A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Draupadi’s Secret

According to a legend from Mahabharata, during the thirteenth year of the exile of the Pandavas, Draupadi saw a ripe jambul, roseapple, hanging from a tree. She plucked it to have it. No sooner had she done this, Krishna came from somewhere and stopped her from eating it. According to Krishna, the ripe fruit was supposed to be the fruit with which a sage was supposed to break his twelve-year fast. Not finding the fruit at its place, could earn the wrath of the sage, resulting in more trouble for the Pandavas and her. Draupadi begged of Krishna to help her out of this impending problem.

Krishna, then said that the fruit could be put back at its original place, only by someone who holds no secrets. Draupadi had only one option and to confess some guilt. Seeing no way out, Draupadi walked up her husband’s and confessed to them, that though she was a chaste woman and loved all the five husbands, there was someone else that she longed for. She always had loved and respected Karna, the arch-enemy of the Pandavas. This was a shock to all the husbands, but none said anything. Having confessed, she went and put the fruit back on the branch of the tree and all was well.

A simple story, and not mentioned in many versions, but considered to be an important episode in many folk renditions of Mahabharata and sometimes better known as ‘Jambul-akhyan’, the jambul-episode. Many well known authors and re-tellers of Mahabharat have explored this angle of Draupadi. All popular versions have mentioned that Draupadi did not love all five husbands equally (not possible for anyone to be capable of equitable love), and that she loved and longed for Arjuna more amongst all the brothers. However, it is also true, that Arjuna had never reciprocated the emotion as he was more in love with Subhadra (Krishna’s sister) than anybody else. The hidden love of Draupadi for Karna is something that has been explored by many writers. Some have even justified the romance, in the sense that the powerful and the dynamic character of Draupadi could find her match only in Karna and not in the five brothers, who were ‘incomplete’ without one another. It is said that even Karna had regretted his behaviour during the disrobing of Draupadi in the Kuru court after she was wagered and lost in the dice-game, and the behaviour was more to avenge his insult during the swayamvar of Draupadi. The undercurrent of an unexpressed romance has always been suspected in the entire Mahabharat.

This myth has dual purpose. One is that everyone has secrets which they keep to themselves. Some of them are not revealed out of fear of antagonising ones loved ones and the fear of losing them if the secret is out. Sometimes it is not revealed as it would upset the apple cart, so as to say. In this case, it did shock the five husbands, but they respected the honesty and the forthrightness of Draupadi and more so because of the cause of revealing the secret, i.e. to avoid earning the wrath of the fasting sage. The significance of a confession is well brought out and the fact that it only does well and seldom any harm.

The second purpose is that through this myth, the Pandavas also get the message that in spite of five brave husbands, they had failed their wife when she needed them the most. When Draupadi was being disrobed after she was lost in the dice-game, none of the ‘brave’ husbands could come to her rescue. It brought out the weakness amongst each one of them, and that Draupadi had a soft corner for someone who was more a man than the five of them. This was an insult which they had to bear without any malice towards their wife. Also, being the wife of five, made her that much vulnerable to such acts, than it did to their own wives, which each had taken for himself.

If Draupadi had married Karna would this have happened?

The question could well be, would Mahabharata have happened?

This is the season of Jambul’s. Go get one for yourself and eat it. If it stains your tongue, then it means you too are harbouring a secret!!!


  1. Hello Utkarsh, When Karn was about to shoot the arrow to the eye of circling fish, why she stoppped him? According to Mahabharat, Krishna gave the signal to Draupadi as Krishna knew Karn will do the task but he did not want Karn to marry Draupadi. Why Draupadi did what Krishna asked her to do if she liked/loved Karn?

  2. There could be two reasons to it -

    1. Draupadi could never say 'No' to Krishna and he did not want her to marry Karna, as she was needed to bind the five brothers together and also she could be used later to get Karna back with the pandavas, which did not work though.

    2. There was a strong feeling of getting married to people with the correct background, and even if she did have a soft-corner for Karna, his background was not something to be proud of, at least in those days.

    1. Sorry to say this Utkarsh but i disagree with the second point because Krishna knew that Karna was Kunti's first born. He even knew about the boon to Draupadi in her previous birth given by Lord Shiva.

