Draupadi: 50+ Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered

Draupadi Questions Answered - Featured Image - Picture of Draupadi with her hair thrown open

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.

In this post, we will answer all the questions you’ve ever had about Draupadi.

(This post is great supplemental reading to: Draupadi: Your Ultimate Guide to the Mahabharata’s Heroine.)

Table of Contents

Why did Draupadi Marry Five Pandavas?

Draupadi is won at her swayamvara by Arjuna. But she marries all five Pandavas because of three reasons: (1) Yudhishthir thinks that she will act as a uniting force with the five brothers, (2) Vyasa recommends that she fulfils his destiny from a previous life, and (3) Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna wish that she marries the eldest Pandava and becomes queen.

Thus far in their lives, the Pandavas are kept as one functioning unit by Kunti, their mother. When Arjuna brings Draupadi back to their hut, Yudhishthir notices that all of his brothers are consumed by desire for her. He predicts that if she were to marry any one of them, it will set up jealousy in the others that may eventually bring about their ruin.

Therefore, he decrees that she should become a common wife. That way, a situation of potential unrest can be avoided.

Draupadi is also known to be a Brahmin woman in her previous life, during which she earns from Lord Shiva the boon that she will, in her next life, be married to five valiant heroes who will also give her sons.

Vyasa instructs her to honour this old promise.

The final thrust comes from Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna, who – after learning of the issue – prefer that Draupadi marries Yudhishthir. This is understandable because as the first wife of the eldest brother, Draupadi stands to gain much power and status in the future that she will not procure as someone married to the middle brother.

For these three reasons, Draupadi marries all five Pandavas.

Detailed Answer: Why did Draupadi Marry Five Pandavas?

Why did Draupadi Reject Karna?

Draupadi’s swayamvara is designed especially to lure Arjuna out of hiding. But when Karna gets up to try his hand at the task, Draupadi becomes afraid that the intention of the entire swayamvara may be compromised. So she exercises her right to reject him – and announces that she does not want to marry a Sutaputra.

The often-cited reason for Draupadi’s rejection of Karna is the one she states in the assembly: that she does not – in all honesty – want to get married to someone low-born as him.

While she is presumably within her rights to do this (no one at the assembly protest or speak up in Karna’s favour), there is a reason to believe that her actions are premeditated.

Drupada organizes the entire swayamvara of Draupadi with one intention: to stand the best chance of bringing Arjuna out of hiding and to ensure that he alone wins Draupadi. So he designs an archery test so complex that only Arjuna can pass it.

However, the conundrum is this: whatever Arjuna can do with bow and arrow, so can Karna. And Karna will be present at the ceremony.

It is entirely possible, therefore, that Drupada anticipates Karna’s attempting to win Draupadi, and instructs his daughter that should Karna rise in his seat and walk up to the podium, she should reject him.

This will ensure that the only other person capable of completing the task is disqualified. The path for Arjuna is cleared.

Detailed Answer: Why did Draupadi Reject Karna?

Did Draupadi Like Karna?

Not only does Draupadi not like Karna, she has plenty of reasons to actively hate him for all the abuse he heaps upon her during the dice game. Early on during the Pandavas’ exile, Draupadi confides in Krishna that of all the people she despises most in the world and wishes to see ruined, Karna is one.

The possibility of Draupadi possessing romantic feelings for Karna has been raised in some works of popular fiction that have been written as point-of-view retellings of the original Mahabharata.

In what we have inherited from Vyasa, however, there is no suggestion of any such angle. The only possibility of Karna and Draupadi being together is raised by Krishna right before the start of the war. Draupadi is offered as one of the prizes (we have to call them bribes) waiting for Karna if he forsakes Duryodhana and fights on the Pandava side.

Karna and Draupadi do not meet all that often during the story, certainly not enough for romance to blossom.

Draupadi is a woman considered to be of the highest honour, forever faithful to her husbands in thought and deed. The suggestion, therefore, that she may be in love with one of her bitterest enemies is foolish.

Indeed, Draupadi and the Pandavas repeatedly cite Karna as the man most responsible for the extent of damage caused to the Kuru dynasty during the dice game.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi Like Karna?

Why did Draupadi Die First?

During their final journey up the mountain of Sumeru, Draupadi is the first to fall to her death. When Bhima asks Yudhishthir why their virtuous wife has fallen, Yudhishthir explains, ‘Because despite her claims to have loved us all equally, in her heart Draupadi was always partial toward Arjuna.’ However, this is only Yudhishthir’s opinion.

First of all, we must acknowledge that Yudhishthir could be right. It is entirely possible that Draupadi did love Arjuna the most. She was won by Arjuna, and was then forced by circumstance to have his child last – after he returns from his exile.

Also, Arjuna himself takes three wives and sires three sons before he fathers Draupadi’s child. Going by the way in which Draupadi reacts when Arjuna brings back Subhadra from his travels, we can assume that she is jealously possessive of him.

Having said this, we are not sure that this is the case. There are hints at other parts of the story where Draupadi displays similar affection toward, say, Yudhishthir or Bhima. Since love is not something one can measure, and since one can certainly not measure it in another person’s heart, we cannot conclude for certain that Yudhishthir is right.

Even if he is, though, it bears asking if this is a fair or moral standard by which to judge a woman. Yudhishthir and the other Pandavas have all married other women. Are they also required to love all of them equally, and are they also punishable if the gods discover that they love one of their wives more than others?

Clearly not.

A more natural explanation is that Draupadi is the sole woman in the group. The men are warriors, and in good physical shape despite their advancing age. One would expect Draupadi to be overcome by fatigue first.

Detailed Answer: Why did Draupadi Die First?

What Happens during Draupadi’s Swayamvara?

Draupadi’s swayamvara represents the first major plot point in the Mahabharata. During it, a number of significant events occur: (1) Krishna makes his first appearance, (2) Draupadi rejects Karna as suitor, (3) Arjuna wins Draupadi as prize, (4) Arjuna defeats Karna, and Bhima defeats Shalya, and (5) Draupadi is taken away by the Pandavas to meet Kunti.

Krishna and Balarama make their first appearance in the story at Draupadi’s swayamvara. Here is where their lives begin to intersect with the Pandavas’.

So far, Krishna and Balarama have been busy chasing their own destinies, growing up as cowherds in Vrindavan, killing and ousting Karna to claim Mathura as their own, and then fleeing from Jarasandha’s threats to set up the seaside city of Dwaraka where they have succeeded in uniting the warring Yadava factions into one kingdom – called Anarta.

At Draupadi’s swayamvara, both of them arrive but announce that they’re not going to compete for Draupadi.

The other important event that happens here is the rejection of Karna by Draupadi. This lays the foundation of their relationship, which comes to an unfortunate boil during the dice game.

In Arjuna winning Draupadi’s hand, Drupada’s plan comes into fruition. Arjuna and Bhima then ward off challenges from two suitors: Karna with bow and arrow, Shalya with mace.

After tensions have died down somewhat, the Pandavas take Draupadi back to their hut – and they’re followed secretly by Krishna and Balarama. Also following them is Dhrishtadyumna, who wishes to ascertain the identity of his sister’s husband.

Detailed Answer: What Happens during Draupadi’s Swayamvara?

What Happens during Draupadi’s Disrobing?

The disrobing of Draupadi is the most dramatic scene in the Mahabharata. During this, Yudhishthir first loses himself and then stakes Draupadi as pawn during a dice game. Karna, after debating with Vikarna and concluding that Draupadi is now a slave, commands Duhsasana to forcefully disrobe her. She is saved by Krishna first, and then by Vidura.

The main thrust of Draupadi’s disrobing scene is a moral question: does a man who has lost himself (Yudhishthir) have the right to then pledge and lose his wife (Draupadi)?

In saying ‘lost himself’, we may apply the literal meaning that Yudhishthir has himself become a slave. But there is also the metaphorical suggestion of being intoxicated by gambling.

(Though it is actually incorrect to say that Yudhishthir was not in full control of his senses at this time, Draupadi would not have seen it that way.)

