Being born a princess, and raised by a loving father and three doting brothers would make life seem like a bed of roses to any woman. Born out of the sacred fire, Draupadi is no ordinary woman, and her destiny cannot be to walk the beaten path. Witnessing estrangement and betrayal within her own family makes her perceptive and intuitive beyond her years. Complicated marital relationships, a meteoric rise and a fateful loss, humiliation unheard of and a pledge of revenge, all culminating in a bloody war—her ordeal seemed never-ending. Yet she stands up to it all—never succumbing, never breaking. One of the most unforgettable characters of the Mahabharata, Draupadi shows what a woman is capable of. Told with great sensitivity and passion, this book brings alive a character of epic proportions that resonates with every reader across space and time.
An awestruck silence overtook them, each drowned in their own memory. Uttara was remembering her association with her enigmatic mother-in-law, and Janamejaya was thinking about Rishi Vaishampayana’s narration of the exploits of his ancestors and their much-celebrated queen. He saw Uttara fiddle with her silvery white plait, still long and lustrous, despite her ripe age of nearly eighty springs.
‘You lost a lot in the great war, Grandmother,’ he murmured, shuddering while he imagined the dance of destruction at Kurukshetra. ‘Was there ever an occasion when you felt your life would have been better had you not married into the Pandava household?’
‘Depends upon how one defines the word “better”, Janamejaya,’ Uttara replied, still staring into space, as if she was viewing the incidents of her past right there.
Janamejaya moved closer, taking his place by her feet. ‘After listening to the most learned rishis of Bharatavarsha for days, I have still not been able to come to terms with my father’s death, Grandmother Uttara. How can I even dare to imagine how it must be for you who lost…’ he could not complete the sentence, partly out of the numbness his empathy generated. and partly because he did not want to refresh her moments of bereavement. Uttara had lost her father, brothers, and a very young husband with whom she had hardly spent a year of marital life, to the war at Kurukshetra. Her unborn child, Parikshit, Janamejaya’s father, had escaped from an episode of horrific midnight slaughter.
‘Everyone lost someone dear to them in the war, Janamejaya,’ Uttara sighed. ‘My marrying into this household at least gave me the satisfaction of bearing an heir to this empire. In fact, I am proud that the thought of unborn Parikshit gave the much needed hope and strength to Uncle Yudhishtira to take up the reins of this devastated land. I had the good fortune of being a daughter to Mother Draupadi when she lost everyone born of her womb to that midnight slaughter.’
Janamejaya’s eyes filled with a sense of admiration. ‘Old men and women at Hastinapura still blame Empress Draupadi and her anger for their losses in the battle.’ With a pained shrug, he added, ‘The gap of understanding that exists between the wise and the mundane.’
‘As the emperor, it is your dharma to dispel misunderstandings surrounding the history of this land, Janamejaya,’ Uttara’s voice was stern. ‘The whole point of reciting the records of the past is to learn from the exploits of our ancestors, take pride in their valour, strength and courage, while gaining wisdom from the stories of their tribulations. If people judge their ancestors because of false notions about history, it is only a matter of time before the population is uprooted from the values their ancestors fought for, and falls apart.’
Janamejaya nodded. ‘That is the reason why I have impressed upon the rishis and acharyas to impart the timeless record of Bharata to students while they acquire education from their gurus. I have also appealed to the erudite disciples of Bhagavan Veda Vyasa to conduct recitation sessions in public gatherings during the festivities.’
Uttara smiled in satisfaction at his genuine attempts. ‘Janamejaya, lazy intellect puts the blame of the Great War on one person. Those who truly understood what led to the eighteen-day-long slaughter at Kurukshetra would reflect on the events and choices of three of the four generations that led the entire empire to war. Blaming someone like Mother Draupadi is not only foolish but also a disturbing sign of misogyny that would be frowned upon by the learned rishis who recorded history and composed the timeless story. Mother Draupadi, in fact, saved the empire from many disasters with the sheer power of her desire to protect this land.’
Janamejaya listened to her animated discourse and smiled. ‘Grandmother Uttara, I have never seen a woman defend her mother-in-law with the passion that you did just now. Pray, tell me the story again, this time through her eyes.’
Uttara rejoiced at Janamejaya’s undying enthusiasm to listen to the tale of his ancestors repeatedly. Very few were fortunate enough to carry the legacy that he did and even fewer realized and strived to live by it as he did. She was more than delighted to narrate the tale, especially from the perspective of the woman who had captured her respect, awe and love for this life and the lives to come—from the perspective of Draupadi.
About the Author
An Alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and an investment professional turned satisfied writer, Saiswaroopa is the best selling author of four novels, all based on legendary female protagonists from Ancient Hindu Literature. Her second novel Avishi, based on a Rig Vedic hymn, has been acquired for screen adaptation by a major studio. Saiswaroopa is passionate about Ancient Indian history, philosophy and literature. She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford School of Hindu Studies. As a trained Classical Singer, she has also been awarded a Gold medal by TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams). In her spare time, she likes to search for her next inspiration in books, pravachanas and historical temples. She lives in Bangalore with her husband and daughter.