Arjuna is the most powerful warrior in the Mahabharata universe. He is the third of the Pandavas in order of seniority, born after Yudhishthir and Bhimasena.
He is the last of Kunti’s children. After his birth, Kunti decides that she will summon no more gods and bear no more sons. Nakula and Sahadeva, the fourth and fifth of the Pandavas respectively, are born to Madri, Pandu’s second wife.
In this post, we will answer the question: Was Arjuna happy to share Draupadi?
Before it is decided that Draupadi is to marry all five Pandavas, Yudhishthir asks Arjuna for advice in the matter. Arjuna replies, ‘You are our elder brother. I am certain your decision will be proper.’ Even after the wedding, Arjuna does not ever appear unhappy to share Draupadi. However, he would not be human if he did not carry some resentment.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Arjuna was happy to share Draupadi with his brothers.
(For answers to all Arjuna-related questions, see Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
Reasons for Draupadi’s Sharing
There are several reasons why Draupadi is asked to become the common wife of all five Pandavas:
- When the Pandavas bring Draupadi back from the palace of Panchala to their hut, Kunti – from the kitchen, without seeing what her sons have brought – says, ‘Whatever it is, share it equally between you.’
- Yudhishthir notices that all five brothers are looking at Draupadi with desire. He divines that if she is to marry just one of them, it is bound to create fissures in their relationship.
- On the other hand, if she marries all five brothers, she will become the unifying factor between the Pandavas, a role performed thus far by their mother. This is a ‘passing of the baton’ moment between Kunti and Draupadi.
- Vyasa tells everyone a story regarding Draupadi’s previous birth – in which she is a Brahmin woman who wins a ‘boon’ from Shiva that she will marry five powerful men in her next life.
- Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna are keen that Draupadi marries Yudhishthir and not Arjuna, because that is a better strategic move for her personally and – by association – for Panchala.
It is often suggested that this whole business is Yudhishthir’s secret ploy to get a ‘piece of Draupadi for himself’. This is not true, though the decision is taken by him.
(Suggested: Why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?)
Yudhishthir is empathetic enough to ask Arjuna for consent before he brings the idea into effect. He says, ‘I know you are the one to have won the maiden’s hand, Brother. How do you feel about sharing her with the rest of us?’
And Arjuna replies: ‘As elder brother, you have a right over everything that is mine. And as our king, I am certain that you have taken this decision after proper consultation with elders, and with our future prosperity in mind.’
Even after this, Arjuna shows no signs of resentment or anger at having to share Draupadi. Toward the end of the war, when Arjuna and Yudhishthir squabble over Karna, Krishna encourages his friend to insult Yudhishthir with all his heart.
Arjuna calls Yudhishthir many names on this occasion. He holds Yudhishthir responsible for the dice game and for the killing of Drona. But he does not mention Draupadi’s sharing.
This can mean one of two things: either he has long swallowed the hurt, or that it is a wound that he is determined to hide from everyone else throughout his life.
(Suggested: 12 Mahabharata Stories from the Karna Parva.)
It is important to note that Arjuna never shows signs of being interested in Draupadi as bride. Whatever he desire he feels for her, it is only described from Yudhishthir’s point of view after Draupadi has been brought back home.
Arjuna competes for Draupadi’s hand at her swayamvara at Vyasa’s bidding. He protects her (with the help of Bhima) out of a man’s duty to guard what he has earned from looters and thieves.
His overwhelming emotion toward Draupadi – even during this early interactions – seems to be one of obedience and duty. He considers her as nothing more than something that his elders have commanded him to win.
Arjuna never thinks of Draupadi as his. He must have felt carnal desire for her as a man. But his sense of detachment toward her right from the start helps him give her up without fuss.
(Suggested: What happens at Draupadi’s Swayamvara?)