Arguing on Draupadi’s behalf – and saying that Yudhishthir did not have a right to pledge her – is Vikarna, one of Duryodhana’s brothers. Ironically, one of the Kauravas is speaking up for Draupadi’s honour, and by extension the honour of the Kurus.

Dismissing his points haughtily and mounting a case against Draupadi is Karna, who further goes on to suggest that Draupadi deserves to be treated like a prostitute because she has already taken (at least) five paramours.

In the resulting melee, Duhsasana advances to disrobe Draupadi, but is thwarted once by the divine intervention of Krishna.

Later, Vidura puts a stop to proceedings by exhorting Dhritarashtra to intervene in the matter. Listening to Vidura characterize Draupadi as the embodiment of Kuru honour, the blind king is moved to remorse, and he gives back everything that the Pandavas have lost.

Draupadi therefore emerges from this scene the victor, having rescued herself and her husbands from ruin.

Detailed Answer: What Happens during Draupadi’s Disrobing?

Did Draupadi have children?

Draupadi has five children – all of them sons. She has one son with each of the five Pandavas. Their names are Prativindhya (with Yudhishthir), Sutasoma (with Bhimasena), Shrutakarma (with Arjuna), Satanika (with Nakula) and Shrutasena (with Sahadeva). Together, her sons are known as Upapandavas.

Draupadi’s destiny from her previous life is not only to marry five men but also to have sons with them. Accordingly, soon after her wedding to the Pandavas, and after Yudhishthir has been crowned emperor, she has sons with all of them.

No record exists of Draupadi ever birthing a daughter, or any child other than the five Upapandavas.

The order of the Upapandavas’ birth is sometimes contentious because it is not mentioned explicitly in the Mahabharata. Some people insist that Draupadi gave birth to the five sons in order of the Pandavas’ seniority.

But it is equally likely that since her childbearing years coincide with Arjuna’s twelve-year exile, Draupadi has Shrutakarma last, after all the other Pandava brothers have brought forth their progeny through her.

Therefore, she has to wait twelve years in order to have a child with Arjuna.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi have children?

Did Draupadi insult Duryodhana?

There is no evidence that Draupadi insults Duryodhana when he falls into the pool at Yudhishthir’s palace. She does arrive laughing among her companions just as Duryodhana emerges from the water. But later, as Duryodhana complains to Dhritarashtra about the incident, he lies that Draupadi laughed at him with intent to ridicule.

It is often considered a fact that Draupadi laughs at Duryodhana when he falls into a cleverly disguised water body at Maya’s hall of illusions. But the reality is that Draupadi is not even present at the time.

She only arrives on the scene as Duryodhana is being helped out of the water by one of the Pandavas’ attendants. She is accompanied by her companions. They are all laughing about something. As soon as they see Duryodhana, they stop laughing.

Among the Pandavas, Bhimasena is described as having laughed uproariously at Duryodhana’s plight. But after a brief moment of mirth, even he calls for a servant to help his cousin into some warm clothes.

However, after his return to Hastinapur, Duryodhana intends to use this incident as a tool to poison Dhritarashtra’s mind against the Pandavas. So in his narration of events, Draupadi is described as having pointed and laughed at him.

It is, of course, also possible that this lie on Duryodhana’s part is unintentional. His memory of the scene might have had Draupadi and Bhima laughing at him with contempt.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi insult Duryodhana?

Did Draupadi sleep with all Pandavas?

Yes. Draupadi has five sons in all, one with each of the Pandavas. So one can conclude that she must have slept with each brother at least once. In order to establish fatherhood, during her childbearing years, the Pandavas take turns visiting Draupadi exclusively until she falls pregnant, and after each birth the cycle repeats.

This has given rise to the theory that Draupadi became wife to each Pandava brother in turn over and over throughout their marriage. While this might have been roughly true during her childbearing time, we do not know if the arrangement persisted otherwise.

The agreement that the Pandavas do have between one another is that Draupadi should be shared by all five brothers amicably; this means that when one of the brothers approaches her and finds her in the private company of another, the first will retreat and try again later.

If this seems haphazard and irregular, it is because it is. There is good reason to believe that outside of the reproductive sex that Draupadi had with the five Pandavas, she was sexually available only for Yudhishthir’s pleasure – if that.

Since the Mahabharata does not give us any details about the Pandavas’ sex lives, all kinds of speculations are allowed. We must also therefore consider it possible that their marriage did not have a sexual component to it.

In other words, my suggestion is that their marriage – outside of the five childbirths – is a platonic one.

Detailed Answer: How was Draupadi shared between the Pandavas?

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.

It is Yudhishthir’s opinion – one he voices at the very end, when Draupadi falls to her death at the base of Mount Sumeru – that Draupadi has always loved Arjuna more than any other man.

The text delivers this judgement in a declarative tone, as if believing Yudhishthir is the speaker of truth. Neither Bhima nor any of the other Pandavas think it right to question him.

But of course, a reader might ask: How does Yudhishthir know about Draupadi’s love? And how does Yudhishthir – or anyone – measure a woman’s love for one man relative to her love for other men?

Unless Draupadi has confided in Yudhishthir about her secret – that yes, she indeed did love Arjuna the most – there is no way Yudhishthir can know for certain. At best, he is only guessing.

As guesses go, this is not a bad guess. There are very good reasons for Draupadi loving Arjuna more intensely than she did the rest of them. But Yudhishthir cannot have known this as a fact.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi love Arjuna the most?

Did Draupadi insult Karna?

During her swayamvara, when she sees Karna about to try his luck at meeting the challenge posed by the archery test, Draupadi exercises her right to reject him. Whether or not an explanation is warranted, she offers one. ‘I do not intend to marry a Sutaputra,’ she says. This has the effect of publicly insulting Karna.

We must note right at the outset that this sort of public ridicule is not new for Karna. He has been derogatorily called Sutaputra all his life. But the difference is that not long before Draupadi’s swayamvara, Karna has been crowned king of Anga.

To be insulted as a Sutaputra by a maiden at her groom-choosing – while also carrying the title of a king – must have indeed hurt.

Karna does laugh and shake his head at Draupadi’s words, but he does respect her wishes. He does not make a bid – like Bhishma – to abduct her or to challenge the other suitors.

Nor does anyone in the room – from among sages, kings, commonfolk – rise to speak on his behalf. Not even Duryodhana argues that Karna has every right to enter an open competition.

Regardless, the incident leaves a sour taste in Karna’s mouth. One expects he seethes with quiet anger at Draupadi ever since. His particular cruelty toward Draupadi during the dice game is probably an attempt to avenge this slight.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi insult Karna?

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.

In order to guess at how Draupadi felt about Abhimanyu, we have to examine the context surrounding the relationship shared by Arjuna, Subhadra and Draupadi.

Subhadra, as the sister of Krishna, is often considered Arjuna’s favourite wife. His other consorts, Ulupi and Chitrangada, remain at their fathers’ places after their sons are born. Subhadra is the only one who comes to live at Indraprastha at the end of Arjuna’s exile.

During the first meeting between Subhadra and Draupadi, the latter uses harsh words to insult Subhadra. Though we’re told that the two of them reconcile later, a certain amount of frostiness is to be expected between the two co-wives.

In addition to this, Arjuna appears to be more smitten by Abhimanyu, his son by Subhadra, than he is by Shrutakarma. There may be multiple reasons for this – who can explain a father’s partiality? – but for Draupadi it must have felt like another betrayal.

The fact that Arjuna teaches Abhimanyu – and not Shrutakarma – how to enter the Chakra Vyuha is further evidence of this bias he exhibits toward Krishna’s nephew.

All of this hints at a certain frostiness between Draupadi and Abhimanyu. By all means they would have been cordial with one another. But let’s say that Draupadi would not have mourned the death of Abhimanyu as bitterly as she later weeps over the deaths of the Upapandavas.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi love Abhimanyu?

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.

