Draupadi’s Dilemma

Draupadi plays a crucial role in the Mahabharatha. This is not just because she was the wife of the Pandavas, but it is also because she was a fiery feminist. There are many instances in the Mahabharatha where she proves this character of hers. One such instance is the gambling episode in which she talks courageously defending her rights despite the presence of many elders and wise men in the gambling hall.

The root cause of the entire gambling deceit was Duryodhana’s greed and jealousy. After having visited the residing palace of the Pandavas in Indraprastha, Duryodhana was depressed out of jealousy at his brothers’ wealth and status. The Pandavas have just organised a great sacrifice called the Rājasūya Yajna, in which Yudhishthira was crowned as an Emperor. To appease Duryodhana’s depression and to acquire wealth equal to the Pandavas’, Duryodhana’s uncle Shakuni, his dear friend Karna and his brother Duhshasana conceived a plot of deceit. Shakuni was well-versed in dice play and therefore, the plan was to invite the Pandavas for a gambling match in dice game, and win over their wealth.

When Duryodhana brought this appeal to his father and King of Hastinapur, Dhrdhirashthira, there were disagreements, but out of love for his son, the King became convinced. Thus, an invite was sent to Yudhishthira through Vidura. Emperor Yudhishthira accepted the invite because as per dharma a king is duty bound to accept invitations of such nature, especially when it comes from the King of Hastinapur. When the game began, the Pandavas were unaware of the deceit planned by Shakuni. Yudhishthira lost all his wealth, his brothers and finally himself. At that moment, Shakuni urged Yudhishthira to redeem all his wealth by staking the one possession he has left; the wife of the Pandavas, Draupadi. Yudhishthira accepted and lost the game, in which case, Draupadi became a slave to the Kauravas. When Draupadi was summoned into the gambling hall, she refused to come as she was adorned in a single piece of cloth, with her period and not having taken her ritual bath.

Being alarmed by the summons and realising the danger of the situation, she instead posed a question to Yudhishthira through the messenger who came to fetch her. After having refused twice, Draupadi was forcefully dragged by her hair into the hall by Duhshasana. In the hall, she persistently posed the same question to Yudhisthira:

“Whose lord wert thou (Yudhishthira) at the time thou lost me in play? Didst thou (Yudhishthira) lose thyself first or me?” – (Dyuta Parva, Chapter 67, Verse 7)

Draupadi pleads to Duhshasana not to drag her in this plight into the hall and yet she is forcibly done so. She is a devoted wife even in such a situation as she does not resort to cursing her husbands. She says instead,

“In speech even I am unwilling to admit an atom of fault in my lord (Yudhishthira) forgetting his virtues.” – (Dyuta Parva, Chapter 67, Verse 38)

The question she poses is thus not in the spirit of pointing out the fault in Yudhishthira’s action. It was in the spirit of ascertaining what is righteousness in such a situation of dharma sankata (dilemma). In essence, her question posits whether a wife is still subject to her husband even after the husband has lost himself and become a slave to another person. On one hand, dharma demands that the women be protected. Draupadi was accepted as a daughter-in-law with the promise that she will be well taken care of and protected. However, she was made a slave through deceitful means, and therefore, dharma fails. On the other hand, there is the dharma that a wife is always under the order and disposal of her husband. However, would this dharma apply even after Yudhishthira lost himself to Duryodhana?

This question is indeed difficult to answer. If the answer is “no”, then it would mean that Yudhishthira uttered a lie by mistakenly putting Draupadi as a stake. If the answer is “yes”, then it would mean that Yudhishthira put Draupadi into harm, instead of protecting her in the role of a husband.

This dilemma is only answered by two persons: Vidura and Vikarna. Vidura is a great personality and an embodiment of Dharma. Therefore, he never fails to warn and advice whenever necessary, despite many objections to him speaking out. Vidura firstly warns Dhritarashtra about Duryodhana’s intentions and advises the King to abandon Duryodhana. He further advises the King to embrace Pandavas, as inviting their anger will only cause war in the end. Vidura censures Duryodhana and is quick to pass his judgement. He says,

“In my judgement, slavery does not attach to Krishna, in as much as she was staked by the King after he had lost himself and ceased to be his own master.” – (Dyuta Parva, Chapter 66, Verse 4)

He says this even before Draupadi is forcefully dragging into the gambling hall. He is well aware that his words would be futile. If all the members in the hall were to raise their voices and show their disagreement with Duryodhana, then adharma (unrighteousness) could be won over. This is why Vidura urges the members of the hall to answer Draupadi’s question:

“Knowing the rules of morality, and having attended an assembly, he that doth not answer a query that is put, incurreth half the demerit that attacheth to a lie.” – (Dyuta Parva, Chapter 68, Verse 63)

However, the assembly was still silent out of fear of Duryodhana and the Kauravas.

