Categories: Hindu Scripture

Draupadi:The Enigmatic Heroine of the Mahabharata

Draupadi, also known as Panchali, is one of the most intriguing and significant characters in the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Her name, Draupadi, means “the daughter of Drupada,” a reference to her father, King Drupada. She is a figure shrouded in mythology and complex narratives, and her life is a blend of divinity, destiny, and human emotions.


Draupadi’s Previous Birth

Before we delve into Draupadi’s life in the Mahabharata, it’s essential to explore the intriguing stories surrounding her previous births. These stories, rooted in Hindu mythology, provide a deeper understanding of her character and the circumstances that shaped her destiny.

The Sage’s Daughter: One account tells of Draupadi’s previous life as the daughter of a sage. Due to her actions in a past life, she became unfortunate and couldn’t find a husband. She performed severe ascetic penances and pleased Lord Shiva. When she asked for a husband endowed with all virtues, Shiva granted her the boon but added a twist – she would have five husbands in her next life.

The Laughter and the Curse: In another version, Draupadi, then known as Nalayani, laughed at a woman with five husbands during a forest visit with her friends. The woman cursed her to have five husbands in her next birth.

Sage Maudgalya’s Boon: Some stories suggest that Draupadi’s name was Nalayani, and she was the wife of Sage Maudgalya. She asked for a boon to have her husband take five different forms and have relations with her. Unsatisfied with this, she was cursed to have five husbands in her next life.

Draupadi’s Unique Birth

Draupadi’s birth itself is a tale of divine intervention. She was not born from a woman’s womb but rather emerged from the sacrificial fire, making her “ayonija.” She and her brother, Dhrishtyadumna, were both born through this extraordinary process.

The Feud Between Dronacharya and Drupada

Draupadi’s story is closely intertwined with the complex relationships and feuds of her time. One such feud is between Dronacharya, a revered Brahmin teacher with formidable martial skills, and King Drupada, her father. Dronacharya and Drupada were childhood friends, but their paths diverged dramatically. Dronacharya, faced with poverty, turned to his friend for help, but Drupada humiliated him, setting the stage for Dronacharya’s quest for revenge.

The Birth of Draupadi

Dronacharya, desperate to avenge his insult by Drupada, hatched a plan. He trained the Pandavas and Kauravas, and as part of his fee for their education, he instructed them to defeat Drupada. While the Kauravas failed, the Pandavas succeeded in this endeavor, which led to the division of Drupada’s kingdom and a cycle of vengeance.

Drupada, humiliated by this defeat, sought to birth a son who could destroy Dronacharya. This marked the beginning of Draupadi’s role in fulfilling the grand design of destiny.

Draupadi’s Swayamvara

King Drupada desired to wed Draupadi to Arjuna, but believing the Pandavas to be dead, he organized a Swayamvara contest to select her groom. The contest was unique and challenging. A fish, attached to a revolving wheel, dangled over a pond. Contestants had to string a bow and pierce the fish’s eye while only seeing its reflection in the water.

Arjuna’s prowess, guided by Lord Krishna, allowed him to successfully complete the task

Draupadi’s Swayamvara became an iconic event, and Arjuna’s prowess, guided by Lord Krishna, allowed him to successfully complete the task, winning Draupadi’s hand in marriage.

Draupadi’s Struggle and Insult at the Kaurava Court

Draupadi’s journey was filled with both triumph and tragedy. After marrying the Pandavas, she faced the wrath of Kauravas. One fateful incident at the Kaurava court during a game of dice resulted in the most painful episode of her life.

Duryodhana and his brothers attempted to disrobe Draupadi

Yudhishthira, in a moment of weakness, staked Draupadi in a gambling match and lost her to the Kauravas. This led to her public humiliation, where Duryodhana and his brothers attempted to disrobe her in full view of the court. Draupadi’s dignity was saved only through divine intervention, as her garments remained unending, preserving her modesty.

Married Life and Role in the Epic War

Draupadi’s unique marriage to the five Pandavas was not without challenges. She shared her life with them, and there were rules in place to maintain harmony within the relationship. Draupadi played a significant role in the Mahabharata, from being the queen of Indraprastha to enduring the hardships of exile.

In the epic war, Draupadi witnessed the destruction of her sons and her kith and kin, yet she remained a symbol of strength and resilience. She carried the burden of her husband’s honor and her own throughout the epic.

Draupadi’s Legacy and Worship

While Draupadi’s life is a blend of myth and history, her worship isn’t as widespread as other Hindu deities. The complex nature of her marriage to five men has sometimes led to her being a subject of ridicule, particularly in modern times.

Nonetheless, in the southern part of India, there is a unique cult known as the Draupadi Amman sect. Here, Draupadi is worshipped as a village goddess. Temples dedicated to her exist in several villages, emphasizing her significance and reverence in regional Hindu traditions.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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