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Ekavastraa Draupadi,
Performance, Politics and Mahaanagnyaa Vak
by Indrajit Bandyopadhyay Bookmark and Share

Continued from “Draupadi Disrobing Episode - Allegory of Vaak

(This article may be read with “Draupadi, the Brhati Shyaamaa, the Lost Sarasvati”)

Sarasvati is goddess of performance and finds frequent revered mention in Bharata Muni’s Naatyashaastra (1.61, 3.25, 3.37, 3.52, 3.87 etc). The Naayaka (Hero) is protected by Indra, and Nayikaa (Heroine) is protected by Sarasvati (1.97). [1] If this is on stage, then it is in real life Drama as well, as envisaged by RgVedic Rshis. In the Vedas, Sarasvati is Wise-Warrior and Vrtra-killer like Indra; and frequently hailed as protector. The role of Indra and Sarasvati merges, or even Sarasvati might be Original Indra. [2]

Again, if Indra has such fascination for performers, that fascination for performance is only to be expected from the Indra-Pandavas. Alternatively, one reason why Pandavas are hailed as Indras is their superior capability of performance or interest in performance – of which we have aplenty evidences in Mahabharata particularly in Virata parvan.

Pandavas and Draupadi’s God-aspects already point to their Performance. A recension adds that all Kshatriyas are Devas – and the Devas came to ‘sport (kriidaam)’ on earth (18.5.34, 34x*30_1). Kriida connotes “sport, play, pastime, amusement, and amorous sport, disrespect shown by jest or joke, a play-ground” as well as “a kind of measure in music” – marking the Vaac-Sarasvati [3]-connection with Kriida.

The particular stream of traditional parochial reading of Mahabharata, stereotyped cultural depiction of Draupadi pin-fixing her as a Reactive woman harping on Victimization rather than a Proactive woman, some influential scholarly arguments for status quo reading of Mahabharata, a neo-scholarly populist trend of reading by “Popular Perception”, confusion of Religion with Literature and superstitious Belief in Supernatural with Itihaasa - all foster the strongest resistence to Reading Mahabharata as it is. The traditional and cultural treasures in Mahabharata can only be discovered with a Spiritual-Rational approach and search for Deep Layers penetrating the Surface Layers of all these accumulated debris. If Mahabharata is composed by “Sarasvati’s abode” and Vaak’s incarnation Vyasa[4], then it has to be understood as Vaak and through Vaak.

In the present case, my proposition that Draupadi's appearance in Kuru Sabhaa in the state of ekavastraa adhoniivii rodamaanaa rajasvalaa is her Performance propelled by Kuuta-Buddhi, now needs to be supported by tradition and Scriptures. In this article, I do that.

Following the Anukramani tradition of Mahabharata, first, here is an outline.

In Scriptures and Ancient Texts, we have the story of the Devas’ machination with Vaak, in which Vaak acts for the Devas to fetch Soma from the Gandharvas. This narrative occurs in several variations; however, the following underlying theme is common –

1) Vaak’s favour for Devas over Asuras or Gandharvas
2) Vaak’s Kuuta-Buddhi and Kuuta-Kaushala to devise Upaaya (Strategy/Policy)
3) Vaak’s intuitive understanding of male nature and psychology
4) Vaak’s intuitive ability to detect Kaama-inclination or Kaama-vulnerability in man
5) Vaak’s self-empowerment taking advantage of Kaama-inclination in man (that is, Kaama-addiction in Male Psyche as the “Hole in the Self”)
6) Vaak’s not-minding and zero-hesitation to be “used” by Devas for an Impersonal Cause
7) Vaak’s use of her sexuality for that Impersonal Cause
8) Vaak’s consensual staking herself for that Impersonal Cause
9) Vaak’s Mahaanagnyaa form and/or Kanyaa form
10) Vaak as Evolutionary Woman and “Every-Woman

From the above outline, I hope, it should be already evident why I regard Draupadi inVaac-Sarasvati’s archetype; and why I interpret the Dice-Game episode and Draupadi's appearing in the state of ekavastraa etc. as her Performance for the sake of her husbands (who are hailed as Devas/ Deva-incarnates / Deva-Amshas).

