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.
Draupadi is won at her swayamvara by Arjuna, the third of the Pandavas. On the advice of Vyasa, however, she becomes wife to all five brothers.
In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about Draupadi.
(Note: This post is great to read in combination with: Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
- A more realistic account…
- Previous Life
- Rejection of Karna
- Arjuna wins Draupadi
- Marriage to Five Pandavas
- Queen of Indraprastha
- Jealousy against Subhadra
- Laughing at Duryodhana
- The Game of Dice
- Vikarna versus Karna
- Significance of Draupadi’s Disrobing
- Might or Forgiveness?
- The Saugandhika Flowers
- Abduction by Jayadratha
- Conversation with Satyabhama
- Encounter with Kichaka
- Mourning the Upapandavas
- Popular Culture
- A Damsel in Distress
- Further Reading
The birth of Draupadi occurs shortly after Drupada loses half his kingdom to an invasion by the Kuru princes. Drupada manages to ward off an attack by Duryodhana and his brothers, but against the Pandavas he is not able to defend his kingdom.
(For more detail on this incident, see: Mahabharata Episode 9: Invasion of Panchala.)
Stricken by hurt at this loss, Drupada immediately performs a sacrifice with the express intention of procuring a method by which Drona can be killed and the Kurus can be vanquished.
A divine voice hears his prayers, and gives him two gifts: a young man who is destined to kill Drona, and a young woman who ‘will bring about the destruction of the Kuru race’.
Drupada adopts these two people as his children. To the boy he gives the name of Dhrishtadyumna. The girl he calls Krishnaa.
It is not clear exactly how old these two people are at the time they appear in Drupada’s sacrifice. Since Yudhishthir, at this stage, is around eighteen years old, we can place Dhrishtadyumna’s age around sixteen, and Draupadi’s at around fourteen.
A more realistic account…
If we wish to strip the Mahabharata story of its magical elements, we may retell the story of Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna’s birth as follows:
Drupada has just returned from his failed attempt to defend Panchala. He has just given up half his kingdom to Drona. From the status of a king, he is now merely a figurehead ruler of a vassal state in South Panchala.
His most fervent wish is to avenge this humiliation. But as someone who has been stripped of all his power, he cannot hope to fight the Kurus on the battlefield and win. So he calls his sages and asks them if there is a way out.
The sages recommend that Drupada perform a sacrifice in which he adopts two children, and entrusts them with the long-range ambition of one day bringing about the ruin of the Kuru dynasty.
It is not unreasonable for a king in Drupada’s situation to think of diplomatic strategies to fulfil his desires. Where battle has failed, for instance, marriage may succeed.
So he adopts a marriageable maiden whose beauty is other-worldly, and uses her as pawn to exploit the fissures between the Pandavas and Kauravas.
In this narrative, there is no magic. The sacrifice is just a ceremony in which Drupada adopts his two chosen children. And the voice that proclaims Dhrishtadyumna and Draupadi’s respective destinies belongs to the Brahmin performing the ceremony.
During the last days of the Pandavas’ time in Ekachakra, Vyasa pays them a visit and tells them the story of a Brahmin’s daughter (whom he doesn’t name) who had everything a maiden could ask for – good looks, wealth of character, noble family – but was not able to procure for herself a husband.
This woman, desperate to be wedded, propitiates Lord Shiva and mistakenly repeats the chant, ‘Grant me a husband’, five times. So when Shiva appears to her and grants her wish, he tells her that she will get married to five men in her next life.
‘You will be wedded to five husbands of unmatched valour, born in the Bharata line of kings,’ says Shiva. ‘Each of the five princes will be begotten by a prominent god, and you shall have sons, too, of all of them.’
Vyasa tells the Pandavas that this Brahmin woman had died soon after procuring her boon from Shiva, and that now she has taken birth in the line of Prishata, to Drupada.
‘Go, therefore,’ says the sage, ‘to Panchala. Your time in Ekachakra has run its course.’
A period of a year or so passes from Draupadi’s appearance at Drupada’s ceremony to her swayamvara. In this time, the Pandavas are lured into the wax house at Varanavata, and from there they escape to Ekachakra to live as begging Brahmins.
The incident at Varanavata signifies the first instance of antagonism between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. It also gives us some insight on how Drupada must have thought about the whole issue as events unfolded.