On the other hand, he also offers Draupadi as a bribe (without her consent) to Karna toward the end of the story, in a bid to make Karna switch loyalties from the Kaurava to the Pandava side.

Draupadi’s own 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.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi love Krishna?

Did Draupadi go to heaven?

Draupadi fails to reach heaven in her mortal body for the sin of loving Arjuna more than her other husbands. However, by the time Yudhishthir reaches heaven himself, he sees Draupadi and the other Pandavas seated in Indra’s hall. So Draupadi does reach heaven, but after dying and serving out punishments for her sins.

There are two ways in which a person is said to be able to ‘reach heaven’.

The first, more common method is that after dying, one is taken to hell to serve out a short period of punishment for one’s sins, after which one is brought to heaven to reside permanently.

(If your sins far outweigh your virtues, you make the reverse journey: you go to heaven for a short period as reward for your few good deeds, and then you’re taken permanently to hell.)

The second – more exalted – method is that if you’ve lived a sufficiently virtuous life, you will be granted access to heaven in your mortal body, without having to first experience the suffering of death.

This second method is what the Pandavas and Draupadi seek for themselves. But only Yudhishthir succeeds in achieving it. The rest of them – Draupadi included – have to first experience death, after which they’re taken where they deserve to be.

Draupadi’s big sin is that she was not able to love all of her five husbands equally. For this, she is the first among the six to die. After her death, she is taken to hell for a short period to atone for her sin. By the time Yudhishthir enters heaven, she has already taken her place in Indra’s hall.

Detailed Answer: Did Draupadi go to heaven?

Why did Draupadi vastraharan happen?

Draupadi’s vastraharan happens due to three reasons: (1) Yudhishthir loses himself before he loses Draupadi, (2) Draupadi frames the conversation as a legal point as opposed to an emotional one, and (3) Karna argues conclusively that Draupadi is both a slave and a prostitute; therefore she ought to be undressed in public.

If there had been a slight difference in the order in which Yudhishthir loses his five family members, things may have turned out differently. Consider, for instance, if he had lost Draupadi before he lost himself.

In that situation, Draupadi would not have raised the issue of whether she had or had not been rightfully lost.

Regardless of when and how Yudhishthir lost Draupadi, if she had taken care to frame the conversation differently from the outset, the question of her disrobing would not have arisen.

When she is summoned to the hall, if she had addressed Dhritarashtra and said, ‘I am the daughter-in-law of the Kuru house, Your Majesty. Why am I being treated this way?’ that would have led to a different debate and probably a different outcome.

(Indeed, at the end, it is precisely this frame that Vidura employs in winning Dhritarashtra’s contrition.)

Even if the first two incidents had occurred as they did, if Karna had not risen to argue against Vikarna about Draupadi’s rights and character, or if he had stopped short of calling her a prostitute, even then her vastraharan might have been avoided.

These are the three main reasons, then, for Draupadi’s disrobing – the fact that Yudhishthir lost himself before losing her, the fact that she framed the point of debate as a legal one, and the fact that Karna successfully proved her a slave and a prostitute.

Detailed Answer: Why did Draupadi Vastraharan happen?

Was Draupadi arrogant?

Draupadi is often portrayed in popular culture as possessing a fiery temperament. Though some of her actions – especially early on – can be termed arrogant, she displays remarkable dignity and endurance in suffering with her husbands. While arrogance may be part of her character, she is also kind, loyal, dutiful and well-versed in matters of Dharma.

Three incidents are usually cited to make the case that Draupadi is arrogant:

  • She rejects Karna and publicly humiliates him during her swayamvara.
  • She laughs at Duryodhana when he falls into a pool at Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya.
  • She welcomes Subhadra with cruel words when she first meets him.

In the first instance, it is entirely possible that she was behaving that way under instructions from Drupada, who was keen to prevent Karna from participating in the groom-choosing process. The second incident did not happen as stated by Duryodhana; in reality, Draupadi is not even present when Duryodhana falls.

The third is true, but her behaviour is understandable given that she has had to wait for twelve years for Arjuna only to see him return with another woman.

On the other hand, we see plenty of evidence of her loyalty – with Kichaka and Jayadratha – of her dignity – when asking for boons from Dhritarashtra – and her self-respect – in asking the assembly whether Yudhishthir held any rights over her or not.

She also debates with Yudhishthir time and again during their exile on various matters of scriptural truth, which suggests that she has read widely and deeply enough to engage with another person intelligently on a range of topics.

Having said all this, we must also admit that Draupadi is a princess. Perhaps the most beautiful and desirable woman of her age. A certain amount of arrogance in her personality is to be expected.

Detailed Answer: Was Draupadi arrogant?

Was Draupadi jealous of Subhadra?

Draupadi reacts with jealousy when she first meets Subhadra. This happens during Arjuna’s return to Indraprastha after his twelve-year exile. Draupadi has been waiting to meet him, but on discovering that he has returned with a wife, she lashes out with anger. However, Draupadi and Subhadra do become friends over time.

Draupadi’s initial cruelty toward Subhadra is understandable for the following reasons:

  • She has not seen Arjuna – her favourite husband – for twelve years. Now that she is all set to welcome him home, she realizes that he is bringing home another woman.
  • Arjuna’s ostensible goal on his exile was to observe the vow of chastity. Ironically, he marries three women and has sons with all three of them during this period. Draupadi is right to be angry at this flagrant disregard for vows.
  • Draupadi must be annoyed that despite being the first to be won by Arjuna, she is the last to have a chance to have a child with him. Ulupi, Chitrangada and Subhadra all beat her to it.
  • Draupadi’s annoyance is further exacerbated by the fact that despite winning her himself, Arjuna is the last among the brothers to have a child with her. Yudhishthir, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva beat him to it.

With all these annoyances bubbling under the surface, Draupadi welcomes Subhadra with harsh words and insinuates that the princess of Dwaraka had seduced Arjuna away from his vow.

This jealousy slowly morphs into friendship as she gives birth to Shrutakarma with Arjuna, but Arjuna’s continued insistence at being partial to Subhadra and Abhimanyu gives Draupadi a constant reason to be just a little angry with her younger co-wife.

Was Draupadi characterless?

Draupadi is accused as characterless by Karna, for the fact that she has taken five husbands. According to scriptures of the time, a woman is considered a harlot if she takes five or more lovers during her life. But Draupadi is considered a woman of very high honour despite this fact because of her dignity, composure and self-respect.

If we take the scriptural definition of harlot as truth, then Karna is right in saying that Draupadi is a woman of low character. In the same way, Kunti – who takes five lovers herself during her life – ought to be considered the same way.

Ironically, by the same definition that Karna applies to Draupadi, his own mother can be accused of being a whore. In Kunti’s case, though, this information is kept secret. With Draupadi, the fact that she has five husbands is common knowledge.

Despite this, Draupadi is considered the very epitome of virtue. Among the reasons are the following:

  • Draupadi’s marriage to the Pandavas happened due to decisions taken by people around her. She did not seek to be wife to five husbands. Therefore, it is to be commended that Draupadi risked being considered a prostitute in order to honour the wishes of the elders around her.
  • Draupadi displays exemplary conduct in the toughest of times. At the dice game, for example, when Dhritarashtra grants her a wish, she asks for her husbands’ freedom before her own.
  • In the Virata Parva, when she is forced to enter the royal house of Matsya as a Sairandhri, she places a condition with Queen Sudeshna that she will not consent to visit the bedchambers of the king or of any nobleman.

From the moment of her wedding to the moment of her last breath, Draupadi remains utterly loyal toward her husbands. Among all their wives, she is the only one who shares in all their troubles.

Due to all of these reasons, despite Karna’s attempt to paint her negatively, Draupadi is thought to be a woman of noble character.

Detailed Answer: Was Draupadi characterless?

How was Draupadi born?

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.

Because of the nature of her birth, Draupadi is sometimes called Yagnyaseni (she who is born of a yagnya).

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 fulfil 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.

Detailed Answer: How was Draupadi born?

How was Draupadi shared between the Pandavas?