  3. There is a term applied to fictions which are written by writers who author them inspired by the works of others, shall we dare say more prominent writers, the term is 'fanfiction'. Case in point, the millions of fanfictions on Harry Potter that exist all around internet and otherwise. Admittedly these fanfiction writes don’t earn a dime when they publish a story,in web that is, legal issues and so forth. Problem with epics and fanfiction inspired by them is, the writers are long dead and their estates are non-existant, obviously. So there comes a lot of garbage without a filter present, and they get publish. Interpretations can vary a lot, and great literary pieces like Mahabharata or Shakespeare has been subjected to countless of them. and here is my point, that interpretations and a story inspired by a book are completely different matter. Creative libery comes into play, so does poetic license.
    Karna/ Draupadi theme is the later. It is not interpretation, but a Fiction, an author's idea of how Mahabharata was, or would have been. Its not definitely what Vyasa intended, or even what the very author who wrote the story, thought he (Vyasa) did. But simply, it is the writer’s own conceptualization of what he thinks he meant. Coming back to Harry Potter fanfiction analogy, there are give and take around 200,000 fics on Draco/ Hermoine pairing, (I am probably getting the number way wrong, it can be higher than that). But that does not and will not make it what Rowling intended it to be. Here too, there are quite a few fantastic stories. Hardly any difference. Both are, in essence, fanfics.
    Well, except for the fact, that the proclaimed authors who are borrowing Mahabharata, are getting published and earning money.

    Look, I am sure, I will get a reply on this, saying one thing or another. But if a debate does ensue, read the original text, if not in Sanskrit, then in English. Heaven knows thy are there. Understand what the characters represent without prejudice and pre-belief.
    Karna is a tragic character, but his tragedy doesn’t lie in his upbringing or in sappy romance. Think, Pandavas had to endure much more hardship than him, and that is without singling out Arjun's own. As for romance, its there, and one of the point of occurrence is Draupadi. But the others, who are in the second end of the spectrum, yes that's plural, doesn’t not include Karna. His tragedy is internal, and that makes him out to be a much more complicated character than most think to be.

    I saw you mentioned the dice scene. Well here is a titbit, when Draupadi was brought to the court, this is what Karna said, "you, the whore, who shares her bed with five husbands, come and sit here on my friend’s lap.'

    Ignorance, and naivety are not particularly desirable traits. Just saying

    1. Wonderful analysis. This Jamin tree legend is a folk tale. It has absolute no basis in Vyas Mahabharat.
      In fact, she hated him to the core. Refer her Vana Parva rant to Krishna.

    2. Yes. Vyasa Mahabharata should be the real basis for us

  4. @ Utkarsh: Have you read Chitra Banerjee Divakuri's 'The Palace of Illusions'?

    1. Yes I have read the book and it is one of few good fictional novel based on mythology, which seems to be the rage these days.
      By the way, you are the 50th person, who has joined this Blog. Congrats, Thanks, and do keep coming back for more.

    2. That's why it's novel.. it has no valid proof in any authentic version

  5. I also read that when draupadi was about to be disrobed she pleaded with everyone present there to help her except Karna.. and Karna had made up his mind that he would resue her if she pleads him for help....but draupadi thinks that why she should ask help from karna as he is of lower cast and hence she does not ask Karna to help her.. so Karna does not help her..

  6. I am not sure about this version, since Karna had already insulted her very badly at this stage, by calling Draupadi a 'veshya' or a prostitute. So Draupadi's asking help from him was out of question and Karna willing to her would also be out of place after having insulted her in public, just some moments back.

  7. @Bharat: According to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's book The palace of Illusions, Draupadi stopped Karna from shooting at the fish's eye at her Swayamwar because her brother, Drishtadyumna was challenged by Karna to stop him from shooting at the target. Draupadi loved her brother much and knew Karna was a greater warrior than her brother and would definitely be killed in the duel. Thus, to save Dhristadyumna from death even though she had this lifelong attraction towards Karna, she asked him an insulting question as to name who his father was.

