Mahabharata: Draupadi, Body Language, Eyes, and Vyasa’s Poetry by Indrajit Bandyopadhyay SignUp
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Mahabharata: Draupadi, Body Language,
Eyes, and Vyasa’s Poetry
by Indrajit Bandyopadhyay Bookmark and Share

Body Language as we all know (though not always being aware) is the chief mode of communication between two Human Beings. In a verbal language dependant (Centric) World, this might seem strange, but this is not my claim. Our own firsthand experience confirms the importance of Nonverbal Communication, and Empirical researches have found that Nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communication. [1] Nonverbal Communication is mostly in the form of Body Signals through Signs like facial and physical features, gestures (conscious and unconscious) and negotiation/manipulation of personal space. [2]  Any person any time actually uses all five senses in an interaction, though one is not aware of it – and the dominant Sense Organ is of course the Eye constituting 83% of the interaction, while the other Sense Organs have their shares roughly as: 11% hearing, 3% smell, 2% touch and 1% taste. [3] This hierarchy of Sense Organs show that we Human Beings live in Constructed Reality rather than True Reality. Actually all Sense Organs are a symbiotic network and it is our Mind that unifies them (read for example, the allegorical narrative of ‘quarrel of senses’ in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad and Mahabharata). However, in our Existential Reality, Eye or Visual is all important in Body Language – because Eye sees and shows; one must see the Body first to understand the language, that is, Body-Presence (defined by State of Mind) precedes Body Language, and often Body-Presence itself is Body Language. For example, Buddha’s meditative posture and Jesus’s crucified posture are Body-Presence in Silence – but who can deny the Power the images communicate?

The whole of industry in our times (including Media, advertisement, and Culture like politics) thrives on Body Language and Visual-Centricity of Human. It has its grave and comical sides. How Woman’s Body is used in industry (by Man and Woman alike) is well known. Again, courtesy media, we often get to see the ludicrous side too. When a leader or public servant goes to jail (scams, of course), or a minister (sinister?) gives a post-resignation speech, remember how he keeps smiling before camera (media) as if he is enjoying every bit of the moment – as if that is the happiest moment of his life. Well, he has to flash the 32 things in front of the camera-flash to do a Performance in Body Language because the mass is such a mass of Visual-Centricity that it would think ‘since he smiles, he is confident and innocent; therefore, he is good, I will vote him again.’
In other words, Body-Presence and Body Language are Natural as well as Art.
Well, if Body Language is so important, why would not Vyasa say anything about it? Mahabharata is supposed to contain everything, isn’t it?
With this approach, I made a quick search in Mahabharata (as much permitted by my mediocre grey matter, and Eye), and as usual I find that Vyasa’s presentation of and message on Body Language are concentrated all around Draupadi! I am no more shocked or surprised at such findings because I have long settled it that Vyasa actually wrote Mahabharata with Draupadi as the Centre. Some day, I will tell why, but now, let us find why Draupadi cannot be understood without taking into account her Body Language, and her effect (let’s call it Draupadi-effect) on other’s Body Language.
Since Body Language operates in Silence, to understand the significance and importance of Body Language in Mahabharata, we should henceforth modify our approach to Mahabharata. Hitherto men - (yes, I borrow this phrase from Marx’s Preface to The German Ideology in which he announces his arrival much like a Self-proclaimed prophet! Marx too had to grow saint-like beard for Body-Presence) - Hitherto men have been reading Mahabharata through words, let us now learn to take account of Silence too, that is, while concentrating on words and trying to understand their meaning - (in any case Only Words are futile, because three-fourth of language – Vak – is already hidden according to RgVeda, Shatapatha Brahmana, and Dharmashastras – also pointing to the importance of Silence) – let us have a simultaneous awareness of the Silence – that is, the pause between the words, if any, the Silence of the audience to the speaker (and trying to imagine their action at that time), and Silence of Vyasa regarding this thing or that thing. We are so habituated to think that Language means sound, that we are not Conscious of the space between two phonemes, though we have that awareness -otherwise we could not have distinguished ‘pen’ and ‘pain’, or ‘six’ and ‘Sex’. If Silence (pause/break/space) is so important in a single Word, how much important it must be in a sentence, and how much more important it should be when the Words and sentences merge in Silence!
With this approach, I find that in Mahabharata, Woman speaks not only through verbal language, but also through Silence in at least two ways: first, when Vyasa is ‘silencing’ the Woman i.e. absence of speech or response in words though presence is implied; secondly, When he is showing silence of words, and describing or hinting at Body Language. As I said, this happens mostly about Draupadi.

Let us see how Vyasa portrays Draupadi as master of the Art of Silence and Body Language.
After Arjuna ‘wins’ Draupadi and on returning home, after Arjuna refuses to marry Draupadi, here is how Vyasa narrates the scene:
“The Pandavas all cast their eyes upon the princess of Panchala. And the princess of Pancala also looked at them all. And casting their glances on the illustrious Krishna, those princes looked at one another. And taking their seats, they began to think of Draupadi alone. Indeed, after those princes of immeasurable energy had looked at Draupadi, the God of Desire invaded their hearts and continued to crush all their senses.”
What we find here is Draupadi glancing all the brothers – it is her Glance that unifies the brothers in their Love-Kama for her. Whether Vyasa is the master-mind of the polyandrous marriage or not, whether Kunti ‘mistakes’ Draupadi for alms or not, it is actually Draupadi - the Evolutionary Woman's Glance, Body-Presence and Body Language that is the true reason (and glue) of the polyandrous marriage.

