Draupadi constitutes the most unique example of a dame in distress – the kind of distress probably unknown to any other heroine or female character in a story, legend or epic like the Mahabharata. She would perhaps have willingly subjected herself to any severe punishment coupled with dignity but was destined to stake all her honour and reputation, overpowered as she was by the wretched hands of Dusshaasana whose sacrilegious attempt to disrobe her was an exercise in futility – thanks to the grace of Krishna; the Lord answered prayers and came to her rescue; the saree heap which amazed everyone in Dhrutharashtra’s court stood like a shameful monument of masculine depravity – of the Kauravas vulgar display of victory in a game of dice. Draupadi’s discomfiture was such that nobody dared to prevent Duryodhana and Dusshaasana from embarking on a criminally heinous expedition calculated to denude Draupadi. The distress of the poor dame was such that the scene of the most poignant episode in the epic sowed the seeds of dissension between the Pandavas and Kauravas and paved the way for the Mahabharata war.
In the other epic, Ramayana, Sita kidnapped by Ravana did not suffer the kind of agony Draupadi did. The king of rakshasas known for the harassment of people no doubt brought pressure on her to get her consent for her hand in marriage. Sita, however, suffered no ignominy that Draupadi did. Sita’s was a nightmare while Draupadi’s was an attempt at day-light robbery of her robe and prestige right under the gaze of the public in the royal court.
In Abhijnaana Shakuntala, Kalidasa’s heroine, Shakuntala suffered only understandable privations by the accursed estrangement with her consort Dushyanta.
Cordelia, the tragic heroine in “King Lear” by Shakespeare, suffered only a temporary fall from grace; the fall was nowhere near Draupadi’s.
In the Greek tragedy, “Oedipus” by Sophocles, Queen Jocosta did not know that she would have the mortification of her husband being slain by her own son and of being married to him later but no mental privation overtook her!
Tragedy that triggered a war!
Shakespeare’s “Othello” has been called the “tragedy of the handkerchief”. “Mahabharata” is verily the tragedy of the hand that pulled Draupadi’s saree – the tragic pull that triggered a war!
The angelic visions of and messianic voices that commanded Joan of Arc to drive the English from 15th century France according to a newspaper report (Deccan Herald dated Sept 7, 90) may have been symptoms of epilepsy, according to two researchers, Lydia Bayne, an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of California, says that evidence uncovered by a writer Elizabeth Foote – Smith indicates that “Joan of Arc suffered from a form of epilepsy called complex partial seizures. These seizures are not convulsions but rather a slightly altered state of consciousness lasting from seconds to minutes, often preceded by an aura, Bayne says. The seizures can manifest themselves as visual and auditory hallucinations much like those of Joan of Arc described to the clerical court that tried her before she was burnt at the stake.”
Whatever the modern description of Joan of Arc’s state of mind, it should be noted that her highly evolved condition is common to that of many spiritually evolved souls who have got messages from above (or from within) in the past and many who have been getting even now!
The angelic versions have been designated in the Indian philosophical lore as an “unmadaavasthaa” seemingly suffering from mental derangement or hallucination but really not. Such evolved beings constitute highly progressive products of an advancing civilization said to characterize the worlds above ours.
These observations apart, what is important for this study is that apart from the harassment she suffered culminating in her ghastly mode of execution at the hands of a society which was behind her, Draupadi’s distress ranks as the unique example of continued humiliation of an unforgettable nature and definitely long drawn-out.
Arundhati had lost many of her sons at the hands of Kaushika. She was not perturbed much as her consort, the great Vasishta was a picture of peace. He was prepared to bring up his arch enemy as he knew he had the innate yoga and ability to blossom himself into a new Brahmarshi by intense thapas. Vasishta was prepared to promote him indirectly to that goal even at the risk of sacrificing his own children. He probably thought that none of them would make Viswamitra’s grade in the end!
The most poignant episode in Vyasa’s great epic “Mahabharata”, the distress of Draupadi is placed before readers for critical assessment. Effort has been made, as far as possible, to retain the originality of the episode narrated in the Sanskrit version of Vyasa’s masterpiece. The author has relied also on contemporary translations of the Mahabharata, chief among them being the Kannada version of the epic by Bharata Darshana editors, headed by the Sanskrit scholar Sri K.S. Kowshik, whose contributions to literature on the two epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana are unparalleled and the unique record will remain so for centuries.