Draupadi and Krishna: What was their Relationship Like?

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Draupadi and Krishna are two of the most important characters of the Mahabharata. Though they know each other through their common link, the Pandavas, Draupadi and Krishna build a strong relationship of their own during the story.

In this post, we will answer the question: What was the friendship between Draupadi and Krishna like?

Draupadi and Krishna meet for the first time during Draupadi’s swayamvara. Over the years, Draupadi comes to rely on Krishna for support in various ways, and looks upon him as her elder brother. Krishna, while content to play the role of Draupadi’s brother, sometimes uses her as a pawn to further his geopolitical goals. Their relationship, therefore, is nuanced.

Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between Draupadi and Krishna.

(For a comprehensive resource on Draupadi, see Draupadi: 50+ Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)

How did Draupadi and Krishna meet?

Draupadi and Krishna first see each other at Draupadi’s swayamvara. Krishna announces his presence at the ceremony, but also indicates his disinterest in competing for Draupadi’s hand.

The first time they speak to each other is at the Pandavas’ hut in Panchala, and the first time they spend time together is during Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya.

Before Draupadi’s swayamvara, Draupadi and Krishna may have heard of one another in stories told by travelling poets and balladeers. They may have even seen each other’s portrait in passing. But there is no record of them ever being together in the same room.

Draupadi’s swayamvara is in fact the first time that Krishna and Balarama reveal themselves to the people of the Northern Kingdoms. Thus far, they have been embroiled in affairs of Mathura, Magadha, Chedi and Shurasena.

They have also tussled with Jarasandha and have admitted defeat by giving up Mathura to his rule.

Until their appearance at the swayamvara, the people of Hastinapur and Panchala would have had only sketchy knowledge regarding Balarama and Krishna.

(Suggested: What Happens during Draupadi’s Swayamvara?)

At the Pandavas’ Hut

Eventually, the two Yadava princes choose Draupadi’s swayamvara as their moment to emerge from their shells at Dwaraka, which is indicative that they are now willing to play to game of diplomacy with other kings.

Krishna and Balarama follow the Pandavas back to their hut and introduce themselves to Kunti and her sons. Though there is no record of what they said to each other, Krishna and Draupadi will have most certainly spoken to each other at this time.

After this brief meeting, the two of them would have had a chance to interact with one another only during Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya, when Krishna stays in Indraprastha for an extended period of time as the emperor’s guest.

How did Draupadi and Krishna become friends?

Krishna and Draupadi seem to share an entirely platonic relationship, despite suggestions from some modern storytellers that there may have been some romantic interest between them.

After their first meeting at the time of Draupadi’s swayamvara, there is an extended hiatus between them.

During the twelve years of Arjuna’s exile, there might have been some sparse contact between Krishna and the Pandavas. But we are not told of it.

Only after Arjuna marries Subhadra does the Pandava-Anarta alliance begin in earnest. Krishna accompanies the new bride, his sister, to Khandavaprastha, and stays back for a while.

Krishna oversees the burning of Khandava, and the eventual crowning of Yudhishthir as the emperor of the world. All this while, Krishna and Draupadi will have interacted closely as hostess and guest, and also as relatives by marriage.

Draupadi considers Krishna her protective older brother, a role Krishna performs perfectly when he saves her from Duhsasana’s clutches during the disrobing incident. Krishna later proclaims Draupadi as the incarnation of Dharma herself.

(Suggested: How did Draupadi and Krishna become friends?)

How was Draupadi related to Krishna?

Draupadi is related to Krishna only by marriage. Krishna is the son of Vasudeva, who is the elder brother of Kunti. Krishna is therefore Arjuna’s (and Yudhishthir’s, and Bhimasena’s – but not Nakula’s and Sahadeva’s) maternal uncle’s son.

So when Draupadi weds the Pandavas, Krishna becomes her cousin-in-law.

In any case, since Draupadi is not biologically born of any person in the Mahabharata universe, she is not related by blood to any of them. She is considered sister to Dhrishtadyumna and Shikhandi, but only through adoption.

Also by marriage, Draupadi becomes younger-sister-in-law to Karna, though neither of them know this to be the case.

Some modern readers have enjoyed speculating about a romantic angle between Krishna and Draupadi. But Vyasa’s story does not make any such hints. If anything, Draupadi appears to consider Krishna her elder brother.

What Krishna feels for Draupadi, on the other hand, is a bit more nuanced. He does rescue her during the disrobing, and he does comfort her on multiple occasions during their exile.

But just before the war, he also offers her as prize to Karna if the latter would only agree to turn his back on Duryodhana.

It is likely that Krishna also has affection for Draupadi, but it takes second place to his love for Arjuna and his desire to ensure the Pandavas win the war at all costs.

(Suggested: How was Draupadi related to Krishna?)

Did Draupadi love Krishna?

There is no romantic love between Draupadi and Krishna. During his visit to her swayamvara, Krishna makes it clear that he does not intend to participate in it.

Throughout the story, the relationship between Draupadi and Krishna is akin to one that exists between a sister and a brother.

Draupadi and Krishna are not related. Krishna becomes Draupadi’s relative through marriage, as Arjuna’s first cousin. Since Krishna is the son of Arjuna’s maternal uncle, to Draupadi he becomes a brother.

This does not mean, of course, there cannot be feelings of romantic love between the two. But after Draupadi gets betrothed to Arjuna, the two appear to have settled into considering each other siblings.

Krishna famously rescues Draupadi during her disrobing (though his presence at the hall is dubiously illogical), and he supports her in her anger at the beginning of the Pandavas’ exile.