Yudhishthira himself being adept in understanding Body Language (elsewhere too we find him as 'understander of Signs' and 'Bhava') understands the unity of Bhava among them, and immediately declares that all of them would marry Draupadi. Draupadi does not protest; as I said earlier it is her dream come true (justified by some later poet in the myth of Rshi-Kanya or Indra's Shri and placed through Vyasa's voice for sanction).
Next, let us go to Kuru Sabha on that shameful day when Yudhishthira loses Dice Game, and Draupadi is humiliated in open Sabha.
Kuru Sabha, Yudhishthira has lost the Dice Game, and Draupadi is dragged there. She is insulted, and Duryodhana makes an obscene gesture by exposing and thumping his thigh indicating Draupadi to sit on it –Duryodhana’s obscene gesture - Body Language – is gross and lacks subtlety – it communicates his intention directly.
What does Draupadi do? She questions the elders of the court and all present – Words now – gives a Speech arguing and pointing out the fallacy of Duryodhana's considering her 'won' – Words now – and the effect? Absolute Silence in Kuru Sabha… and we try to imagine what those gigantic males are doing at that time – what their Body-Presence might be expressing what Body Language!
Now the interesting thing.  Draupadi uses her Speech to Silence others, then with her Speech again she blames their Silence, and herself uses Silence as Power to inflame her husbands.
Here’s her Speech when she has Silenced the court: “Else these Kurus in this assembly would never have looked silently on this act that transgresseth the limits of their practices. Oh! both Drona and Bhishma have lost their energy, and so also hath the high-souled Kshatta, and so also this king. Else, why do these foremost of the Kuru elders look silently on this great crime?"
Twice she repeats the Words Look and Silence.

And here is how she transforms her pause into a Silence pregnant with powerful Body Language: “Thus did Krishna of slender waist cry in distress in that assembly. And casting a glance upon her enraged lords--the Pandavas--who were filled with terrible wrath, she inflamed them further with that glance of hers.” (KMG.Sabha.67)
Draupadi's Silent weeping is followed by repetitive Glance. What Power is in that Glance? What Power in her tearful eyes! The husbands’ “filled with terrible wrath” are “inflamed further” just by her Silent Glance.
We know what happens next. With thunderous voice, Bhima promises to smash Duryodhana’s thighs and drink Duhshasana’s blood.
Tears in Draupadi’s eyes – the Silent falling of rain; and Bhima’s leonine roar – the thunder accompanying the Silent rain. Vyasa has already shown us the irony by comparing Duryodhana’s exposed thigh with Vajra – thunder.
Now let us read, how Vyasa describes Draupadi's leaving Hastinapura with her husbands.
In the initial description, Vyasa shows interplay of Speech and Silence between Draupadi and Kunti, however, later, he focuses entirely on Draupadi's Body Language – through Vidura’s Speech:  “And Draupadi goeth, attired in one piece of stained cloth, her hair dishevelled, and weeping …”
So far is Vidura’s brief description of Draupadi – her Body-Presence or Body Language, and now he interprets it too for Dhritarashtra:

“And Draupadi goeth, attired in one piece of stained cloth, her hair dishevelled, and weeping , signifying--'The wives of those for whom I have been reduced to such a plight, shall on the fourteenth year hence be deprived of husbands, sons and relatives and dear ones and smeared all over with blood, with hair dishevelled and all in their feminine seasons enter Hastinapore having offered oblations of water (unto the manes of those they will have lost).’”
So, Vidura’s brief description is ‘sound’ apparently, but in Draupadi's Silence is more Power that compels Vidura’s interpretation in Word-sound that is apparently irreconcilable with her Body Language. If weeping Draupadi's Body Language evokes Karuna-Rasa, Vidura’s interpretation is Raudra, Biibhatsa and Bhayanaka Rasa.
There is more in Draupadi's Body-Presence than meets the Eye.
Interestingly, this Speech is often attributed to Draupadi (that is, Draupadi promises to widow the Kuru women), but here we find she actually makes no such verbal promise of widowing the Kuru women. It is all Vidura’s interpretation for Dhritarashtra.
Draupadi's Body-Presence is like poetry! (No wonder, Anandavardhana, much influenced by Vyasa’s Mahabharata, compares the relation of Word and Dhvani with Woman Mystery).

Given Vidura’s pro-Pandava stance in Kuru-Pandava conflict, his interpretation of Draupadi's Body-Presence might be his Upaya or Kuta-Niiti to instill fear in Dhritarashtra’s mind, however, whether we interpret Vidura in that light or not, (Dhritarashtra cannot see but can only feel the Silence – Draupadi is ‘weeping’ here – perhaps he hears only occasional sound of weeping, but in all probability he hears nothing with all the Kuru women crying at that time) Draupadi's Silent going has a powerful impact on Dhritarashtra.
Vidura’s description and interpretation prompt in Dhritarashtra an inner vision in which past, present and future merge into one. He says to Samjaya, “the glances of the distressed daughter of Drupada might consume the whole earth. Can it be possible that even a single son of mine will live? The wives of the Bharatas, uniting with Gandhari upon beholding virtuous Krishna, the wedded wife of the Pandavas, endued with beauty and youth, dragged into the court, set up frightful wail. Even now, along with all my subjects, they weep every day. Enraged at the ill treatment of Draupadi, the Brahmanas in a body did not perform that evening their Agnihotra ceremony. The winds blew mightily as they did at the time of the universal dissolution. There was a terrible thunder-storm also. Meteors fell from the sky, and Rahu by swallowing the Sun unseasonably alarmed the people terribly. Our war-chariots were suddenly ablaze, and all their flagstaffs fell down foreboding evil unto the Bharatas. Jackals began to cry frightfully from within the sacred fire-chamber of Duryodhana, and asses from all directions began to bray in response.”
Dhritarashtra cannot see Draupadi's ‘glance,’ but still he can see her destructive ‘glance’- and in it, Kala’s destructive dance. Draupadi's Glance can penetrate the dumb sheath of Dhritarashtra's blind eyes to flash in his Inner Eyes.
Another significant thing here is: in defiance of Duryodhana et al, the women of the Kurus express solidarity with Draupadi and feel for her. Certainly, they could not do anything to save Draupadi in the face of Patriarchy, but their feeling for Draupadi and expression of it, must have left its mark on the ‘public’ and caused Duryodhana’s Alienation from the Praja.

