This is the second topic of discussion in the Parents Corner initiative. Do share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. It helps to understand your perspective and how you think that this topic can be best explained to a young reader. The first topic was “The game of dice” and how Yudhishtira shaped the events that were to follow. In this post, we will talk about Kunti’s decision to ask Draupadi to take all the Pandavas as her husbands.
Before we delve into the discussion itself, let me outline the plot points leading to the event. The Pandavas are assumed to be dead in the fire at Varnavata. They roam the lands disguised as brahmans. They hear about the swayamvar of Draupadi, daughter of King Drupada of Panchala and sister of Drishtadyumna. Arjuna, always on the lookout for a warrior’s challenge, participates in the event and wins the hand of Draupadi. The excited Pandavas bring Draupadi home where Kunti is sitting unaware of the events of the day. Arjuna decides to surprise his mother by saying, “Mother, look what we have brought home.” Kunti, assuming that it was their daily bhiksha (alms) said, “Whatever it is, do share equally with all your brothers.” At that point, Kunti realises that it was Draupadi. And here is where things get interesting and discussion worthy.
Once Kunti found out that the “entity to be shared equally among the brothers” was Draupadi, she did not change her mind. She asked Draupadi to marry all the Pandavas. The first question that pops on one’s mind is as a woman, shouldn’t Kunti have known better?. Kunti had problems sharing her husband Pandu with Madri. How could she expect the young Draupadi to share 5 husbands? Why didnt she change her mind and fix the problem then and there?.
The second element of this episode are the Pandavas, primarily Yudhishtira, the eldest and most virtuous and Arjuna, the rightful winner of Draupadi’s hand. Shouldnt they have registered their discomfort with the idea of sharing Draupadi and thus convince their mother to change her mind. Surely, the wise words of Yudhisthtira might have made her reconsider?
The third piece, albeit the most important one is Draupadi herself. Agreed that in those days, the brides had no voice of their own. But Draupadi was a strong woman as evidenced in the later parts of the story. Should she have put her foot down and rebelled?
As I was pondering this topic and shared my views with a friend, he added a completely different angle to this conversation, one worth bringing up here. If we take the episode in its entirety and examine its consequences, what would have happened if the Pandavas had rebelled against their mother (something unheard of in those days). Would the Mahabharata turned out the way it did?. Would the Pandavas have achieved immortality?. Draupadi is at the crux of the whole epic. Would the war have been averted if she had just married Arjuna?
The Parent’s Perspective
As a parent, this episode is very interesting to explain to kids. How do we tell them its OK for Kunti to ask Draupadi to marry five men while we strongly teach them values of having one partner in real life.
We are all told that disobeying elders is a sin and comes in the way of Moksha (if you believe that line of thinking). But it could have averted a major war. Isn’t that worth disobeying one’s mother?. Of course, I have the luxury of hindsight which the Pandavas didn’t have at that time.
As always, do share your thoughts on the topic. The first discussion topic elicited an excellent response on Facebook and hopefully this one is worth a good discussion as well.