Now, let us enter into details …

In a Shatapatha Braahmana (ca. 900 BCE) myth, the Devas on Earth desired Soma to be with them for performing sacrifice together. Gayatri flew up to Soma for them. While she was carrying him off, the Gandharva Vishvaavasu stole him from her. The gods were aware of this, “Soma has indeed been removed from yonder (sky), but he comes not to us, for the Gandharvas have stolen him.” Then the Gods said, “The Gandharvas are fond of women: let us send Vaak (speech) to them, and she will return to us together with Soma.” They sent Vaak to them, and she returned to them together with Soma (”

The Devas thus use Vaak’s Sexuality with her consent, taking advantage of the Gandharva’s vulnerability of fondness for woman. Such Upaaya involving woman for using Kaama in ‘Political Cause’ finds place in Bhisma’s discourses to Yudhishthira, as well as in Kautilya’s Arthashaastra. In Mahabharata, there are narratives that exemplify same policy. For example, Shachi Indrani (Shachi = “eloquence” is one aspect of Vaak) who promises to satisfy Nahusha’s Kaama, but in actuality machinates with Indra to bring about Nahusha’s Political downfall. This also reminds us how Draupadi uses Bhima to kill Kichaka by using herself and her sexuality in promising a nighttime sexual encounter with Kichaka. Kaamavashagah Kichaka’s vulnerability is Kaama, and he falls in the trap. (See - Why Draupadi is Sachi-Indrani?)

This “temptress” dimension of Draupadi is subtly evident in some other narratives too. Draupadi's posture, Body Language and Body-Presence – slightly bending a Kadamba branch with disheveled uttaraiiya with open smile on her lips – is another scene in Vana Parvan that evokes Vaak’s role (See- Mahabharata: Draupadi, Body Language, Eyes, and Vyasa’s Poetry). Jayadratha is Kaama-stricken and brings upon himself heaps of humiliation. Since Draupadi could not have been oblivious to so many male-gazes (- the power of female intuition to sense male gaze without even seeing, absolutely defies any apologia for Draupadi's ‘innocence’) and still continues standing in that posture in full gaze of Jayadratha’s entourage, I suggest, Draupadi has the Proactive political motive to foil Jayadratha’s matrimonial alliance with Saalva (Krishna’s enemy). Jayadratha falls in the trap, abducts Draupadi (- and we will know, Vaak cannot be abducted), and gives the Pandavas enough Dhaarmika justification to kill many kings and princes (all of whom would surely have fought against the Pandavas in Kurukshetra War had they lived) and to humiliate himself thus losing the status of ‘suitable boy’ to Saalva.

The Shatapatha Braahmana narrative continues that when the Gandharvas came after Vaak and claimed her, the Devas told them not to carry her off by force but to woo her.

In other words, no one can possess Vaak by abducting her. Jayadratha’s failure in abducting Draupadi comes to mind; as also Kichaka and Jataasura’s failure to possess and enjoy her by force. The obvious parallel is Ramayana. Ravana wants to rape Vaak-Character Vedavati and that sets in roll his tragedy. Vedavati immolates herself, reborn as Sita to bring about Kaamavashagah Ravana’s end. I have already started some discussion on Sita as Vaak-Character. (See - Ramayana: Sita’s Valour of Tongue and Ramayana: Why does Rama delay return to Sita?)

Interestingly, Vatsyayana’s Kaamasuutra remembers Draupadi-Kichaka and Sita-Ravana episode – uses the very word Kaamavashagah (as used in Mahabharata about Kichaka) to mark Kichaka and Ravana’s tragedy. Further, Kaamasuutra includes the Art of Speech as two essentials of 64 Kalaas. Kaamasuutra gives a list of “excellent qualities” of Man who are desired by woman with vitality; and the Gunas include “poets, good story tellers, eloquent men, energetic men, skilled in various arts…showing love towards women and attracting their hearts to himself (striinaam pranetaa laalayitaa ca), but not Subservient and Slave to them (na caasaam vasha-gah)…” etc. (6.1)” [5] All these are Vaak qualities.

I would stress again that understanding Kaama, Gender Relation, Evolutionary Woman, Evolutionary Psychology and Vaak – are one and same thing. For a biological male, all these lessons go together. As the Janaka (Dharmadhvaja) and Sulabhaa Narrative (12.308) shows, Janaka’s lessons are not yet complete though he thinks himself a wise man. Sulabhaa comes to teach him, smashes his Ahamkaara to show him how Kaama operates undetected in his mind and enters his Body-Mind through that “Hole in the Self” (See- Janaka Sulabha: Crossing the Antaraala). Significantly, she begins her teachings with discourses on Vaak. I will come back later to a detailed discussion on this.