The Pandavas’ arrangement for sharing Draupadi is a simple one: when one of the five brothers wishes to spend time alone with Draupadi, he is to approach her – only if she is alone. If he finds her with another brother, he is to retreat respectfully without disturbing their privacy.

In the early days of Yudhishthir’s rule as emperor, Narada arrives at his court and tells him the story of Sunda and Upasunda, two inseparable brothers who had been torn apart by mutual desire for Tilottama, the divine dancer.

Narada recommends to Yudhishthir that the Pandavas ought to come up with some agreement on how to share Draupadi.

The Pandavas immediately comply with the sage’s wishes. Their plan is relatively simple: whenever any of the brothers wishes to spend time with Draupadi and finds her in the company of someone else, he is to retreat without disturbing them in any way.

Arjuna violates this principle soon afterward in order to collect his Gandiva from Yudhishthir’s chambers, and as penance he inflicts upon himself a twelve-year exile.

To return to the Pandavas’ sharing rules with Draupadi, one assumes that they will have had a more elaborate arrangement when it came to siring sons with her. In order to make sure the parentage of each son is properly established, each Pandava would have had to take turns with her on a yearly basis – at least until she has given birth to all five Upapandavas.

Something of the sort would have been necessary to ensure that everyone knows whose son each Upapandava is.

Detailed Answer: How was Draupadi shared between the Pandavas?

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.

Detailed Answer: How was Draupadi related to Krishna?

How did Draupadi’s sons die?

Draupadi’s sons, the Upapandavas, die on the eighteenth night of the Mahabharata war, after the Pandavas and Krishna have announced themselves victors. Armed with Lord Shiva’s blessings, Ashwatthama unleashes a torrent of bloodshed on the sleeping Panchala and Somaka forces. Singlehandedly he kills them all.

After Bhima wins the final mace battle against Duryodhana, Krishna blows on his conch and declares that the Pandavas have won the war. He takes them to the bank of the river Oghavati to spend the night.

However, Duryodhana is not yet dead. He anoints Ashwatthama as the next commander of his army. With Kripa and Kritavarma by his side, the son of Drona sets out to raid the Pandava camp in the dead of the night.

Helping him in his quest is Lord Shiva himself, who imbues Ashwatthama with all the power of his ganas. Despite the fact that killing one’s enemy when he is sleeping is considered the lowest form of behaviour for a Kshatriya, Ashwatthama lets loose on the unsuspecting Panchalas and Somakas.

The Upapandavas are among the casualties of this dreadful night.

When news reaches Draupadi that her sons and kinsmen have been killed by Ashwatthama, she implores Bhimasena to avenge her. ‘The war is not finished,’ she says angrily, ‘until you’ve brought me his diadem.’

The Pandavas ride out in their chariots after Ashwatthama. After a battle, Bhima brings back Ashwatthama’s jewel as evidence that he has been defeated. Draupadi’s grief is thus somewhat satiated.

Detailed Answer: How did Draupadi’s sons die?

Was Draupadi a virgin?

Draupadi marries each of the Pandava brothers on subsequent days. On this occasion, Vyasa tells her that she will sleep with each brother on the day she marries him, but by his magic she will wake up each morning a virgin. If this power is permanent, then Draupadi remains a virgin throughout her life – even after she gives birth to five sons.

This concept of returning a maiden’s virginity after she has had sexual intercourse with a man is commonly found in the Mahabharata. Sage Parashara returns Satyavati’s virginity to her after giving birth to Vyasa with her.

Pritha, when she summons Surya in her innocence, is assured that her virginity will be returned to her after the son is born.

In the same way, Draupadi is also promised by Vyasa that her virginity will return each morning after she has slept with each of the five Pandava brothers during the five-day wedding. In essence, each of the Pandavas is marrying a virginal girl.

It is not clear what is meant by the word ‘virginity’ here. Does the man making this promise to a woman mean that her honour will be respected despite the indiscretion? Is it an assurance that her name will not be defiled in society because of the act?

Or does it actually mean that the woman’s hymen will grow back? If we assume the literal meaning, then we have to conclude that Draupadi has remained a virgin (as has Kunti) in a physical sense although she has experienced sex and has even borne children.

However, we should also admit the possibility that the meaning is purely metaphorical – that the man is saying, ‘Despite act with me, you will remain pure and unblemished. Neither me nor the child that will be born to us will tarnish your name in any way.’

If we assume this meaning, Draupadi is still a virgin because she is honest, fearless, and loyal to the Pandavas. She is considered the most desirable and yet the most virtuous woman of her age. In that sense, she is ‘virginal’.

Detailed Answer: Was Draupadi a virgin?

Why is Draupadi blamed for the Mahabharata war?

The incident of Draupadi’s disrobing at the dice game is the pivotal moment that launches all of the Pandavas’ hate. Draupadi insists on revenge and war throughout their exile even when the Pandavas consider peace. The war is fought with the intention of delivering vengeance to Draupadi. Therefore, she is considered most responsible for the Mahabharata war.

Wars happen when one kingdom wishes to appropriate wealth that another kingdom has claimed as its own. What constitutes ‘wealth’ changes with the times, but in Vedic society, it was land, gold, cows – and women.

Draupadi – like all the women of her time – did not have any agency in the matter of the Kurukshetra war. It is the men that surround her that decide whether a war ought to be fought, where it ought to be fought, and whose purposes it should serve.

The likes of Krishna, Duryodhana, Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, Vidura, Yudhishthir – these are the primary agents that made the decision to fight the war.

Draupadi is only the convenient excuse. As the most desirable ‘piece of property’ in the world, it is expected that men quarrel to obtain her. But it is not a state that she desires. It is a cross she is destined to bear.

On the other hand, Draupadi plays an active role in keeping the hate in the Pandavas’ heart aflame during the long exile years. Whenever she sees her husbands’ will flagging, she rouses them by reminding them of their vows and of her dishonour.

At the end of the war, after the Upapandavas are killed, Draupadi forces the (now jaded) Pandavas to take up arms again and avenge their sons’ deaths.

While the Pandavas do wish to get their kingdom back, and while that is the primary reason to fight the Kauravas, it is also true that ‘protecting Draupadi’s honour’ is also an important driving force.

Detailed Answer: Why is Draupadi blamed for the Mahabharata war?

Why was Draupadi called Panchali?

Draupadi was called Panchali because she is the ‘daughter’ of the kingdom of Panchala. This tradition of naming a woman after the kingdom she represents is a common one. Other notable names that are derived this way in the Mahabharata include Gandhari (princess of Gandhara), Madri (princess of Madra) and Kunti (princess of Kunti).

Princesses are often given a name by which they are known during their childhood and early youth. But after they are married, they commonly adopt the title of being the daughter of their birth kingdom.

For instance, Kunti is known by the name of Pritha during her early years, but after marriage to Pandu she is almost exclusively called Kunti. In the case of Gandhari and Madri, we’re not even told their given names.

Draupadi’s given name is Krishnaa, to describe the dark complexion of her skin. But after her marriage to the Pandavas, she is known either as Draupadi (‘daughter of Drupada’) or as Panchali (‘daughter of Panchala’).

This practice of adopting one’s birth kingdom’s name as one’s own appears to be more common with firstborn princesses. Younger princesses, though equally deserving of the title, appear to use their given names instead after their marriages.

An example of this is Srutashrava, the younger sister of Kunti and princess of Shurasena, who gets married to Damaghosha of Chedi and yet keeps her maiden name. (She is not called Shuraseni or some such.)

Why is Draupadi called Krishnaa?

Draupadi is called Krishnaa to describe her dark complexion. In fact, this is the name given to her by Drupada when she takes birth as a grown woman in the sacrificial fire. Krishna of Dwaraka is also called by this name for the same reason. One of the many names of Arjuna is also ‘Krishna’, referring to the darkness of his skin.

Giving a dark-skinned child the name of ‘Krishna’ appears to be common practice in those days. Whether this is a name or a ‘descriptor’ tough to ascertain, because the same character is called different things at different times.

