Shadows of light

Krsnaa, Paanchaali, Yajnaseni, Mahabhaarathi, Sairandhari, also better known as Draupadi, the symbol of self - confidence, beauty, devotion and virginity is full of surprises and questions when dwelt upon.

“I wont rest until the blood of the sinning Duchadhanan and Duriyodhanan have caressed my hair . Until that day comes, my hair shall remain the way it does today, unbraided, uncared for just like I am today.” So says Draupadi according to the Tamil poet Bharathiyar in his Paanchali Sabadam.

Draupadi, the kuru princess is an enigma of sorts. Right from her birth, everything about her was different. She was not the demure leading lady that we have come to expect from ancient Indian tales. She made people sit up and take notice with everything that she did, though much of what happened to her was beyond her control. Whether it was being married to five men or forcefully disrobed by her own brothers-in-law, it was impossible to not be bewitched with her life. And then there are all these questions that slowly creep up once you have empathized with how she had been wronged. Should she have held on to the anger? Was being avenged more important than scores of lives?

The discussions Mahabharatha could evoke are innumerable. The Mahabharatha is an epic and rightfully so. The story and the characters have such depth that no one rendition can do justice to it. Which is why to this day we read multiple versions of this epic, listen to discourses and yet yearn for more.

It is when I was reading one of these multiple versions, from the perspective of Draupadi called the “Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, that a fierce debate started in my mind. The book explores the possibility of a relationship between Draupadi and Karna, which was put to rest by Krishna’s mandate to Draupadi, to ignore Karna’s hand in marriage. Well the book talks about how Draupadi had to fight the feeling of her liking towards Karna, post marriage, post child birth and even when she is a grandmother, where she runs to the hill top, just to get a glimpse of Karna. One tends to empathize with Draupadi and her feelings on reading this. There are several other authors, who have explored the possibility of this relationship as well.

But as I was reading through these books, I felt a tinge of sadness and my heart went out to yet another character, who was only known for his mighty brawn, throughout the Mahabharath but never for the romantic and yearning husband in him. Yes, Bheem it is !

Also known as Vrikodara or Vayuputra, he is the second of the Pandava brothers. Bhima loved Draupadi so much, that he could never see her unhappy. She knew that of all the brothers, his love for her, was whole hearted. Bhima had other wives, like most powerful men at the time, but of all his wives, Draupadi was his favourite. He would fulfil her slightest wish with relish. This was especially true while they were exiled for 12 +1 years. Bhima felt aggrieved by her insult in the Kuru court and could not forgive himself for not having had the freedom to fight for her when she needed it the most. She had rescued them from the brink of an abyss of Yudhisthir’s making and yet, his gambling brother had thrown it away again at the throw of a dice. As a result, he felt he should do anything Draupadi wanted, just to relive the gloom of this tiresome exile. He felt that as a princess and an empress, she deserved better.

The second year after their marriage, when she was carrying Yudhishtir’s child, she was Bhima’s wife. But Bhima took care of her, as if the child was his own. He sacrificed the pleasures of his married life to take care of her.

During the Ashwamedha Yagna, I imagined Draupadi and Bhima’s conversation to be something like this.

“The Ashwamedha Yagna.. Is it true?”

(Knowing Bhima, he might have said) “Its true. Finally its time to show those scum bags that we are better off than them”, guffawed Bhima

“Shh. The child is sleeping. Softly please. Is it also true then that Krishna would be coming?”

“So, that’s what you are happy about. Krishna coming. Hmm hmm paanchali.”

“Of course. That is more important to me than all men coming together to establish the superiority of one over another. Isnt it. The last time it happened was during my swayamvar. Bloodshed, arguments, loss of lives ”

“And we getting married”, said a visibly blushing Bheem

“Not we, Bheem. Arjun got married to me”

Bheem fell silent. He adored Draupadi. He couldn’t afford to say anything to hurt her. She was the apple of his eye.

Another conversation I often imagine is in the context of Kichaka’s death. Bheem is thoroughly excited that he had avenged Draupadi.

“Men are always full of lust. All they want is a woman who can excite him at all times. I hate men”, whined a visibly irritated Draupadi

“Does that include me my dear? I have killed that monster. I have avenged you. Justice has prevailed. You shall not worry anymore my dear”

“Not yet, Bheem. My hair is still untied. That should remind all of you of your inability to protect me in open court” said Draupadi and stormed off.

Bheem fell silent. He adored Draupadi. He couldn’t afford to say anything to hurt her. She was the apple of his eye.



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