In Shaanti-Parvan, Yudhishthira not only listens to these narratives, but also is interested in knowing Evolutionary Psychology of Woman. If we remember that Yudhishthira has Draupadi's Performance in mind, we will no more be surprised why an elderly King would betray such curiosity at even a ripe old age with Draupadi beside him. Similarly, if we remember that Bhisma has been a witness to Draupadi's Performance, we will not only understand the mystery of his perceived Silence in Dice-Game Sabhaa, but also understand why despite being a Brahmacaarin, he has such understanding of woman; so much so, that like Bhikshukii celibate Sulabhaa, he too can teach married Yudhishthira.

Now, in the Shatapatha Braahmana narrative, the Gandharvas recited the Vedas, whereas the Devas created the Viinaa to sing to Vaak and amuse her. Vaak turned to the Devas. “She turned to the gods. She who turned away from those who praised and recited, to dance and song, turned to something deceptive. Therefore even now women are connected with deceptive things, for Speech thus turned to [the gods], and because other women follows her. Therefore it is to him who dances, him who sings, that these (women of the day) are rather closely attached (Shatapatha Braahmana-”

Vaak is the Evolutionary Woman and “Every-Woman” who loves dance and song; she is attracted and attached to the man and takes fancy for him who dances and sings. In other words, Vaak is fascinated by Shilpii and Shilpa (the same message elaborated in Vaatsyaayana’s Kaamasuutra). The composer of this section refers to the Vaak-narrative as an ancient story (as implied in “even now”). Apparently, he criticizes Vaak, and Vaak-nature in woman (in all probability he himself has been labouring to understand Evolutionary Nature at the time of the composition), and also appears to be anti-art (reminding of Plato’s banishment of poets from the Republic, or Kautilya’s banishment of artists from folk-life in villages in Arthashaastra, or even Ashoka’s apathy to festivals). However, it is equally evident that the composer states that Vaak prefers Viinaa, Nrtta and Giita to the Gandharva’s Dry and boastful recital of Vedas.

The Narrative is also found in Kaathaka Samhitaa and Kapishthala Kaatha Samhitaa with the variation that the Devas give Vaak the shape of a woman; and in Taittiriiya Samhitaa, the body of a one-year old female (Strii ekahaayanii). In the Vaadhuulaa Braahmana version, the Devas address Vaak as Sarasvati; and the competition between Gandharvas who pronounce Brahman and the Devas who sing Gaathaa are added in details to the otherwise word-to-word repetition of the Taittiriiya Samhitaa version. The narrative ends with a maxim: “Vaak-Sarasvati turned to the singing gods. Therefore women Kaama-desire the one who sings. Women are Kaama-attached to him who knows thus” (saa devaan gaayata upaavartata tasmaad gaayantam striyah kaamayante kaamukaa enam striyo bhavanti ya evam veda)

“Woman Kaama-desire the one who sings” – we understand why Draupadi loves Arjuna the most (or why Shilpii Krishna’s woman admirers are endless); and “woman are Kaama-attached to him who knows (this secret of woman’s heart)” – we understand why Draupadi loves the other brothers. As evident from Vana Parvan, all the brothers, particularly Bhima, know and acknowledge Draupadi's special love for Arjuna. In Svargaaroha?a Parvan, when Draupadi falls first, Yudhishthira points out the reason of Draupadi's partiality for Arjuna. However, that is not jealousy as often interpreted. I have already discussed that Pandavas and Draupadi’s fall can be understood as Pandava-Purusha’s journey to Moksha in the light of Upanishads; and Draupadi's first fall indicates that she is Vaak that must cease first into Silence (See - Fall of Draupadi and the Pandavas: Upanishadic Significance).

One thing is sure: Vaak never favours Dry Intellect (Shukno paanditya – as Shri Ramakrishna would say). Scholars – budding or in bloom or Jhadanta– may take note. While Socrates and his wife come to mind (“either you will have a happy married life, or you will be a philosopher”), our everyday experience confirms how often the Book-Centric and Nirasa scholar is a pathetic failure in family life, particularly with his wife.

Coming back to Vaak-nature, needless to point out, here we find Draupadi's preference for Arjuna who is Shilpii and has all these artistic Gunas, and who is well apt in Gaandharva-Vidyaa - singing, dance, and music (gaayaami nrtyaamy atha vaadayaami, 4.10.8). In Shatapatha Braahmana, Gandharva Vishvaavasu could not possess Vaak; however, here, Arjuna learns music, both vocal and instrumental, and dancing and proper recitation of the Saamaan (Veda) from Vishvaavasu’s son Citrasena (3.89.13). And in Arjuna, we again find Indra-archetype because Indra of RgVeda is both singer and dancer other than being the mightiest warrior. No doubt, one secret name of Indra is Arjuna (Shatapatha Braahmana).