Draupadi’s feelings for Krishna appear to be like those of a woman seeking the protection of an elder, powerful brother. This is especially true after her marriage to the Pandavas, during which time she is known to be fiercely faithful.

So did Draupadi love Krishna? Yes, but only as a sister might love her brother.

(Suggested: Did Draupadi love Krishna?)

Why did Draupadi not marry Krishna?

Krishna attends Draupadi’s swayamvara and announces that he does not intend to participate in the event. This is a signal sent out to everyone – including Draupadi – that he is not interested in marrying her.

Also, Drupada wishes his daughter to be married to Arjuna. Draupadi therefore never looks at herself as Krishna’s prospective wife.

The question of whom Draupadi should marry is one in which Draupadi herself does not have a say. Though the ceremony that Drupada orchestrates for her is called a ‘swayamvara’, it does not give Draupadi much agency in choosing her groom.

She is offered as a prize to any archer who successfully completes a pre-designed task. She has the right to reject any suitor before he enters the competition, but not after.

Also, she is not at liberty to disclose her desires: for instance, if there is any man in the assembly that she wants to marry, she is not allowed to make this knowledge public.

Compared to a normal swayamvara, therefore, Draupadi has very little freedom in choosing whom to marry.

Also, at the time of her swayamvara, Balarama and Krishna are largely unknown among the Northern kingdoms. Krishna himself is the younger brother, and Balarama is the king.

It is unlikely, therefore, that Draupadi or Drupada would have had their eye on Krishna as a desirable husband.

(Suggested: Why did Draupadi not marry Krishna?)

How did Krishna help Draupadi?

It is a credit to Krishna that despite the fact that Draupadi is Subhadra’s rival for Arjuna’s affections, he still goes out of his way to comfort and console Draupadi at various key moments of the story.

At the beginning of the Pandavas’ exile, when Draupadi is raging emotionally at all the wrongs that have been heaped upon her, Krishna promises her solemnly that all these sins will be avenged.

Among the times that Krishna helps Draupadi are the following:

  • At her swayamvara, after Arjuna and Bhima have defeated Karna and Shalya respectively, Krishna speaks to the dejected suitors and soothes their tempers. He reminds them that the Brahmin has won Draupadi fairly, and that it is proper for the kings to accept the decision.
  • During her disrobing, when Duhsasana comes up to remove the garments on her body, Draupadi prays to Krishna. Krishna magically causes reams upon reams of clothing to cover Draupadi’s body, shielding her honour.
  • When the Pandavas leave for their exile, Subhadra and Abhimanyu go back to Dwaraka to live there. Krishna also takes the responsibility of raising the Upapandavas, the sons of Draupadi.
  • During the exile, when Duryodhana sends Sage Durvasa to the Pandavas with the express intention of rousing the sage’s anger, Krishna appears and uses his magic to give Durvasa and his disciples a hearty feast.
  • Most important of all, Krishna uses the full force of his strategic nous to help the Pandavas win the war of Kurukshetra – thus ensuring that all of Draupadi’s humiliations are properly avenged.

However, Krishna is unable to (or he chooses not to) prevent the Upapandavas from dying at the hands of Ashwatthama during the Sauptika Parva.

(Suggested: How did Krishna help Draupadi?)

Why did Krishna offer Draupadi to Karna?

One other potentially puzzling gesture by Krishna is to offer Draupadi as prize to Karna. Right before the war, when he goes to Hastinapur to make peace between the cousins, Krishna seeks a private audience with Karna.

He tells Karna about his true identity, and among other things, says: ‘If you come and fight by Yudhishthir’s side, Draupadi will become your wife. And she will bear you sons.’

It is important to note here that Krishna probably does not have any sympathetic feelings toward Karna at this point. He is not trying to do the fair thing by Karna, necessarily.

His primary motive is to protect Arjuna. His secondary motive is to win the war. So he pulls out all the stops in his attempt to negotiate with Karna.

In fulfilling his dual mandate of (a) protecting Arjuna, and (b) ensuring that the Pandavas have a higher likelihood of winning, Krishna may have considered Draupadi’s freedom a small price to pay.

This suggests that while Krishna likes Draupadi and is willing to play the role of her big brother, he is not above using her as a pawn to achieve geopolitical gains.

(Suggested: Why did Krishna offer Draupadi to Karna?)

Why did Krishna allow Draupadi Vastraharan?

Krishna is not present at Draupadi’s vastraharan. At the time, he is otherwise engaged in a battle against Salwa, the king of Saubha, who had invaded and looted Dwaraka in Krishna’s absence.

When news of the dice game arrives at Dwaraka, therefore, Krishna is in the middle of a battle. He is therefore not able to stop Draupadi’s disrobing.

Shortly after the Pandavas and Draupadi have departed for their exile, the Vrishnis with Krishna at their head come to visit them. Krishna tells Yudhishthir:

‘If I had been in Dwaraka when news of the dice game came to us, I would have come to Hastinapur in haste and put a stop to proceedings.’

Yudhishthir then asks Krishna where he had been, and Krishna replies:

‘When I stayed in Indraprastha for a while after the Rajasuya, King Salwa invaded and looted Dwaraka. When I returned, I saw that the city had been ransacked. I immediately set out at the head of a force to kill that wicked man.’

Krishna tells Yudhishthir that news of the dice game was delivered to Dwaraka while he was absent. He came to know of what had happened only after he had returned – when it was too late.

This suggests that the divine intervention of Krishna during the disrobing incident is a later interpolation that is not consistent with the rest of the story.

Krishna did not stop Draupadi’s disrobing, therefore, for a simple reason: because he did not know of it until it had already taken place.

(Suggested: Why did Krishna allow Draupadi Vastraharan?)

Further Reading

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