Draupadi Svayamvara: The Upanishadic Significance


Draupadi's Svayamvara, in which Panchala King Drupada’s daughter Draupadi alias Pancali alias Krishna marries Arjuna and Pandavas, occupies a place of great importance in Mahabharata Mahakavya-Itihasa.

However, like every other narrative in Mahabharata, the event may be interpreted allegorically in the light of Vedas and Upanishads.

Here, I shall represent the allegorical significance through my painting (in oil pastels and colour sketch pencils) and in a poetic way.

Needless to say, the Upanishadik significance is high philosophy, so I am also providing explanatory notes (for those who might need them).

Now, here is my poem representing and explaining my painting.

Krishnaa would marry the best archer
The one valourous
The one mighty
The one that can concentrate, look deep and penetrate
Without a miss, surety embodied
Thus spake Vyasa

What Drupada decided
And we follow
We sit to listen deep
The eloquence in Silence
The Upanishads [i]

We try to look deep
To look at us
The humans, the human situation
The Atma seeking the Paramatma
The Arrow the Atma
The target the Paramatma
So said the Upanishadik Rshi [ii]

Draupadi Krishnaa is the Bow
She is the spirit of the Arrow [iii]
Arjuna Krishna, the arrow [iv]
The arrow released from the burning bow
Towards the goal
And... it is Bharata ...
The arrow piercing the target
So it is [v]

Our Bharatavarsha gaining her name
Not only from Rshabhanatha’s son
Or Shakuntala’s son
But also from Dhanurveda
The inherent imagery is the Bow and Arrow
The archer
The Punarvasu [vi]

And may we be reminded of Dasharathi Rama
The archer whose birth star is Punarvasu
Drupada had a rotating Yantra
With a fish in it
The hero aspiring to be Draupadi's lord
Must pierce the fish-eye with arrows
We look deep, we look deep
The Rshi guides our way
The fish-eye to be pierced?

Yet, the eye of the fish is a vast space
The centre is there
But cannot be ascertained...
The eternal certainty of uncertainty
It is this imperfection
That makes human the human
And beautiful
Draupadi's brows flash like the bow
And her eyes the arrows
Finds her goal

The Bharata
The White
Krishna, his other name
Also Black
Krishnaa looks coyly at Krishna
The Pandavas
The Small Fishes
Must subvert the Big Fish
In this eternal Matsyanyaya

For that is the way to survival
That is survival, the Jiva Dharma [vii]
Sage Vyasa
The other Krishna
Vyasa - the diameter
Splits the circle
The circle rotating eternally
It ends a Yuga
Another to follow
Split the circle
Be the Vyasa
Satya Yuga will advent
Breaking the monotonous circle [viii]

Of chronology
Of the fixed script
Of endlessly rotating Yugas
Sage Vyasa
The child of Truth, Satyavati
Framed in the uplift triangle
The Shiva
Witnesses all
Vyasa, the Shiva
The Maha-Yogi
But who witnesses him?

Who witnesses all?
The Purusha
Who else?
The Purusha – neither man nor woman nor else
Neither this gender or sex or that
The Purusha – the other Krishna
The Eye of the Purusha [ix]

The stage
Where all dramas play
The directors and actors
Where Vyasa composes Mahabharata
The White of the Eye is Indra
Arjuna is the Indra,
The Black of the Eye, Sarasvati
Sarasvati, her other name Krishna
The Black of the Eye [x]

The White and Black
Indra and Sarasvati
Form the Eye
The integrated Power
Of might wisdom and compassion
O Rshi
O Vyasa
Guide us
Give us that Eye
That vision
The eye that might see well
And the Inner Eye

Arjuna and Krishna
Hold hands and marry,
The White marries the Black
The Black marries the Black

On the stage of the Purusha's Eye
Purusha, the Big Fish
Yet who would be pierced
By the Small-Fish devotee
Purusha, the Eye
That all Eyes must see