When the Pandavas are sent away and reportedly killed, Drupada must have also heard rumours that they escaped the fiery trap set by Duryodhana. While it is too much to assume that Drupada knew for a fact that the Pandavas were alive, he must have at least thought it a distinct possibility.
With a clear division appearing between the cousins now, Drupada finds himself in a situation which forces him to choose. Does he throw in his lot with Duryodhana, or does he side with the Pandavas who are largely considered more powerful?
Drupada finally decides to set up Draupadi as a gift to an archery feat so insanely difficult that only Arjuna can be expected to complete it. His intention is clear: he wishes to build a relationship with the Pandavas – not the Kauravas.
Rejection of Karna
But there is a problem with designing an archery test for Arjuna, which is that whatever Arjuna can do with bow and arrow, so can Karna. Drupada knows this because Karna’s feats at the graduation ceremony – and his subsequent friendship with Duryodhana – have already become legend.
Duryodhana and Karna will attend Draupadi’s swayamvara as well. There is a distinct possibility, therefore, that Karna will attempt the test before Arjuna and win Draupadi for himself.
This would not serve Drupada’s purposes. So he needs a plan by which Karna can be sidelined – maybe even prevented from competing – so that the test can find its intended winner, Arjuna.
But how does one prevent a warrior from entering the competition? Drupada himself cannot disqualify Karna because that would be a dereliction of his duty as host.
An alternative is to get Draupadi to voice her displeasure at Karna’s low-born status if and when he announces his intention to try to win her. This would be within her rights, especially because Karna is a Sutaputra.
Besides, there is precedent for disqualifying Karna based on his caste. The Kuru elders themselves did it at the graduation ceremony. With this, Karna can be kept away from the podium until Arjuna appears on the scene.
As a result of all of these machinations, Draupadi publicly rejects Karna on the day of her swayamvara, proclaiming that she does not want to become wife to a Sutaputra.
(For more detail on this incident, see: Why did Draupadi Reject Karna?)
Arjuna wins Draupadi
There appear to be two kinds of swayamvaras in common use during those times: one is an actual swayamvara in which the bride chooses a husband on her own in a hall of suitors, and the second is a competition in which the bride is given away as prize to any person successfully completing a given task.
The first is favoured by kingdoms that are not very geopolitically powerful. Kings of such kingdoms are content to have their daughters select their husbands from a gathering of invited noblemen.
The second is favoured by kingdoms that wield significant power or prospects. Kings of such kingdoms tend to think of their daughters as bargaining chips for upward mobility.
Both Sita in the Ramayana and Draupadi in the Mahabharata, one must note, were given away using this second method.
Calling this sort of arrangement a ‘swayamvara’ is perhaps a stretch, because the maiden has no say in whom she might end up marrying. But it also appears that the woman has the right to reject a prospective suitor before he attempts to win her.
In any case, Drupada’s plan works. It is Arjuna – in disguise as a Brahmin – that successfully completes the task and wins Draupadi.
Along with Bhima, Arjuna also fights off challenges from different suitors to further establish their credentials as warriors. At the end of it all, they take Draupadi back to their home.
(For more detail on all that happens at Draupadi’s swayamvara, see: What happens at Draupadi’s Swayamvara?)
Marriage to Five Pandavas
For a short while after Arjuna wins Draupadi and takes her away, no one is actually certain as to the identity of the two men. Dhrishtadyumna follows the Pandavas back to their hut and ascertains that they are indeed the sons of Pandu. He returns to Drupada and gives him the good news.
At the entrance of the hut, Yudhishthir calls out to Kunti – who is inside cooking – that they brought back something of value. To which Kunti says, ‘Whatever it is, divide it equally between the five of you.’
This is often given as the primary reason for Draupadi’s marriage to all five Pandavas, but in reality, a number of considerations are then made by Yudhishthir, Vyasa, Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna.
We must remember that it is Vyasa’s intention right from the beginning that Draupadi should wed all five Pandavas. He appears on the scene again and makes the same recommendation.
On Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna’s part, they want Draupadi to marry the eldest brother, Yudhishthir, because he will be the seat of whatever power and status that the Pandavas will earn in the future. As his first wife, Draupadi will inherit all of those rewards – and so will Panchala by association.
Yudhishthir, on the other hand, notices that Draupadi is beautiful enough to potentially cause a rift between the brothers. He therefore decrees that she should marry all of them and step into the role that Kunti had been performing all these years.
(For more detail on this issue, see: Why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?)
