Why was Draupadi Born From the Fire?

Draupadi is known as the fire-born princess because she was born from the sacrificial fire when her father, King Drupada, conducted a great sacrifice to beget a son who would slay the great warrior-brahmin, Dronacharya (Drona).

Let’s take a step. Why did Drupada want to slay Dronacharya? And if the sacrifice was for a son who would slay Dronacharya, then why did it bear a daughter as well?

Why Did King Drupada Want to Slay Drona?

The relationship between Drupada and Drona went a long way back. Drona’s father, the great sage Bhradawaja, and Drupada’s father, Prishata, the king of Panchala, were very good friends. King Prishata sent his son, Drupada, to study at Sage Bharadawaja’s hermitage. At the hermitage, Drupada and the sage’s son, Drona, who were of the same age, became very good friends.

In childhood innocence, Drupada once promised his dear friend, Drona, that whatever belonged to him also belonged to Drona by virtue of their friendship. Years later when Drupada became the king of Panchala, Drona went to his court and reminded him of their friendship. Drona had expected a warm embrace from his childhood friend, instead, Drupada insulted him with these words:

“One of low birth can never be the friend of one whose lineage is pure, nor can one who is not a car-warrior have a car-warrior as his friend. So also one who is not a king cannot have a king as his friend. Why dost though, therefore, desire (to revive our) former friendship?”

King Drupada to his childhood friend Drona

Drona was mortified by his friend’s words. He left Drupada’s palace with a resolve to humiliate the king. Soon after that, Drona went to Hastinapura and became the teacher of the Kuru princes. He taught them the art of combat and the usage of various weapons. After their education was complete, Drona asked his students to capture King Drupada and present the king to him.

His students, especially Arjuna, vanquished Drupada’s army and presented the defeated king to Drona. With the king defeated, his kingdom officially belonged to Drona. However, Drona did not care for the kingdom. He wanted to teach the king a lesson for insulting him, so he returned half the kingdom to Drupada, and once again solicited his friendship, as an equal.

The vanquished king maintained a pleasant front and accepted his offer, but the humiliation ate into his psyche. He lost all peace of mind. Such was his mental torment, that he spent his entire day thinking about how to defeat or slay Drona.

Drupada knew that his child Shikandi did not have the power to defeat Drona. Even the best warriors in his army were no match for Drona’s power and skill. Since neither his child nor his army could match Drona’s prowess, he decided to visit the accomplished sages in the hope of finding someone who would conduct a sacrificial rite to help him win a battle against Drona.

One day, while wandering along the banks of the Ganga and the Yamuna, he came across a hermitage that housed sages of the highest order. There he met Yaja and Upayaja, who, he could see, had the power and knowledge to perform the sacrificial rites.

King Drupada spend several days serving them. After winning their trust, he requested Upayaja, the more knowledgeable of the two, to help him win against Drona. He even promised generous gifts to Upayaja for performing the sacrifice, but Upayaja declined. He also did not consider it appropriate to use his knowledge for such matters. However, his younger brother Yaja accepted the king’s offer. He performed the sacrifice successfully. When the final libations were poured into the fire, there emerged from it, not one, but two children. The first was a son, Drishtadyumna, who would eventually slay Drona in the battle at Kurukshetra, and the second was a daughter, Draupadi, who would become the catalyst for the battle.

As the above story suggests, Draupadi was born from the fire as the result of Drupada’s desire to avenge the humiliation he received from Drona. However, that’s only part of the story.

The other part of the story is that Draupadi was destined to be born at that time, she was destined to marry five husbands, and her five husbands were destined to be the Pandava princes. She was destined to be a catalyst for the fierce battle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas at Kurukshetra.

So Draupadi had to be born at that time, and because she was The Goddess Sri (Adi Para Shakti) herself, she had to be born in a special way. This is not my extrapolation. Ved Vyasa himself said these words in a conversation with King Drupada.

Thus, O king, they who have been born as the Pandavas are none else than the Indras of old. And the celestial Sri herself who had been appointed as their wife is this Draupadi of extraordinary beauty. How could she whose effulgence is like that of the sun or the moon, whose fragrance spreads for two miles around, take her birth in any other than an extraordinary way, viz., from within the earth, by virtue of the sacrificial rites?

— Ved Vyasa to King Drupada (Adi Parva, Vaivahika Parva subsection, verse CLXLIX)