Draupadi is widely considered the main heroine of the Mahabharata. She is the princess of Panchala, and is given in marriage to the five sons of Pandu – the Pandavas.
Draupadi is known in the Mahabharata by various names. In this post, we will answer the question: What are the different names of Draupadi?
(For a comprehensive resource on Draupadi, see Draupadi: 50+ Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
The Real Name: Krishnaa
Draupadi takes birth in a sacrificial fire kindled by King Drupada of Panchala. Drupada conducts this ceremony while still burning with the rage of having been defeated recently by Drona.
He wishes the sacrifice to give him a son that will avenge his insult. He wants a boy that will grow up to kill Drona.
The divine voice that proclaims itself pleased by Drupada’s penance, however, gives him two gifts. One is a boy hero that will kill Drona, and the other is a dark-complexioned damsel who will ‘become the cause of the Kuru dynasty’s destruction’.
The sages that are assembled at Drupada’s ceremonial decide to call the boy Dhrishtadyumna, and the girl Krishnaa.
The word ‘Krishna’ is often used as a descriptor of a person who has dark skin. The Yadava prince, Krishna, also comes by his name in that way. In fact, Arjuna is often called ‘Krishna’.
(It is not uncommon for Krishna and Arjuna to be together known as ‘the two Krishnas’.)
Draupadi’s first name, therefore, is Krishnaa. But she is hardly ever called this because of the potential for being confused for the Yadava prince who also takes up an important role in the story.
The Most Common Name: Draupadi
It is interesting that the most common name that the maiden is known by – Draupadi – is actually not true in the strictest sense. The word ‘Draupadi’ means ‘the daughter of Drupada’.
While it is true that Drupada adopts Draupadi as his daughter as soon as she emerges from the fire, from a biological sense, Draupadi is in fact not Drupada’s daughter. Neither is Dhrishtadyumna Drupada’s son.
There is no record of what Draupadi’s childhood might have been like, or who reared her during infancy. For all intents and purposes, she and Dhrishtadyumna spring out from the fire fully-formed. And they have singular purposes for having come into existence.
Despite this, the name clings to Draupadi. It becomes the one name by which she is most commonly known.
Draupadi is also known as Panchali, or ‘the daughter of Panchala’.
This is in keeping with a long-followed tradition in Vedic India whereby a princess is given a primary name derived from the kingdom in which she takes birth.
That is how Kunti, Madri and Gandhari come to be known, as the daughters of Kunti, Madra and Gandhara respectively.
In the same way, Draupadi is given the name Panchali.
Yagnyaseni (or Yajnaseni)
This name for Draupadi derives from the fact that Drupada, by virtue of the number of sacrifices he performs, is known by the name Yagnyasena. As the son of Yagnyasena, Draupadi is called Yagnyaseni.
Some commentators contend that the word Yagnyaseni by itself means ‘the daughter of a sacrifice’.
This name for Draupadi was popularized by a novel by Pratibha Ray, called Yajnaseni.
Draupadi is called Yagnyaseni on very few occasions in the actual Mahabharata. But it is perhaps the most poetic of all Draupadi’s names.
It is not uncommon in the Mahabharata universe to refer to people with names derived from one of their famous forefathers.
In this tradition, the descendants of Kuru call themselves Kauravas. Those who regard Yadu as their ancestor become Yadavas. Yuyudhana, the Vrishni warrior of the Mahabharata, is often called Satyaki (the son of Satyaka) or Saineya (the descendant of Sini.)
The name of Drupada’s father is Prishata. So Drupada, Dhrishtadyumna and Shikhandi are often described as Parshatas.
In the same vein, Draupadi, as the granddaughter of Prishata, is sometimes called Parshati.
The word Ayonija derives from yonija, which means ‘one who has taken birth from a womb’ – which refers to all people who have undergone natural births.
Ayonija, on the other hand, means ‘one who has not taken birth from a womb’. In the Ramayana, Sita is often called an ayonija because she is found in a casket buried underneath the earth.
Draupadi, because of her birth in the fire of Drupada’s sacrifice, is also sometimes called ayonija.
The word Sairandhri actually refers to a class of women who routinely offered themselves as attendants to queens and other royal persons. These are usually women that belong to the Vaishya or the Sudra order.
During the Virata Parva, when the Pandavas decide to enter the court of King Virata of Matsya, Draupadi elects to become a Sairandhri and gain employment with Queen Sudeshna, Virata’s wife.
For the entirety of that year, therefore, Draupadi is only called ‘Sairandhri’.
While it is not strictly correct to say this is another of Draupadi’s names – because all Sairandhris are called ‘Sairandhri’ – I am including it here because for a period of her life, Draupadi is addressed by that word.
Some Other Names
In various parts of the Mahabharata, Draupadi is called by a bunch of other names. Some of these are merely descriptors that apply to other women as much as they do to Draupadi. But for what it’s worth, here they are:
- Agniputri – to refer to the fact that she has taken birth in fire, so she is the daughter of Agni, the god of fire.
- Nathavati, which means ‘she who has many husbands’.
- Sumadhyama, which means ‘slender-waisted one’.
- Nityayauvani – she who is eternally young.
- Mriganayani – she who has eyes that resemble a deer’s.
How was Draupadi born?
Since many of Draupadi’s names are derived from the manner of her birth, it may be useful to learn more about how it happened.
According to legend, Draupadi takes birth in the sacrificial fire during the yagnya performed by Drupada, King of Panchala. She is a fully formed young woman at birth.
As she steps out of the flames, a divine voice proclaims that she will be the prime cause of the destruction of the Kuru race.
Drupada performs this sacrifice with the intention of procuring some means by which Drona can be killed. Along with Draupadi, a fully grown young man also takes birth in the sacrificial fire. Drupada names him Dhrishtadyumna.
The divine voice announces that the boy will go on to be the prime cause of Drona’s death.
It is not clear why – when Drupada wanted a means to kill Drona alone – he is also given the means to destroy the Kuru race. It is possible that after the loss of Northern Panchala to the Kuru princes, Drupada wishes to take revenge on the Kuru house as well.
While this is the narrative version of Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna’s births, if we seek a more realistic explanation, we might say that Drupada adopted two young children from his kingdom – one girl, one boy – and anointed them ritualistically with their respective destinies.
Both Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna fulfill their fates, incidentally. But what Drupada does not know at the time of his children’s birth is that along with the Kurus, the entire world – including the Panchalas – will be destroyed.
(Suggested: How was Draupadi born?)
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