Though Draupadi is given the moniker of Krishnaa, we must note that she is almost never called this. The same is true for Arjuna. This is probably to ensure that there is no confusion with Krishna of Dwaraka, who seems to have appropriated the word as his name.

So when someone says ‘Krishna’, they almost always mean Krishna of Dwaraka. When Draupadi is referred to with this word, an extra ‘a’ is added to the end to differentiate her from the other Krishna.

Why was Draupadi exiled?

When a king is exiled, his queen is expected to accompany him and share in his misery. We see this in the case of Sita and Rama, and also with Damayanti and Nala. Though the Pandavas have other wives, only Draupadi occupies the position of ‘queen’. Her duty, therefore, is to go with Yudhishthir and make a home wherever they live.

This, one might say, is the flip side of the power and status that comes with being queen or ‘first wife’ to a king. While the younger queens do not get the same privileges, they also do not have the expectation to accompany the king during his miserable moments.

Subhadra, for instance, does not need to go with Arjuna into the forest. Indeed, it would be better for Arjuna that she doesn’t. She therefore goes to Dwaraka and lives there for the thirteen years.

We must note here that Draupadi goes into exile in the capacity of Yudhishthir’s queen, not as the wife of the Pandavas. The Pandavas have numerous wives; none of them are needed to accompany their husbands.

Similarly, in the Ramayana, Sita – in her capacity as queen – is expected to go with Rama while Urmila, the wife of Lakshmana, stays behind at the royal palace in Ayodhya.

Why does Yudhishthir gamble Draupadi?

At the dice game, Yudhishthir first stakes and loses all his four brothers, and then himself. He says to Shakuni, ‘I have lost everything.’ But Shakuni reminds him that he still has Draupadi. It is then that Yudhishthir – cornered into playing the game to the end – stakes Draupadi and loses her.

Yudhishthir says yes to the dice game invitation despite knowing that the Kauravas probably have something wicked planned for them. He takes a vow shortly after his ascension to kingship that he will always be conciliatory toward all of Dhritarashtra’s instructions and wishes.

He does this with the intention of removing all conflict between himself and the Kauravas. But ironically, this pliant behaviour plays into the hands of Duryodhana and Shakuni, and gives rise to events that lead directly to Draupadi’s disrobing.

A normal Yudhishthir would have quit the dice game long before the stakes became serious. He would not have allowed Shakuni to exploit him, nor would he have said yes to the game in the first place.

But because of his vow, he waits for Dhritarashtra to call an end to the game. Failing that, the rules dictate that he must play until one of the players is stripped of all his wealth. Yudhishthir obeys the rule to the letter because of respect for Dhritarashtra.

As for Draupadi, by claiming that he has lost everything, Yudhishthir signals to Shakuni that he does not consider Draupadi his property anymore. But Shakuni, eager to remove all doubts in the matter, ‘reminds’ him that he still has Draupadi.

Whether Yudhishthir is right or wrong to pledge Draupadi in this way, the assembly debates at length shortly after Shakuni is declared the winner of the game.

Detailed Answer: Why does Yudhishthir gamble Draupadi?

Why did Draupadi go to hell?

Draupadi goes to hell for a short period of time in order to atone for her sin of loving Arjuna more intensely despite being required to love all five Pandavas equally. However, by the time Yudhishthir reaches heaven, Draupadi has already finished her period of punishment and is seen sitting in Indra’s hall.

Draupadi’s biggest sin, Yudhishthir tells Bhima, is that she loved Arjuna more than she loved the rest of them. It is debatable whether this is punishable by a stint in hell. After all, all the Pandavas are married to multiple women besides Draupadi. Are they held to a similar standard with respect to love?

For instance, Subhadra is often described as Arjuna’s favourite wife. Why is this not a sin on his part?

Regardless, it appears that the gods agree with Yudhishthir. We are not told this explicitly, but we are to assume that after she falls and dies at the foot of the mountain, Draupadi is taken to hell for a short period of time to atone for this crime.

In the same way, the remaining four Pandavas also fall to their deaths and serve punishments in hell. By the time Yudhishthir reaches heaven in his mortal body, all of them are already present in heaven having finished their sentences.

As neutral observers, Draupadi’s public rejection and humiliation of Karna may strike us as more worthy of punishment. But the officially quoted reason for her fall is her love for Arjuna.

Detailed Answer: Why did Draupadi go to hell?

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.

In any case, by withdrawing publicly from competing at the swayamvara, both Balarama and Krishna signal their lack of interest in pursuing Draupadi as bride.

For all these reasons, Draupadi does not end up marrying Krishna.

Detailed Answer: Why did Draupadi not marry Krishna?

Why did Bhishma not help Draupadi?

During her disrobing, Draupadi does not ask the Kuru elders for help. She asks them to resolve a legal riddle, namely: is Yudhishthir within his rights to pledge and lose his wife in a dice game after he has lost himself first? In response to this, Bhishma says that the ways of Dharma are subtle, and that he is unable to answer the question.

Had Draupadi come into the assembly and begged for Bhishma’s protection, he would have certainly helped her against Duryodhana and Duhsasana. But for Draupadi, it would have meant swallowing her pride and admitting that her five husbands – supposedly the most powerful of warriors – have been rendered impotent.

Draupadi therefore chooses to frame the conversation in legal terms. She hopes to argue that since Yudhishthir no longer owned himself at the time of pledging her, he cannot have owned her. And therefore, she is still queen of Indraprastha. Not a slave.

Whether she thought this through or not, we don’t know. But we can surmise that Draupadi hoped to garner the support of Bhishma, Drona and Vidura (at the very least) with this line of argument.

Once the elders decide that Draupadi is still queen of Indraprastha, she can then speak to Dhritarashtra in that capacity and have the entire dice game annulled. Perhaps that was her plan.

But Bhishma refuses to commit either way on the legal question. While Draupadi has a point that Yudhishthir was a slave when he pledged her, it is also true that slaves have wives and children over whom they have rights.

After Bhishma hesitates, and after none of the Kuru elders lean either way, it takes an argument between Vikarna and Karna to resolve Draupadi’s question. Unfortunately for her, the answer is not what she has been hoping to hear.

Why did the Pandavas not save Draupadi?

The Pandavas are unable to save Draupadi during her disrobing because by then, they have all lost their freedoms and have become Duryodhana’s slaves. Yudhishthir loses all his four brothers one by one first, then loses himself, and then pledges Draupadi. When she is dragged to the hall, therefore, the Pandavas are helpless.

On multiple occasions during the incident, Bhima loses his temper and almost launches himself at Duryodhana, but he is held back by Arjuna who is taking his cue from Yudhishthir.

Yudhishthir, for his part, sits with his head bowed in a supplicant’s pose. He is determined to follow – right to the grim end – the vow he has taken to comply with all of Dhritarashtra’s wishes.

(The reason Yudhishthir takes this vow is to prevent Vyasa’s prophecy from coming true. See: Mahabharata Episode 17: The Game of Dice.)

This is the first time in the story that Draupadi’s honour is seriously compromised, and the Pandavas are rendered helpless by Yudhishthir’s vow. The Pandavas learn their lesson from this: in the future, whenever Draupadi is threatened – like with Kichaka and Jayadratha – her husbands always come to her rescue.

Incidentally, during the dice game, it is Draupadi who saves the Pandavas by asking Dhritarashtra for their freedom when the blind king offers her a boon. This prompts Karna to grudgingly admit: ‘Today Panchali has saved the Pandavas like a boat rescues a fisherman from a storm.’

This incident also earns Draupadi the (unfair) epithet: nathavati anathavat – which means ‘she who has husbands but is still an orphan’.

How was Draupadi saved?

Draupadi is saved during her disrobing by the appearance of several natural bad omens – such as cries of vultures, swirling winds and so on. These frighten Dhritarashtra into thinking that he will be cursed if he allows the charade to go on any further. So he calls an end to the game and grants Draupadi two wishes.

