Revisiting the household famous Mahabharata with new perspectives and insights, the story which unveiled brought to light many incidents of importance which previously seemed insignificant, and some questions which are left unanswered- on purpose.

There is a saying that absence makes heart grow fonder. Applying that logic, I would say revisiting the Mahabharata after a long time certainly made for better viewing pleasure.  The same old epic, the same set of characters yet how unique became the perspective, how different were the interpretations. It is because of this that the saga that has remained valid and vibrant throughout the ages.

Epic battles between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is illustrated in a continuous narrative. Sambhavami Yuge Yuge

This scene depicting the epic battles between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is illustrated in a continuous narrative.

The episode began with bringing Draupadi back to Kampilya, her father’s home. Yet efforts begin almost instantaneously to find a home, her permanent abode. What can be a permanent abode for young girl? Obviously, her husband’s house would be the answer. A swayamvar is the solution, a means of finding a suitable and well matched husband to the daughter born from fire! The Swayamvar which is the ‘Om’, the beginning of the end of world as it was, the destruction of adharma and restoration of dharma. The swayamvar intimated that the time for the fulfillment of the promise has come, a promise given by Govinda to Bhoomidevi to rid her of excess weight. Draupadi, the fire has begun her task, the task of restoring dharma, of obliterating the Kuru Line.  Krishna, the sutradhar has set the ball rolling by deftly suggesting the idea of archery as the skill that will decide the competence of prospective suitor vying for the hand of Draupadi; a skill that is bound to lure Arjuna out from his hideout.

One Swayamvar is all it takes

The emergence of the Pandavas from their self imposed exile is essential for the larger plan of Krishna; the seemingly never ending conflict between the Kauravas and Pandavas has to be stoked again. The fire of that hatred has to be built up, constantly tended to so that it may never get extinguished. Who better than a daughter born from fire to take care of it?


Arjuna embraces ascetism for a year Sambhavami Yuge Yuge

The illustration employs a continuous narrative scheme and depicts Arjuna paying obeisance to his elder brother Yudhisthir seated on a horse on the left, followed by the next scene in the sequence on the right, where Arjuna is shown seated with an ascetic who has just helped him discard his armor. The episode possibly belongs to the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata where Arjuna embraces asceticism for a year to atone for erroneously entering the private chambers of Draupadi, the common wife of the five Pandava brothers, while she was with his eldest brother Yudhisthir.

The swayamwar will bring the Kauravas and Pandavas face to face again. It will pit Arjun, the son of Indra against Karn, the son of Surya. The intensification of the pre-existing rivalry between these two archers, the deepening animosity, the blind hatred leading to the death of Karn and the correct balancing of cosmic justice makes this incident stand out significantly. An injustice which had happened in Treta Yuga when Ram had killed Bali, when Bali’s back was turned to him shall be rectified in the current Dwaparayuga with the death of Karna (Bali was the son of Indra and Ram kills Bali on the behest of Sugriva, The Son of Sun God while in Mahabharata, that injustice is corrected when Karna, the Son of Sun God is killed in the hands of Arjuna, Son of Indra on the urging of Krishna.) Justice might be delayed but it is never denied. There might be temporary imbalance of dharma but the imbalance is never allowed to be permanent.

The same swayamvar will see the insult of Karn by Draupadi. The insult searing the soul of Karn , who henceforth finds himself beholden to Duryodhan for he has been the only one to accept him as his equal rather than suta-Putra . A insult that spurred Karn to avenge his humiliation by ordering the disrobing of Draupadi; the disrobement serving as the stimulus for the war against adharma! So much to be achieved all from a Swayamwar.

The Humiliation of Draupadi Sambhavami Yuge Yuge

With the blind king Dhritarashtra flanked by the Kauravs seated in a golden pavilion, the Pandavas at left in the foreground with heads bowed in shame as their wife is stripped of her garments, Krishna’s miracle illustrated by the multiple lengths of cloth at her feet. Draupadi’s cheer-haran, literally meaning stripping of one’s clothes, marks a definitive moment in the story of Mahabharata. Her husbands, the Pandavas are tricked by their cousins, the Kauravas, into a fixed game of dice in which they lose their all their wealth and kingdom. Yudhishthira, the eldest and most-respected Pandava, is then goaded into gambling away each brother. Still the Kauravas are not satisfied by this humiliation, so they taunt Yudhishthira further into betting his wife. Against the protests of the family elders, who argue a woman cannot be put at stake, Yudhishthira puts Draupadi as a bet for the next round. When the Kauravas win, the eldest one Duryodhana, commands his younger brother Dushasana to forcefully bring her to the gathering. Dushasana drags her into the court by her hair. Drunk with power, Dushasana tries to strip Draupadi of her sari. Seeing her husbands unable or unwilling to help her, Draupadi prays to Lord Krishna to protect her. As Dushasana unwraps layers and layers of her sari, it keeps getting extended. Finally, a tired Dushasana backs off without being able to remove her clothing. Given this final insult that Draupadi faced, the younger Pandavas break their silence and vow to avenge these and further humiliations, which culminates in the epic battle, the Mahabharata.

Krishna and Draupadi

There always has been a nagging doubt in my mind as to why Krishna never married Draupadi.  Draupadi and Krishna were suited to one another in every way, why then was there never a marriage between these two?  Was it because Draupadi was not an incarnation of any goddess but a being sent by Gods to serve their purpose? Or was it because Draupadi needed to be in Hastinapur triggering chain reactions that would lead to the ultimate explosion?  The Kurukshetra war!  Be that as it may, the wonderful bond and affection between Krishna and Draupadi is an eye opener to many, including the present contemporary generation because these two titans showed that a platonic friendship is possible between opposite sexes. A relationship that can be pure and dignified!

Krishna combat with Indra Sambhavami Yuge Yuge

The scene depicted is from the Harivamsa, or Genealogy of Hari, a supplement to the Mahabharata dealing with the life of Lord Krishna. Here we see Krishna mounted on Garuda approaching a palace in the clouds, accompanied by his son Pradyumna and Satyaki (Arjuna). Indra, King of the Gods, pictured on his white elephant, confronts him, while courtiers look on from the palace courtyard that floats in the clouds.

I am glad the Siddharth Tewary version of the Mahabharata is showing the gradual deepening of friendship between Krishna and Draupadi instead of presenting it as fait accompli. The Mahabharata quite unequivocally states that Draupadi was a woman of high intellect. A woman of Draupadi’s caliber would not have accepted the injunctions and suggestions of Krishna submissively; she would have to be impressed by the merits of his arguments, impressed by his views and respected him enough to accept his directives without a murmur. How would have Draupadi known about Krishna when Drupad himself seems unaware of the pedigree of Krishna?  Why would Draupadi respect Krishna when she would know nothing about him? Why will she obey Krishna when he is not her guardian, her father, her brother, her husband? All these questions are answered in Siddharth Tewary’s Mahabharata which is encapsulating the growing friendship of Krishna and Drauapadi .A friendship that is slowly and subtly turning into deep bond;  that of a mentor and a devoted disciple.

By Tanthya

Also See:
Understanding Bhishma: The Early Days
Understanding Bhishma: The Later Days
You Speak – Learning From Our Glorious Past

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