Draupadi's Glance is not only Poetry, but also 'Politics.'
Now let us read the Vana Parvan episode when the Pandavas are spending days in forest exile, and Krishna comes to meet them.
Draupadi is angry at her husbands’ passivity. In sulky anger and sorrow she "hid her face with her soft hands like the buds of lotus, and began to weep" and then complains to Krishna - "Husbands, or sons, or friends, or brothers, or father, have I none! Nor have I thee, O thou slayer of Madhu, for ye all, beholding me treated so cruelly by inferior foes, sit still unmoved! My grief at Karna's ridicule is incapable of being assuaged! On these grounds I deserve to be ever protected by thee, O Kesava, viz., our relationship, thy respect (for me), our friendship, and thy lordship (over me)."
Draupadi laments before Krishna–Arjuna about her plight, Vyasa narrates how “the tears of Panchali begot of grief washed her deep, plump and graceful breasts crowned with auspicious marks” as she hid her face with her soft hands like the buds of lotus, and began to weep.
The first part is brief description of Draupadi's Body-Presence, and the second part is her Body Language – and overall it is her Body-Mind Presence. Is it another description of Draupadi's Body Language? Is it so simple?

Is Vyasa communicating Draupadi's suffering or her Beauty?
If Vyasa communicates Draupadi's suffering, then whose Gaze follows Draupadi’s tears down to her breasts so sensuously described? Her tear seems to be the excuse of the description of her breasts. Doesn’t the description of her breasts evoke Shrngara Rasa? Which Vyasa finds beauty of Shrngara in an otherwise Karuna evoking scene?

Is he Kavi-Vyasa or Rshi Vyasa?
If he is Kavi-Vyasa, then Rshi-Vyasa too is present revealing the inappropriateness of the Kavi fixing gaze on Draupadi's tear, palms, and breasts in such a tragic scene. In other words, Draupadi's Silent Body Language splits Vyasa’s Self too! The creator becomes subservient to the Power of the created.
The next moment such ponderings and our complacent aesthetics receive a dramatic jolt, when Krishna makes a violent promise to wipe out the kauravas - nihatan jiivitam tyaktva shayanan vasudhatale - and make their wives widows- rodishyanti striyo hy evam yesham kruddhasi bhamini (3.13.114-5):

“O fair lady, the wives of those with whom thou art angry, shall weep even like thee, beholding their husbands dead on the ground, weltering in blood and their bodies covered with the arrows of Vivatsu! Weep not, lady, for I will exert to the utmost of my powers for the sons of Pandu! I promise thou shalt (once more) be the queen of kings! The heavens might fall, or the Himavat might split, the earth might be rent, or the waters of the ocean might dry up, but my words shall never be futile!”
What else is there in Draupadi’s tears and breasts that Vyasa or we readers could not see? Had Krishna’s gaze been limited to Vyasa’s or ours, he would have softened and consoled Draupadi with soft words, as he does to other women. For example, when Abhimanyu dies, Krishna consoles a lamenting Subhadra with conventional Kshatriya consolation.
So, what else is there in Draupadi's Silent Body Language of Karuna (to us) and Shrngara (and Karuna to Vyasa) that could make even Krishna blaze in Raudra? Where did that awe-inspiring dimension come from that can melt even Krishna into fire?
In a way, Rshi Vyasa connects to Vedic tradition. In Yajur Veda 1.5.1, Rudra is born of Agni’s tears (and Draupadi is Agni) with Deva-Asura conflict is the background [4]. Well that may be, but Vyasa quickly follows with another description of Draupadi's Silent Body Language:

“Hearing those words of Achyuta in reply, Draupadi looked obliquely at her third husband (Arjuna) - saaciikRtambaikshat saa paanchalii madhyamam patim (HDS.3.11.124).”
After Krishna’s promise, Draupadi just looks at Arjuna - saciikrtam avaikshat sa pancalii madhyamam patim [5],- just looks – oblique Glance - and Arjuna approves Krishna's saying by making similar promise.
We may try to translate Draupadi's glance into words like - ‘Now, what do you say, Arjuna? Krishna has promised. What would you do now? Would you now promise to fulfill my vengeance or would you wait still?’