Vishvaavasu and Arjuna (through Vishvaavasu) are thus my link between my Theory of Vaak-Draupadi's Performance and the Scriptures on which I am relying for support.

As an interesting sidelight, let us note that Draupadi introduces herself to Sudeshna in Virata- as common wife of five Gandharvas. Sudeshna is not surprised or makes any comment on the matter. Even when Sudeshna says this to Kichaka to discourage his Sairandhri pursuit, Kichaka too is not surprised. These points to the fact that polyandrous marriage was common in those days at least in Matsya Kingdom.

However, the interesting part is that Kichaka’s desire for Sairandhri foments even with such information. I suggest the reason is (other than the usual extra-marital attraction for the objectified "Woman in the Brain/Mind" or lust in Kichaka’s psyche): Kichaka in Self-Delusion starts considering himself Deva who can bring back Vaak-Sairandhrii to himself from the possession of Gandharvas. He fantasizes Draupadi, and that is why he is not the “man” whom Vaak loves. In contrast, we never find fantasy in Arjuna or Krishna, whatever they do, it is direct action. Karma-Yoga applies in Love Game too.

Again, given the Deva vs. Gandharva contest over Vaak, Draupadi's introduction of herself as wife of five Gandharvas in Matsya-Viraat cannot be without motive. Other than the fact that Apsaraas are lovers of Gandharvas – and that establishes Draupadi as a Apsaraa-like woman, therefore, sexually free and attainable; I suggest, the time Draupadi falls in Kichaka’s gaze, from Draupadi's end it has the subtle motive of “carrot”-challenge to Kichaka that she might be attained if Kichaka could be Deva-like (or Indra-like).

Kichaka falls in the trap and is transformed into limbless footless meatball like Vrtra at Bhima’s hands. Duryodhana et al. are born as meatball as hard like iron (tato jajne maamsapeshii lohaashthiileva samhataa, 1.107.12a) – indicating “Footless. Similarly, Vrtra is Footless, and he gains his name “since it so developed whilst rolling onwards (Vrt)” (Shatapatha Braahmana- - implying, Vrtra too was Ball-like. Just as this marks Duryodhana and Kichaka’s identification with Vrtra, Footless has the significance of one dispossessed of Vaak, or unworthy of obtaining Vaak. (No Foot, No Chanda, No Vaak)

As I have mentioned before, Draupadi's appearance before Kichaka to nod her consent to his ‘indecent proposal’ to lure him to Bhima’s fatal embrace is clear parallel to Shachi-Indrani’s role in luring Nahusha to his downfall as also Vaak’s role in above narratives.

Vaak-Draupadi brings back the Soma to Pandava-Devas in the form of King Virata’s alliance and a military base for the ensuing war. The Pandavas also obtain Soma in the form of Uttaraa – the one in whose womb the future of Soma Vamsha lies. Significantly, Uttaraa has the significance of Power in RgVeda as well as Shachi connection, bringing us back to Vaak (= eloquence = Shachi). In Mbh., Arjuna is constantly associated with Uttara.

In other words, Draupadi, by narrating herself as Gandharvas’ wife, actually lays trap for Kichaka. I have discussed elsewhere that it was necessary for Pandavas and Draupadi to remove Kichaka, so that they could use Virata as their base for the impending war. Had Kichaka been alive, that would not have been possible. So, Kichaka was allowed to remain alive for most part of the Incognito Exile, ironically as an unsuspecting protector of Pandavas and Draupadi; because in his presence, Duryodhana could not dare to attack Matsya Kingdom, or actually search for them effectively through spies. Kichaka’s administrative acumen and prowess cannot be denied. When that necessity was over, Kichaka was removed. (Bandyopadhyay 2012)

In any case, the Pandavas already had well-organized spy-network in Virata. Arjuna lived amidst women, yet no one could detect that he was a man. Viraata got Brhannalaa ‘examined’[6] to ensure he was neither ‘he’ nor ‘she’- apumstvam apy asya nishamya ca sthiram (4.10.11) - that, in light of Kautilya’s Arthashaastra only suggests that Pandavas had ‘spies’ among Viraata’s officials [7] – a sort of “match-fixers” who passed Arjuna.

