Draupadi - Satyabhama Samvad: Quest for a Blessed Relationship
Of the several women characters in Mahabharat, Draupadi was different. She exercised her rights when desired and also diligently executed her duties. She was forgiving as well as vengeful. Born out of a yagna (यज्ञ- sacrifice) fire, she was also known as yagnaseni. Panchali (another name of Draupadi) was one of the main protagonists whose actions and presence had deciding moments in Mahabharat. She counselled and guided the Pandavas on various occasions. Friend with Krishna and respectfully trusted by the Pandav brothers, she had a significant presence in their personal and professional lives.
Women now and then might have some superficial differences, but the core desires remain the same. The relationship then and now works on the same fundamental principles of transparency, trust, dependability, respect and mutual growth. The question that Satyabhama, the warrior wife of Krishna, asked Draupadi about the marital relationship is an oft-discussed topic with marriage counsellors, friends and well-wishers. How do you keep the respect and love alive in the relationship? What does it take a woman to command respect and obedience of her husband? A similar set of questions arise at the men's side as each person, regardless of gender, desires a harmonious and fulfilling relationship.
Draupadi Satyabhama samvad (संवाद- dialogue) in Van Parva (वन पर्व) of Mahabharat dwells with the core issues of relationship. Satyabhama asks Draupadi, "Oh beautiful lady, what do you do that your husbands; handsome, young able warriors, who are themselves like Lokpal, are obedient to you and never get angry with you?" Satyabhama wants to know what tricks or sorcery Draupadi does or administers any drug to her husbands that they submit themselves to Draupadi. Is it that Draupadi knows any Homa/ sacrifices which leads to obedient and admiring husbands.
Draupadi's reply is very progressive and seems like coming from an experienced Psychologist when viewed holistically. The role of women has undergone a drastic change, but the answer remains relevant to even modern relationships.
In reply to Satyabhama, Draupadi says that these tricks, sorceries, drugs and Homa to make the husbands obedient or control them are the work of wicked women, and she does not know anything about it. If a man comes to know that a wife is desirous of these practices to earn her husband's respect, love or tame him, he becomes fearful of the effects of those practices. Fear leads to the absence of peace and happiness. So Draupadi denies that neither she knows the ways of wicked women and neither these tricks work.
The Adi Parva of Mahabharat describes the unparalleled beauty of Draupadi. The fire born beauty of the dark complexion had large eyes like a lotus petal. She had a slender waist and deep bosoms. Her body gave out the fragrance of blue lotus perceivable from a long distance. Like a celestial herself, she was desired in marriage by divine, danva (दानव) and yaksha (यक्ष).
Despite being the most beautiful one, she never attributes the respect and love she gets from her husbands to her physical beauty. Pandavas weren't enchanted by her beauty but by her conduct and selfless service, intelligence, and competence to manage the vast Pandava's empire.
Draupadi further says that proper conduct is the only reason all the Pandavas respect her. Abandoning jealousy and vanity, being alert to the needs of people who depend on you, being attentive like a wife and queen to the needs of your husband and subjects is what set her apart from other women. A woman should be the best confidant of her husband and vice versa. She should not share with anyone the secret talks, which a husband does with her.
Further elaborating on her daily routine, she says that she is the first to leave the bed and the last one to retire. She eats once all family members, Brahmans, and other guests have eaten. "Others before self is what she follows."
She further says that when Pandavas lived in Indraprastha, they had one hundred thousand maid-servants well versed in dancing and singing. Draupadi personally knew them; she knew what they ate and what they were good at. One lakh horses and one lakh elephants followed Yudhisthira when he ruled. Draupadi knew the exact location and numbers and was aware of those who managed these elephants and horses. While the Pandavas were busy in the pursuit of Dharma, it was she who managed the finances and looked after the treasury of the kingdom.
Draupadi was forgiving as well as vengeful. She was a woman who made choices for herself. She decided to accompany the Pandavas for the 12 years of forest exile and one year (13th year) of agyatvas (अज्ञातवास- staying in disguise), where she chose to be a hairdresser and maid for a queen. She accepted the challenges and punishments given to her husbands as her own. Even though the condition of exile was not binding on her, she chose it. By doing this, she exemplified what companionship was all about.
Draupadi rescued and ensured freedom for the Pandavas from slavery after they lost in the dice game. After Duryodhana and Dushasana attempted to disrobe Draupadi, she was about to curse the entire Kuru clan. At that moment, Dhritarashtra, counselled by Gandhari, offers three boons to Panchali to soothe her and cover up his sons' sins. Draupadi only redeems two boons by asking for her husband's freedom from slavery so that her sons would not be called sons of slaves. For the second boon, she asked that all the wealth Yudhisthira lost in the game be restored to him. She did not display greed by utilising the third boon. Draupadi was the saviour for her husbands. She showed the way of an equal relationship. Not only are husbands supposed to save and protect their wives from difficult situations, but vice versa in relation of equals.
Draupadi says that all this pressure of holding the support system of an empire and a large family cannot be borne by a woman of an evil heart. One who keeps their heart clean from various negative feelings can only handle this load. "This is the charm that I have used to make my husbands obedient and no other tricks I know," says Draupadi to Satyabhama.
Hearing this Satyabhama, the incarnation of Bhudevi (भू देवी-the earth goddess) was full of reverence for Panchali, and she blessed her with an absence of fear and grief in her life. Satyabhama further said that a person of such a pure heart could never suffer misfortune for a long time and bless her and her husbands to regain what rightfully belongs to them.
Draupadi doesn't get deterred by the humiliation and deprivation that she underwent. She empowered herself out of those and showed a strong sign of resilience. She was outspoken and made herself heard whenever she was wronged. She even questioned her eldest husband when he put her at stake in the dice game.
Marriage has always been sacrosanct in Hindu tradition. Being one of the essential samskaras (संस्कार), marriage is said to complete a Man: wife being his Ardgangini (अर्धांगिनी) in Hindu shastras is a Grah Patni (गृह पत्नी), Dharma Patni (धर्म पत्नी), sahdharmini (सहधर्मिनी). Apart from various ways the relationship was defined throughout the scriptures, what remained the essence was a suggestion for a harmonious and egalitarian relationship.
At the end, Quoting two of the mantras from Atharva Veda:
अक्ष्यो नौ मधुसंकाशे अनीकं नौ समज्ञजनम ।
अंतः क़्रूर्णूष्व मां हृदी मन इत्रो सहासति ।। 1 ।।
atharva Veda , book 7 mantra 36
(हे पत्नी ! हम दोनो के नेत्रो में परस्पर मधुर भाव हो । नेत्रो में पवित्रता रहे । हम दोनो के हृदय और मन एक समान धारणा वाले हों ।
Dear wife, we should have purity of love and respect in our eyes for each other. Our mind and heart should sync with similar thoughts and feelings.)
गृहन गच्छ गृहपत्नी यथासो वशिनी त्वं विद्थमा वदासि ।
(Atharva Veda - kaand 14, sukta 1, mantra 3811)
(आप अपने पति गृह को प्रस्थान करे । वहाँ आप गृहस्वामिनी और सब की नियंत्रण
(अनुशासन) में रखनेवाली बने । वहाँ आप विवेक पूर्ण वाणी का प्रयोग करें।
After marriage, you proceed to your Husbands house, where you are the master of the house and responsible for keeping everyone under discipline in your home. You must use language qualified by your wisdom and discriminating right and wrong.)