Draupadi’s honour is saved on two occasions during her disrobing. On the first, Krishna intervenes in godly fashion when Duhsasana approaches her with the intention of undressing her. Krishna causes a number of garments to appear magically one after the other to cover Draupadi’s body, even as Duhsasana frantically pulls at each one.

After this, Vidura tries to reason with Dhritarashtra about the sin of treating the house’s daughter-in-law in this manner. Duhsasana once again approaches Draupadi menacingly.

Dhritarashtra does not seem inclined to take any steps toward stopping any of this, but right at that moment a number of bad omens make an appearance. Vultures cry. Donkeys bray. A strong gust of wind blows from the south.

These signs compel Dhritarashtra into agreeing with Vidura and calling off the dice game. He begs for Draupadi’s forgiveness and grants her two wishes to ask for anything she wants.

Draupadi asks for the freedom of Yudhishthir and for all his lost wealth to be returned as her first wish. For her second wish she asks that her other four husbands are made free men. Thus, she rescues the Pandavas.

Why is Draupadi called pativrata?

Draupadi is considered a pativrata despite the fact that she has five husbands because: (1) she is fiercely loyal to them at all times, (2) she participates equally in their fortunes and misfortunes, and (3) she rescues the Pandavas after they have been enslaved by Duryodhana during the dice game.

Karna’s assertion during the dice game is that Draupadi is no better than a prostitute for the sole reason that she had taken five men as husbands. No one argues against him at this juncture, suggesting that this is a commonly held opinion of her.

Up until that point, it is true that Draupadi has done nothing to earn the title of a pati vrata. Her role in the life of the Pandavas has been decidedly passive. She had been won by Arjuna at her swayamvara. It was decided for her that she would marry all five brothers. And she became queen to Yudhishthir when the latter became an emperor.

She has borne sons to each of the five Pandavas, and over twelve years she has lived a rich, privileged life.

It is entirely possible that around the time the Pandavas arrive in Hastinapur for the dice game, certain large sections of commonfolk who have not seen or known her would have thought of Draupadi as nothing more than a glorified prostitute.

But starting from the incident of her disrobing, Draupadi begins to earn her stripes. She rescues the Pandavas from a life of slavery. She accompanies her husbands into exile and takes part in their tribulations. She is fiercely faithful to them at all times – as we see with Kichaka and Jayadratha.

By the end of the exile period, Draupadi’s reputation is that of a virtuous wife who only happens to have five husbands.

Detailed Answer: Why is Draupadi called Pativrata?

Why was Draupadi shared among the Pandavas?

Draupadi is shared among the Pandavas because: (1) Yudhishthir feels that if she were to marry any one of the brothers, the others would be smitten by jealousy, (2) in her previous life, Draupadi got a boon from Shiva that she would marry five husbands, and (3) Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna wish her to marry Yudhishthir and become his queen.

The often-quoted reason for the sharing of Draupadi is that Kunti unwittingly asks the Pandavas on their return from the swayamvara to ‘share whatever you have brought equally among yourselves’.

Some people like to portray Yudhishthir in bad light for the decision, accusing him of being jealous of Arjuna and of desiring Draupadi. In reality, Yudhishthir sees that all five brothers are equally smitten by Draupadi’s beauty, which means that if only one of them were to have her, the other four would feel deprived.

The only solution to keep the peace between the five brothers is that Draupadi should not be wedded to any of them, or that she should be wedded to all of them.

Since the first is not an option after Arjuna has won Draupadi at her swayamvara, Yudhishthir makes the second choice.

As it turns out, this is not an unpopular decision. Vyasa supports it and says that Draupadi has always been destined to marry five husbands. Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna also give their consent once they realize that as the first wife of Yudhishthir, Draupadi will earn much more wealth and status than she can ever hope to as the wife of Arjuna.

However, we do not know what Draupadi’s views are in this matter. No one seems to think it right to ask her.

Detailed Answer: Why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?

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.

Detailed Answer: Why did Krishna allow Draupadi Vastraharan?

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.

This would have suited the duo just fine, because after their immigration to the shore of the western ocean, they would have preferred to keep a low profile while they built the city of Dwaraka.

Eventually, they choose Draupadi’s swayamvara as their moment to emerge from their shells, 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 old was Draupadi during vastraharan?

Assuming Draupadi was sixteen when she got married, she would have been thirty years old during her vastraharan. This figure is contentious, and different assumptions made about the length of certain interludes between events will yield different results. All in all, one might reasonably say that Draupadi, during her disrobing, is no older than thirty five.

Questions about characters’ ages at various points in the Mahabharata story are tough to answer with accuracy because explicit information about passage of time is not always available.

In trying to place Draupadi’s age at the time of her disrobing, we will have to make the following assumptions:

  • What age was she when she was ‘born’ to Drupada? (Fifteen?)
  • What age was she when she was married to the Pandavas? (Sixteen?)
  • We know that Arjuna leaves on a twelve-year exile soon after Yudhishthir becomes king. Draupadi is therefore twenty eight when he returns.
  • How long did the Pandavas take to unify the world under Yudhishthir’s rule, and perform the Rajasuya? (Three years?) Draupadi is thirty one.
  • How long after the Rajasuya does the dice game happen? (The same year?)

With the above information, we can tentatively place Draupadi’s age during her disrobing at thirty one years old. Of course, one can easily begin with different assumptions, or enter different numbers for each of the questions and come up with any number that suits them.

All in all, though, most reasonable answers to the question ought to place Draupadi’s age between thirty and thirty five years old.

Detailed Answer: At what age did Draupadi die? A Complete Timeline

How was Draupadi’s married life?

Draupadi’s married life, by all accounts, is a happy and peaceful one. Early on in their marriage, the Pandavas draw up an arrangement to share Draupadi amicably, and follow those rules their whole lives. Ironically, it is during their exile that Draupadi succeeds in building exclusive relationships with her husbands because of the absence of the Pandavas’ other wives.

Draupadi’s married life – and more specifically the sexual details concerning it – has fascinated readers over the years. The fact that she bears each Pandava a son leaves no one in doubt that she has had sexual intercourse with each of the brothers at least once.

But beyond that, what can we say for sure? Hardly anything, as it turns out.

The Mahabharata is tight-lipped about any details concerning the conjugal details of Draupadi’s marriage. The picture that we’re given is one of bliss and harmony, so we can conclude that whatever arrangement the six of them have made for themselves has worked rather well.

Frankly, the nature of Draupadi’s sex life is no one else’s business but hers alone. Still, to satisfy the voyeur in all of us, we can make the following comments about it:

  • During her child-bearing years (i.e.: the five years she gave birth to each of the Upapandavas), Draupadi had to have been sexually exclusive only to the Pandava whose turn it is to father a child with her.
  • This would have been necessary to confirm the paternity of each Upapandava as he is born.
  • So for at least five years of their marriage, we can conclude that Draupadi was sexually exclusive to one Pandava at a time.
  • We must note here that sexual exclusivity does not mean romantic exclusivity. Even during these years, Draupadi would have allowed herself to be courted by any of her husbands for companionship and love.
  • While we’re on the topic, we must entertain the possibility that outside the activity necessary to produce the Upapandavas, the Pandavas and Draupadi were celibate. Abstinence would be the simplest solution to the ‘sharing’ problem.
  • Once again, we must note that abstinence from sex does not mean abstinence from all forms of lovemaking.

Regardless of the details of how the Pandavas shared Draupadi, by all accounts their marriage is a stable one. Though the Pandavas have other wives, it is Draupadi who walks by their side through thick and thin, and it is Draupadi who is present with them during their final journey.

In all senses of the word, then, we must say that Draupadi’s marriage was a success.

How did Draupadi manage five husbands?

When Satyabhama asks Draupadi how she manages five husbands, Draupadi gives the following recommendations to wives: (1) Set your wrath aside, (2) Consider your husband excitable as a child, (3) Make your feelings known by well-chosen words instead of tears, (4) Love your husband with all your heart, and (5) Keep private conversations private.

