She speaks for herself

She speaks for herself. She is conscious about her rights and doesn’t falter to point a finger when she sees them violated. She spoke for herself whilst in tears, after Yudhishthira staked and lost her at the dice game, while being disrobed by Dusshasana and insulted by Duryodhana and Karna,. And when all the elders of Hastinapur remained silent, she asked:

” She whom even the winds and the sun had seen never before in her palace is to-day before this assembly and exposed to the gaze of the crowd. Alas, she whom the sons of Pandu could not, while in her palace, suffer to be touched even by the wind, is to-day suffered by the Pandavas to be seized and dragged by this wretch. Alas, these Kauravas also suffer their daughter-in-law, so unworthy of such treatment, to be thus afflicted before them. Where is that virtue for which these kings were noted? Ye Kauravas, I am the wedded wife of king Yudhishthira the just, hailing from the same dynasty to which the King belonged. Tell me now if I am a serving-maid or otherwise. I will cheerfully accept your answer. This mean wretch, this destroyer of the name of the Kurus, is afflicting me hard. Ye Kauravas, I cannot bear it any longer. Ye kings, I desire ye to answer whether ye regard me as won or unwon. I will accept your verdict whatever it be.”

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At which, Bhishma, the foremost of the Kurus, the expert on ethics brooded over the complexity of morality itself and failed to give a clear verdict.

She was fully aware of her identity and never hesitated to remind her husbands that they were the cause of her miseries. The way she lamented to Krishna while in exile at the woods is perhaps rare in world literature:

“Krishna, how could one like me, the wife of Pritha’s sons, the sister of Dhrishtadyumna, and the friend of thee, be dragged to the assembly! Alas, during my season, stained with blood, with but a single cloth on, trembling all over, and weeping, I was dragged to the court of the Kurus! Beholding me, stained with blood in the presence of those kings in the assembly, the wicked sons of Dhritarashtra laughed at me! O slayer of Madhu, while the sons of Pandu and the Panchalas and the Vrishnis lived, they dared express the desire of using me as their slave! O Krishna, I am the daughter in-law of both Dhritarashtra and Bhishma! Yet, O slayer of Madhu, they wished to make of me a slave by force! I blame the Pandavas who are mighty and foremost in battle, for they saw (without stirring) their own wedded wife known over all the world, treated with such cruelty! Oh, fie on the might of Bhimasena, fie on the Gandiva of Arjuna, for they, O Janardana, both suffered me to be thus disgraced by little men! This eternal course of morality is ever followed by the virtuous–viz., that the husband, however weak, protecteth his wedded wife! By protecting the wife one protecteth his offspring and by protecting the offspring one protecteth his own self! One’s own self is begotten on one’s wife, and therefore it is that the wife is called Jaya. A wife also should protect her lord, remembering that he is to take his birth in her womb!

The Pandavas never forsake the person that soliciteth their protection, and yet they abandoned me who solicited it! By my five husbands five sons of exceeding energy have been born of me: all of them of energy that cannot be baffled. For their sake, O Janardana, it was necessary to protect me! Even as (thy son) Pradyumna, they are, O Krishna, mighty warriors all! They are foremost of bowmen, and invincible in battle by any foe! Why do they bear the wrongs inflicted (on me) by the sons of Dhritarashtra of such contemptible strength? Deprived of their kingdom by deception, the Pandavas were made bondsmen and I myself was dragged to the assembly while in my season, and having only a single cloth on! Fie on that Gandiva which none else can string save Arjuna and Bhima and thyself, O slayer of Madhu! Fie on the strength of Bhima, and fie on the prowess of Arjuna, since, O Krishna, Duryodhana hath drawn breath even for a moment! Why do these that are gifted with strength and possessed of the prowess of the lion, sit indifferently, beholding me thus afflicted by enemies so despicable? Suffering such wrongs at the hands of wicked and evil-doing foes of small strength, am I to burn in grief so long? Born I was in a great race, coming into the world in an extraordinary way! I am also the beloved wife of the Pandavas, and the daughter-in-law of the illustrious Pandu! The foremost of women and devoted to my husbands, even I, O Krishna, was seized by hair, O slayer of Madhu, in the sight of the Pandavas, each of whom is like an Indra himself! ”

And yet she didn’t abandon them; and yet she accompanied them during their exile at the forests for 12 years (as the only wife to do so), and later at King Viraata’s palace in cognito as a parlourmaid; even though opportunities were many. And when Dhritarashtra wanted to grant her a wish in order to appease her after her insult she asked for the freedom of her husbands; the same husbands who had gambled her away as a mere wealth item moments ago. When Satyabhama mockingly asked her about the secret of her relationships with the Pandavas, what she replied essentially meant that she was obedient to them always and never did anything that may disturb them in any way.

Draupadi had with her five of the best men of the generation, in terms of glamour, might and handsomeness; and apart from the incident at the dice game they did their best to protect her. They honoured her and were eager to make her happy. Of course, the relationships she shared with them were not identical; each were special in their own way. She looked up to Yudhishthira as somewhat of a naive elderly person; whom she censured often for his ultra righteous notions and for being the root cause of their travails at the wilderness but also loved and respected in a sympathetic manner. Nakula and Sahadeva were like young ones of the family needed to be taken care of, and to be sheltered from the adversities of life. Bhima and Arjuna had more important roles. Arjuna was the one who had won her through a competition of the utmost skills of archery, and either for that reason or simply because of his fascinating personality she had a pronounced preference for him. That preference was reflected when she eyed Subhadra with an askance look when the latter arrived as Arjuna’s new wife. When she fell during the “ascent to heaven”, Yudhishthira asserted that her love was prejudiced towards Arjuna, and that brought about her downfall. Arjuna (who had several other wives as well), on the other hand, apparently had a preference for Subhadra. Bhima was probably the most devoted lover and husband that Draupadi had. He was the first to take bloodcurdling oaths at the Kuru court vowing to smash Duryodhana’s thighs and to drink Dusshasana’s blood. Draupadi knew of his passionate feeling towards her and made good use of it too. Whenever she needed something to be done, be it serious (like punishing Keechaka) or trivial (like acquiring the thousand-petal lotus); she relied on Bhima. She well understood the psychology of her men and she motivated them accordingly.