Draupadi: The Fiery Queen of the Pandavas

Draupadi (Droupadi), also known as Panchali, is among the most iconic and complex characters in the Hindu Mahabharata. Her life is marked by both triumphs and tribulations, making her a symbol of strength, resilience, and the complexities of human existence.

This overview provides a glimpse into Draupadi’s family life, major life events, and some of her profound sayings and oaths.

Family Life

FatherKing Draupada (Yajnasena)
MotherPrishati; emerged from a yajna (sacrificial fire)
HusbandsYudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva
BrotherDhrishtadyumna (twin-brother)
SonsUpapandavas; Prativindhya (with Yudhishthira), Sutasoma (with Bhima), Shrutakarma (with Arjuna), Shatanika (with Nakula), Shrutasena (with Sahadeva)
Other names of DraupadiPanchali, Yajnaseni, Krishnaa, Sairindhri (in Agyatvas)

Before Marriage:

Draupadi was born out of the sacrificial fire, an extraordinary event that earned her the name “Draupadi” or “daughter of Drupada.” She was the daughter of King Drupada, the ruler of Panchala, so is also called Panchali. According to the Mahabharata, Draupadi emerged from the fire as a fully grown and radiant woman during a yajna (sacrificial ritual) performed by her father.

Draupadi had a brother named Dhrishtadyumna, who played a significant role in her life, especially during her marriage to the Pandavas.

Marriage to the Pandavas:

Draupadi’s marriage is one of her life’s most intriguing and controversial aspects. In a Swayamvara organized by her father, Drupada, she was to choose her husband. The condition set by the king was unique – the contender had to string a giant bow and shoot an arrow through a revolving target.

While many royal suitors failed, the Pandavas, in disguise, attended the event. Arjuna, the third Pandava, successfully strung the bow and hit the target. However, Karna, who was not invited to the Swayamvara due to his low birth, attempted to participate but was stopped by Draupadi, who insulted him.

Unaware of Karna’s true identity, Arjuna emerged as the winner and took Draupadi to his mother Kunti, saying, “Look what I have brought.” Following her earlier command to share everything equally among the brothers, Kunti unknowingly asked the five Pandavas to accept Draupadi as their common wife.

This unique situation led to Draupadi becoming the wife of all five Pandavas – Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. This decision would have profound consequences on her life.

Birth of Upapandavas (Pandavaputras)

Panchali obtained five sons through her five husbands at intervals of one year. They were brave and bright, like five mountains; Prativindhya was born from Yudhishthira, Sutasoma from Vrikodara, Shrutakarman from Arjuna, Shatanika from Nakula and Shrutasena from Sahadeva. There were like five Maharathas.

The Brahmanas foretold Yudhishthira that Prativindhya would know his enemies’ weapons, like the Vindhya mountains (Prati means like or resembling), so he should be thus named.

The great archer Sutasoma, with energy equal to that of the sun and the moon, was born as a son of Bhimasena after he had performed one thousand soma sacrifices (Soma is the name of a plant and its juice, and soma sacrifices are sacrifices at which soma juice is offered.)

Shrutakarman was born as a son after hearing of the great deeds performed by Kiriti (one of Arjuna’s names). Shruta means heard and karma means deed. 

Nakula, named his son after the royal sage Shatanika. Sahadeva’s son was born when the nakshatra Vahnidaivata was in the ascendant. He was, therefore, known as Shrutasena (this connection needs to be clarified). 

The upapandavas were devoted to each other’s welfare. As prescribed, family priest Dhoumya performed their rituals of birth, tonsure, and wearing of the sacred thread. They studied the Vedas, and then they learned the use of all human and divine weapons from Arjuna. 

Major Life Events:

Humiliation in the Kaurava Court:

One of the most harrowing episodes in Draupadi’s life occurred during the infamous game of dice in the Kaurava court. In a series of unfortunate moves, Yudhishthira lost everything in the game, including himself, his brothers, and Draupadi.

Fueled by his animosity towards the Pandavas, Duryodhana ordered Draupadi to be brought into the assembly. Dushasana, his brother, attempted to disrobe her, but Draupadi, in her moment of distress, prayed to Lord Krishna. Miraculously, her sari kept extending, protecting her modesty.

Some of the popular renderings of Mahabharat mention that “Krishna’s intervention saved Draupadi from complete humiliation,” but in the Mahabharata critical edition of BORI (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute), there is no intervention from Krishna and this never-ending stream of garments is given as an extraordinary event. This incident fueled Draupadi’s determination for vengeance against the Kauravas.

Exile and Challenges:

After losing the game of dice, the Pandavas were sent into exile for twelve years, followed by one year of incognito living (Agyatvas). Draupadi, disguised as Sairindhri, assisted Queen Sudeshana in dressing her hair, making beautiful and variegated garlands, etc. She faced numerous challenges during this period, enduring hardships, still disguised successfully and maintained the Pandavas’ anonymity.

Return and the Kurukshetra War:

The Pandavas returned to reclaim their kingdom, but Duryodhana refused to give back their rightful share. Diplomatic negotiations failed, leading to the inevitability of the Kurukshetra War.

Draupadi’s anguish and desire for justice became a driving force behind the war. She sought retribution for the wrongs inflicted upon her and her family, particularly during the dice game.

Vow for Revenge:

Draupadi took a solemn vow during the Kurukshetra War, expressing her determination for vengeance. She swore not to tie her hair until it was bathed in the blood of Dushasana, who had attempted to disrobe her in the Kaurava court.

On the battlefield, Bhima fulfilled this oath by killing Dushasana, and Draupadi, with her hair now untied, symbolized the fulfillment of her vow to justice.

Sayings and Oaths of Draupadi:

“I will not tie my hair until it is bathed in the blood of Dushasana.”

Draupadi’s vow on the battlefield symbolizes her unwavering determination for justice. It is a poignant declaration of her resolve to avenge the humiliation she endured.

“The daughter of Drupada will not step into a Kuru court with her hair unbound until she has washed it with the blood of Duryodhana.”

Draupadi’s words reflect her resolve to hold the Kauravas accountable for their actions. She links the act of binding her hair with justice and retribution.

“Virtue, prosperity, and desire may be equally sought in all worlds, but it is only in the world of men that they can be achieved by truth, by gift, and by the observance of one’s duties.”

Draupadi emphasizes the importance of virtue, prosperity, and desire and how they can be attained through truth, generosity, and fulfilling one’s duties. Her words carry profound wisdom about righteous living.

“In the same way that the earth bears and supports all creatures, so do I.”

Draupadi’s statement reflects her strength and resilience. She draws an analogy between herself and the earth, indicating her role as a supportive force even amid adversity.

“One does not become virtuous by acquiring much gold, but by leading an honest life.”

Draupadi underscores the significance of virtue over material wealth. Her words emphasize the moral aspect of one’s actions as the accurate measure of righteousness.


Draupadi’s life and character resonate in various cultural and literary traditions. Her story has inspired countless adaptations, plays, and retellings across different languages and art forms. Draupadi is admired for her courage, resilience, and pursuit of justice despite facing immense challenges.

In the Mahabharata, Draupadi’s character is a complex and multifaceted exploration of womanhood, morality, and societal expectations. Her unwavering spirit in the face of adversity and her quest for justice make her an enduring symbol of strength and determination. Draupadi’s legacy transcends time, offering insights into the complexities of human relationships, duty, and the pursuit of righteousness.

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