The Pandava power in Virata was mostly owing to Vyaaghrapada Braahmins – a sub-Gotra of Vashishtha. Dhaumya was a Vyaaghrapada. (The “Pada” is a constant pun, and here also marks Vaak-connection; that is, Vashishtha power through Vaak). So, the real power was held by Vyasa (and the Vashishthas). The selection of Virata for the Incognito Exile was thus not accidental. Arjuna made the choice (and in the Mythical Narrative, Yaksha-Dharma suggested that). It is for this reason (and having removed Kichaka), Yudhishthira could sit on Virata’s throne without his permission at the end of Incognito Exile. Otherwise, such a gesture would have been not only un-Yudhishthira-like but political hara-kiri too!

In Maitraayanii Samhitaa (3:7:3 [77, 14-16]), we have an interesting variation of the Vaak-narrative. The Devas suggest that Gandharvas are Kaama-attached to woman, and they use Vaak’s sexuality to barter Soma. They prepare her as a woman of undiminished youth, and exchange her for Soma. The Devas, thereafter, decide to contest the barter by playing a wooing match with the Gandharvas. The Devas invoke Vaak with song, while the Gandharvas utter charm. Vaak then turns to the Devas. Significantly, here, Vaak allows herself to be a “stake” – enlightening us, on the purpose of so-called narrative of Draupadi-staking in the Dice Game. I will discuss in next part that the human staking is a similar added narrative like the Draupadi-Disrobing Episode to function as allegory.

As for the Soma barter, the text concludes (MS 3:7:3 [78,6-7]):

tad aahur aa vai saa punar agachan naiva kim cana somakrayaniiti //MS_3,7.3//

“About that [Soma barter] they say: "She (Vac) did come back. There is no female with whom one barters for Soma.”

The last line is interesting. It suggests, Soma is part of woman; it cannot be separated from her. Indeed, like Vaak, woman too has Three Hidden Layers of Self – one is Soma, the other two are Gandharva and Agni. This marks a complex psychological relationship between “Every-Woman” and Gandharva.

And this complex relation is manifest in Draupadi-Pandava relation too because the Pandavas have Gandharva aspect. We must not forget the Performance and Abhinaya of the Pandavas in Virata, particularly Bhima, whose Performance as woman was so lively that even sex-experienced Kichaka was duped (- we may also interpret it as comical that Kaama-gloss in psyche can tamper with normal brain functioning). I mention Bhima specifically because to the Western audience, Peter Brook’s Mahabharata is well known, and Brook is complete failure in Bhima’s’s portrayal. The dumb and child-like Bhima is Brook’s brainchild, and Brook remains a brook to the Ocean Vyasa.

The “Gandharva” in the Pandavas ironically means, despite their being Devas, they might not retain Vaak-Draupadi always. Their oft failure with their enemies to protect Draupadi' from humiliation – from the Dice Game humiliation, from being insulted by Kichaka, from abduction by Jayadratha and Jataasura are cases in point. We know Shiva-Shuulapaanii created Draupadi for Pandavas’ “sports”. However, the relationship is not ensured in future births. Once Bhisma tells Yudhishthira-

“Ye are Pandavas. Ye have been born in a stainless race. Ye are of rigid vows. Having sported in joy in the regions of the gods, ye shall come back to the world of men. Living happily as long as the creation lasts, all of you at the next new creation will be admitted among the gods, and enjoying all kinds of felicities, ye will at last be numbered among the Siddhas. Let no fear be yours. Be you cheerful.” (12.271.68-69)

As we can see, there is no guarantee that Draupadi would be their wife again. This separation is evident when Yudhishthira reaches Svarga after his brothers and Draupadi. He wants to ask Draupadi a question, but cannot ultimately make it. Vaac-Sarasvati, in her true form, is Beyond reach of even Yudhishthira and Pandavas – Beyond their Vaak too.

The Aiitareya Braahmana (1.27.1-4) version has a significant variation – and the most important Vaak-narrative that throws light on Draupadi's Performance in Dice-Game Sabhaa. In this Narrative, Vaak appears as goddess of knowledge – suggesting that consciousness of and use of sexuality are also Vidyaa. Here, when the Devas and Rshis wondered how they would bring back Soma from the Gandharvas, Vaak suggests that the Gandharvas are Strii-Kaama (Kaama-attached to Woman); therefore, with her as woman, the Devas and Rshis might barter her for Soma. The Devas do not agree at first because they cannot be without Vaak. Vaak assures them that she would come back to them once the barter is over and Soma is procured. Now, Vaak assumes Mahaanagnyaa form – obviously to lure the Gandharvas with her sex appeal, and make them oblivious of the deceit about to happen; and with her the Devas barter Soma. Thereafter Vaak returns to the Devas. What is important here is Vaak’s Proactive-Role, and her taking matters in her own hands by conscious use of her sexuality for Political Cause and Impersonal Cause.

