The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Whither Draupadi?


There is an episode in the Mahabharata where readers come to feel that something is clearly amiss. The occasion is when Dusshasana, after the victory of the Kauravas in the gambling match, insolently enters the women’s quarters in the palace and drags Draupadi through its corridors as the horrified inmates look on.

Which palace was it? Was it as near as Kaurava’s Hastina-puri where the gambling match took place or was it the Pandava’s palace at Indra-prastha which was situated quite away from there?

To explain my quibble it is necessary that I narrate some background story.

By the time the Pandavas were finally beaten in the gambling match, they had lost everything they possessed. They not only did stake themselves and lost; they also forfeited in the process their right over their dear wife Draupadi. Now Duryodhana was the new master of Draupadi and her five helpless husbands. And so he sent for her to be brought to the gambling hall where all the respectable members of the Kuru clan and their well-wishers were present. Prominent among them were Dronacharya and Kripacharya, the two celebrated teachers; Bhisma, the grand old man of the royal family; Karna the friend of Duryodhana and the bête noir of the Pandavas. There, the five Pandavas were ignominiously made to shed their clothes reducing them into the five stark naked fellows on the street. And then, on the orders of Duryodhan the victor, an attempt was made to disrobe Draupadi, the queen of Indra-prastha. Had Krishna, the incarnation of lord Vishnu, not given her a continuous stream of cloth Dusshasana would have succeeded in outraging Draupadi’s modesty right in front of all the people present there. Thereafter, the rest of the Mahabharata veers around the theme how the Pandavas took revenge against the Kauravas, the perpetrators of such a dastardly crime, how victory in the war came at an unimaginable cost and so forth.

Here is my little quibble, based on a simple assessment of the setting of that crucial juncture. Duryodhan, with an elaborate plan to defeat the Pandavas with the help of his uncle Shakuni and his loaded dice, had invited Yudhisthira to Hastina-puri court to gamble. And Yudhisthira and his brothers had responded to the invitation and reached the venue of the match, a place that was not adjacent but really away from their own capital city of Indra-prasth. Oh yes, earlier the Pandavas, with the help of a Rakshasa architect Maya, had laid out the beautiful city of Indra-prastha in their share of the kingdom by cutting the forest of Khandava-prastha. The elegance of the city had stoked the fire of envy in Duryodhan. According to the epic, the day the gambling match took place, Draupadi, the common wife of the Pandavas was resting indoors at Indra-prastha palace as she was in the midst of her period. This means, while the five Pandavas headed for Hastina-puri, Draupadi was left behind in the palace of Indra-prastha. As the narratives in the epic progresses, Dusshasana is seen entering the women’s quarters of the palace and dragging Draupadi up to the gambling hall.

Which palace was that? Was it not the palace of Hastina-puri? Everything in the narratives points to the fact that Draupadi was just near. Or else how could Dusshasana produce her in the gambling hall before the victors so very instantly? So, arguably she was in the palace of Hastina-puri and not in Indra-prastha. The availability of Draupadi just around the corner enabled Dusshasana to quickly barge into the women’s area in the palace and maltreat Draupadi who was sitting there with her hair unbound and dressed in a single piece of cloth that was blood-stained. And he grabbed her by hair and dragged her through the corridors of the palace. Had she been in Indra-prastha, Dusshasan would not have so easily succeeded in abducting the queen of the palace. At least the guards of Indra-prastha would have resisted him. Moreover, had she been taken from one palace to the other, Vyasa would have narrated the scene of dragging in such a way that the road to her ignominy would have been vivid and the readers would have been made to feel that she was actually being dragged the entire distance that separated the two capitals. I’m sure even those days the writer of the epic knew that for effect it was necessary to show the story and not just tell it. In the other epic, when Ravana abducted Sita from the forest of Panchavati to Lanka, has not Valmiki said it in so many words? The route was aeriel; and the means of transportation was Pushpaka Vimana, the ancient aeroplane. But such clarity is not there in this particular episode of the Mahabharata. And it was so, simply because Draupadi was not dragged through the streets from the palace of Indra-prastha to the gambling hall of Hastina-puri; rather she was very much there in the women's quarters of Hastina-puri to be dragged up to that hall, both situated in the same building.

So in all reasonableness, Draupadi was resting in the palace of Hastina-puri on the day of gambling.

But a question arises here: why did she at all go to Hastina-puri, the capital of the Kauravas? What business did she have to go there when she was in the midst of her period? Was not she staying inside wearing a single blood-smeared cloth and with her hair let loose? And the bigger question is, did she willingly go there knowing well that it was a gambling match? Did she go there as the cheerleader of her team of five? And was she not doing something that would shatter her family so pathetically?
A N Nanda



Blogger SUNNY said...

That is a very nice observation Sir...Which leads me to another observation. Draupadi was required to spend each year with a different Pandava and hence it must have been one of the Pandava brothers who must been the acting husband of that fateful year when gambling took place who must have brought her along with him. Draupadi was immensely beautiful and though the brothers had other wives, it was only Draupadi who was ever present with them.

4:04 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Thanx, Sunny, for buttressing my argument. However I should admit here that I have not read the original version of Vyasa's Mahabharat.

I too read your blog "Story Teller"--at least one post where I left my comments. The topic is well developed.

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Rajeshwari said...

What an observation!Sir.Truely said (jahan na pahunche ravi vahan pahunche kavi)I have not read Mahabharta as a whole, but know abut this Draupdi episode well as it is narrated in Lord Krishna Leelas.But I could never think like that.Really,Great people look at things differently!

12:01 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Thank you Rajeshwari. Your words of appreciation mean a lot to me

8:02 AM  
Blogger Sudhir Joglekar said...

The following passage from Mahabharat Dyut Parva SECTION LVII corroborates AN Nanda's views.

"King Yudhishthira the just having said this unto Vidura, commanded that preparations for his journey might be made without loss of time. And the next day, the king accompanied by his relatives and attendants and taking with him also the women of the household with Draupadi in their midst, set out for the capital of the Kurus."

I have written in detail on some dilemmas on this incident on my blog, I hope it will be appropriate to post the link here, rather than write all over again.

2:18 AM  
Blogger Anant Nanda said...

Thank you, Sudhir, for visiting and endorsing my interpretation of Draupadi's role in the dice match. I, too, have visited your blog. The posts are, to say the least, very interesting. Your style of drawing conclusion is as precise as geometrical deductions. You may visit the following link to find my interpretation of leadership style of Ram:

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Brikut said...

There have been many myths about Goddess Draupadi, many are mis-interpretations, base-less. She is considered to be the grama devetha and kula devatha for many people. There are many shrines for Goddess Draupadi, spread in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. One of the shrines, where She is a Grama-Devatha and Kula-Devatha to many, is located in one of the small villages of Tamil Nadu.

The village is named KONDAL, Mayiladuthurai Taluk, Nagapattinam District, Nidur P.O, Tamil Nadu. There are more details about Goddess and way to the shrine at:

Draupadi Amman Thunai - May Her blessing be always on you all!!

9:04 PM  

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