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Why Draupadi is Sachi-Indrani
|by Indrajit Bandyopadhyay|
In Mahabharata, Draupadi is famously known for her Shri-aspect. However, going by common sense logic, if the Pandavas are Indras, Draupadi should be Sachi-Indrani rather than Shri-Lakshmi. If we carefully consider Draupadi’s role in Mahabharata, her Sachi-aspect is equally prominent with her Shri-aspect, if not more. If we take BORI’s Critical Edition (CE), then there is no clear pronouncement that Draupadi is Sachi. However, that Draupadi is Sachi, is retained in many recensions.
The CE has it as –
Here, Draupadi is Shri.
But what CE leaves out as interpolation are Slokas that change the incarnation matter. The Slokas occur in between the above CE sloka–
And a portion of Shri herself became incarnate on earth, for the gratification of Narayana, in the line of Bhishmaka. And she was by name the chaste Rukmini. And the faultless Draupadi, slender-waisted like the wasp, was born of a portion of Sachi (the queen of the celestials), in the line of Drupada. (KMG.Adi.67)’
Even if it is interpolation, the interpolator has worked on logic. Rukmini being Krishna’s wife must be Shri, and Draupadi being Pandava's wife i.e. wife of Indras, must be Sachi. Draupadi is again compared to Sachi, when, after marriage she returns to Hastinapura with the Pandavas.
However, CE omits this Sloka too.
Only Markendaya Purana says clearly that Draupadi is Sachi’s incarnation.
The CE version has an inclination that Draupadi is Shri, while the recensions favour her Sachi-aspect.
Mahabharata scholars most often take CE for discussion and research. Here, in full agreement with Prof. P. Lal, I would quote like to quote him:
“I believe in the sanctity of an all-inclusive Mahabharata, and see no reason why such very Indian all-inclusiveness should not be respected by textual scholars who stress strict adherence to lexical principles, and pompously dismiss popular and folk passages and episodes as garrulous ‘interpolations.’” 
Even if we go by the BORI that the Sachi-Slokas are interpolations, there is no way denying that the composers of those Slokas did have reasons, which I suggest, are interpretations based on the Mahabharata they had before them.
One important action of Sachi as narrated in Mahabharata is the destruction of Nahusha through use of her sexuality.
In Mahabharata, in the Indra-Indrani-Nahusha Puranic narrative, Indrani uses her sexuality to aid Indra in vanquishing Nahusha. The Nahusha episode is found both in Udyoga Parvan and Shaanti Parvan.
After becoming Indra, Nahusha thinks, ‘Everything that Indra used to enjoy is before me. Only, his spouse Sachi is not by.’ Then he goes to Sachi and tells her, ‘O blessed lady, I have become the lord of the deities. Do thou accept me.’
In Udyoga Parvan narrative Nahusha says-‘'O thou of sweet smiles, I am the Indra of all the three worlds. O thou of beautiful thighs and fair complexion, accept me as thy lord!'
Here Nahusha is lusty as indicated by Nahusha’s gaze at her thighs – varaarohe.
Sachi tries to dissuade him in the name of dharma by telling that it is adharma to covet other’s wife, but Nahusha has his own logic, ‘The position of Indra is now being occupied by me. I deserve to enjoy the dominions and all the precious possessions of Indra. In desiring to enjoy thee there can be no sin. Thou wert Indra's and, therefore, should be mine.’
Sachi then says, ‘I am observing a vow that has not yet been completed. After performing the final ablutions I shall come to thee within a few days.’
In Udyoga Parvan Sachi says-
Nahusha has another gaze at her hips and lets her go happy to have the sex-carrot hanging before his lusty eyes –
Sachi does – what can be regarded – ‘delaying tactics’ with apparent consent. Nahusha thinks this to be a promise and leaves happily.
Sachi’s ‘delaying tactics’, even if it is a lie, is not lie. It is a policy. Mahabharata approves such policy in none other than Krishna’s voice. Draupadi, in fact, implements such policy in her own life. Yet, till now, it is Sachi’s personal problem only. She only thinks of saving herself from disgrace.