Draupadi’s Glance at Arjuna is a significant moment for it succeeds in promptly eliciting Arjuna’s promise that Draupadi has been eagerly waiting for – “O thou of beautiful coppery eyes, grieve not! O illustrious one, it shall be even as the slayer of Madhu hath said! It can never be otherwise, O beautiful one!” (KMG.Vana.12)
The visible signs of Draupadi's action and Body Language are reported, but the narrated effect is often paradoxical and at times even dramatically and diametrically opposite; the signified transcends the signifier.
Vyasa does not merely achieve poetic Dhvani here though the description and representing interplay of Rasas. The effect on Vidura, Dhritarashtra, Krishna and Arjuna show the Dhvani of real-life action. In other words, Draupadi's very presence is poetry that surpasses and transcends Signs, and capable of evoking Dhvani in real life. When Draupadi's tear drops and flows in silence, it becomes Character.
Only Kavi-Vyasa cannot create such scenes with Draupadi. The whole of Vyasa - his multiple selves are involved here to create such poetry where Karuna and Shrngara Rasa dramatically act on each other to produce Raudra, with an overall impact that creates the indefinable Dhvani.
The most important thing, here, as we shall see, is Time-Space – of one Speech and another, and the duration of intermittent Silence – and it is on this that our interpretations would vary.
Kavi-Vyasa does not report the time-space between Draupadi's speech and Krishna's reaction. After Draupadi weeps and finishes her speech, Vyasa narrates: “In that assembly of heroes Vasudeva then spake unto the weeping Draupadi.”
 Krishna addresses her 'O fair lady’, obviously aware of the beauty of the paradox of her tearful yet angry eyes. After having obtained the promise from Krishna, Draupadi looks obliquely at Arjuna.’ Again Vyasa tells us nothing about the time-space between Draupadi's look and Arjuna’s reaction.
Does Arjuna reply immediately? Is there a pause in between? The whole drama changes by the duration of the pause. If the time-space is zero, i.e. if the reply is prompt, that could mean Arjuna ‘fears’ Draupadi and so is prompt to respond. However, if the pause is a bit lengthy that might mean Krishna-Arjuna replies being aware of the situation and is consciously appeasing Draupadi.
The matter is even more complex, because we know Draupadi too is capable of Performance. Does she consciously use her Body Language, and is that what Vyasa wants to suggest by focusing on the Beauty of her breast while she is in tears?
Later in Virata Parvan, Yudhishthira calls Draupadi an ‘actor,’ and indeed Draupadi performs with finesse as Virata’s Dasii – Sairandhrii. Without immense talent of Performance, could a queen act so impeccably as a Dasii? And Performance, we know, is one of the 64 Kalas in Kamashastra that had its origin in Pancala, Draupadi's birthplace. Can the link be entirely accidental?

Coming back to Vana Parvan, it all depends on the duration of the pause between Draupadi's glance to Arjuna and his response, whether Vyasa  hints at Krishna-Arjuna’s performance, or rather counter-performance to Draupadi's performance, or not.
Even if Vyasa’s use of Shrngara in Karuna is deliberate, how appropriate it is to describe Draupadi's Power! In Bharata Muni’s Natyashastra, deity of Shrngaram is Vishnu; it is as if Draupadi is playing Vishnu’s Mayavii role. Besides, in Natyashastra, the colour of Shrngara is Shyamo, and Draupadi is Shyamo. But the color Krishna (and Draupadi is Krishnaa too) also signifies Bhayanakah - and Shrngara is also akin to ojo guna (Anandavardhana) – another significance of Power – also reminding us that when Draupadi first sees the Pandavas, she is impressed by their ojo guna!
Again, Hasya can arise from Shrngara. So, Vyasa’s focus on Shrngara might be his humour, that Draupadi is acting – not any other petty acting, but sattvika actingSattvika Abhinaya which "is the mental message, emotion or image communicated to the spectators through eyes; the dancer or actor has to bring of their own experiences something which will be authentic and capture the audience and elicit an empathetic response in them" – taking us back to Draupadi's Silent Glance, Body-Presence, and Body Language!
From Karuna to Shrngara to Raudra – Draupadi can change dramatically, and the effect of it on Krishna and Arjuna are – Viira, touching Raudra, and bordering on Bhayanakah Biibhatsa. And this effect comes though wonder – Adbhuta – and that is why both Krishna and Arjuna praise Draupadi's physical beauty very romantically – and Vyasa himself cannot resist the wonder, and therefore, ‘splits.’
And in all this drama, that includes Vyasa himself to himself, Vyasa reserves for himself Hasya, and perhaps that’s why he gives ‘pause’…which Vaishampayana certainly cannot imitate. Indeed, there is no way knowing how Vyasa ‘performed’ in his first narration, i.e. what the duration of this time-space was, when he narrated to his five disciples. There is also no way knowing how Vaishampayana and Ugrashrava or later kathakas represent the pause. And at the hand of the final redactor/s, i.e. the written Text, the drama in the pause is devoured like Small-Fish in the flow of narrative. In the Brahma-Ganesha-Vyasa myth, Ganesha said he would not pause – an indicator that much poetry is lost when Oral Text is transmitted into Written Text.
What emerges from the simple scene of Draupadi's Body Language is a unique relation of the four Krishnas – pointing at a deep Connection. Could Vyasa represent that Connection through Words and language only, that is, by description alone? Of course, his mode of representation is language, but a language that must emphasize Draupadi's Body Language.
During the forest exile, Jayadratha tries to abduct Draupadi and invites his own doom. Why would Jayadratha do that? We find again the reason in Draupadi's Body-Presence and Body Language.
This is how Vyasa narrates when Jayadratha sees her first:

