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 was Draupadi related to Krishna?
Draupadi is related to Krishna only by marriage. Krishna is the son of Vasudeva, who is the elder brother of Kunti. Krishna is therefore Arjuna’s (and Yudhishthir’s, and Bhimasena’s – but not Nakula’s and Sahadeva’s) maternal uncle’s son. So when Draupadi weds the Pandavas, Krishna becomes her cousin-in-law.
Read on to discover more about how Draupadi was related to Krishna.
(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
Born of Fire
Draupadi is known as the Yagnyaseni – meaning ‘she who is born of a yagnya’. She gets this name because she steps out fully formed as a young woman from the sacrificial fire when Drupada performs a rite that he hopes would help him kill Drona.
In the same ceremony, Dhrishtadyumna also is ‘born’ – and he also steps out of the fire fully formed as a young man.
Neither Draupadi nor Dhrishtadyumna have normal, biological births. So they are not related by blood to any of the known Mahabharata characters. Draupadi, for instance, is not even – strictly speaking – related to Drupada though she is known as his daughter.
She is considered sister to Shikhandi, but only because Drupada adopts her as his daughter after she steps out of the fire.
(Suggested: How was Draupadi born?)
Krishna, by contrast, has a fairly natural birth: he is born of the union between Vasudeva, prince of Shurasena, and Devaki, princess of Mathura.
Vasudeva has two sisters that we know of: one is Pritha, who is fostered to Kuntibhoja, a childless ruler of a kingdom called Kunti. Pritha later grows up to marry Pandu, adopts the name of Kunti, and becomes mother to the five Pandavas.
The second sister of Vasudeva is named Srutashrava, who is given in marriage to King Damaghosha of Chedi. They have a son named Shishupala, whom Krishna kills at Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya.
Balarama is another son of Vasudeva by another wife (Rohini). Krishna and Balarama, therefore, are half-brothers. Together, they are first cousins to the Pandavas.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 4: Kunti, Madri and Gandhari.)
Relative by Marriage
When Draupadi marries the Pandavas, therefore, she becomes cousin-in-law to Krishna. The first time Draupadi meets Krishna is at her swayamvara: Krishna and Balarama attend the ceremony but announce early on that they have come there only as spectators, not as potential suitors.
Krishna seems to be the only man in the Mahabharata world who is not influenced by desire for Draupadi. There may be multiple reasons for this:
- Perhaps at the time of Draupadi’s swayamvara, Krishna’s mind is preoccupied with the prospect of building political connections with kingdoms on the Ganga belt.
- Perhaps Krishna can tell from the design of the swayamvara that Drupada has his eye on Arjuna, and that his entering the picture would only complicate matters.
- Perhaps Draupadi is simply not Krishna’s type, and perhaps Panchala is not the kingdom that Krishna and Balarama are looking to woo into an alliance.
At the same time, Draupadi does not seem to notice Krishna either on their first meeting. This is understandable, because Krishna is only one of many invitees to the event, and Draupadi’s mind is filled with Arjuna and how she might need to ward off Karna if and when he stands up to compete.
After Arjuna wins her and takes her home to their hut, Krishna and Balarama follow them. They introduce themselves to Kunti, the Pandavas and Draupadi. This is Draupadi’s first recorded meeting with Krishna.
(Suggested: What Happens during Draupadi’s Swayamvara?)
Her exact thoughts are unknown. But from the way she behaves with him from here on, it is clear that she considers him her elder brother and protector.
As the best friend and guide of her favourite husband, Draupadi also (perhaps) thinks of Krishna as a powerful ally too. Krishna, for his part, is happy to play the role of philosopher and protector rolled into one.
A romantic angle?
Some modern readers have enjoyed speculating about a romantic angle between Krishna and Draupadi. But Vyasa’s story does not give out any hints to support this notion.
In fact, all the suggestions are to the contrary. Draupadi is repeatedly cited as a faithful and loyal wife who is as pure as fire. There is no room in her mind for unchaste thoughts about another man – even if that man is Krishna.
One other thought to consider is that Krishna is not all that attractive as a romantic prospect for Draupadi. She has already married into a family more powerful than Balarama’s. In due course of time she becomes empress to the world as Yudhishthir’s wife.
As wife to Krishna, she will have to forego all of her status as queen of Indraprastha and take up residence in the women’s quarters at Dwaraka – where she will be junior to Rukmini.
Going from queen to second wife of younger brother of the king is a definite downgrade. It would not be one that Draupadi would have even considered for a moment.
What Krishna Feels
What Krishna feels for Draupadi, on the other hand, is a bit more nuanced. He does rescue her during the disrobing, and he does comfort her on multiple occasions during their exile.
But just before the war, he also offers her as prize to Karna if the latter would only agree to turn his back on Duryodhana.
(Suggested: Why did Krishna offer Draupadi to Karna?)
We must remember that Krishna’s primary intention is to secure a safe future for Anarta, the kingdom that Balarama rules with Dwaraka as its capital. To this end, he pursues a friendship with Arjuna, the most powerful of the Pandavas.
(That is the political side of the Krishna-Arjuna relationship. It is also true that they are soulmates in a way, and are therefore destined to be best friends regardless.)
Krishna’s association with Draupadi is only through his friendship with Arjuna. But Arjuna is also husband to Subhadra, Krishna’s sister and rival to Draupadi as younger co-wife.
So while it is reasonable to assume that Krishna has affection for Draupadi, it is also reasonable to suspect that he views her as a bit of a pawn that can be leveraged for political gains.
Krishna’s main desires are to ensure the continued prosperity of Anarta, and the well-being of Subhadra as Arjuna’s wife. Draupadi’s welfare – though important – is to be pursued only if the first two conditions can be met.
All in all, it is safe to venture that the relationship between Krishna and Draupadi is entirely platonic. Neither seems to entertain any romantic desires toward the other at any point in the story.
Draupadi trusts Krishna unconditionally and views him as an older brother upon whom she can rely at all times. Krishna’s thoughts on the matter are more complex: he is affectionate toward Draupadi, but he is also not above using her as an object of leverage if it means protecting Arjuna from harm.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered
- Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Karna: 41 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- 60 Mahabharata Episodes that Tell You the Whole Story
- 300+ Mahabharata Stories to Thrill, Delight and Enchant You