Later Sachi gets information where Indra is hiding. Sachi finds him ‘residing within the fibres of a lotus stalk.’
Seeing Sachi ‘pale and emaciated,’ Indra becomes ‘exceedingly anxious.’ He laments, ‘Alas, great is the sorrow that has overtaken me. I have fallen off from the position that is mine. This, my spouse, afflicted with grief on my account, finds out my lost self and comes to me here.’
When he asks about Sachi’s condition, Sachi says everything and also about her false promise.
Then Indra says, ‘Go and say unto Nahusha that he should come to thee on a vehicle never used before, viz., one unto which some Rishis should be harnessed, and arriving at thine in that state he should wed thee. Indra has many kinds of vehicles that are all beautiful and charming. All these have borne thee. Nahusha, however, should come on such a vehicle that Indra himself had not possessed.’
In the Udyoga Parvan narrative, Indra tells Sachi, 'This is not the time for putting forth valour. Nahusha is stronger than I am. O beautiful lady, he hath been strengthened by the Rishis with the merits of offerings to the gods and the Pitris. I shall have recourse to policy now. Thou wilt have to carry it out, O goddess. O lady, thou must do it secretly and must not disclose it to any person. O lady of a beautiful waist, going to Nahusha in private, tell him, O lord of the Universe, thou must visit me mounted on a nice vehicle borne by Rishis. In that case I shall be pleased and shall place myself at thy disposal. This shouldst thou tell him.'
Indra is not only thinking of protecting Sachi, but by suggesting something with foresight, he is also launching a policy of ‘poitical’ subversion against Nahusha, and Sachi thus becomes a willing partner to that policy. Her ‘personal’ matter now blends with ‘political’ matter. Sachi’s love for her husband is unquestionable. She is not Shri, who always chooses a new lord abandoning the previous.
In Mahabharata, in the aftermath of dice-game, when Draupadi is called to the sabha, she uses this ‘delaying tactics.’ She sends back the pratikamin thrice with questions. Obviously, this is ‘buying time.’
When Duryodhana et al tell her to abandon her husbands and choose new husband, she does not even stoop to respond. If Draupadi is Shri, why would she not abandon her husband?
Then in Vana Parvan, when Draupadi realizes that Jayadratha is ‘too much’ interested in her, she asks him about the state of affairs of Saivya, Sivi, Sindhu, how Jayadratha is governing them, and also says how her husbands would receive him as a guest (3.251.10-13). This not only shows her interest in Rashtriya administration, but is also a ‘delaying tactics’ with speech – in this case. The poet says this very clearly- ‘And that lady of irreproachable character anxiously expecting the return of her husband, began, with long speeches, to beguile him completely.’
Even Jayadratha, displaying some improvement on Nahusha, understands this –
Unlike Indra, Bhima is certainly not ‘residing within the fibres of a lotus stalk’, but his disguise in Virata as a cook is also ‘hiding’ for a ‘political cause’ like Indra.
If Draupadi's going to Bhima to seek help for protecting her chastity is Sachi-like, Bhima’s suggesting her what to do – despite obvious differences - resembles the Nahusha-Indra-Sachi myth even more.
Bhima says, 'I will, O timid one, do even as thou sayest. I will presently slay Kichaka with all his friends. O Yajnaseni of sweet smiles, tomorrow evening, renouncing sorrow and grief, manage to have a meeting with Kichaka. The dancing-hall that the king of the Matsya hath caused to be erected is used by the girls for dancing during the day. They repair, however, to their homes at night. There in that hall, is an excellent and well-placed wooden bed-stead. Even there I will make him see the spirits of his deceased grandsires. But, O beautiful one, when thou holdest converse with him, thou must manage it so that others may not espy thee."
Like Indra-Sachi, it is now Bhima -Draupadi joint conspiracy.
Draupadi now goes to Kichaka and tells him –
Ecstatic Kichaka wants to ‘alone repair to thy abode for union with thee –
In Udyoga Parvan narrative, Nahsha is also ecstatic-
Now Draupadi says-
In Udyoga Parvan Sachi says-
Sachi adds a eulogy to hoodwink Nahusha.
