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: 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.
Read on to discover whether or not Draupadi was arrogant.
(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
Rejection of Karna
Of all the incidents that are generally cited to make the case that Draupadi is arrogant, the first is her behaviour at her swayamvara – where she publicly rejects Karna and humiliates him.
At first glance, these are the actions of a bratty princess who does not know the ins and outs of respecting an honoured guest. Moreover, at this point, Karna is already king of Anga, so rejecting him for being a Sutaputra is a mere technicality.
On closer examination, though, it is entirely possible that Draupadi is acting here under the instructions of Drupada, who fervently wishes her to marry Arjuna.
Also, it bears mentioning that Draupadi is well within her rights to reject any suitor at her swayamvara – provided that she does so before the suitor attempts to win her hand.
(Suggested: Why did Draupadi Reject Karna?)
Laughing at Duryodhana
Another instance which is supposedly illustrative of Draupadi’s arrogance is the fact that she laughs at Duryodhana when he falls into a pool of water during Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya.
Duryodhana makes quite a large hue and cry about the incident: indeed, in his complaint to Dhritarashtra, he particularly cites this behaviour of Draupadi as being indicative of the Pandavas’ hubris.
But in truth, Draupadi is not even present when Duryodhana has his little mishap. The person who laughs most uproariously is Bhima. Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva also laugh reflexively – but they immediately check themselves and arrange for Duryodhana to be helped out – and for a dry set of clothes to be brought.
Draupadi passes along the way in the company of her waiting women, and they’re all laughing and talking. Duryodhana assumes – understandably – that they’re laughing at him.
(Suggested: Did Draupadi insult Duryodhana?)
Arguing at the Dice Game
When Draupadi comes to know through Duryodhana’s messenger that Yudhishthir has lost everything – including her – she sends the page back with a question of her own: Did the king lose himself first, or her?
This behaviour from a mere slave (as he sees it) infuriates Duryodhana. He sends Duhsasana to bring back Draupadi by force into the hall.
She is dragged by her hair and presented as an object at court. The Pandavas are sitting in their places, their heads hung in shame. Just a look at the scene would have told Draupadi that matters are quite dire.
But she sticks to her ground. She repeats the question: Did the king lose himself first or me?
The implication is clear: Draupadi is not going to grovel at the feet of Dhritarashtra and ask for mercy. She is going to fight for her rights as a human being by demanding justice.
Unfortunately, on this day, Karna successfully argues against her point and proves conclusively that she is nothing more than Duryodhana’s slave. Draupadi’s arrogance (if we can call it that), therefore, makes things worse for her.
(Suggested: What Happens during Draupadi’s Disrobing?)
Insistence upon Vengeance
On numerous occasions in the story, when she sees that her husbands’ wills are flagging, Draupadi takes it upon herself to remind them of all the humiliations that she had had to endure because of the Kauravas.
She constantly tells the Pandavas that they do not have a choice but to fight and kill the sons of Dhritarashtra.
At the end of the Kurukshetra war, when Draupadi discovers that Ashwatthama had killed her sons and kinsmen, she exhorts Yudhishthir to take up arms again. When Yudhishthir seems reluctant, Draupadi implores Bhima to avenge her loss, to which Bhima responds by calling for his chariot and chasing after Ashwatthama.
All of these incidents paint Draupadi as an unrelenting, unforgiving woman who carries her grudges to her grave.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 55: Ashwatthama is Cursed.)
Jealousy toward Subhadra
When Arjuna returns from his twelve-year exile accompanied by a new wife in Subhadra, Draupadi’s first reaction is to be angry at them. Though she does warm to her co-wife over time, she reveals an inner jealous streak that is in keeping with her image as an arrogant woman.
But we must also remember that Arjuna is the one man that Draupadi loves the most. She had been won by him, but circumstances had forced her to be separated from him for twelve years.
And at the end of the long wait, as she is eagerly looking forward to enjoy his company, she discovers that he has married three different women during his exile. And he was meant to observe the vow of celibacy during this period!
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 14: Exile of Arjuna.)
Does all this make Draupadi arrogant?
The short answer is that it depends. If you like Draupadi, you will think of her behaviour as justified. If you dislike her, you will call her arrogant.
What we can declare conclusively is that Draupadi is not a docile and submissive woman whom one can hope to push around with ease. Perhaps she was born that way; perhaps she became assertive as she grew into her position of Indraprastha’s empress.
As the wife of Yudhishthir, for twelve years Draupadi has had time to grow into a life in which she held near absolute command of everything and everyone in her vicinity. One can expect such a woman to be more self-assured than most.
The other side of Draupadi
While we’re speaking of Draupadi’s arrogance, we should also remember that the Mahabharata contains evidence of other facets of her personality as well:
- She is obedient to her elders’ wishes, as we see from the quiet manner in which she accepts being married to five different men.
- She is knowledgeable of the scriptures, from her numerous conversations with Yudhishthir on a range of socio-political and moral subjects.
- She is loyal to her husbands, from the manner in which she handles herself during the Kichaka and Jayadratha incidents.
- She is protective of her husbands, from how she first asks for their freedoms when given a boon by Dhritarashtra at the end of the dice game.
- She is wise enough to understand the role of a ‘good wife’, from the way in which she discourses with Satyabhama on the subject during her exile.
All of the above attributes are generally not found in a person who is irrevocably arrogant. Of course, Draupadi has her vain moments, like all of us, but she also possesses many redeeming qualities that come to the fore during her exile years.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered
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