Queen of Indraprastha
Soon after her wedding to the five Pandavas, Draupadi takes prime position as wife of Yudhishthir when he becomes king of Indraprastha. Later, after the expedition of conquest and Yudhishthir’s coronation as emperor of the world, it is Draupadi who sits by him and performs the Rajasuya.
For twelve years after this, Draupadi enjoys all the power and status that come with being queen to the emperor. Some of these benefits also accrue to Panchala and to Drupada.
Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that by the time Arjuna returns from his twelve-year exile, Panchala is a stronger ally to Indraprastha than even Kuru.
During these twelve years, Draupadi also bears each of the five Pandavas a son. These five princes are together called the Upa Pandavas. Their names are Prativindhya (Yudhishthir), Sutasoma (Bhima), Satanika (Nakula), Shrutasena (Sahadeva) and Shrutakarma (Arjuna).
We must note that she has Shrutakarma with Arjuna last, after his return from the exile. By this time, Arjuna has also had sons with other women like Ulupi, Chitrangada and Subhadra.
It so happens, therefore, that neither Draupadi nor Arjuna has their first child with each other.
Jealousy against Subhadra
Arjuna’s twelve-year exile is ostensibly meant to be a period of chastity and forbearance. But he ends up taking three wives during this period, and has three sons with them.
The last of these wives is Subhadra, whom he abducts (with the enthusiastic urging of Krishna) and marries. Unlike his two other wives – Ulupi and Chitrangada – Subhadra accompanies him back to Indraprastha.
Draupadi receives her with harsh words, and calls her a concubine for having seduced Arjuna. Arjuna has, of course, anticipated this and had instructed Subhadra to be on her best behaviour in order to win over Draupadi’s affection.
The two women eventually put aside their differences and settle into a comfortable relationship. But the episode suggests that Draupadi has more love in her heart for Arjuna than she does for any of the other Pandavas.
This will become an important factor at the moment of Draupadi’s death. This partiality toward Arjuna counts against her prospects of reaching heaven in her mortal body – at least in Yudhishthir’s opinion.
Laughing at Duryodhana
One common accusation levelled against Draupadi is that she laughs at Duryodhana when the latter slips into a pool of water at Yudhishthir’s palace of illusions during the Rajasuya.
This scene is depicted as the catalyst that inflames Duryodhana’s rage against the Pandavas. It is to avenge this insult, we’re told, that Duryodhana goes out of his way to insult Draupadi during the game of dice.
However, the truth is that Draupadi is not even present when Duryodhana falls into the pool. She comes that way laughing with a few of her companions as Duryodhana emerges from the pool and is being attended to by servants.
It is Bhimasena who laughs uproariously at his cousin’s plight, but even he is quick to summon attendants to help Duryodhana out with a change of garments.
Where does this notion – that Draupadi laughed at Duryodhana – come from, then? From Duryodhana himself.
Later, when he is trying to convince Dhritarashtra to invite the Pandavas over for a dice game, Duryodhana tells his father an embellished version of what happened to him at Yudhishthir’s palace.
In this version, the Pandavas stood around laughing at him while he fell into the pool of water. Draupadi also pointed and laughed. She even intimated that Duryodhana has inherited his father’s blindness.
This version of events is Duryodhana’s attempt to poison Dhritarashtra’s mind against the Pandavas and Draupadi. In reality, Draupadi does not laugh at Duryodhana.
The Game of Dice
Draupadi does not participate in the game of dice. She is not even aware of its seriousness. Yet this becomes the most significant episode in her life.
(To read about this incident in detail, see: Mahabharata Episode 17: The Game of Dice.)
Yudhishthir gets deceived by Shakuni into playing with a loaded dice, and since Dhritarashtra refuses to call an end to the game, both players are compelled by social norms to continue playing it to the end.
After pledging and losing his kingdom and all his wealth, Yudhishthir pledges his brothers one by one. And at the end, after he pledges and loses himself, and says he has lost everything, Shakuni reminds him: ‘You have not yet pledged Draupadi.’
The sequence of these pledges becomes an important point: since he pledges his brothers before he loses himself, they’re considered valid pledges. But because he loses himself and then pledged Draupadi, a question arises whether or not this move is within the rules of the game.
In other words: has Draupadi been won or not won?
Draupadi herself raises this question for the first time when she is summoned into the hall. She frames the issue as one pertaining to ethics – whether or not Yudhishthir has the moral and legal right to pledge her after having himself become a slave.