Draupadi not only promises Kichaka to yield herself to her, she also actively ‘acts’. She pretends to be terrified of her gandharva husbands. Pretending to be terrified yet willing for sexual union, Draupadi would naturally further fuel Kama-struck Kichaka’s ‘protective instinct’ with the excitement of adventure, other than making him completely overwhelmed with the immense power of seductive paradox and enigma. Here she outdoes Sachi, but her setting up conditions resembles Sachi’s conditions to Nahusha.
In Udyoga Parvan, ecstatic Nahusha says-
Like Nahusha, Kichaka trusts Draupadi absolutely and fails to detect any ploy in it.
If Draupadi is Sachi then she must be everything that Sachi represents. Indeed, Draupadi bears much resemblance with Sachi of Rig Veda.
The Rig Vedic hymn 10.86 is a unique ‘dramatic monologue’ in Sachi’s persona.
Let us see some select Rks from it in Griffith’s translation-
The imagery – ‘breast…and my head and both my hips seem quivering’- is a very sexually explicit one. Some words - - subaaho -‘having strong or handsome arms’; svangure -‘handsome-fingered’; prthush?o -‘having a broad tuft of hair’; prthujaaghane -‘broad hips’- apply to any beautiful woman no doubt, but in the present context of discussion, they apply more to Draupadi, other than Sachi’s pride. Even in the part of the Rk – ‘never shall her Consort die in future time through length of days’- we can see Yudhishthira’s image, who never ‘dies’, but goes to Svarga alive!
Other than these, the Rks 16 and 17 are so sexually explicit that even Griffith was perhaps ‘ashamed’ to translate them. Sayana-Wilson translates them very ‘safely’ –
However, these two Rks – Sachi’s discourse to Indra on ‘manliness’ – would actually render in translation something like this –
Sayana in his commentary ‘has tried to polish the above straightforward word-for-word meaning as best as he could, but not able to avoid everything and arriving at a somewhat different meaning, as under:
However, like, and superior to the English metaphysical poets, and Baul singers, every RigVedic hymn have at least four layers of imagery and meaning– sexuality, war, everyday ritual (like Soma pressing), and poetic composition – working together, and together these produce an effect that goes beyond words – that Anandavardhana calls ‘Dhvani’. Together with these four layers, the additional dimension of spirituality emerges, just like four squares if placed together (two above two) creates another square as a whole.
Accordingly, these Rks may also mean –
If my translation is also correct – a matter I leave to Sanskrit scholars, who I am not – then, that too points at Sachi’s ‘intellectual’ qualities and naturally reminds of Draupadi.
The RigVeda Vedic hymn 10.159 is another dramatic monologue in Sachi’s persona. Griffith’s translation is enough to show the Sachi-Draupadi resemblance.
Sachi’s strong ego, self-confidence, royal attitude, yet the feminine charm and feminine desire of absolute possession over husband, the beauty of an ambiguous and paradoxical nature reminds none other than Draupadi.
The myth of Draupadi being Sachi is therefore a rational and logical indicator that she indeed could use her sexuality for political ends. (For further on the Sachi-Draupadi link, see my "Fall of Draupadi and the Pandavas: Upanishadic Significance”)
Most scholars of Mahabharata, ‘see’ the dominance of Shri-aspect in Draupadi. Draupadi might be so in her beauty and in her ability to bring prosperity to her husbands – and going by ‘modern’ interpretation of Shri-Lakshmi as a loyal and ‘domesticated’ wife – (‘Lakshmi-bahu’ being a frequently used term) – Draupadi is indeed Shri-Lakshmi; however, as we have seen above, the personality of Sachi suits more with Draupadi, not only because her husbands are Indras, but also by virtue of her own strength and vitality.
(Note: In my article titled ‘Mahabharata: Rational Reading in the light of Kautilya’s Arthasastra’, I made a reference that Draupadi is Sachi. Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya has suggested that I should explain it further for the readers. This article may be read with that article.)
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