Mahabharata Parva 41: The Draupadi Satyabhama Samvada Parva

Mahabharata Parvas - Draupadi Satyabhama Samvada - Featured Image - Picture of male and female symbols of unity. Representing marriage

The Mahabharata is a collection of hundred Parvas (or ‘sections’) that tell the story of a long-standing family feud between two sets of cousins – the Kauravas and the Pandavas – for control of the Kuru throne in Hastinapur.

The climactic event of the story is an eighteen-day war that happens between the two factions on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

It is commonly understood that the Pandavas are the protagonists of this tale and the Kauravas the antagonists – though many retellings have appeared over the years that flip this structure.

In this post, we will summarize the Draupadi Satyabhama Samvada Parva.

(For a full summary of the Mahabharata with all hundred Parvas, see Mahabharata Summary: All 100 Parvas Explained.)

Satyabhama’s Question

As Markandeya is discoursing to the Pandavas and Krishna outside the hermitage, Draupadi and Satyabhama talk to one another about more domestic matters.

The main topic of conversation between Draupadi and Satyabhama is how the former manages to live harmoniously with five husbands.

While Krishna and the other men are conversing outside with Markandeya, the two women repair into one of the huts in the hermitage, and Satyabhama asks the question that has been haunting her.

‘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.

Draupadi’s Reply

‘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.

‘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 there is enough of those two qualities in Kshatriya men without them having to deal with their wives’ share too.

‘I do not let my jealousy show when I speak of the other wives of the Pandavas, and I keep my facial expressions forever under control, only seldom revealing what I am truly feeling.

‘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.’

Poisonous Snakes

Draupadi continues: ‘I regard my husbands as poisonous snakes, 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. I was merely jesting. 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.

A Wife’s Conduct – Part One

Draupadi understands the hidden meaning behind Satyabhama’s question.

The latter is married to Krishna, who is known for attracting the attention of women all over the world, so when she asks, ‘How does one win one’s husband’s heart?’ what she means to ask is this:

‘How does one win one’s husband’s heart from being distracted by other women?

Panchali, therefore, addresses the question from that angle.

‘It is important to understand, Satyabhama,’ she says, ‘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.’

A Wife’s Conduct – Part Two

Draupadi continues: ‘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, because 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.

‘The other thing you should remember, Satyabhama, 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.’

Krishna Leaves

At this point, Krishna, having finished his meeting with the Pandavas and Markandeya, comes into the hut and tells Satyabhama that the time has come for them to leave.

Satyabhama turns to Draupadi as she is about to ascend Krishna’s chariot, and says, ‘There is no cause for anxiety or grief for you, O Panchali. You have husbands that have earned the reputation of gods on this earth.

‘You have sons that are growing into mighty heroes under the close watch of Pradyumna at Dwaraka. They are well looked after by Subhadra, and I do my bit as well.

‘They are being guided by Madhusudana himself, and when the time comes, they will join their fathers in battle. All that you have lost, you will gain again. But even until them, you will live a happy life because of all the wisdom you possess.’

With these words and a salutation, she climbs into the chariot. Krishna bids the Pandavas farewell, and after comforting Draupadi with a smile, sets out to Dwaraka.

This short course on marital bliss brings to an end the Draupadi Satyabhama Samvada Parva, leading us into the Ghosha Yatra Parva.