Distance from Draupadi
During the course of their marriage, Arjuna is the one husband who stays away from Draupadi the most. First, during his twelve-year-exile, he leaves Draupadi back at Khandavaprastha as Yudhishthir’s queen.
Then, during their exile, for a period of five years, Arjuna sets out on a quest to earn some divine weapons with which to fight Drona and Bhishma. In total, therefore, Arjuna is physically distanced from Draupadi for seventeen years.
In these seventeen years, Draupadi’s affections are divided between just four men. Also, her primary duties as Yudhishthir’s queen make it so that she spends much more time with the eldest Pandava than she does with any other brother.
There also seems to be some hierarchy among the Pandavas with respect to how much ‘right’ they have on Draupadi. Though in theory she belongs to them all equally, in practice, it is only natural that she belongs ‘more’ to the elder brothers.
So Yudhishthir ends up with the lion’s share of Draupadi’s time. Bhima comes next. Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva follow.
An Act of Protest?
Some modern theorists have suggested that the twelve-year exile is Arjuna’s way of protesting the unfairness of Yudhishthir’s decision. It is also his coping mechanism: he is so dismayed at having to watch his elder brother take his woman that he chooses to go away from it all.
His subsequent philandering – with Ulupi, Chitrangada and Subhadra – is a classic case of compensating for his loss. If I cannot have Draupadi, he is apparently saying, watch me have all these other women.
These commentators claim that Arjuna felt emasculated by being asked to share Draupadi, and so he reasserted his masculinity by marrying and having sons with three other women – on his own.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 14: Exile of Arjuna.)
I will not go so far as to rubbish this theory. It is definitely possible.
In fact, it may not be unreasonable to suggest that a part of Arjuna felt a pinch at the manner in which his other brothers have appropriated what is his.
But we don’t live in a single-factor, single-variable world. A person’s actions can have multiple motivations, some strong, some weak. Arjuna’s twelve-year exile seems to be driven by mainly two reasons:
- He genuinely wants to punish himself for having violating the rules of sharing Draupadi.
- He wishes to visit kingdoms of the world in order to gain alliances for Yudhishthir. He fulfils this purpose by gaining the support of Ulupi and Krishna, both of whom support Yudhishthir at the Rajasuya and in the war.
During the Draupadi-Satyabhama Samvaada Parva, Draupadi confesses to Satyabhama that she dearly loves every single one of her husbands, and that whenever one of them is away, she misses him sorely.
If we take her at her word, it follows that Draupadi has the fondest feelings for Arjuna – who always seems to be away on one pretext or the other. In the first twenty five years of their marriage, Arjuna is not around for seventeen.
Also, we must remember that owing to his exile, Arjuna becomes the last of the Pandava brothers to have a son with Draupadi. By the time he returns, the four others have already had their sons.
(Suggested: Did Draupadi love Arjuna the most?)
Draupadi also becomes the last of Arjuna’s wives with whom he has a son. By the time he makes it back to Khandavaprastha from Dwaraka, Arjuna has already had Iravan, Babruvahana and Abhimanyu with his three other wives.
And, finally, we have Yudhishthir confirming this suspicion at the very end. He says that Draupadi’s biggest sin was that she loved Arjuna more than she did her other husbands.
Leaving aside for a moment whether or not this is a sin, we can thus conclude that as far as Draupadi is concerned, there must have been moments when she wished she was married to Arjuna alone.
The decision to have Draupadi marry all five Pandavas was not taken lightly, nor was it taken out of selfishness or envy. It was taken to ensure that the Pandavas stay united as brothers.
Arjuna does not display any resentment toward this. Nor does he show any signs that he ever thought of Draupadi as his alone. He takes the decision in his stride, and always conducts himself dutifully.
But it is also not unreasonable to assume that in his mind, he may have felt at least a little bit of resentment at the unfairness of it all. Not only is he asked to share what he has won, but he also becomes the last brother to have a son by a woman that is his by right.
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- In the Mahabharata, why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?