“And in that secluded place, he found the beautiful Draupadi, the beloved and celebrated wife of the Pandavas, standing at the threshold of the hermitage. And she looked grand in the superb beauty of her form, and seemed to shed a lustre on the woodland around, like lightning illuminating masses of dark clouds.”
More interestingly, when Jayadratha describes Draupadi's beauty to his emissary Kotika, he regards her “aayata.apaangii.sudatii” - endued with handsome teeth and large eyes.
Jayadratha must have looked into her eyes and have also seen her flashing smile to say that! If Draupadi has been tight-lipped, how could Jayadratha comment on her ‘handsome teeth’? Even if we concede that ‘sudaatii’ is a customary eulogy, we must remember that in the context of Mahabharata, the word “sudatii” has the connotation of seduction. For example, when Ganga comes to seduce and does seduce Shantanu, she is called ‘sudatii’. Teeth - Mouth - Devouring - are often traditional metaphors for Sexual Power. Draupadi's beautiful teeth is ironic for Jayadratha. The smile that flashes beautiful White teeth - an important Sign in Body Language - is also the smile of Kala who is Shyamo and Krishna in colour.

In Virata Parvan, King Virata’s wife Sudeshna spells out unequivocally the Power of Draupadi's Body-Presence and the Glances of her Eyes:
“O thou of faultless limbs, O thou that art endued with large eyes casting quick glances, he upon whom thou wilt look with desire is sure to be stricken. O thou of sweet smiles, O thou that possessest a faultless form, he that will behold thee constantly, will surely catch the flame. Even as a person that climbs up a tree for compassing his own destruction, even as the crab conceives for her own ruin, I may, O thou of sweet smiles, bring destruction upon myself by harbouring thee.”

Sudeshna too sees the White-Black paradox in Draupadi's smiles - 'Sweet' yet 'Destructive.' More interesting here is the fact that Draupadi's Body-Presence and Eyes have the Power to make another woman sound like a Male-admirer!
After Bhima has killed Kichaka, and left, Draupadi still remains there. She stays at the place even after the Upa-Kichakas (Kichaka’s brothers and associates) have arrived there so that they spot her standing ‘reclining on a pillar (KMG.Vana.22).’ Seeing her, the Upa-Kichakas decide to kill her ‘'Let this unchaste woman be slain for whom Kichaka hath himself lost his life.’
Why would Draupadi be still waiting there? Why is she forgetful of her own danger? Why ‘reclining on a pillar’ – Silent like the Silent pillar itself? Is it a foolish act on her part, or is she intentionally inviting trouble for herself? Does she want Bhima to kill the Upa-Kichakas too?
As I have discussed elsewhere, Kichaka’s death is a political necessity for the Pandavas, because with Kichaka still alive, they could not have revealed themselves at the end of the incognito exile, nor could have they used Virata as their base for the ensuing war.
Draupadi's reclining on the pillar in all Silence is a lure for the Upakichaka’s – more than that, it is Draupadi's way of providing a justification for Bhima’s annihilating Kichaka’s influence in Virata. Now, this is not ‘political’ in the sense we are used to understand politics nowadays – Self-Centricity. But in Kichaka’s ‘political murder’ Draupadi blends both her Personal and Impersonal motive – Personal, because the Pandavas will gain from his death; and Impersonal, because Kichaka has always been a violator of Woman, and also because the Bhubharaharana ‘project’ is in her view.
What we find in Virata Parvan is that, Draupadi's Body-Presence and Body Language is crucial to Vyasa’s writing Itihasa.
In Asvamedha Parva, after Yudhishthira learns that Arjuna has had to fight many wars to defend the horse, he asks Krishna – “O Hrishikesa, I have heard that innumerable have been the battles which Vijaya has fought with the kings of the Earth. For what reason is Partha always dissociated from ease and comfort? Vijaya is exceedingly intelligent. This, therefore, pains my heart very much…… His body has every auspicious mark. What, however, O Krishna, is that sign in his excellent body in consequence of which he has always to endure misery and discomfort? That son of Kunti has to bear an exceedingly large share of unhappiness. I do not see any censurable indication in his body. It behoves thee to explain the cause to me it I deserve to hear it.”

At this question, Krishna, displaying his unique Sense of Humour, makes dramatics of reflecting long (we may imagine the scene – Krishna pretending to be thoughtful, and the others looking at him eagerly waiting for an answer), and then answers – “I do not see any censurable feature in this prince, except that the cheek bones of this lion among men are a little too high. It is in consequence of this that that foremost of men has always to be on the road. I really do not see anything else in consequence of which he could be made so unhappy.”
While Yudhishthira takes the answer seriously, saying, “So it is, prabhu” (evam etad iti prabho, 14.89.9d) – his Bhakti evident from the word ‘prabhu’ – Krishnaa Draupadi casts an oblique angry glance askance at Krishna – 'the Arjuna-like friend of Arjuna' - who approves and receives that glance as her show of affection.
Draupadi's Body Language – the oblique glance again, and this time Vyasa specifies it as angry – produces different effects on those present.
How ‘troublesome’ Draupadi's Body Language could be is understandable from KMG’s struggle to present a morally acceptable translation at the cost of the unique thing here – Sense of Humour.
Here is the Shloka first:
// (14.89.10)
And here is KMG’s translation:

