Friday, February 10, 2017

Did Draupadi Love Karna Secretly? (Mahabharata series)

You might not have heard it already but there exist tales about Draupadi regretting marrying Pandavas in some areas of Indian subcontinent. In case you are not aware of Draupadi, Pandavas and Karna, you've missed the epic Mahabharata saga, original by Ved Vyas and translated into English by many. There are many translations in market. I too have a recommendation, if you are interested, towards the end of this blog. You can scroll down to the recommendation or you can read through the post first.

Karna: The warrior

Coming to the question Did Draupadi love Karna, it is not part of original story so you can't say for sure. But back then, word of mouth and folklore were the ways literature traveled from generation to generation. We are looking at something that happened 9000 years ago so we cannot be sure of everything in it. Often, things are lost in translation. Often, someone creative wants to bring his own twist into the standard narratives. So? Did Draupadi love Karna secretly?

"If I had not stopped Karna from marrying me at swayamvar (ceremony where the bride selects her husband from a number of suitors), I would not have been wagered, humiliated and called a whore," said Draupadi to the Jamun tree according to a folk tale. Scroll down for the folk tale in short.

Draupadi was result of a sacrificial yajna performed by King Drupada. The mission of Draupadi was to destroy Dronacharya, the guru of both Pandavas and Kauravas. You might know how Drona took revenge from King Drupada when the latter mocked him. It is a whole different story. I will not go into it here in this article.

If Draupadi came out of the sacrificial fire, she already knew her mission. If she took a normal birth, King Drupada would have already programmed her brain so that she goes on to destruct Kauravas and in the process, guru Dronacharya. That is natural; happens in any family - even now. People instigate their kids against people who they think have wronged them. Not all families maybe, but most of them do that. Don't ever do that - it affects the children negatively for a lifetime.

Her only hope of destroying Dronacharya was to marry someone who could defeat the guru. She herself or anyone else around were not as good in combat skills as were Arjuna and Karna at that time. That is the reason the clause to woo her in swayamwara was a bit too tough. And both King Drupada and Draupadi knew it will be possible only for Arjuna or Karna to fulfill the clause to win the hand of Draupadi. 

But Draupadi stopped Karna from participating. She knew Karna was a loyal of Duryodhana and would never go against his friend and patron. She also knew there was no chance of Drona going against Duryodhana as he was the trainer of Kauravas who had sent Pandavas (including Arjuna) underground. She knew that marrying Karna would put an end to her mission. She stopped Karna from participating in swayamwar by calling him a person of lower caste and that she won't marry a "sootputra" (son of a charioteer). Karna left the hall in disgust, humiliated.

Later, when the Pandavas wagered Draupadi and lost her to Duryodhana, Karna did not stop himself from using cuss words against Draupadi and Arjuna. There is an argument saying that Karna was trying to provoke Arjuna so that Draupadi is spared humiliation. I leave it to the reader to assume how true it can be... given he was humiliated in front of almost all the Indian kings and princes at Draupadi's swayamvar. Before this turns bigger than the Mahabharata epic saga itself, here is the folktale in brief that makes people question did Draupadi love Karna.

Draupadi plucked a fruit from a jamun tree. Before she could do anything with the fruit, the tree told her that the fruit was reserved for a sage who was supposed to eat it that day. It further said that since Draupadi plucked it, she will incur sin for contaminating the fruit. Horrified, Draupadi asked all of her husbands to fix the fruit back to the tree. Needless to say, they failed. The tree then said that a chaste woman has powers to do anything. Upon this, Draupadi tries to fix the fruit back to the tree and failed. The tree asks her if she loves anyone other than the Pandavas. It is then that Draupadi said she sometimes thinks she would have been better off if she had married Karna instead of Arjuna. That said, the purple jamun fruit attached to the tree on its own.

Does this tale say anything about love of Draupadi for Karna? People often think of something or the other when frustrated. Did you feel, after reading the above story, Draupadi loved Karna secretly? Let us know in the comments.

Recommended: While there are many versions of Mahabharata available in the market, I recommend Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari. His version is short, to the point, and does not omit any of the important events. It begins from King Santanu and goes on to explain how Yudhistira got his brothers' & Draupadi's souls released from hell after the great war.

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