During the Draupadi-Satyabhama Samvaada Parva, Satyabhama asks Draupadi how she had managed to maintain healthy relationships with five men at the same time. She wonders if Draupadi makes use of some magical incantation or perfume to keep the Pandavas in order.

Draupadi laughs away the suggestion and tells Satyabhama that there are no shortcuts to marital bliss. But she makes the following five recommendations:

  • When I am serving the Pandavas (she says), I set my vanity and wrath aside. I do not let my jealousy show when I refer to their other wives, and I keep my facial expressions forever under control.
  • I communicate my feelings to them with well-chosen words, not with tears and anger.
  • I regard my husbands as poisonous snakes, excitable beyond measure by 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.
  • I love them with all my heart, and indeed, when any one of them is away for a period of time, I find that I yearn for his company. When your husband sees this kind of love in you, he overlooks many of your insufficiencies.
  • Above all, I make it a rule that all private conversations I have with any of my husbands remain private. I do not discuss them with anyone under any circumstances.

Detailed Answer: How did Draupadi manage five husbands?

Was Draupadi really disrobed?

Draupadi is actually not disrobed during the dice game despite Duhsasana trying on two separate occasions. The first time, Draupadi is rescued by Krishna’s divine intervention. The second time, just as Duhsasana is about to lay a hand on her, several bad natural omens appear and scare Dhritarashtra into calling a stop to proceedings.

Though we often refer to ‘Draupadi’s Disrobing’ as one of the main incidents of the Mahabharata, it is a bit of a misnomer. It is only an ‘attempted disrobing’ on part of the Kauravas. Draupadi is actually never rendered naked in the assembly hall.

Duhsasana does come close to unclothing Draupadi in two instances. The first time is when Karna commands him to treat Draupadi ‘as a prostitute should be treated’. As Draupadi’s garments slide off her body, however, new clothes appear magically at Krishna’s behest and cover Draupadi’s body.

Later, after Vidura’s passionate defence of Draupadi’s honour falls flat against Dhritarashtra’s grim silence, Duhsasana again advances on Draupadi to do his elder brother’s bidding. This time, protest comes from nature itself, with a number of inauspicious omens appearing all around them.

These scare Dhritarashtra enough to call Duhsasana off, and to beg Draupadi for forgiveness. He also grants her two wishes and implores her to ask for anything she wants.

When did Draupadi give birth to her sons?

The exact timing of the birth of the Upapandavas is unknown. But it is usually accepted that four of them (Prativindhya, Sutasoma, Satanika and Shrutasena) are born during the first four years of Yudhishthir’s reign as emperor. The birth of Shrutakarma, the son of Arjuna and Draupadi, occurs after Arjuna returns from his twelve-year exile.

A number of possibilities exist as to the order and timing of the birth of the Upapandavas. Here are a couple:

Draupadi gives birth to Prativindhya (with Yudhishthir) during their first year of marriage. During the second and third years, Sutasoma and Shrutakarma are fathered by Bhima and Arjuna respectively.

Sometime during the third year, Yudhisthir becomes emperor, and Arjuna leaves on his exile. Nakula and Sahadeva then father Satanika and Shrutasena one after the other.

If this scenario happened, then the five Upapandavas are born such that the order of their birth is the same as the order of their fathers’ births.

However, it is possible that Draupadi does not give birth to Prativindhya until after Yudhishthir becomes emperor – because it is not uncommon for kings to postpone children until they have won a few wars.

In this case, Draupadi gives birth to Prativindhya and Sutasoma in the first two years after Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya. But by the time it is Arjuna’s turn, he is already in exile. So Nakula and Sahadeva have their sons – Satanika and Shrutasena – in years three and four.

After that, there is an eight-year fallow period in which Draupadi waits for Arjuna.

Arjuna fathers his child – Shrutakarma – after his return. In this scenario, Shrutakarma is about nine years younger than Shrutasena, and is in fact the youngest of all of Arjuna’s sons.

Where did Draupadi go after death?

After her death, Draupadi goes to hell for a short amount of time to atone for her sin of loving Arjuna more than the rest of her husbands. After this, she is taken to heaven where she waits for Yudhishthir to arrive. By the time Yudhishthir is brought to Indra’s hall, Draupadi is seen sitting there in the manner of a goddess.

We must note that Draupadi’s journey after her death is not documented anywhere. All we know is that she is the first of the six to fall while attempting to scale Mount Sumeru at the end of the story.

We also know the reason for her fall: Yudhishthir explains to Bhima that her biggest sin was loving Arjuna more despite being duty-bound to be equally devoted to all five of them.

The next we see Draupadi, she welcomes Yudhishthir into heaven in Indra’s hall. She is seated upon a throne and is dressed like a goddess.

From these scenes, we can infer that Draupadi had been taken to hell after her death for a short period of retribution for her sins. Then she is brought to heaven, where she will presumably live for the rest of her afterlife.

Yama explains to Yudhishthir that this is the general template followed for everyone. For those who have been virtuous, they’re taken first to hell for a short period and then taken permanently to heaven. For those who have been sinful – like Duryodhana – they’re taken first to heaven for a short period (as reward for their few good deeds) and then taken permanently to hell.

Draupadi and the Pandavas follow the first path.

What did Draupadi say after vastraharan?

Draupadi receives two boons from Dhritarashtra after her vastraharan, by way of apology. Draupadi wishes for: (1) Yudhishthir to be freed from slavery, and (2) for Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva to be freed, and for everything they have lost in the dice game to be returned to them. After rescuing her husbands thus, she returns with them to Indraprastha.

Draupadi’s disrobing comes to a halt when Dhritarashtra, frightened by some inauspicious natural omens that appear in the middle of the day, decrees that the assembly will be dissolved with immediate effect.

He apologises to Draupadi and says, ‘I am shameful that you have had to suffer so much at the hands of my son, Panchali. Please ask me for two boons and I shall grant them to you.’

Draupadi first asks for Yudhishthir’s freedom, and then for the freedom of the four remaining Pandavas. Thus it is Draupadi who rescues her husbands from slavery, eliciting grudging admission from Karna that ‘Draupadi has become the boat that has saved the Pandavas in their ocean of distress.’

After this, Draupadi and the Pandavas – upon Dhritarashtra’s instruction – mount their chariots and return to Indraprastha.

Later, after the second dice game has been played and after the Pandavas are sent away on exile, Draupadi is shown to be weeping inconsolably – not for her own plight but for the future plight of all the wives and mothers of Hastinapur who will lose husbands and sons in the war that will be fought to avenge this day.

Detailed Answer: What did Draupadi say after vastraharan?

Did Draupadi cry for Karna?

There is no record of Draupadi showing any grief at Karna’s death. Even after Kunti reveals the secret of Karna’s birth to her sons and daughter-in-law, the Pandavas are smitten by despair. Yudhishthir goes as far as insulting his own mother, but Draupadi does not shed a tear.

Before it is known that Karna is actually a Pandava, his death does not bring about any remorse or grief among the Pandavas. Arjuna and Krishna celebrate Karna’s death because it makes a Pandava victory more of a certainty. Also, Karna dying means that Arjuna can be considered safe.

We do not know for certain how Draupadi reacted when she was given the news of Karna’s death. In all likelihood, she was gladdened that Arjuna has fulfilled his vow for her benefit.

Karna is one of Draupadi’s sworn enemies. She holds no sympathy for him in her heart.

However, one might expect that Draupadi might have softened in her feelings once she came to know that Karna is Kunti’s firstborn. The Pandavas are distraught at the news, and they complete Karna’s last rites as they would have for an elder brother.

But even at this time, Draupadi does not show any signs of grief. Yes, she plays her part as Yudhishthir’s wife in sending Karna along on his final journey, but she does not cry for him.

At what age did Draupadi die?

Assuming Draupadi was sixteen when she got married to the Pandavas, she would have been around eighty years old at the time of her death. Depending on assumptions one makes about the length of each interlude between significant events, Draupadi’s age would have been between seventy five and eighty five when she died.