[i] Literally connotes: “the sitting down at the feet of another to listen to his words (and hence, secret knowledge given in this manner”; actual significance: “setting at rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit"
[ii] The Rshi of Mundaka Upanishad says: “II-ii-3: Taking hold of the bow, the great weapon familiar in the Upanishads, one should fix on it an arrow sharpened with meditation. Drawing the string, O good-looking one, hit that very target that is the Imperishable, with the mind absorbed in Its thought. II-ii-4: Om is the bow; the soul is the arrow; and Brahman is called its target. It is to be hit by an unerring man. One should become one with It just like an arrow.”
[iii] RgVeda Sukta 6.75 by Rshi Payu Bharadvaja imagines the Bow as feminine
[iv] Arrow is the symbol of the sacred Phallus – representing Shiva
[v] Dhanurveda: “If an arrow hits on the root of a target (i.e. outer ends), the score is known by the name ‘kaisika’. If it hits the horn of the target (i.e. magpie) it is known by the name ‘sattvikah’. If it hits the ear of the target (i.e. inner portion) it is known by the name ‘vatsakarna’ and if it hits the neck of the target (i.e. bull’s-eye) it is known by the name ‘Bharata’ [grivayam bharato bhavet (Dhanurveda, 90)]
[vi] Punarvasu is a Nakshatra in Hindu astronomy/astrology, which refers to the two brightest stars in the constellation of Gemini: Castor and Pollux. Punarvasu extends from 20 degrees 00 minutes of Mithun (Gemini) to 03 degrees 20 minutes of Kark (Cancer). The word Punarvasu is derived from Puna+ Vasu, which means return, renewal, restoration or repetition. Dasharathi Rama’s birth is described in Valmiki’s Ramayana as: ““On completion of the ritual six seasons have passed by and then in the twelfth month, on the ninth day of Chaitra month [April–May,] when the presiding deity of ruling star of the day is Aditi, where the ruling star of day is Punarvasu (Nakshatra), the asterism is in the ascendant, and when five of the nine planets viz., Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus are at their highest position, when Jupiter with Moon is ascendant in Cancer, and when day is advancing, then Queen Kausalya gave birth to a son with all the divine attributes like lotus-red eyes, lengthy arms, roseate lips, voice like drumbeat, and who took birth to delight the Ikshwaku dynasty, who is adored by all the worlds, and who is the greatly blessed epitome of Vishnu, namely Rama.” [Book I : Bala Kanda, Ramayana by Valmiki, Chapter (Sarga) 18, Verse 8, 9, 10 and 11]
[vii] Jiva has Atma (soul) that comes from Paramatma – and Atma’s attribute is Vidya (12.233.19c). Consciousness is Jiva’s attribute (sacetanam jivagunam vadanti, 20a) – implying Body and Soul together is Jiva, and the two are equally important – and Jiva acts and causes everything to live (sa ceshtate ceshtayate ca sarvam, 20a). Jiva is constant and eternal in the Body of all embodied creatures (jivash ca nityam deheshu dehinam, 12.231.13c). Dharma is eternal, pleasure and pain are not; Jiva is eternal, but the cause of Jiva is transitory (nityo dharmah sukhaduhkhe tv anitye; jivo nityo hetur asya tv anityah, 18.5.50c). Vyasa declares the supremacy of Jiva Dharma, and laments why Dharma is not courted: “From Dharma is Artha as also Kama. Why should not Dharma, therefore, be courted? For the sake neither of pleasure, nor of fear, nor of cupidity should any one cast off Dharma. Indeed, for the sake of even life one should not cast off Dharma. Righteousness is eternal. Pleasure and Pain are not eternal. Jiva is eternal. The cause, however, of Jivas being invested with a body is not so (18.5.49-50).

urdhvabahur viraumy esha na ca kash cic chrnoti me / dharmad arthash ca kamash ca sa kimartham na sevyate // na jatu kaman na bhayan na lobhad; dharmam tyajej jivitasyapi hetoh / nityo dharmah sukhaduhkhe tv anitye; jivo nityo hetur asya tv anityah // (18.5.49-50)
[viii] Kunti says, “It is the king that createth the Krita, the Treta, or the Dwapara age. Indeed, it is the king that is the cause of also the fourth Yuga (viz., the Kali). That king who causeth the Krita age to set in, enjoyeth heaven exceedingly. That king who causeth the Treta age to set in, doth enjoy heaven but not exceedingly. For thus causing the Dwapara age to set in, a king enjoyeth heaven according to his due. The king, however, who causeth the Kali age to set in, earneth sin exceedingly (5.130).” Later, Bhishma also says same thing twice to Yudhishthira (12.70; 12.139.9-10). “I have no doubt also in this. O bull of Bharata's race, that Krita, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali, as regards their setting in, are all dependent on the king's conduct (krtam.tretadvaparashcakalishcabharatarshabha/ rajamulanisarvani mama nastyatrasamshayah(12.139.9-10).” Utathya too says, “The respective ages called Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali, O bull of Bharata's race, are all dependent on the conduct of the king. It is the king who constitutes the age (krtam.tretadvaparashcakalishcabharatarshabha/ rajavrttanisarvanirajaivayugamucyate (12.92.6).”
[ix] Indra is in the Right Eye of Purusha (indho ha vai namaisha yo 'yam dakshine 'kshan purushah), and his wife Virat is in the Left Eye (vame 'kshani purusharupam eshasya patni virat) (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad-4.2.2-3).
[x] Sarasvati is the ‘Krshna’ (Black) of the Eye, and Indra, the White in the Eye (Shatapatha Brahmana-12:9:1:12).


More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay

Top | Hinduism

Views: 3487      Comments: 0

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.