Draupadi’s hand. And he is the one denied Draupadi by circumstances for twelve years, so much so that she has his son last – after all the other four brothers have had their turn.
Draupadi also becomes the last of Arjuna’s wives to have children with him. This, more than anything, would have struck Draupadi as unfair – and would have deepened his affection for him.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
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