Osho always puts Draupadi on top of any list of rare and unique women. I find Draupadi fascinating. There are three people that I love from the Mahabharata – Krishna, Draupadi and Karna. All others are supporting cast according to me :).
The following excerpts are from the book “Krishna – The Man and His Philosophy”, Chapter 11.
Draupadi – a rare woman
“….As among men Krishna baffles our understanding, so does Draupadi among women. And how the critics look at Draupadi says more about the critics themselves than about Draupadi.
…..It is difficult to understand Draupadi. But our difficulty does not come from this great woman, it really emanates from us. Our ideas and beliefs, our desires and hopes come in our way of understanding Draupadi. To love five men together, to play wife to them at the same time is a great and arduous task. This needs to be understood rightly.”
“…. Up to now, mankind has thought of love in terms of petty relationship – relationship between two persons. We have yet to know love that is a state of mind, and not just relationship. And this is what comes in our way of understanding Draupadi.”
Understanding Draupadi’s Love
“….It is unfortunate that people all around the world are trying to capture love and keep it caged in their relationships. But it is not possible to make a captive of love, the moment you try to capture it, it ceases to be love. Love is like air; you cannot hold it in your fist. It is possible to have a little air on your open palm, but if you try to enclose it in your fist, the air escapes.
It is a paradox of life that when you try to imprison love, to put it in bondage, love degenerates and dies. And we have all killed love in our foolish attempts to possess it. Really we don’t know what love is. We find it hard to understand how Draupadi could love five persons together. Not only we, even the five Pandava brothers had difficulty in understanding Draupadi.”
".....We have our own ideas of what love is and should be, and that is why we misunderstand Draupadi. Despite our best efforts to understand her rightly, there is a lurking suspicion in our minds that there is an element of prostitution in Draupadi: our very definition of a sati, a faithful and loyal wife, turns Draupadi into a prostitute. It is amazing that the tradition of this country respects Draupadi as one of the five most virtuous women of the past. The people who included her among the five great women of history must have been extraordinarily intelligent. The fact that she was the common wife of five Pandavas was known to them, and that is what makes their evaluation of Draupadi tremendously significant. For them it did not matter whether love was confined to one or many; the real question was whether or not one had love. They knew that if really there was love, it could flow endlessly in any number of channels; it could not be controlled and manipulated. It was symbolic to say that Draupadi had five husbands; it meant that one could love five, fifty, five hundred thousand people at the same time. There is no end to love's power and capacity."
Jealousy and Ego
".....Draupadi is certainly a unique woman. Women, in general, are very jealous; they really live in jealousy. If one wants to characterize man and woman, he can say that while ego is the chief characteristic of man, jealousy is the chief characteristic of woman. Man lives by ego and woman by jealousy. Really jealousy is the passive form of ego, and ego is the active form of jealousy. But here is a woman who rose above jealousy and pettiness; she loved the Pandavas without any reservations. In many ways Draupadi towered over her husbands who were very jealous of one another on account of her love. They remained in constant psychological conflict with each other, while Draupadi went through this complex relationship with perfect ease and equanimity."
"......It is good to know that Draupadi is not a solitary case of this kind; she may be the last in a long line. The society that preceded Draupadi was matriarchal; perhaps Draupadi is the last vestige of that disintegrating social order. In a matriarchal society the mother was the head of the family and descent was reckoned through the female line. In a matriarchy a woman did not belong to any man; no man could possess her. A kind of polyandry was in vogue for a long time, and Draupadi seems to be the last of it. Today there are only a few primitive tribes who practice polyandry. That is why the society of her times accepted Draupadi and her marriage and did not raise any objections. If it was wrong, Kunti would have changed her instructions to her sons, but she did not. If there was anything immoral in polyandry even the Pandava brothers would have asked their mother to change her order. But nothing of the kind happened, because it was acceptable to the existing society."
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, its important to ponder over Draupadi and understand her. Not the new age feminism, but something far more deeper !! Its also not about marrying many men or loving many men, but evolving as a woman. She has a deep friendship with Krishna. Hers is a friendship of equals. The Pandavas revere Krishna as God and as their mentor. Its only Draupadi who treats him as a friend.
Even more than the practise of polyandry, the fact that this kind of intense friendship between a man and a woman was possible during those days shows a culture thats far more refined than what we have today.
Read a very old post of mine on Draupadi – A woman’s liberation…