    Although, I am yet unsure about the romantic notions than Divakaruni states in her book since there are no such intentions from both Draupadi and Karna in Shivaji Sawant's Mrutyunjay.

  8. Thanks for the comment. Please note that Chitra's book is a fictional representation of Draupadi and the entire book has been written from her perspective. From what it would have been in 'reality' one can only go by what Vyasa had written or implied. Modern authors like Chitra, interpret and analyse such characters and write a fiction based on what they feel. By this I am not downplaying their role in evolving and focusing on certain characters, though.

  9. @ Utkarsh: Thank You Very Much For Your Blog... Very Informative. I Never Knew About The Jambul-Episode. I Wonder Whether A Great Personality Like KARNA Will Ever Insult A Woman Or Attack Abhimanyu From Behind. May Be It Was Introduced Later To Give More Respect To The Pandavas.

  10. In One Bengali work of fiction, Karna was attracted to Draupadi, and seeing that could not openly defy his friend and benefactor, the Kurus, especially when Bhishma and Drona were silent, opeted to inflame the situation. So he openly insulted and instigated the disrobing to get provoke the Pandavas to fight and settle all the issues. He failed as the Pandavas chose to fallow Dharma.

  11. Thanx for this blog it is very informative...... I have also read shiwaji sawant's mrutyunjaya n there is a reference that draupadi did not plead to karana otherwise karna had made his mind to help her

  12. Hai, im from Indonesia. I do love this story, this film series has played in my country, so i'd search the story on google :D as i know, Draupadi has married with all Pandawa, but in my country version, Draupadi only married with Yudhistira. And she regretted because refused Karna when she knows Karna is Kunti's son too. Maybe she's inlove with Karna hehehe :p

  13. seriously .... @utkarsh.....in reality did draupadi luved karna???or it was juz a fiction

  14. Hi i am dr. Mahesh from ap . According my knowledge of vyasa mb , drupathi was never ever loved karna . From her early life she was only in love with arjun because her birth was aimed only to marry arjun. After her swayamvar n other consequences she was driven into a condition to accept to marry pandavas .

    After the marriage she may had more love towards arjun than others but she never had love towards karna .
    Moreover she had hatred n vengeance towards karna .

    She was person after arjun who felt happier on death of karna .

    She was pious lady and Mahabharata stated her as a pativrath . How can a pativrath love a person otherthan her husband .

    Moreover how she love a person who called her as prostitute and insulted her by advising her to marry duryodhan .

    Arjun has defeated karna many times before the war

    1. During drupathi swayamvar .

    2. During asthrapariksha in adhiparvam

    3. During utthar gograhanam
    in viratparvam .

    Even lord shiva has stated to jayadradh that he himself cannot defeat arjun. And given boon to jayadrath that can defeat pandavas only for 1 day that to in absence of arjun .

    That is arjun .

    Karna nodoubt he is a great warrior but not comparable to arjun .

  15. I completely agree with dr.mahesh,utkarsh why are you creating your own imaginary stories,draupadi never loved karna,she only had loved arjun the most and even arjun had a special corner for her among all the wifes he had,their love was forbidden,their love story is best in the history.

  16. I would like all my readers to appreciate that the epic Mahabharata belongs to the oral traditional tales. A lot of localisation takes place when such tales are rendered orally and besides subjectivism of the teller of the tales. Many folk tales of the region sneak in or folk motifs become part of the epic narrative. I am not claiming that the tale is from the original version, but is just a version from the East. Many such folk motifs have found place in the epics and the puranic tales of our mythology. My endeavour is just to bring them to the fore for all of us to know. There is no other objective and nor am I creating such tales. I hope all of you understand.

  17. If you know Nature of Draupadi she was beautiful but can not be controlled by anybody. Only Krishna could do it. And Draupadi was also under great control of Krishna. Furst instance when Karna got ready for aiming in swayamvar she liked him but then Krishna advised him not to allow him. Since she was in great influence of Krishna she without thinking much followed instruction of Krishna. But later when Karna saved him from Getting raped by Vasuki she was in love with Karna and she apologised even to Karna. Further when she was asked to leave with five husband and was used in gambling Draupadi was having feeling that This would not have happened to her if she allowed Karna to participate in swayamwar.