Needless to explain, this role of Vaak is echo of Draupadi's Proactive-role that I suggest.

As Catherine Ludvik has observed: “(Mahaanagnyaa Vaak) is the controlling hand at the center of all activity: it is she who knows what to do when the gods and the seers consider how they might have Soma come to them, it is she who reassures them of her return when they resist bartering her away, and it is she who is then seemingly exchanged for Soma.”

Mahaanagnyaa connotes “great naked one”, and also has connotation of “quite naked” – that is, may not be entirely nude, but semi-naked or appearing to be naked. The later meaning is the very picture of Draupadi as ekavastraa adhoniivii rodamaanaa rajasvalaa.

Mahaanagnyaa also connotes “paramour” or “harlot.” It is thus relativity of perception. Karna indeed tells Draupadi to satisfy Duryodhana’s Kaama, and also calls her Veshyaa (Whore, Harlot); and Duryodhana invites her as “paramour” to sit on his thigh.

Other than “naked”, Nagna connotes “new, bare, desolate, and desert.” If we take the meaning of “new”, then Mahaanagnyaa and Mahabharata becomes almost synonymous in the sense that Mahabharata is the “New Bhaarata” or “Great New (form of Bhaarata).” Indeed, I believe, Mahabharata is all about Vaac-Sarasvati.

Now, if we take the meaning of “desolate”, then Mahaanagnyaa is “the great desolate one.” The insult and humiliation that Draupadi is subjected to by Karna, Duryodhana and Duhshaasana’s Vaak (Speech, Words, and Language), rather anti-Vaak, surely makes her “the great desolate one”, and the fact that unlike Vaak she is not nude but ekavastraa adhoniivii – also suffices the fact, that is, Draupadi need not be “nude” but “desolate”.

This sense of “desolate” also gains significance in the light of the fact that Draupadi ultimately remains barren; her fertility – with the death of her sons – dries up like the contemporary drying Sarasvati River. The irony is obvious. After her marriage, during her Indraprashtha days, Vyasa compares her with Sarasvati River –

“Like the river Saraswati decked with elephants, which again take pleasure in that stream, Draupadi took great delight in her five heroic husbands and they too took delight in her

te tayaa taish ca saa viiraih patibhih saha pancabhih /
babhuuva paramapriitaa naagair iva Sarasvati (1.205.3)

We find the desolate Vaak in RgVeda. The RgVedic Rshi portrays Vaac as Queen of Gods sitting alone because no one comprehends her uttered words. Perhaps the Rshi had Draupadi in mind. Vaak’s noblest portion vanished though heaven's four regions drew forth drink and vigour from her Words –

yad vaag vadantyavicetanaani raashtrii devaanaam nishasaadamandraa
catasra uurjam duduhe payaamsi kva svidasyaah paramam jagaama (RV- 8.100.10)

The portrayal is Vaac’s being ‘lonely at the top’ – her pronouncements are not understood by others around her. This is again Draupadi – lone amidst all in her general life situation, as also in the Dice-Game Sabhaa raising questions in vain.

“Her noblest portion vanished” – is it not an indication that she had to stoop low to counter the Blackness of her enemies? Black Maayaa against Black Maayaa – this is again Vaac’s character; Like Maayaavii Indra, Sarasvati is capable of being Maayaavii because she can destroy ‘maayinah (RV-6.61.3). This explains, why Vaac-Sarasvati is Krishnaa too.

More interesting is the fact that Nagna is one epithet of SHiva who created Draupadi. The obvious affinity of Shiva Shuulapaanii and Vaak is further confirmed in Shaandilya Upanishad where Sarasvati is the “M” of “AUM” (that is, Destruction/Dissolution or Pralaya), is Krishnaa (Draupadi again), and is trishuuladhaarinii

“The letter ‘M’ has as its visible symbol Sarasvati, an aged woman of black colour riding on a bull, having a trident in her hand (makaaramuurtih Krishnaa?gii vrshabhavaahinii vrddhaatrishuuladhaarinii Sarasvati bhavati, 17).”

Significantly, in RgVeda, Sarasvati has male-aspect Sarasvan – that is, she is the ancient Ardhanaariishvara. Thus, Shiva’s creation of Draupadi is Vaak’s creation too. The other affinity is Dice Game – Shiva plays Dice, and Draupadi plays the “Dice” of Performance. I will come back on the significance of Dice Game and its relation with Indra and Vaak.