Vikarna versus Karna
Draupadi does not take sides in the debate. She only poses the question and requests the assembly to resolve it.
Speaking up in support of her is Vikarna – one of Duryodhana’s brothers – who gives four reasons why he believes that Draupadi has not been won legally.
On the other side of the debate is Karna, who gives a point-by-point rebuttal of Vikarna’s thesis and concludes that Draupadi has been won. In other words, he claims that despite being a slave, Yudhishthir still retained possessive rights over his wife.
Karna also goes ahead and brands Draupadi a prostitute for having taken five paramours. He then instructs Duhsasana to disrobe Draupadi right there in the hall, in order to ‘treat her the way such a woman ought to be’.
(To read about this incident in more detail, see: What happens during Draupadi’s disrobing?)
At the end, though, Vidura reframes the conversation in purely emotional terms (‘the daughter-in-law of the house cannot be treated like this’) and brings Dhritarashtra to his senses. The blind king then relents, begs Draupadi’s forgiveness, and gives Yudhishthir back his kingdom.
However, the Pandavas return for a second dice game in which the terms are that the losers should go on a twelve-year exile (vana vaasa) followed by a year of living in hiding (agnyaata vaasa).
Yudhishthir promptly loses this game too, and the Pandavas leave for their exile.
Significance of Draupadi’s Disrobing
Draupadi’s disrobing and the subsequent exile of the Pandavas together constitute a point of no return in Pandava-Kaurava relationships. While the cousins have a long history of quarrel and animosity, they have lived in relative harmony until this incident occurs.
After Draupadi is used as a pawn, and is called a whore by Karna, the Pandavas are pushed into a state of rage under which they take a number of oaths. Namely:
- Bhima vows to break the thighs of Duryodhana, to drink the blood of Duhsasana, and to kill all of the Kauravas himself.
- Sahadeva promises his ancestors that he will one day kill Shakuni.
- Arjuna takes a vow that he will kill Karna.
- Nakula tells the assembly that he will assist Bhima in killing all the Dhartarashtras.
Draupadi herself transforms into an unrelenting well of hate. From this point on, whenever she senses that her husbands’ wills are flagging, she makes it a point to remind them of the pathetic state to which she had been reduced at the dice game.
Draupadi therefore unwittingly fulfils her destiny: that of being the eye of the storm that will destroy the Kuru empire.
Might or Forgiveness?
During the exile years, Draupadi plays the role of dutiful wife to perfection. She attends to all the needs of her five husbands, and by all accounts they share a happy life together.
She also plays the role of Yudhishthir’s prime antagonist in debates of a spiritual nature. Yudhishthir especially is prone to bouts of uncertainty; in these times, Draupadi reminds him of the reasons why they are enduring such horrific struggles.
In one such argument, Yudhishthir and Arjuna converse about whether might or forgiveness is the stronger virtue. Yudhishthir speaks on behalf of forgiveness, whereas Arjuna insists that might is the proper way.
Bhima is another of the brothers who take a harsh view of Yudhishthir’s opinions. On numerous occasions he insults Yudhishthir for having failed in his duty as a brother, king and husband.
Draupadi finds herself supporting Bhima and Arjuna in these arguments.
The Saugandhika Flowers
During the latter stages of the Pandavas’ exile, they go up north to take up residence in the gardens of Kubera. This is after Arjuna leaves on his quest to procure divine weapons in a bid to become more powerful than Drona and Bhishma.
While here, Draupadi once encounters a beautiful flower that resembles a blue lotus – called the Saugandhika. She requests Bhima to find the flower’s origin and to bring back for her a bunch of them.
Bhima sets out in search of the mystical lotuses, and during this quest he has a chance meeting with his elder brother, Hanuman. Hanuman educates Bhima about various things, and promises that he will grace Arjuna’s chariot in the coming war.
(To read about this conversation in more detail, see: Mahabharata Episode 22: Adventures of Bhima.)
It is therefore due to the indirect influence of Draupadi that Arjuna happens to have the picture of Hanuman on his chariot’s mast.
Abduction by Jayadratha
After Arjuna returns from Amaravati and the Pandavas are reunited, they return to the forest of Dwaita to pass the twelfth year of their exile.
Here, one day when the Pandavas are out foraging, Jayadratha the Saindhava king spots Draupadi and contrives to abduct her. Draupadi warns Jayadratha repeatedly that the Pandavas will not spare him, but Jayadratha does not listen.
