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: What did Draupadi say after vastraharan?
Draupadi receives two boons from Dhritarashtra after her vastraharan, by way of apology. Draupadi wishes for: (1) Yudhishthir to be freed from slavery, and (2) for Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva to be freed, and for everything they have lost in the dice game to be returned to them. After rescuing her husbands thus, she returns with them to Indraprastha.
Read on to discover more about what Draupadi says after vastraharan.
(For answers to all Draupadi-related questions, see Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)
At Draupadi’s disrobing, after she has put the question (‘Have I been fairly won? Or not?) to the assembly, Vikarna and Karna argue on opposite sides of the debate.
Vikarna says no, Draupadi has not been won – and gives his reasons for thinking so. Karna says yes, Draupadi has been won – and gives his reasons.
(Suggested: What happens during Draupadi’s disrobing?)
Vidura then gets up and tells Dhritarashtra the story of Virochana and Sudhanvana, warning the blind king about the pitfalls brought about my excessive love toward one’s offspring.
After finishing the story, he turns to the elders of the court and says: ‘Vikarna and Karna have performed their duties; they have told us all what they consider the truth. We must thank them. But it is also important for all of you – primely Your Majesty Dhritarashtra – to give Draupadi the answer to her question.’
Passing of the Buck
The question worms its way around the court, pausing for a moment each at Drona and at Kripacharya, and finally coming to a stop at Bhishma’s feet.
Draupadi salutes the grandsire and asks him, ‘Tell me, Father of the Kurus. Have I been won or not? Whatever you decide, I shall accept with good grace.’
But Bhishma says, ‘My dear, the tenets of morality are ever-changing. Indeed, he who holds the most power in the world makes the rules. What he says is just is.
‘He who is weak might say the most righteous things, but he does not have power to bring other people to obey him. Today, you stand in the position of a weakling, and you ask another weakling about what is right. What you and I think is irrelevant, Draupadi.’
Bhishma, however, gives the Kuru dynasty a warning. ‘But what I do know for certain,’ he says, ‘is this: the Kurus have become covetous to an extreme degree. Fie upon me as regent of Hastinapur for not having predicted that this day would come.
‘Now that this has happened, I have no doubt that the destruction of the Kauravas is near at hand. Look, even Drona and Kripacharya have hung their heads, because even they do not know the right answer to your question, my child.’
And here he makes a surprising suggestion. ‘Yudhishthir is the one among us who knows all the laws of ethics. Perhaps we should ask him.’
Yudhishthir, of course, does not say anything to this, simply preferring to take refuge in silence. Seeing Draupadi entreat her husbands to answer her question, Duryodhana makes a play to drive a wedge between the Pandavas.
Duryodhana says, ‘If Bhimasena and Arjuna admit in front of this assembly hall that Yudhishthir is not their master and lord,’ he says, ‘I shall grant Draupadi her freedom right this moment.’
But Bhima, despite his earlier anger, does not rise to the bait. ‘If Yudhishthir, our king, or lord,’ he says, ‘had not been our elder brother, then this assembly would have seen much bloodshed today.
‘It is bound by reverence to him that I am not doing anything terrible, and nothing will make me say the words that Duryodhana wants me to utter. King Yudhishthir has been our master all our lives, and he will remain one until our deaths.’
Karna makes a suggestion
At this juncture, Karna gets up and says to Draupadi, ‘Let us not waste the time of this assembly with pointless talk of this sort. I have already given you your answer, O Panchali. You are a slave girl that belongs to the Kauravas now.
‘Retreat into the inner chambers of Duryodhana, and select for yourself a husband that will not pledge you away in a game of dice in the future.’
It is now that Duryodhana uncovers his thigh, and slapping thigh meaningfully at Draupadi, beckons to her as if he were inviting her to sit on it.
The implication, of course, is that Draupadi should forsake the Pandavas and take Duryodhana for a husband instead.
Bhima, with his eyes red with fury, looking up at the skies, speaks at the top of his voice: ‘Let Vrikodara not attain the regions of his ancestors until he has broken that thigh with his bare hands.’
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 53: Bhima Defeats Duryodhana.)
‘Ah,’ says Duryodhana, waving him away. ‘Let me ask Arjuna the same question. If he would say that Yudhishthir is no longer his master, I shall even now grant Draupadi her freedom.’
With all eyes on him, Arjuna replies in a soft voice, ‘King Yudhishthir was our master at the time he started the dice game. But now, he has lost us and he has lost himself too. Now it is right for the Kauravas to decide whether or not he is the master.’
At these words, the people in the assembly hall draw a deep breath, because this is the first evidence of fissures among the brothers.
Even as ill omens make their presence felt in the form of jackals howling and hounds baying, among chants of ‘Swasti’ from Drona, Bhishma and Kripacharya, Dhritarashtra gets up at the throne and begins to speak.
Thus ends Draupadi’s ordeal, not by a human’s answer but by nature’s protest.
Dhritarashtra decides that enough is enough. All this while he has been watching (in a way) mutely as events unfolded in the assembly; now he raises a hand for silence and addresses Draupadi.
‘I do not know the answer to your question, O Panchali,’ he says. ‘But I do know that as the queen of the Pandavas, and the daughter-in-law of this esteemed dynasty, you have suffered much in the hands of my son.
‘Let this gathering be called to a halt right now. Along with my apology, I give you a boon. Ask for anything.’
Draupadi says, ‘If you grant me any wish, O King, let it be that my husband, Yudhishthir, be freed from slavery. May it not happen that my son, Prativindhya, be called the son of a slave by the unthinking men of the world.’
Dhritarashtra must have expected Draupadi to ask for her own freedom, for when we hears her words, he is moved to surprise. ‘Your purity knows no bounds, O Panchali,’ he says. ‘I shall give you another boon.’
‘Then make it so, Your Highness,’ replies Draupadi, ‘that Bhimasena, Dhananjaya and the twins are all freed from bondage, and that everything they have lost in the game of dice be returned to them.’
Again Dhritarashtra is surprised because Draupadi puts her husbands’ welfare before her own. ‘It shall be so!’ he says. ‘But my heart desires to give you yet another boon, Draupadi, my child.’
Draupadi now joins her hands and bows. ‘It has been said, O King, that a Vaisya is deserving of just one boon, a Kshatriya lady of two, a Kshatriya male of three, and a Brahmin of a hundred.
‘I have already used up my two boons, and I think I have done so wisely. My husbands are no longer slaves; they will achieve all that they desire in life now through their own acts.’
Karna speaks up now, in a tone of anger mixed with admiration. ‘We have not seen or heard of such an act performed by any woman in the world. With the sons of Pandu lost and sinking in an ocean of distress, Krishnaa has become the boat that rescued them.’
With Bhimasena wondering out loud whether he should start killing everyone present in the assembly (now that he is not a slave anymore), Yudhishthir soothes him and goes up to Dhritarashtra.
‘Still true to his vow, he pays the old man his respects and says, ‘O King, we are like your sons, forever eager to do your bidding. What do you wish us to do now?’
(Suggested: Was Karna in love with Draupadi?)
Dhritarashtra advises Yudhishthir then to take his wife and brothers back to Indraprastha. ‘My son Duryodhana is not amenable to advice, Yudhishthir,’ he says. ‘But you are. With wisdom comes the ability to display forbearance.
‘I wish that you find it within your heart to forgive your cousins, O Pandava, and treat them with the same brotherly love of the past. May your heart forever be tethered to the path of virtue.’
Thus the Pandavas mount their chariots, and along with their retinue of servants and attendants, set out for Indraprastha.
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