When the arguments in the assembly had reached dangerously new heights, and when Bhima had announced his vow to break Duryodhana’s thigh, Vidura could not take it any longer. As a minister, his duty was to protect the kingdom. Being a righteous person, he quickly rose to pronounce the judgement on Draupadi’s question once again:

“If Yudhishthira had staked her before he was himself won, he would certainly have been regarded as her master. If, however a person staketh anything at a time when he himself is incapable of holding any wealth, to win it is very like obtaining wealth in a dream.” – (Dyuta Parva, Chapter 71, Verse 12)

Vidura, devoid of any emotion, is speaking only truths that seem disagreeable to the Kauravas. Yet, Vidura does not give up. He continues speaking those disagreeable words because it is Dharma. Vidura is a fine example of how Dharma should be protected. Even if what one is doing in a righteous manner is not bearing fruit, having known that what one doing is Dharma, one should be satisfied.

Vikarna, the youngest brother of Duryodhana, has to be applauded for his boldness in the hall because he knows that this will bring upon the wrath of his brothers. While all the other elders like Drona, Kripa and the rest in the hall were quiet in fear of Duryodhana and in fear of losing their respect, a young man like Vikarna was brave enough to stand up and make a resolution.

Vikarna gives three reasons for qualifying Draupadi as not being won by the Kauravas. Firstly, Yudhishthira was engrossed in the gambling match and thus, Dharma has been forsaken. He says that,

“Ye foremost of men, it hath been said that hunting, drinking, gambling, and too much enjoyment of women, are the four vices of kings. The man, that is addicted to these, liveth forsaking virtue.” – (Dyuta Parva, Chapter 68, Verse 20)

Secondly, Draupadi is the common wife of all five brothers and does not just belong to Yudhishthira alone. Lastly, according to Vikarna, Yudhishthira first lost himself before he put Draupadi as a stake, and that too only when prompted by Shakuni. In essence, Vikarna is saying that Yudhishthira was not in the right frame of mind to think about Dharma while gambling and therefore, it is not right to say that Draupadi has been won.

As we have seen earlier, Draupadi is a courageous woman. Imagine if she had not stood up for herself in the assembly. She and the Pandava brothers would have remained as slaves forever, if not for her courage and her ability to discern the situation of Dharma sankata even in that state. Any other woman in her place would have simply accepted her fate and moved on. But it was Draupadi’s wit that saved the day. Women like her who stand up against adharma need not be ashamed of the harassment they were subjected to, instead they should be praised and epitomized.

We can speculate that Draupadi herself knew the answer to the question that she was asking the assembly. With her words we can decipher that she believes that Yudhishthira was not his own lord while he put Draupadi at stake, therefore, she is not a slave. Vidura and Vikarna confirmed this openly. Draupadi herself confirmed this indirectly, when she said what she wanted for the two boons offered to her by Dhrdhirashthira. For the first boon she asked for the release of Yudhishthira from his slavery and for the second one she asked for the release of the rest of the Pandava brothers. While Dhrdhirashthira offered her a third boon, she did not want anything else. If she had believed herself to have been won over successfully, she would also have asked to release her from the bond of slavery. Since she did not ask for it, we can speculate that Draupadi did not consider herself as a slave for the Kauravas.

Krishna had not been in Dwaraka when Yudhishthira was invited for the gambling match as he had gone to fight a war. When the Pandavas accepted exile for failing in the gambling match, Krishna visited them in the forest where they were taking residence. It was during that time that Krishna assures them of the justice that will prevail. He tells Draupadi that all the women in Hastinapura would have to answer her tears through their own tears, when the men in their family perish during the war. He also tells the Pandavas that had he been in Dwaraka while the invite was issued, he would not have let Yudhishthira go. However, Krishna was absent in that crucial moment. As a result, the whole incident paved the way to the great war, which is the subject matter of the whole of Mahabharatha.

The modern woman’s plight is somewhat similar to Draupadi’s plight at the gambling match. While women (or men) don’t really belong to anyone else, we are often objectified as someone’s property. This happens both consciously and subconsciously. As a result, danger will follow no matter where we go, what we do and how we look like. It is no use to expect a knight in shining armour to come for our rescue. There will be some noble knights (like Vidura and Vikarna) who will come to our rescue, and there will also be silent spectators (like Drona and Bhishma). No matter what, we have to take matters in our own hands and it is always better not to rely on others. This is what we can learn from Draupadi.

Unpaid labour

As I am writing this post, I am making a mental note to inform you that I am a liberal feminist, and therefore believe that the notion of gender is a socially constructed one. I believe that men and women are equal but have been constructed mentally to believe that men are stronger, smarter than women or that women are more sensitive, emotional than men. If this were absolutely true, then there would be no exceptions to this rule, and yet there are.
So having said my point, now I will come to the matter that has been bugging me. Well, not really bugging me but I’ve been thinking about it. It seemed really unfair when I came across with this statement that said that men contribute mostly to the economy, men’s contributions to this and to that, etc. It seems unfair because, to think about it (as the phrase goes), ‘behind every man there is a woman’ helping him achieve that contribution… Be it a mother, wife, sister or aunt. Anyone!
Why is it they are ‘behind’ the man? Shouldn’t it be beside the man? Is it always about the man? The son? The husband? If they never have had any women ‘behind’ then, they wouldn’t have contributed this much to the economy in the first place. Women are, in short, doing unpaid labour. And it is not mostly labour of love, but of slavery, sorry to say. They are slaves to their own low self-esteems. 
But I wouldn’t say the same for the females today. I think they are actually more arrogant than men in some aspects. My belief is that, if the man is a really good person, then doing all the household work for him, cooking for him, cleaning for him, would become a labour of love. But if the man is arrogant, egoistic, and conceited, then I say dish the labour and be more selfish! However, today the females are dishing their labour even when the man is really good.
And would it kill the guys to learn some cooking? I think the age of shared house-keeping is here as both the spouses are going to work… I am sick and tired of hearing and watching people constantly bickering about this.