The process of estimating the age of different characters at different times in the Mahabharata is fraught with subjective biases. This is because the ages of characters are seldom mentioned anywhere in the text, so we’re left with the option of making reasonable guesses to begin with and work from there.

For instance, if we are to build a timeline of Draupadi’s life, it might look like this:

  • Draupadi is ‘born’ to Drupada at the sacrificial ceremony. Assumption: she is fifteen at this time.
  • She gets married to the Pandavas at sixteen.
  • Assumption: Arjuna leaves on his twelve-year exile in the first year of Yudhishthir’s reign. By the time he returns, Draupadi is therefore twenty eight years old.
  • Assumption: Draupadi gives birth to Shrutakarma the following year, at age twenty nine.
  • Assumption: the Pandavas take two years to build Indraprastha and to conquer the world. Draupadi becomes queen of Indraprastha at thirty one.
  • Assumption: the dice game and Draupadi’s disrobing happens the same year. So at the beginning of the Pandavas’ exile, Draupadi is thirty one. (Incidentally, this is already past childbearing age for women of those times.)
  • Since the exile is thirteen years long, Draupadi is forty four years old by the time of Abhimanyu’s wedding to Uttara.
  • Assumption: the war of Kurukshetra happens the following year, when Draupadi is forty five.
  • After the Kurukshetra war ends, Yudhishthir rules for a period of thirty six years before giving up the throne and setting out on a ‘final journey’. Draupadi is therefore eighty one years old at this point.
  • Assumption: the Pandavas and Draupadi take a year to circumnavigate the subcontinent. At the time of their arrival at the base of Mount Sumeru, Draupadi is eighty two years old.

As you can see, there are plenty of assumptions built into the above timeline. Another reader may insert different numbers into the equation and come up with slightly altered answers.

But regardless, we can conclude with reasonable certainty that Draupadi is between seventy five and eighty five years old when she dies.

Detailed Answer: At what age did Draupadi die? A Complete Timeline

How did Draupadi die?

Draupadi falls to her death soon after she and the Pandavas begin scaling Mount Meru in the hope of entering heaven while staying in their mortal bodies. When Bhima asks Yudhishthir why Draupadi had fallen, Yudhishthir replies: ‘Because despite being wedded to all five of us, she was most in love with Arjuna.

Despite this assertion from Yudhishthir, we do not know for sure whether:

  • Draupadi indeed loved Arjuna more than she loved any of the other Pandavas,
  • This was a sin worthy enough to be punished over and above the sins of her husbands, which were considerably more serious,
  • The Pandavas were held to the same standard as Draupadi. In other words, did the Pandavas all love Draupadi the most among all the wives they had?

Draupadi serves a short stint in hell for her sins. But by the time Yudhishthir reaches heaven, she is already present at Indra’s court in all her finery, eager to welcome her husband.

Notwithstanding all of this judgement, Draupadi is still considered a pati vrata – a virtuous wife.

Detailed Answer: How did Draupadi die?

Draupadi and Krishna: What was their relationship 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.

Some modern storytellers have speculated that there may have been a romantic angle to the Draupadi-Krishna friendship, but there is simply no evidence to support this thesis.

On the contrary, Draupadi is known to be fiercely loyal to the Pandavas. It would not have entered her mind to ever think of Krishna – or any other man – with erotic intent.

Indeed, Draupadi relies on Krishna repeatedly for support – especially when she suspects that the Pandavas are unable to help her. Krishna, for his part, plays the role of ‘elder brother’ to perfection, in the same way he does with Subhadra.

While Draupadi regards Krishna with unconditional trust, the feelings that Krishna has toward Draupadi are more complex.

Yes, he has affection toward Draupadi. But he also knows that Draupadi is Subhadra’s rival for Arjuna’s love. He knows that the sons of Draupadi are rivals to Abhimanyu for the throne of Indraprastha.

So Krishna is not above using Draupadi as a political pawn. This is most clearly seen when he offers Draupadi – without her consent – as prize to Karna if the latter promises to betray Duryodhana in favour of Yudhishthir.

(Detailed Answer: Draupadi and Karna: What was their relationship like?)

What are the other names of Draupadi?

Draupadi is known by plenty of other names in the Mahabharata. Here are a few of them:

  • Krishnaa – because she is dark-complexioned.
  • Draupadi – because she is the daughter of Drupada.
  • Panchali – because she is the daughter (princess) of Panchala.
  • Yagnyaseni – because she is born in a sacrifice performed by Yagnyasena (Drupada).
  • Parshati – because she is the descendant of Prishata, the father of Drupada.
  • Ayonija – because she is not born of a woman’s womb.
  • Sairandhri – because she disguises herself as one during the Virata Parva.
  • Agni Putri – because she is born of fire.
  • Nathavati – because she has many husbands.
  • Nityayauvani – because she is thought to be eternally young.
  • Sumadhyama – because she is slender-waisted.
  • Mriganayani – because she has eyes that resemble a deer’s.

(Detailed Answer: What are the other names of Draupadi?)

Draupadi and Arjuna: What was their relationship like?

Draupadi loves Arjuna more than she loves the other Pandavas, because it is Arjuna who wins her hand. Also, she knows that her swayamvara was only a pretext to lure Arjuna out of hiding. But Arjuna, on the other hand, always thinks of Draupadi as a ‘prize’ he has won for himself and his brothers. His feelings for her are more aligned with duty and loyalty than with love.

The relationship between Draupadi and Arjuna is complicated by the fact that Arjuna chooses to share Draupadi with his four brothers – without Draupadi’s consent.

Draupadi is right to think of Arjuna as her ‘real’ husband, because he is the one who wins her hand, and he is the one for whom Drupada arranges his daughter’s swayamvara in the first place.

Draupadi’s love for Arjuna is intensified by the seventeen years (in total) of separation that she endures with him. Arjuna leaves for a twelve-year exile soon after their marriage, and then on a five-year quest during the Pandavas’ exile.

Arjuna, on the other hand, does not seem to think of Draupadi as his lover at any point. Right from the beginning, he is told by Vyasa that Draupadi’s destiny is to be wife to all five brothers. So he knows from the outset that she will never be exclusively his.

His primary feelings toward Draupadi, therefore, are those of duty and loyalty more than love.

(Detailed Answer: Draupadi and Arjuna: What was their relationship like?)

Draupadi and Karna: What was their relationship like?

Draupadi and Karna meet for the first at time at Draupadi’s swayamvara, where Draupadi rejects him. Karna then plays an important enabling role in Draupadi’s vastraharan. From that point on, the two characters have nothing but distaste for one another. However, after Karna’s death, Draupadi comes to know that he was Kunti’s firstborn – and her heart softens.

Throughout the story, Draupadi is consumed by hatred for Karna. She remembers that it is Karna who argued against Vikarna at the vastraharan, and made the allegation that she is a woman of loose character.

It is Karna who first suggests that she should be disrobed in public. It is Karna who instructs Duhsasana to remove Draupadi’s garments from her body.

After Duryodhana, therefore, it is Karna that Draupadi hates the most.

On the other side, Karna’s feelings for Draupadi are a bit more complex. He starts off detesting her because she insults him in public at her swayamvara.

He performs the role of enabler at the vastraharan working under Duryodhana’s instructions. He wishes to support Duryodhana’s aim of destroying the Pandavas, and he sees this as a viable strategy to that end.

But as Draupadi emerges from the whole ordeal unscathed, he makes a statement of grudging admiration. He says that the Pandavas have been rescued by Draupadi, and that she has performed the duty of a wife like no other.

Toward the end, with war looming, Karna gets an opportunity to settle his long-standing score with Draupadi once and for all. All he has to do is switch sides and Draupadi will not only become his wife but also the mother of his children.

But Karna chooses not to take the bait. Instead, he closes the circle of their relationship just as it had begun. All those years ago, Draupadi rejected him. Today, he rejects Draupadi.

(Detailed Answer: Draupadi and Karna: What was their relationship like?)

Further Reading

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