“Draupadi, however, looked angrily and askance at Krishna, (for she could not bear the ascription of any fault to Arjuna). The slayer of Kesi, viz., Hrishikesa, approved of that indication of love (for his friend) which the princess of Panchala, who also was his friend, displayed (KMG.Asvamedha.87)”
KMG’s translation is an example, how translation without understanding the Spirit, or translation burdened with the consciousness to be Politically Correct (Morally that is) mars the immense beauty of the scene.
With concern for Morality, KMG is certainly in predicament; he can neither make Draupadi feel ‘love’ for Krishna – that would amount to Draupadi's Immorality in Victorian standards; nor can he make her ‘angry’ towards him – Vishnu’s Avatara. Lest readers think that Draupadi’s praNayam is for Krishna, KMG translates and then adds an explanation in bracket – ‘indication of love (for his friend)…’ Besides, ‘’ is actually ‘mock anger’ (the word ‘tiryak’ may apply to her drshti – Eyes – and to the ‘anger’ as well – and if so, ‘oblique anger’ is certainly not ‘anger’), but KMG has to take it seriously.
Needless to say, KMG completely misses out the humour and joyous Sakha-Sakhi relation of Krishna and Draupadi, thus.
But KMG’s translation is not entirely wrong. It is correct relative to all others present there except Krishna – they indeed take her glance as ‘angry’ and would surely interpret it as ‘she could not bear the ascription of any fault to Arjuna’ – that is, Draupadi appears to be ‘angry’ to all others, and to them that ‘anger’ is the expression of her love for Arjuna – so much love, that she can even be ‘angry’ even with Krishna if he says anything ‘against’ Arjuna!
In ‘public’ eye Draupadi remains thus Pativrata Narii who cannot Love any other man but her husband/husbands (undoubtedly indicative of the fact that Draupadi's ‘relation’ with Krishna has been a topic of discussion among ‘public’ in those days too) – because this remarkable and universal phenomenon called ‘public’ (here, includes Yudhishthira and Bhima too) would surely interpret Draupadi's Love for Krishna through the filter of their Kama-Centric inclination – and in Yudhishthira’s case, given his Dharma-Centricity and fresh learning of Strii-Svabhava (in Shanti-Parvan), it would appear to him to be ‘normal’ deviation of Woman in a cynical sense, if not immoral.
In short, all others present there are not poets or wise to be able to go Beyond face-value of Draupadi's Body Language – the Signs of her eyes and brow. Vyasa’s Sense of Humour is supreme – he apparently goes with the majority by regarding her glance ‘angry’ and then Deconstructs that pose by the very next line.
The same Signs – angry glance askance - have different effect on Krishna – he reads them differently, and can go Beyond the Surface Layer to see Draupadi's heart – a heart that has Love for him too – because it is a Connection of the Spirit in which the three Krishnas merge into one single entity. That single entity – or unity – has a political dimension in superficial Social RealityBhubharaharana in this case; but it is even deeper – Intellectual and Evolutionary – not to be understood by the ‘public’ at large, and therefore, not to be expressed verbally.

This is Vyasa’s message on Body Language. Despite the External Signs that appear same to every perceiver, Body Language in fact communicates at different Layers. The same ‘oblique glance askance’ is ‘anger’ to all, but ‘Love’ to Krishna.
In the whole of Mahabharata, only Arjuna and Krishna can read the language of Draupadi's Eyes - of course Vyasa too, but as Rshi-Kavi he allows himself to be split to read both superficially and truly.
Yudhishthira is too full with Bhakti for Krishna to understand his jokes; the Dharma-Indra on Earth is very prosaic after all – Vyasa never shows him smiling.
What Krishna actually means by pointing out Arjuna’s ‘fault’ is that, a person like Arjuna has to be a lifelong ‘traveller’ – never Static, ever Dynamic – and such a person’s Action cannot be explained with ordinary Rationality, and therefore, Arjuna's portruding cheekbone is the reason or 'fault' of his lifelong travels. This elusiveness of Arjuna is indeed one reason why Draupadi loves Arjuna the most - the Evolutionary Woman loves the Man whom she cannot tame or control. If this is one dictate of "evolutionary psychology", then another is that, high cheekbone is a Sign of Male attractiveness - of Masculinity in the eye of Woman.
Draupadi's ‘angry glance’ is thus a loving Glance to Krishna – a Love that intensifies because what Krishna jokingly says (indefinability of Arjuna’s Action) is actually an expression of Krishna’s Love and admiration for Arjuna. Draupadi loves Krishna because Krishna loves Arjuna.
Vyasa expresses this complex beauty of Human Relation through Draupadi's Silence, Body-Presence, and Body Language. Draupadi's Body is thus the embodiment of Vyasa’s mahakavya – Mahabharata – that can set no limitation to interpretations. And since her Body Language is so mysteriously powerful - (and elsewhere I have discussed that Draupadi is also Vak other than Shri and Sachi-Indrani) - Duryodhana and Duhshashana cannot disrobe her, because Vak cannot be disrobed - because three-fourth of Vak's being is in Silence.

1. Hogan, K., Stubbs, R. (2003). Can't get Through 8 Barriers to Communication. Grenta, LA: Pelican Publishing Company.< br /> 2. Hogan, K., Stubbs, R. (2003). Can't get Through 8 Barriers to Communication. Grenta, LA: Pelican Publishing Company.
3. Pease B., Pease A. (2004). The Definitive Book of Body Language. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
4. ‘The gods and the Asuras were in conflict; the gods, in anticipation of the contest, deposited in Agni their desirable riches (thinking),'This will still be ours, if they defeat us. Agni desired it and went away with it. The gods having defeated (the Asuras) pursued (Agni) desirous of recovering it. They sought violently to take it from him. He wept; in that he wept (arodit), that is why Rudra has his name.
5. Sloka No. 03,013.117d*0070_02. CE leaves this out.