As predicted by Draupadi, the Pandavas find her absent on their return, and following the tread of Jayadratha’s chariot, catch up to him and rescue her. As a parting gift, Bhima and Arjuna shave Jayadratha’s head and leave behind five tufts of hair to remind him of the Pandavas.
This is a fairly innocuous happening, except that Jayadratha is so smarted by the encounter that he prays to Lord Shiva in the hope of receiving enough power to vanquish the Pandavas.
Shiva admits to Jayadratha that the Pandavas are invincible – especially Arjuna. As a consolation, he grants to Jayadratha that he will be able to vanquish the Pandavas – with the exception of Arjuna – over a period of one fateful day.
This occurs on the thirteenth day, with Jayadratha holding back Bhima and the other Pandavas at the mouth of the Chakra Vyuha, thus ensuring that Abhimanyu is isolated inside it.
Conversation with Satyabhama
Around the same period during the twelfth year of the Pandavas’ exile, they receive a visit from Krishna and Satyabhama. Krishna gives Yudhishthir a short update on how the Upapandavas are faring at Dwaraka.
While Krishna and the Pandavas converse among themselves outside the hermitage, Satyabhama and Draupadi retire into one of the huts and speak to each other. The main thrust of the discussion is about how a wife ought to conduct herself.
Satyabhama, as the younger of the two, asks the question, and Draupadi answers. Among other things, she says:
- I set my vanity and wrath aside while serving the sons of Pandu. God knows that there is enough of those two qualities in Kshatriya men without them having to deal with their wives’ share too.
- I do not let my jealousy show when I speak of the other wives of the Pandavas, and I keep my facial expressions forever under control, only seldom revealing what I am truly feeling.
- I regard my husbands as poisonous snakes, capable of being excited beyond measure at mere trifles. So even when I know that they are in the wrong, I choose to win them over with humility, good humour, cheer and empathy.
As parting advice, Draupadi stresses upon Satyabhama the importance of judiciousness.
‘The other thing you should remember, Satyabhama,’ she says, ‘is that your private conversations with Krishna must remain exactly that. Make it a rule not to speak of them to anyone at any time.
‘Do not bother with selectively choosing which to reveal and which to keep to yourself; even if a particular thing does not deserve concealment, he might hear of it from your other co-wives, and that will make him wary of sharing something that does merit secrecy.
‘More than anything, men appreciate a bit of judiciousness in women, because so few of us display it.’
Encounter with Kichaka
During the Virata Parva, this theme of powerful men viewing Draupadi as an object of desire continues. Kichaka, the brother-in-law of King Virata, and the commander to Matsya’s army, is Draupadi’s newest admirer.
Despite the fact that Draupadi has already told Sudeshna (Virata’s queen) that she does not wish to enter the bedchamber of any nobleman at court, Kichaka insists on possessing her. After a period of weak protest, Sudeshna complies with her brother’s wishes.
In an eerie mirror image of her disrobing incident twelve years ago, Draupadi is chased by Kichaka into Virata’s court when the king is addressing his courtiers. Among these courtiers is Yudhishthir in his disguise as a Brahmin named Kanka.
Twelve years ago, Yudhishthir had to hang his head in shame while his wife was about to be undressed. Today, he takes matters into his own hands and stops Kichaka. To Draupadi he gives assurance that ‘her husbands will take care of her.’
Bhimasena takes on the mantle of administering the punishment. Draupadi makes an assignation with Kichaka at the dance hall after nightfall. Kichaka arrives expecting to meet Draupadi, but instead meets Bhima disguised in a maiden’s clothes.
After a quick and decisive battle, Bhima kills Kichaka.
(For more detail and context on this, see: Mahabharata Episode 29: Kichaka is Killed.)
The Kichaka incident happens at quite an inconvenient time for the Pandavas. Their twelve months of living in hiding is almost at an end. Just three more weeks of relative silence will bring their exile to a successful end.
At this juncture, the Pandavas might have easily tried to reason with Draupadi and asked her to put up with Kichaka’s menace for just a little while longer. But it is to their credit that they place Draupadi’s honour over everything – even the possibility of being found out.
Kichaka’s death brings the focus of many neighbouring kingdoms onto Matsya. With the commander dead, Matsya is suddenly seen as a weak target that can be easily looted.
Duryodhana brings a division of the Kuru army over to raid and steal the cattle of Matsya. This further increases the likelihood of the Pandavas being exposed – because they will be needed to fight for their king.
