Draupadi is the most prominent female character in the Mahabharata. Her given name at birth is Krishnaa, but since she is the daughter of Drupada she is called Draupadi. She is also known as Panchali – or the ‘daughter of Panchala’.
Draupadi is often considered the primary reason for the destruction of the Kuru dynasty. She takes birth as a grown young woman in a sacrifice performed by Drupada, in which the king asks for a ‘weapon’ with which the Kurus can be defeated.
In this post, we will answer the question: 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.
Read on to discover more about how Draupadi managed five husbands.
(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
Draupadi Satyabhama Samvaada
During the Draupadi-Satyabhama Samvaada Parva – which occurs during the twelfth year of the Pandavas’ exile – Satyabhama asks Draupadi how she had managed to maintain healthy relationships with five men at the same time.
‘How do you ensure that there is peace among the six of you, Panchali?’ she asks. ‘Do you use a charm or a special drug? Or is it just an effect of your youthful appearance and the recitation of a particular chant that keeps them forever submissive to you and eager to do your bidding?’
Satyabhama means this as a joke, but Draupadi is quick to gently swat away the younger woman’s implications. ‘You ask me questions suited to a crafty and cunning woman, Satyabhama,’ she tells her.
‘Methods like incantations and drugs work only for a short time, and their long-term effects are always undesirable. And when a man comes to know that his wife has sought to exercise control over him in that manner, he will never forgive her.
‘Indeed, by using such means, women of the past have caused various diseases to descend upon their husbands, and have earned notoriety for themselves.
Setting Wrath Aside
Draupadi continues: ‘I do not do anything of that sort. First of all, I set my vanity and wrath aside while serving the sons of Pandu. God knows that these two qualities are already present in abundance 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.
‘This is not to hide my emotions from them, you understand. I choose to make them known by well-chosen words rather than tears and anger.’
‘I regard my husbands as poisonous snakes,’ says Draupadi, ‘capable of being excited beyond measure at mere trifles. This is a quality shared by all of the Pandavas, so perhaps it is one that all men possess.
‘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. This sort of love builds only with time, and cannot be mimicked.
‘But when it comes, your husband can see it, and when he returns home to see your eyes light up, he thinks to himself, My wife loves me. He thinks it honestly and simply, without having to be told in as many words.’
Satyabhama listens to Draupadi’s speech, and is contrite at being admonished. ‘Please forgive me, Sister, for the way I worded my question. Can you educate me further on how to win over the heart of one’s husband without resorting to trickery?’
Draupadi hands out some more advice as follows.
Gratifying one’s husband
‘It is important to understand, Satyabhama,’ says Draupadi, ‘that if you gratify your husband well, he will not think to look upon other women with desire.
‘And a happy husband is apt to give you all comforts of life: handsome jewels, high status, garlands, perfumes, and of course, children that will eventually bring you name.
‘The path to this, however, is not easy. When has anything valuable been easy to procure? A woman must be willing to undergo hardships in her daily life in order to attain these enduring enjoyments.
‘For instance, whenever you see him arrive in your chamber, rise up from your seat and insist on offering him a prompt and loving welcome by yourself.
‘Do not delegate this to your waiting-woman, for you do not know how much a man’s heart is gladdened when he sees a waiting smile on his wife’s lips.
‘When Krishna orders a maid to perform a chore, if you can do it without lowering your status, do so. Tasks such as bringing him a vessel of wine or something to eat – even those such as pressing his feet and fanning him – ought to be performed by you.
‘Men tend to look upon women who serve them in this fashion with affection. You do not want him to feel that way for your waiting women, because it is a short path from that to desire of the flesh.’
Draupadi rounds off this monologue by giving out her last secret: to respect the privacy of her husband.
‘The other thing you should remember, Satyabhama,’ she says, ‘is that your private conversations with Krishna must remain exactly that. Private. 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.’
Draupadi’s discussion with Satyabhama contains no great revelations or details concerning her sex life. The reader comes away with the impression that the principles of a happy marriage are the same whether the woman is married to one man or five.
Draupadi does confess to feeling love for all five of her husbands, and admits that she misses every one of them if they happen to be absent. This is also another reason why she loves Arjuna the most – because Arjuna stays away from her the most.
While it is easy to guess that Draupadi must have struggled to manage five husbands, it is also true that during their exile, Draupadi did not have to compete with other women for her husbands’ attention.
She therefore got what no other woman of that time did – the undivided love of five men.
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