The Daughter of Fire

One of the boldest characters found in the Indian epics is Draupadi, the daughter of king Dhrupad, who got nothing but the irony of destiny as a birth gift by Vyashdev. But, personally, I find her characterisation the strongest, among all the characters of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Mainly because we can still analyse a modern-day woman through her. Another epic can be composed solely based on Draupadi's life, but we are running short of space here. So, my main focus is to lighten the highest points of insults that she had to face as the wife of five husbands. Currently, we don’t find a woman with five husbands, but they still have to face, even though negligible, the blazes of her life. Maybe, because she was the daughter of fire.

Firstly, let’s discuss the various angles of the relationship she had with her five husbands. In the “Swayambhar Swabha” when Arjuna “won” Draupadi, and the Pandavas in disguise took her home, Yudhisthir told Kunti “Look what Arjun got”. She said, “whatever it is, divide it equally among yourselves”. In no time, they did so. This goes on to prove that, not only a woman can be ‘won’ or ‘donated’ she can even be ‘distributed’. Even though Vyashdev has given a series of logics and stories behind this, but they don’t prove otherwise that women are nothing but ‘commodities’. I think this social structure is really strange. But, viewed from another angle, this 5 husbands theory, did bring a sense of equality in the male polygamic society. Now, if we discard this logic, did anyone actually ask for her consent before ‘dividing’ her?

This productization of women didn’t stop here. Dharmaputra Yudhisthira dragged her further down by placing her as a bet in the famous gamble of ‘Mahabharata’. That dark day, we witnessed the shameful celebration of the lust of winning Draupadi as a bet in the Hastinapur palace yard. That day, not only the five Pandavas but the 100 Kauravas got the ‘right’ to see her naked body. She was dragged down to the game room, during her periods with nothing but a single piece of cloth covering her body. None came forward to protect her except her forever friend (shakha)/ Krishna. Truth be told, Draupadi slams this question time and again on our faces, “are real women and daughters, commodities?”

Even if we exclude Kauravas, she had to go through various iniquitous behaviors even from her own husbands. She was ordered with a condition. Each time after having sex, she had to regain her virginity every year, get purified by fire. Even in the 21st century, we can still witness women, proving their virginity to their men on the first night. But, neither the men had to face this test back then, nor they have to face it now. Their virginity and character remain evergreen. Sita had to pass this test once, but Draupadi had to walk down Sita’s path each and every year. Thus another question slammed on our faces, “Do only women are bound to prove their virginity?”

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