As it happens, however, the four brothers with the exception of Arjuna fight from within Virata’s army against the Trigartas, where no one knows their identity.
And Arjuna, in the garb of the eunuch Brihannala, defends Matsya on the day after their exile has come to an end.
The entire battle between Matsya and the Kuru-Trigarta army happens, arguably, because of Kichaka’s untimely death. The Pandavas would have preferred their exile to have finished in a quieter manner, but they were not prepared to gamble a second time with Draupadi’s honour.
(To read more about the fallout in Matsya following Kichaka’s death, see: Mahabharata Episode 30: Brihannala Defends Matsya.)
Mourning the Upapandavas
Draupadi takes a back seat during the months leading up to the war and during the eighteen days of it. On the morning following the eighteenth day, though, after news reaches her that Ashwatthama has killed her sons and her brothers, Draupadi mourns their deaths.
She tells Yudhishthir that as long as Ashwatthama is alive, the war must not be considered finished.
She exhorts Bhimasena in particular to bring back Ashwatthama crown jewel as proof of his death. Bhima sets out in his chariot to do her bidding, and Krishna and the Pandavas follow close at his heels.
After Ashwatthama has been vanquished (not killed), Bhima brings back the gemstone and presents it to Draupadi. That is when Draupadi is satisfied that the war has come to a proper close.
(For more details on how Ashwatthama pays for his sins, see: Mahabharata Episode 55: Ashwatthama is Cursed.)
Draupadi serves a second term as queen of Indraprastha after the Kurukshetra war, for thirty six years. She accompanies her five husbands on their final journey around the world, and in their bid to scale Mount Sumeru in their mortal bodies.
All six of them believe that they deserve to be admitted into heaven without first having to pass through the experience of death. This experience is reserved for the best among best of human beings. The Pandavas trust that the six of them belong to that group.
However, Draupadi is the first to fall to her death after they begin their final ascent.
Bhima, shocked that someone as virtuous as their wife has been denied entry into heaven as a living form, asks Yudhishthir what her sin was. And Yudhishthir replies, ‘Although she claimed to love all of us equally, in her heart Draupadi carried more love for Arjuna than she did for the rest of us.’
Of course, Draupadi is taken to heaven immediately after her death, because Yudhishthir sees her there after he had passed all the tests that Indra and Yama set him. But the fact remains that she – like the four younger Pandavas – is not considered virtuous enough to be allowed into heaven without first experiencing death.
The only character in the Mahabharata that succeeds in achieving heaven with his mortal body is Yudhishthir. Everyone else dies.
(For more details on the final journey of the Pandavas, see: Mahabharata Episode 60: The Pandavas Die.)
Draupadi has been the subject of numerous point-of-view novels, of which two are particularly popular:
- Yajnaseni, a novel in Oriya by Pratibha Ray
- The Palace of Illusions, a novel in English by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
In both works, some creative liberty is taken by the authors in painting the character of Draupadi. Both stories suggest consensual romantic feelings between Draupadi and Karna.
Some have suggested that the affection that we see between Draupadi and Krishna may not be entirely platonic in nature.
However, we must remember that these are all imaginations of other writers. In Vyasa’s Mahabharata, Draupadi is fiercely devoted to her five husbands. There is not even a hint of desire for any other man or woman.
(To answer the question of whether Draupadi liked Karna, see: Did Draupadi Like Karna?)
Draupadi is also often depicted as fiery, vengeful and temperamental, but a careful reading of Vyasa’s text reveals her to be thoughtful, patient, measured and articulate at various points.
A Damsel in Distress
Draupadi’s main contribution to the events of the Mahabharata is to function as the object of desire of multiple foul-natured men. She is constantly placing herself in delicate situations from which she needs to be rescued – whether it is with Duryodhana at the dice game, with Jayadratha in the forest, or with Kichaka in the palace of Virata.
She also functions as binding agent that keeps the five Pandavas united under one cause. Since the Pandavas are each born to a different father, and since Nakula and Sahadeva are born to a different mother, there isn’t much biological force keeping the brothers together.
In the first half of their lives, Kunti performs the role of mother and protector to all five brothers. But after their marriage, that mantle passes to Draupadi.
If Yudhishthir had not made the decision for Draupadi to marry all five of them, it is very likely that the Pandavas might have turned against one another. By becoming a common wife, she instead becomes a force for good.
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