Draupadi was born to re-establish dharma on earth. The Draupadi story is a series of events where she plays several direct and indirect roles in steering events towards the predetermined goal of re-establishing dharma. 

Call her Draupadi, Panchali, or Yagnaseni – she is a lady of utmost courage, intelligence, and patience. Draupadi’s story is multi-faceted, just like her personality. She is even worshipped as a goddess in many parts of India. South India has numerous temples dedicated to Draupadi Amman. Numerous television serials have been made about Draupadi in Hindi and other languages. Such is the fame of the empress of Hasthinapura. 

Draupadi of Mahabharata is considered the incarnation of Adi Para Shakti, who was born on earth to help Sri Krishna establish dharma in the period when Dwāpara Yuga was ending and Kali Yuga was about to begin. The Pandava brothers were celestial gods cursed by Shiva to be born as humans to absolve their mistakes and work for the greater good of other living beings. Right from her birth to her demise, many incidents in Draupadi’s life were pre-destined. 

You can get a short summary of the Mahabharata to get familiar with the story. Buy a copy of the Amar Chitra Katha Mahabharata to read the ithihasa with illustrations.

Draupadi’s Birth 

Draupadi wasn’t born from a human womb. In fact, when she was born, she wasn’t even a baby. Draupadi emerged from a yagna (fire ceremony) with her twin brother Dhrishtadyumna. The siblings were most likely teenagers when they were born. 

The story goes that King Drupada and Dronacharya were childhood friends. However, many years later, when Dronacharya was bereft of money and could not afford to give milk to his child, Ashwatthama, Dronacharya went to his old friend’s palace to ask him for a cow. However, King Draupada insulted Dronacharya. Angered by this, the sage vowed to take revenge. He trained the Kauravas and Pandavas and, as guru-dakshina, he asked them to capture King Draupada. 

Draupada was captured by Dronacharya’s disciples. Consequently, he had to give up half his kingdom to Dronacharya. An angry Drupada swore revenge against them. He performed a yagna to ask for a child who would vanquish Dronacharya.

Dhrishtadyumna and Draupadi were the boons he received from the fire ceremony. The young man was destined to kill Dronacharya, while Draupadi was to be the cause of a war that would annihilate the Kaurava clan. 

Various Names of Draupadi

The name, Draupadi, comes from her father, King Draupada. In short, the name Draupadi implies that she was the daughter of Draupada, and whether it is Draupadi in Sanskrit or Draupadi Hindi, the name has the same meaning. She is also known by other names, such as: 

Krishnaa (In fact, she is often addressed as Krsnaa-Draupadi in Vyasa Mahabharata)

  • Panchali 
  • Yagnaseni 
  • Sairandhri 
  • Malini 
  • Nityayuvani 
  • Drupadkanya
  • Parshati 

You can also find an Astottara Shatanamavali for Draupadi. It consists of Draupadi 108 names, chanted by her devotees and in her temples. 

Check out this retelling of the Mahabharata by Saiswaroopa Iyer written from Draupadi’s POV.

Draupadi’s Marriage (Swyamwara) 

A few years later, it’s time for Draupadi’s marriage. However, the enmity between the Kauravas and Pandavas (from the former’s side) has grown to an extent where the Kauravas plotted to send the Pandavas to a house that they had planned to burn down. Fortunately, the Pandavas are forewarned and escape the house after burning it themselves to give their enemies the impression that they have perished. After that incident, they stay in hiding in a forest.

Meanwhile, King Draupada devices a highly complex competition and announces Draupadi’s Swayamwar. He knows that only Arjuna can win it. The participants had to hit the eye of a revolving fish by shooting five arrows through an aperture.

As expected, many kings and princes fail, much to their chagrin. But when Arjuna, disguised as a Brahmin, wins the contest, the other kings attack King Drauapda. Arjuna defeats the participants and leaves the capital of Panchala with Draupadi as his wife. 

Check out the complete collection of the Mahabharata Translation of the Critical Edition by Bibek Debroy. The ten-book set is also available on Kindle as individual books. Start with Book One by clicking on the below image.

Why did Draupadi Marry the Pandava Brothers? 