Nagna also connotes “a girl before menstruation (allowed to go naked)” – which has the significance of Kanyaa; and we know, Draupadi is one of the Panca-Kanyaas.

When Yudhishthira is about to leave his elders to end their lives in the forest, he mentions Draupadi as Kanyaa to Gaandhari – “The Panchalas are utterly destroyed with a girl their only remainder” (paancaalaah subhrsham kshiinaah kanyaamaatraavasheshitaah, 15.44.32a). Hiltebeitel humourously notes: “how courtly of Yudhishthira to refer to the middle-aged heroine” as a girl or maiden (Kanyaa). [8] That is so; however, he misses the humour within the humour. The Panchalas have been made “naked” and ‘desolate” by Ashvatthama. And now, the “naked” Kanyaa, as their remainder, is their only “garment”.

Avasheshita” also connotes “left as a remnant” – and that takes us back to Draupadi's birth – she being born from the “remnant” Yajna and/or Agni - because the purpose of Drupada’s Yajna has already been served with Dhrshtadyumna’s birth. Hiltebeitel has noted Draupadi's birth as “surplus”; and I suggest, the “remnant” and “surplus” matter mark Draupadi's resemblance with Maata?gii – the Taantrik Sarasvati. In Kalidasa’s Shyaama?aa Dandakam, Maata?gii is hailed as Kanyaa.

As we have seen, Draupadi's appearing in Dice-Game Sabhaa as ekavastraa adhoniivii rodamaanaa rajasvalaa - and the Mahaanagnyaa Vaak with Kanyaa and menstruation association, as well as playing a Political Role for the Devas, is no doubt Vaak-archetype.

Or, we may think conversely. The composer of Aiitareya Braahmana had perhaps Draupadi's Itihaasa of Performance in mind in imagining Vaak thus! This is probable, because narratives do not spring from vacuum. Image precedes Metaphor.

If Draupadi gives a Performance of ekavastraa adhoniivii rodamaanaa rajasvalaa on the suggestion of Yudhishthira’s Kuuta-Buddhi in Dice-Game Sabhaa, it is her Vaak-role as in the model of Shatapatha Braahmana and Maitraayanii Samhitaa; and if Draupadi does that Performance on her own Kuuta-Buddhi, then she really appears as Mahaanagnyaa as in the Aiitareya Braahmana version.

Now, even if we do not go by the Alternative Narrative of Draupadi's Performance, and take the narrative as in the Dominant Narrative of Draupadi's oppression and humiliation by Duhshasana’s attempted Vastraharana and grasping of hair, the effect, in effect remains same.

Draupadi's vulnerable state would evoke sympathy, as it indeed does, but that sympathy from most of the males in the Sabhaa would not be without the tinge of basking in her sexual appeal spontaneously emitted from that disheveled state – disheveled Hair and disheveled garment. I cannot but recall Ovid:

“Nothing makes a woman so alluring as to walk with dishevelled hair and let her tears flow unrestrainedly.” (Art of Love, Book-3)

Ovid may sound harsh to ultra-polite and AAopaataalii [9] souls; however, let us not forget that Vyasa reports cries of ‘shame shame’ from certain quarters of the Sabhaa, but does not report any lowering of Male Gaze at Draupadi's plight. To cry ‘shame’ at the outrage of Draupadi's modesty needs ‘seeing’ – and we cannot expect all members of the Sabhaa to be Sannyaasiis with great power of restraint. Besides, with traditional narratives of Rshis spontaneously ejaculating at the sight of nude or semi-nude Apsaraas (whether sexually interested or not), we already know, as also from experience, how Visual-Centric male-psyche could be! How humiliation couples with Sex Appeal is again demonstrated in Virata Sabhaa after Draupadi is kicked by a Kaama-frustrated Kichaka. Vyasa reveals how those in the Sabhaa, gaze at her beauty simultaneously expressing sympathy for her.

In another Shatapatha Braahmana narrative, the Devas cut Vaak off from the Asuras, gain possession over her, and made her their own by offering her with an Anushtup verse.

Vyasa composes Mahabharata mostly in Anushtup Chanda (about 93% in Present Mahabharata). Mahabharata is therefore, Vyasa’s “offering” to Vaac-Sarasvati as much to Draupadi. Indeed, Draupadi is Vyasa’s muse – as evident from the Vana Parvan narrative of Draupadi's expressing sorrow to Krishna where we equally find Vyasa’s poetic gaze in action. (See – Mahabharata: Draupadi, Body Language, Eyes, and Vyasa’s Poetry)

Deprived of Vaak, the Asura’s speech became unintelligible, and the Asuras became Mlechha. True Braahmanas do not utter unintelligible speech or Mlechha language (Shatapatha Braahmana- This is therefore, the true significance of Mlechha – the entity dispossessed of Vaak. Vidura and Yudhishthira therefore, represent not only mastery over Vaak, but also mastery ove Mlechha – as evident in Adi Parvan when their secret communication is in Mlechha tongue. The significance is: the one, who knows Vaak, also knows anti-Vaak!