More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay
Views: 7556
Article Comment Why do you think her polyandrous marriage was her dream? she accepted it due to attraction or there was also something else?
Also her reason of supporting war, she did it only for her and her family?
Article Comment Sir ,
Thank you once again ; I am not blaming Krishna or anybody its only my disgust that people take it that way presenting quotes in isolation and out of context.
The link does not work anyways will do more study on Mbh
and do tell us why a polyandrous marriage was a dream come true for Draupadi and of course why would Karna need counselling
Article Comment @ Nidhi

If u don't mind, and pl permit me to have my own opinion ... to me, Bibek debroy is a popular writer on Mbh .. just that, nothing more ...

here is what Rsi Aurobindo said on the mode of reading Mbh:
“It is only by a patient scrutiny and weighing of the whole poem, disinterestedly, candidly and without preconceived notions, a consideration Canto by Canto, paragraph by paragraph, couplet by couplet that we can arrive at anything solid or permanent. But this implies a vast and heartbreaking labour. Certainly, labour however vast ought not to have any terrors for a scholar, still less for a Hindu scholar; yet before one engages in it, one requires to be assured that the game is worth the candle. For that assurance there are three necessary requisites, the possession of certain, sound and always applicable tests to detect later from earlier work, a reasonable chance that such tests if applied will restore the real epic roughly if not exactly in its original form and an assurance that the epic when recovered will repay from literary, historical or other points of view, the labour that has been bestowed on it.” Aurobindo Ghosh, Notes on the Mahabharata [2]

with this, taking clue from Mbh itself, I add that understanding etymology is a MUST MUST in understanding Mbh ... if one cannot do that, one would belch out trash, nothing more ...

another thing: you ask: "why would Karna need Draupadi's counsel at all?"

I will discuss on this in a separate article ... just some points for now ...
i) Draupadi is "Buddhi"
ii) "Buddhi" is the highest principle in Mbh ... and Gita
iii) I believe Draupadi is the central character in Mbh ..

wishing you happy exploration of Mbh

best regards
Article Comment Sir,
Thank you so much for prompt reply
That Krishna offered Draupadi as wife to Karna features in Bibek debroy's translation also , he even unabashedly writes that Draupadi would have intercourse!! At least KMG is decent enough to say that Draupadi would come as wife. If scholars like debroy translate it such then what of common people or for that matter the use of common sense by common people or the scholars debroy should have used it . Interestingly the Geeta press edition doesn't include the line : ????? ? ????? ??? ???? ??????????????????
the hindi translation of geeta press (Gorakhpur) also doesn't have it; its strange it features in BORI critical edition
Secondly why would Karna need Draupadi's counsel at all? he himself was well versed with scriptures and law ; the way he convinces Duryodhana each time is note worthy
Article Comment @ Nidhi


To "assure" you, I am quoting my take on this from Mbh. Study Group Message No.3702 dated 29/06/13.

" .......... In the Krishna-Draupadi-Karna matter, Krishna has earned much infame, but it is entirely owing to mistranslation. See, how ironically, translation error by a Krishna-Bhakta has assassinated Krishna 's character.

First, even by common sense, a man like Krishna could never have offered his dearest friends' wife to Karna.

Now, let us see what Krishna actually says:

shashte ca tvaam tathaa kaale draupady upagamishyati (5.138.15c)

KMG translates: "During the sixth period, Draupadi also will come to thee (as a wife)"

Now, `shashtha kaala' does not mean that Krishna tells Kará¹?a that he could be Draupadii's sixth husband? it means `evening' for the day period, and dawn for the night-period? the two twilights ... beginning of twilight to be precise. Kautilya divides both the day and night into eight parts each as we shall see ...

Now, twilight also is metaphor for "saandhya-bhaasa" ? ambiguity or equivocation ? and here Krishna is just doing that ?

The word "upagam" has a sexual connotation no doubt, but it also connotes just `going', `visiting' or even `attacking'! (see Monier-Williams)

Now let us see what Kautilya has to say about this `sixth kaala'.

Kautilya says about the duty of king's duty during daytime that "during the sixth (part of the day), he may engage himself in his favourite amusements or in self-deliberation." We may not interpret "favourite amusement" as Sex here, because day-time Sex is prohibited. Even if Sex is one meaning (Kautilya uses the word `vihaara', so we cannot overlook and hush up that meaning, though `vihaara' has `secular' meanings too), the equivocation remains because Kautilya also says - that is time for `mantra' that is counsel.

Kautilya says about the duty of king's duty during nighttime that "during the sixth part, he shall recall to his mind the injunctions of sciences as well as the day's duties."

So, if Krishna is offering Draupadii at all to Karna, he is suggesting something like: "you will get Draupadii to offer you counsel or teach you lessons.." ?

Krishna does not say which sixth part ... of day or of night ... another equivocation!



Again, may I repeat ? the Beauty of Mbh. cannot be felt without reading Kautilya.