While the story of Draupadi as Adi Para Shakti is one aspect, the events in Mahabharata create a situation for her to marry all five Pandava brothers. 

Arjuna succeeds in the challenge devised by King Drupada at Draupadi’s swayamvar, and Draupadi is happy to select him as her husband. Since the Pandavas are in hiding at that time, she and Arjuna go to the potter’s cottage where they are living. In the cottage, Arjuna calls out to his mother, saying he brought something. Kunti asks him to share it with his brothers, thinking he must have brought alms and not a bride. 

Kunti is aghast after seeing Draupadi but says she cannot take back her words. As the eldest, Yudhistira tells Arjuna to marry Draupadi since he rightfully won the swayamwar. Arjuna declines, and a long discussion follows in which it is mutually decided that Draupadi will marry all five Pandavas as her husbands.

However, King Drupada doesn’t think it’s proper for his daughter to marry five men, but Veda Vyasa convinces King Draupada and Dhrishtadyumna by revealing the true secret of Draupadi’s birth. They decided that Draupadi would spend one year with each husband in the order of their age – Yudhistira, Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. 


Draupadi as Queen of Indraprastha 

Draupadi character analysis shows her as a capable ruler, smart strategist, and efficient political negotiator. Draupadi shares the throne with Yudhistira when he performs the Rajasuya yagna. For twelve years, she plays an active role in ruling Indraprastha. It’s no surprise that the kingdom prospers and becomes a formidable force. 

Draupadi also has a son with each of the Pandava brothers. The children are called Upapandavas – Prativindhya (Yudhishthira), Sutasoma (Bheema), Satanika (Nakula), Shrutasena (Sahadeva) and Shrutakarma (Arjuna). The Pandava brothers also take other wives, though Draupadi is the only queen of Indraprastha. 

The Empress of Indraprastha is a five-part modern fan-fictional retelling of the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective written by Sonali Raje.

Mayasabha and Dhuryodhana 

Naturally, the Kaurava brothers were jealous of Pandava’s growing strength. They were waiting for an opportunity to strike. After the Pandavas defeated the Aryavarta kings, they planned to perform a Rajasuya to declare Yudhistira as Chakravarti Samrat. Dhuryodhana was also invited to the ceremony. 

As it happens, Dhuryodhana was mesmerized by Mayasabha, the illusionary chamber in the kingdom where it is almost impossible to discern between real and fake decorations. Dhuryodhana slips into a water pond thinking it to be the floor. Angered by this, he blames the Pandavas for his insult. 

Though there are many versions of this incident, and Dhuryodhana claims Draupadi laughed at him and called him names, the truth is that she wasn’t even present in the setting. In fact, Dhuryodhana hears some women laughing, possibly the maids, and might have seen Draupadi walk that way. It’s Bheema who taunts him. 

But this is the opportunity he wanted to destroy the Pandavas forever. He goes to the elders with an embellished tale and gets them to invite Yudhistira to a game of dice. After all, everyone knows that this was Yudhistira’s only weakness. He cannot resist a game of dice. 

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Draupadi’s Insult During the Game of Dice 

The game of dice happens between Yudhistira and Shakuni (who was an expert at throwing dice and in the art of deceit) instead of Dhuryodhana. Even the other Pandava brothers don’t participate. Yudhistira continues to lose but keeps playing, and, in the process, he loses his kingdom, wealth, and brothers. He even pledges himself and loses. Finally, he stakes Draupadi when Shakuni points out that he could get everything back if he won that round. 

However, Yudhistira loses once again. Here, comes the tricky question that Draupadi asks the elders later – if Yudhistira has already lost himself, does he have the right to stake Draupadi? 

Dhuryodhana, wanting revenge, tells Dushasana to bring Draupadi to the court. Draupadi declines, but Dushasana drags her to the court with her hair. She was wearing a single cloth wrapped as a saree around her body and was nowhere dressed to meet anyone, let alone walk into public. However, Dushasana takes pleasure in humiliating her. 

In the court, Draupadi implores the elders, Bhishma, Dronacharya, Dhritarashtra, and others, and asks them if pledging human beings is even valid. Vikarana, the third Kaurava brother, supports her while Karna supports Dhuryodhana. 

