How did Krishna and Draupadi become friends?

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Krishna is considered by many as the hero of the Mahabharata. He is the eighth son of Devaki, the princess of Mathura, and Vasudeva, the prince of Shurasena.

Krishna is raised in a cowherd settlement in Vrindavan for the first fifteen years of his life. Later, along with Balarama, he founds the seashore city of Dwaraka and builds a kingdom for the Yadavas – named Anarta.

He enters the Mahabharata story at Draupadi’s swayamvara, and quickly establishes friendly relations with the Pandavas – in particular with Arjuna. This friendship lasts all the way to the Kurukshetra war and beyond.

In this post, we will answer the question: How did Krishna and Draupadi become friends?

Krishna and Draupadi meet for the first time in the Pandavas’ hut in Panchala, after Arjuna has won Draupadi and brought her back to meet Kunti. After that, Krishna and Draupadi’s relationship deepens when Krishna visits Indraprastha after Subhadra’s wedding, and when he helps her during the disrobing incident.

Read on to discover more about how Krishna and Draupadi became friends.

(For answers to all Krishna-related questions, see Krishna: 36 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)

First Meeting

The first time Draupadi sees Krishna is at her swayamvara. In fact, this is the first time that Krishna makes an appearance in the Mahabharata.

At this time, the Pandavas are living in Panchala in secret, disguised as Brahmins. At the suggestion of Vyasa, they attend Draupadi’s swayamvara with the intention of winning her hand.

Krishna and Balarama, meanwhile, have just finished building their new Vrishni kingdom of Anarta (with Dwaraka as its capital), and have come to this event to network with kings that rule the Gangetic plain.

Draupadi had – perhaps a year previously – just taken birth in Drupada’s sacrificial fire, and is now being used as bait to lure the Pandavas out of hiding.

Here, Krishna and Balarama announce right at the outset that they do not intend to compete for Draupadi, and that they have come merely as spectators.

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

First Conversation

Krishna and Draupadi speak for the first time to each other at the Pandavas’ hut in Panchala, where they take her after winning her. Krishna and Balarama follow them home and introduce themselves to their cousins and aunt.

Though we are not told explicitly what the family members said to each other, we can presume that they exchanged some good wishes and made some polite talk.

Krishna and Draupadi speak to each other on this occasion, but the exchange is very rudimentary. Draupadi’s mind, at this moment, is occupied with the question of which of the Pandavas she will be asked to marry.

During Arjuna’s Exile

Almost immediately after Yudhishthir’s coronation as king of Khandavaprastha, Arjuna leaves on a self-imposed exile that lasts twelve years.

During this time, Anarta and Kuru remain on friendly terms. There might have been some official communication back and forth between Yudhishthir and Balarama. Maybe they paid each other some social visits too.

But we’re not told of any blossoming of friendship between Krishna and Draupadi in particular. By all indications, no noteworthy exchanges happen between the two.

However, toward the end of Arjuna’s exile, with the marriage of Subhadra, the Pandava-Anarta alliance begins in earnest. Krishna accompanies Subhadra to Khandavaprastha bearing plenty of gifts, and he accepts Yudhishthir’s invitation to stay back for a while as a royal guest.

During this time, Krishna and Draupadi – through Subhadra and Arjuna respectively – would have interacted on a more regular, more informal basis. This is where we might say the seeds of their friendship are sown.

(Suggested: Why did Arjuna marry Subhadra?)

Khandava and Rajasuya

During this time, Krishna helps the Pandavas in the following projects:

  • The levelling of Khandava and the expansion of Khandavaprastha into what was once forest land.
  • The building of the ‘Maya Sabha’, the great hall of illusions that the asura Maya designs for Yudhishthir.
  • The killing of Jarasandha, which becomes the first step toward Yudhishthir’s ascent to power.
  • The killing of Shishupala at the Rajasuya, which turns Chedi into a Pandava-friendly kingdom.

Each of these events is significant in deepening the friendship between Krishna and the Pandavas. Indeed, Yudhishthir is so grateful to the Yadava prince that he gives him the first offering at the Rajasuya, indicating that the Pandavas consider the Vrishnis and Anarta to be their foremost allies.

It is suggestive that Yudhishthir chooses Krishna over Drupada, who is the father of his wife and the king of Panchala.

While all these incidents are taking place, Krishna lives for a big proportion of his time in Khandavaprastha. He oversees the building of Indraprastha. This prolonged stay at the Pandavas’ place gives him more opportunity to build a relationship with Draupadi as well.

Nature of the Relationship

While some mischievous modern storytellers have speculated that there may have been some romantic interest between Draupadi and Krishna, there are no indications whatsoever in the story of this.

Krishna and Draupadi seem to share an entirely platonic relationship. In fact, Draupadi considers Krishna her protective older brother, and Krishna sees her as his sister’s co-wife, which makes her a sister-in-law.

We must also remember that Krishna, in addition to being a brother, is also a statesman and diplomat. He is not above using his women as baits or bribes to further his political goals.

First, he offers Subhadra to Arjuna in order to build a relationship with the Pandavas. Later, he offers Draupadi to Karna if the latter promises to betray Duryodhana and fight alongside the Pandavas.

This must not be thought of as Krishna’s cruelty, or that he is unemotional. He still has brotherly feelings toward Subhadra and Draupadi, but he also considers them – like all men of his time – important levers in negotiations.

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

Draupadi’s Disrobing

Krishna answers Draupadi’s distress call during the incident of the dice game. With Duhsasana about to unclothe Draupadi in the middle of the assembly hall, and with the Pandavas hanging their heads in helplessness, Draupadi prays to Krishna.

At that time, Krishna is away fighting a war against a king named Suvala, but he invests enough telepathic energy to Draupadi’s cause, sending reams upon reams of garments that magically cover Draupadi’s body even as Duhsasana peels them off.

Finally, tired with all the tugging and pulling, Duhsasana gives up in exhaustion.

(Note: Some persuasive arguments claim that the entire episode of Krishna delivering clothes to Draupadi is a later interpolation that does not sit consistently with the rest of the scene. But let’s take the text at face value for the purposes of this post.)

Promises and Assurances

Just as the Pandavas are about to go on their exile, they are visited by the Panchalas and the Vrishnis who come to see them off. Here, Draupadi wails about all the injustices that she had had to endure.

Krishna consoles her, and assures her that a time will come when all the actions that the Kuru family has undertaken during the dice game will bear fruit.

‘I shall see to it that you are properly avenged, Panchali,’ says Krishna. ‘You have my word.’

Draupadi thus looks at Krishna as the source of her deliverance. Even when her own husbands are unable to come to her rescue, Krishna does. He not only gives her promises but also follows through on them, right to the end of the Kurukshetra war.

When Ashwatthama kills the Upapandavas, Krishna and Bhima lead the reluctant Pandavas out to battle with the son of Drona. And it is Krishna who curses Ashwatthama with an eternity of suffering.

Further Reading

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