Wtf is this?!

I really like the humourous version of this video. But in reality this is not always true. PMS doesn’t occur to every women. It is quite regular in some women but not so much in others. There are also people (like me) who don’t even get cramps or PMS-like symptoms. Nonetheless, it is good for men to know about PMS and its symptoms. However, this is not the instructional video for that. Just for fun…

Expectations imposed upon women

Society imposes a lot of pressures on both men and women. The society has expections on women. According to them, she must be all or most of the following to be considered as someone worth mentioning:

1) Get good grades when she is in school
2) Be a career woman
3) Get married and have kids
4) Be a good home-maker

I might be generalizing here because not every succesful women in this world today fulfill all or most of the above-mentioned criteria, right? No matter how successful a woman becomes, if she lacks in any of the last three criteria stated above, she is always criticised or sympathised by others.

That is why most of the women judge themselves based on the values imposed by the society. Elizabeth Perle McKenna, author of the book “When Work Doesn’t Work Anymore”, says it clearly:

“Unbeknownst to me, however, i was judging my life by standards that weren’t my standards and coming up woefully short. I had internalized these value systems over the years without knowing it and they measured the same fabric (my life) in completely different and mutually exclusive ways. There was the work standard, which told me that anything less than total devotion to my profession was failure. There were voices of the women’s movement that said, ‘Don’t let us down. You can’t drop out. Your’re a powerful example. Get in there, hang in there, and change things.’

“Then there was society’s measure of womanhood, which told me that the home was my first responsibility and that my child would be an ax murderer if i didn’t make him my top priority. Everywhere, i read that if i worked too hard, my marriage would suffer. On paper these might be outdated concepts, but they weren’t when i was growing up; they were the operative value systems in creating a definition of a successful woman, I swallowed them whole. The consequence was indigestion in my soul.”

And then she says in another page, which i would truly question later on, :

“The goal was to transform that culture [male culture of business and success] so both women and men could have family/personal lives and work. But this is most definitely not the message I heard when I was younger and forming my expectations for my life. Like many of my friends I clearly got the feeling that not only could I do it all, but I should do it all. There was almost a moral imerative: to succeed at everything because we had been given these unprecedented opportunities.”

So is there really a need to follow the society’s definition of what success is? Let’s look at this practically. Every women is geared, or shall we say socially engineered, to think that having a career and then getting married is a must. Nobody questions this value system or even considers it as a possiblity only. In the western society, this might only be partially true. But in the Asian society, i would say that this is mostly true. But i don’t have any statistical data to support this claim.

The problem is not that whether we women should follow this value system or not. Nor is there any debate here on whether the above criteria are right or wrong. But what i think is that, we should all follow our own set of beliefs and standards, rather than relying on the society to define what a successful woman should do. Because when we follow our own set of principles, we might find greater satisfaction in both our work lives and personal lives. However, it is not always as easy as it can be said than done.

Elizabeth Perle McKenna puts it cleary:

“We grew up being assessed, evaluated, and graded and our first impulse is to look outside ourselves for a reflection of how we’re doing… If you are a genius in stock market, the world compensates you for it. But if your gift is in physical therapy, you tend not to value that as much because you aren’t getting rich from it… When we pay the therapist so poorly in comparison, we send the clear message that he or she isn’t as valuable to society-that being the head of a corporation is a higher, more worthy aspiration.

“Women know this isn’t true. But all too often we live as though it is. Moving from a culturally approved value system to a more personal one seems almost impossible-especially when there are no real role models for us to follow. But if we don’t do it, no one is going to do it for us… Until we redefine success and value more broadly to include balance and meaning in our lives, we will stay stuck in careers that ask us to weigh one artificially divided world against another.”

Set your own principles and values in your life. Make them your core ideology and make sure you always follow and retain them no matter how much you change your outlook on life. For example, one of my principles is to always follow my interests. I believe that i can’t really enjoy doing something unless i have an interest in it, a natural drive. I put this principle in practice, when i chose my subjects in JC and when i chose my CCA (Co-curricular activity) in guitar. While lot’s of other people just picked a CCA just for having one for their year-end credits.

Like what McKenna said, you might be really interested in doing physical therapy. But according to society’s defintion of success, being a physiotherapist doesn’t earn you much money and recognition, compared to being in an executive or managerial position. That shouldn’t stop you from redefining your own success. If success is for you to be able to help handicapped people to recover, then follow it. Not to mention, it takes a ton of courage to go against the expectations of the society, and follow your own set of expectations.