Role of Karna in Draupadi Vastraharan

Despite many contemporary retellings presenting Karna as the love of Draupadi’s life, she had every reason to hate Karna for calling her a prostitute and encouraging the Kauravas to disrobe her in public. In fact, he encourages Dhuryodhana, who gestures for Draupadi to sit on his lap. In the original Draupadi story, Karna was an enemy like the Kauravas.

Even when Dushasana begins to disrobe Draupadi, the elders don’t stop him. Draupadi calls out to Krishna, from the depths of her soul, for help. Krishna, who wasn’t physically present, is able to help her through his yogic powers. He ensures that Draupadi stays covered as Dushasana continues pulling at the cloth. Dushasana keeps at it until his arms ache. A large pile of cloth stands beside him, but Draupadi remains clothed as before. 

Vidura intervenes again, saying that the daughter-in-law of the house shouldn’t be treated this way. Finally, Dhritarashtra steps in to stop Dhuryodhana and tells him to hand over everything that Yudhistira lost back to him.

The Pandavas, of course, vow to take revenge for Draupadi’s insult. 

The Mahabharata Tales by M. R Deepak contains important events from the epic presented as short stories.

Pandava’s Exile 

Dhuryodhana, not satisfied with the events, invites Yudhistira to one more game of dice. Yudhistira loses again, and this time, the Pandava brothers and Draupadi go into exile for twelve years, followed by agyatvaas (living in disguise) for a year. If the Pandavas were to be identified during the one year of disguise, they would have to restart the twelve-year exile again. 

Draupadi takes care of the Pandavas during exile, and the six of them have many adventures (Saugandhika Flowers, Abduction by Jayadratha, Akshaya Patra, etc.). After completing the twelve-year exile, they choose King Virata’s kingdom as the perfect place for hiding. Throughout this period of exile, Draupadi keeps the flame of revenge alive by reminding the Pandavas of her insult. 

Draupadi Becomes Sairandhri  

Draupadi’s character and beauty are inseparable. She looks regal even when dressed in rags. When she announces to sell her services as a maid, King Virata’s wife, Sudheshana, hires her right away. The Pandava brothers, in disguise, also get various other jobs in the kingdom. Life goes well for them until Keechaka, the queen’s evil brother arrives. He lusts after Draupadi and threatens her when she resists his advances. 

Bheema kills Keechaka, and this alerts the Kauravas as they know that only he is capable of vanquishing the powerful Keechaka. They make a plan to steal King Virata’s cattle because the Kauravas know that if the Pandavas were truly hiding in his kingdom, they would come out to help Virata. This would force the Pandavas out of hiding. However, the plan fails as Pandavas help the king without revealing themselves until the 13-year deadline ends.  

Kurukshetra War 

The Pandavas return successfully after completing their exile and ask for their kingdom. The Kauravas, however, refuse to return Indraprastha to the Pandavas. This leaves the Pandavas with no choice but to go to war. Draupadi loses all her children and Abhimanyu (Ajruna and Subhadra’s son), whom she loved as her own child, in the war. Furthermore, Karna was responsible for Abhimanyu’s death, another event that shows why Draupadi couldn’t have loved Karna — which is an angle that many authors who retell the Mahabharata seem to love.

After eighteen days of gruesome fighting, the Pandavas win and are established on the throne of Hasthinapura. 

Draupadi’s Demise

Draupadi and the Pandavas ruled Hasthipura for thirty-six years after the Kurukshetra War. Vyasa Mahamuni advises the Pandavas to retire after Krishna’s death. Consequently, the Pandava brothers and Draupadi renounce everything, hand over the reins to Pariksita, Abhimanyu’s son, and set forth on foot to the Himalayas. It’s the last journey of their life. Draupadi is the first to collapse and die while climbing the sacred slopes of the Himalayas. After that, four Pandava brothers die one by one. In the end, Yudhistira is the only person who reaches heaven in his human form. 

To Sum Up 

Draupadi’s story is full of complex patterns, interrelated events, and subtle lessons. What we see on the surface of the story isn’t all that. The Mahabharata has many hidden insights that reveal themselves when the reader can accept new knowledge. 

Draupadi is a princess, queen, fighter, mother, and a goddess.