Vengeance stings one from inside and it hurts one who nourishes it but this pain is better than the punishment and suffering which is inflicted upon those who love that one vengeful soul. While reading about Draupadi I learned a few precious lessons of life.
Draupadi, indeed, was a great woman for what commoner gets remembered through ages. Some remember her for all the wrong reasons with no shortage of literature eager to feed the false notions about Draupadi. But, there is none less written about the greatness that she enjoys in the timeless run of history. She was born of fire, perhaps the first indication of the destruction that was about to follow. She was the daughter born out of a vengeful desire and fire, a complete destructive duo. The story of Draupadi’s birth is not anonymous. A vengeful Drupad performed a yajna to get a son who would avenge the insult inflicted on him by the great warrior Drona. Out of this yajna came Dhrishtdyumna, the son who would later avenge his humiliation, and after him came Draupadi, the daughter who no one had expected. Whether such an outcome of ygna gets applauded by Drupad or not is disputable; yet, any wise soul would agree that vengeance may give the desired result but shall always be followed by series of unexpected events. In Drupad’s case, it had to be Draupadi, the girl who changed the course of history.
Her supernatural birth inherited the pangs of vengeance from her father, a trait that helped her to fetch her name in history. When she stepped out of the yajna the fires prophesized that she would change the course of history. Perhaps her origin and the stories attached to her birth made her what she was. She came out as a fully formed woman unlike the other legendary woman Sita who was ‘found’ by her father as a baby and perhaps learned all the human characters and values as she grew up. The full-grown Draupadi had little left to be tutored except the worldly ways and knowledge. She came in with her characters and values that she would cherish for the rest of her life.
She came from fire and had a fiery temper & unconsciously possess the desire to burn all who wronged her. Her marriage to the five famed brothers was no less a dramatic event but I want to encircle an important event before their marriage, the burning of the palace at Vaarnavat. Her marriage to the Pandavas was preceded by Duryodhana’s attempt to kill his cousins by burning them down in Vaarnavat. The fire at Vaarnavat drove them to anonymity and the princess born out of fire restored them to fame. The Pandavas after their marriage to Draupadi were more powerful politically than before, it is an indisputable fact that Draupadi became a lifelong binding force for the five brothers who were as different as their varied interests. If the Pandavas were five fingers then Draupadi certainly was the palm. And sometimes the fingers also suffer if the palm gets afflicted by some disease. The Pandavas also suffered along with Draupadi in her oath of vengeance against the Kauravas who shamelessly insulted the bride of their clan.
It’s not that Draupadi was not at fault but she had her moments of glory, for instance, when she asked for her husband’s freedom in boon after the game of dicing and after she was insulted at the hands of Duryodhan and Dusshasan. She had two other wishes and she could have asked for anything, at the least death of her insulters but then she was prudent enough to refuse the other two boons. Rightly so, if she had the five best warriors of the great Bharatvarsh as her groom why would she need any boon to fulfill the desire of her heart? She was way too proud to seek favors from those who insulted her.
The fire burning at her heart started way back when no one would have noticed it, not even Draupadi. The fire started at Khandav that was set on fire to build the city of Indraprastha and the most exquisite palaces that would remain etched in the pages of history, the Mayapuri. Draupadi was the queen of this palace, the mistress of the wonders and wealth that it held. To let go of that single possession that exclusively belonged to her because of her husband’s weakness towards gambling made her angry. Perhaps, her attachment to her palace reduced the pain that she may have felt when she came to know that she would have to be married off to five husbands and will have to share the conjugal bed with each one of them whether she loved them or not and had to be impartially dutiful towards them. Now she had something that didn’t need her to hide her true feelings, which never demanded a strict code of conduct and didn’t want a part of her personality.
Once she was stripped of her dignity and lost her beloved palace, that fire that had remained subdued, ignited again and in her heart, it burnt in full flame. Draupadi kept it aflame till she burnt the towers of Hastinapur to ashes. But in all this, she ignored that her vengeance burnt her husbands as well, but their burning was different. They burnt in the fire of humiliation they had to face at the hands of Shakuni, Duryodhan, Karna, and other Kauravas and their allies. But above all, they burnt in the reproaching glance of Draupadi that reminded them of their humiliation days and nights. They too burnt in the fire with the princess who was born of fire.
It is true that anger and vengeance, be it of any nature, blinds a person to the sufferings of those near him. Draupadi equally became blind to the suffering of those near her. She became oblivious to the sufferings of her husband and her kinsmen from her parental house. The only thing she could see was the destruction of the Kaurava clan. With the end of the great battle, she was able to gratify the fire that burnt inside her. But she forgot was that fire, either extinguished or died of its own accord always leaves ash and smoke behind. In Draupadi’s case, the smoke was so thick that it left her eyes barren and ash so thick that she won’t forget the taste of it in her mouth even in the last moments of life. The palace that she earned after the war was not worth all the lives that perished in the war.
I don’t intend to condemn Draupadi for there is no woman in my knowledge who would have acted differently. Perhaps assessing her as a human and not super-naturally born makes it a bit easier to accept her follies and her hunger for vengeance. And if I view her as a mortal soul I learn not to nourish anger and revenge in my heart for it will burn me and worst of all will burn those who hold me, dearest. If Draupadi’s vengeance brought destruction, it was much more destructive to her.
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