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Draupadi - A feminine perspective

“..I stare down from the stars
Wonder where the story changed course
Being portrayed as a cause of the wars
When I was jeered at and humiliated by force?

Being shared by five men was written in my fate,
I was not loved & wed, but a prize for their skill,
I never felt belonged was just served on a plate
A plate you could pass on when you had your fill.

I still wonder the way they staked me for dice
Was I a partner for life, prize, or property?
Palace stood helpless, the witness of the vice
Now they raise a brow; put a mark on my chastity?

Yet I hear the stories being told below
Kurukshetra was a Great War, Draupadi sowed the seed
A woman caused the war and men were mellow?
I had only served my life serving their need and feed

No, the war was not due to needing for power or greed for land
No, the war was not due to injustice served and ego of clans
No, the war was not due to wronged men and righteous stand
No, the war was not due to a game of dice and scheming plans..”

I have been fascinated by some of the known and relatively unknown women from our mythology. We have all heard stories about Sita, Kunti, Draupadi, Radha.

Are these women just a figment of our imagination or a part of the folklore? Can we find deeper meanings? How relevant are their struggles and journeys in the context of today? It comes as no surprise, that nothing has really changed for most women in our society.

In one of the earliest recorded protests against the male-dominated world and society, Draupadi’s characteristic fight against injustice reflects one of the first acts of feminism – a fight for one’s rights, in this case, the right to avenge the wrongs inflicted on her.

Draupadi exemplifies one of the earliest feminists, be it in terms of polyandry or her thirst for revenge. While this is an intensive subject of study, we have tried recreating a snapshot of the emotions that Draupadi might have gone through.

In this series we have attempted to showcase one aspect of her emotion -Raudra Rasa or Raudram, one of the nine rasas in Natya Shastra, that is a manifestation of anger, resentment, and hostility.

Central to the story of the great epic is Draupadi having five husbands – it’s the one thing most remember her for. We wonder, how would Draupadi have felt about the whole arrangement – was she ok about it? Did it trouble her?

We can only imagine what she would have had to go through having to be a ‘Virgin’ and ‘Pure’ for each of her husbands while being passed on from one to the other.

This idea of a woman’s virginity being tied up to her morality is one that is imposed even today in families, laws, and institutions.

Our grand epics are a narration of MALE sages. Therefore the storytelling is largely about the virtuosity of men, wars between men to rule kingdoms. Women are often relegated as background props!!

We need a retelling of the epics using the woman’s perspective especially the marginalized woman.

The great Karna called Draupadi a Whore, stating that law only allows a woman to lie with her husband, she’s married five men, is to be treated without dignity, effectively a piece of public property!!!!

Helpless Draupadi is dragged by the hair and disrobed. She was subject to horrific indignity, ogled at while wearing a garment stained with her menstrual blood!!! We are told she had to undergo such humiliation for the glory of Men.

Despite all the shame and humiliation, Draupadi stood her ground. She found the strength to fight the injustices meted out by the androcentric society. Her resilience and valor transform her into the paragon of the fight against gender bias, the tyranny of men.

She resists her oppressors through defiance, anger, and courage. She challenges the gender hegemonies and overcomes all the outrageous attacks on her body and spirit.

She is therefore my ultimate feminist figure as she is able to subvert the objectification of women. Stree Shakti is manifested when she comes out unscathed during the disrobing episode.

Ever wondered why, despite all her challenges and victory over her oppressors, we don’t name our daughters- Draupadi?

Even now as a society we are scared of women who stand for their rights. We are scared of Draupadi and therefore we only associate her with polyandry or that she was disrobed in public.

Isn’t this the basic reason why millions of women continue to suffer in silence – domestic violence, abuse, gender inequality? Forget the masses, even in the modern corporate world- there are huge issues on pay gaps, position, work opportunities.

Yes, there are women today who have broken the proverbial glass ceilings in every walk of life. But these are too few. I wish a day would come there would be no female leaders, there’d just be leaders.

To me, the valor and resilience displayed by Draupadi makes her the paragon of women’s power.

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