Vaak is Mystery – because she is not visible or audible to everybody. She reveals her beauty only to the rarest one, impliedly, whom she accepts as her husband/ lover:

“One man hath ne'er seen Vak, and yet he seeth: one man hath hearing but hath never heard her. But to another hath she shown her beauty as a fond well-dressed woman to her husband.”

uta tvah pashyan na dadarsha vaacamuta tvah shrnvan nashrnotyenaam
uto tvasmai tanvam vi sasre jaayeva patyaushatii suvaasaah (RV- 10.71.4)

In the light of all above, this is the reason, why, Draupadi-Disrobing Episode is actually an allegory on Vaak. Duhshaasana (misrule) has therefore, no chance of disrobing her. Duhshaasana can never disrobe Vaak, just as Vaak-professing scholars yet to understand the Deep Layer of Mahabharata – through understanding Nirukta (the methodology suggested by Vaishampaayana and Ugrashravaa Sauti) and how Vaac-Sarasvati pervades everywhere in Mahabharata – can never “redress” the “undisrobing” of Draupadi.

(To be continued …)


1) Bandyopadhyay, Indrajit (2014). Yudhishthira/Pandava and Draupadi marriage: Coded Message of Ideal Governance, and Raajadharma. Interdisciplinary Journal of Sciences and Humanities. Vol.1, No.1, January, 2014, ISSN 2348-3822 p-84
2) Bandyopadhyay, Indrajit (2012). Rape of Draupadi. Lulu Inc. ISBN 978-1-105-40299-9
2) Brodbeck, Simon, and Brian Black (2007). Gender and narrative in the Mahabharata. Routledge
3) Hiltebeitel, Alf (2001). Rethinking the Mahabharata: A Reader's Guide to the Education ofthe Dharma King. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago
4) Ludvik, Catherine (2007). Sarasvati: Riverine Goddess of Knowledge, From the Manuscript-carrying Viinaa-player to the Weapon-wielding Defender of the Dharma, Brill
5) McGrath, Kevin (2009). Stri: Women in Epic Mahabharata. Harvard, 2009

[1] naayakam rakshatiindrastu naayikaam ca sarasvatii /
viduushakamathaunkaarah sheshaastu prakrtirharah //

[2 Though that role of Sarasvatii is no more evident in late Vedas.
[3] In this article I will either use the compound Vaac-Sarasvatii or Vaak or Sarasvatii with similar meaning. In RgVeda, Vaak and Sarasvatii are not directly synonymous; however, there are enough hints and resemblances that they are one and same.
[4] Vyaasa is Apaantaratamaa’s incarnation; and Apaantaratamaa is born from the Vaak “Bho” uttered by Naaraayana.
[5] 6.1.12 mahaa-kuliino vidvaan sarva-samaya-jñah kavir aakhyaana-kushalo vaagmii pragalbho vividha-shilpa- jno vrddha-darshii sthuula-laksho mahotsaaho drdha-bhaktir an:asuuyakas tyaagii mitra-vatsalo ghataa-goshthii-prekshanaka-samaaja-samasyaa-krii?ana-shiilo niirujo ':vyanga-shariirah praanavaan a:madya-po vrsho maitrah striinaam pranetaa laalayitaa ca. na caasaam vasha-gah sva-tantra- vrttir a:nishthuro 'n:iirshyaalur an:avashankii ceti naayaka-gunaah.
[6] In a recension it is - pariikshya cainam pramadaabhir aashu vai (04,010.011b*0239_002)
[7] Such inference is bolstered by the fact that Yudhishthira identifies himself as a vaiyaaghrapadya (4.6.10), and Dhaumya was also vaiyaaghrapadya – a Vashishtha Gotra. To me, the link suggests, Vyaasa and Dhaumya masterminded the Paan?avas’ incognito exile, and had ‘spies’ among Braahmana ministers.
[8] Hiltebeitel, Alf. Rethinking the Mahabharata: A Reader's Guide to the Education ofthe Dharma King. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2001, p 185
[9] Bengali derogatory Slang/Idiom: “Super sensitive and super sentimental”

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