India is home to great literature and two of the greatest epics originated from the sub-continent. They are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is the more voluminous tome and also covers the entire gamut of human emotion. It portrays it's tale on a vast canvas and also raises many contentious issues.  One of  the most contentious issues is polyandry and the marriage of princess Draupadi to 5 brothers.  The tale of Draupadi is unique, in that she had 5 husbands and was impregnated by each of them, though none of her children survived her.

Draupadi was won in a swayamvara by Arjuna. This was an ancient custom and a princess was to choose her husband from suiters who had to display their prowess. The strongest man usually won and Arjuna won Draupadi. He was helped by the fact that the one man who could have beaten him, Karna was ignomiously  booted out of the competition,

Unknown to Draupadi, she learnt on reaching the Pandava's palace that she she had to have 5 husbands. The Mahabharata and the poet Vyas is silent on what was her personal opinion. Was she consulted ? Probably not and she was presented with a fait accompli.  Having been made to accept 5 husbands Draupadi soon established her own rules  She made the rules and all the 5 Pandava brothers had to agree.

 She declared that she would stay in a palace alone and no other wife of any Pandava could enter her palace.  Thus all other wives of the Pandavas stayed seperately far away and Draupadi was left very much to herself. She also decreed that each Pandava could spend one year with her and there could be no infingement of this. No other Pandva could even see her , when she was with one of the Pandavas. Thus when by mistake Arjuna entered and saw Draupadi in the arms of Yuddhishtra, he had to do penance by going on a pilgrimage.

The Mahabharta brings out the fact that Draupadi was a woman of substance and all other Pandavas willy nilly had to accept what she said. Whether she was consulted on this polyandrous marriage or not, the fact is she called the shots  and also decided which Pandva would spend his time with her. There was no discussion on this. No other Pandva wife dared to enter the palace of Draupadi and it was recognized that she was on a pedestal. She made an exception and allowed Subhadra the wife of Arjuna( she was Lord Krishna's Sister) to stay with her. But it was her decision.

The Mahabharata brings out that perhaps polyandry was in vogue in that period, but despite this Draupadi adjusted well and soon became mistress not only of her emotions but how she lived her life. Thus, Draupadi was a liberated woman and the modern generation can take inspiration from her conduct and the way she she handled the sittuation.

 


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