Article Comment Sir,
Why do you think that a polyandrous marriage was Draupadi's dream come true ??
This would mean that she would she would be open to other marriages added ...5 husbands 6,7 ...? Where is the end to it
Incidentally Krishna's offer to Karna (if at all the former such an indecent proposal) then there's nothing wrong in it , isn't it?
This is also a hot discussion on public forums now-a-days and it irks to see Karna fans taking sadist pleasure that Draupadi was offered to Karna by Krishna!! :-X
Sir I want you to know your take on this
???????????? ?? ?????????????????????????????
?????? ?????????? ??????????? ??????
??????? ???????????????????????????????
????? ? ????? ??? ???? ?????????????????? ------------ this verse, is it draupadi upagamisyati or draupadyupa gamisyati??
???? ???????????????? ???????????? ?????????
???????? ?????????? ??????????????????????
I hope you won't keep me it a suspense for long ; My eyes on this :)
I like your articles , they're very insightful

Article Comment Wonderful article. But silence in marriage part is not convincing. From epic polyandrous marriage was a calculative move by kunti and pandavas. Their hopes of winning back kingdom depended on that marriage. they have already planned all without seeing her glances and all that. Definitely her emotions was not important for them. From the version that she reject karna its clear that how much she cared about her status. Then how can she agree for this that can put permanent question mark on her character. Panchali was learned, she must have known she would be called whore all her life for this. If myth can be added later, her reactions can also be replaced with beautiful silence. Nothing in the mahabharat supports that he was nymphomaniac. And one more thing, was vyasa also any god incarnated with supervision power. When panchali was weeping near krishna, vyasa was present or not? He can use all his rasa for his poem without seeing her, right. And panchali krishna convo may be happened without any drama. Their convo before peace mission is also dramatic with long long speech of panchali intro and krishna promise. can it be exactly real convo between them? Are you talking about only how it is written?
Article Comment fabulous article. Why did u not include Draupadi's body language at Kecchak slaying? She seduces Bheem with the right words, right touch and right moment of tears to achieve her end.
She was absolutely one in a trillion million women.
Article Comment wonderful essay on the unspoken communications of Draupadi. She was considered Shakti incarnate (am i correct on this?) & your essay made me visualize her Shakti in every expression of hers - whether it was the doom for the Kauravas or Keechaka.
Article Comment @ rdashby
Thanx for reading and commenting.
with passage of time, even a flesh-blood person becomes Myth... and then it becomes impossible to distinguish between Myth and Reality. Jesus was flesh-blood but the Jesus we know today is much Myth. However, when the Myth is in tune with the personality, that Myth is Reality too. Thus, Jesus as we know him today is Reality too. Similar is the case with Draupadi. True, Jesus is not "idealised in physical terms of beauty" - but he is idealized as a human being. So, in his case, even if we don't have enough data on the Body-Presence of Body-Language, we still have Body-Language of Body-Presence. My point in this article is about Vyasa's message on Body-Presence, Body-Language and significance of Silence/Pause in understanding Mahabharata. So, I did not think it relevant to discuss Transculturally. May be, I will do that later.
Article Comment I commend your observations on body language and the significance of silence and the pause in communicating meaning.

The aspect that strikes one about characters in a fiction, be it a myth or a play, is their quite unnatural image status. It is indeed this stylisation that distinguishes actors from the parts they play. Draupadi is described as beautiful in an immutability of that quality throughout: beautiful eyes and teeth and breasts that are in effect incarnate features of a beautiful soul: the soul that is unchangeable, one can accept, translated into immutable flesh, one is made to accept; yet, accepts. In reality, bodily beauty is a fragile thing, and quickly dwindles - a woman is most vulnerable due to, in general, relative lack of exercise and diet control. Also, there is the element of vulnerability of the body to a host of ailments, from which Draupadi, and almost everyone else, is assumed immune until 'struck down' as a direct consequence of being something deserved - those lovely breasts can never develop cancer as occurs in real life to many a beautiful woman who might imagine herself to be immutable, or miight then consider herself in a changed light. What is happening in the myth, of which Draupadi is one character among many, is the idealisation to the immutable of the frail and vulnerable flesh, a charateristic of all fictitious heros and heroines - who yet remain vulnerable to human emotions and to the circumstance of death. Chief of the assumptions is that of a sustained life, because the story depends on it.

I might point out that Jesus Christ, who was considered by the evangelists as, without splitting hairs, the son of God, is never once idealised in physical terms of beauty. At first, it strikes one as odd that he shouldn't be,in the grand tradition of myth - but, of course, that Christ was not a figure of myth, but flesh and blood, is the explanation.
Article Comment @ Pradip Bhattacharya
thank you sir for your suggestions. Yes, henceforth I will quote the Sanskrit too - and regarding translation, I would better attempt my own taking the frame of KMG, Lal, or Buitenan - and modifying where I feel necessary. I prefer KMG for the 'historic value.' As in this case, KMG helps us to understand the mind of 'colonial' times - the 'Victorian' attitude to Mbh. - and that provides me some impetus where to think afresh. Hope you find time to check my previous posting too ... 'Mbh and evolutionary psychology'... though I feel now I need to edit it further particularly some irrelevant comments etc... Regards

@ T.S.Chandra Mouli
Thanks for reading and commenting. I am very glad you liked the article, but you have made me feel a bit uneasy by regarding me a "scholar." Frankly speaking I am just a 'learner' ... Regards ...


Article Comment Such a novel approach--congratulations on the novel insights attempted. A suggestion: KMG/MND's archaic translations immediately put off the reader. Why not use P.Lal's, or failing that, van Buitenen's (grating, but better and more faithful to the Sanskrit than KMG). That might provide more insights for the reader to develop on his own. You could also consider quoting the Sanskrit along with the translation for providing this opportunity to those who are able to read the original.
Pradip Bhattacharya
Article Comment Pranaam Indrajit ji!Thanks for an illuminating discourse on body language, body presence and significance of silence.Your scholarship and narrative power are beyond description.Thanks also for enlightening how to integrate various elements and strands of narration.An excellent source of information for teachers of communication.Regards.
T.S.Chandra Mouli
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