Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Draupadi's Mahabharata

Phew! Just finished reading the book!! Since both our epics make me very angry with their reinforcement of (or recommendation of?) gender and caste bias, I grab any reading material that discusses them unbiased. This book is simply Mahabharata retold from a thinking woman's perspective.

What did Draupadi think of her mother in law Kunti who made Arjuna share his wife with his brothers? Her power struggle with Kunti; her relationship with Krishna; her lack of a relationship with the one with ‘ancient eyes’; all this beautifully retold.

Draupadi tells us her side of the story. She tells us what she thought of being married to five men she did not love. She talks of which one of Kunti’s sons made her heart beat faster. Like Scarlet O’Hara of ‘Gone with the wind’, Panchali pines for the one she can never have. She is in love with a man her husbands hate. Some of her most unfortunate decisions spring from this yearning.

Whether or not you are familiar with the Mahabharata, this book makes an interesting read.

Not as good or as strong as Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, it’s still very much worth reading.

I wish somebody will write Ramayana as told by Urmila, Laxman's wife and Sita’s sister. Urmila spends fourteen years of Laxman’s exile in learning and argues against Sita's banishment. Even a child without any learning can tell it was wrong but since people listen to learned talk, powered with vedic commands, such a book would help people take a relook at our patriarchal, archaic texts.

Editing to add this very interesting link by Anuradha, who says, "Here is a fantastic interpretation of the Draupdi as she should be seen in real sense a - rebel and dare i say a feminist instead of a victim." Do take a look, here.

Edited to add: And read about Modern Draupadies here.

33 comments:

Homecooked said...

Hey nice post....u know I remember a Hindi poem in school where it was the viewpoint of Urmila.I found it quite impressive as it tells that all the glory was with Ram,Sita and Laxman bcos they obeyed and for Laxman bcos he followed his brother but what about Urmila....she also was in her own personal exile away from her husband.It was really interesting as it was the first time I was made to think of a different viewpoint. a different perspective.Made me realise all stories have to be examined by all angles.

Priyanka said...

Interesting... would love to read this book.
I think I've forgotten the stories of Ramayana/Mahabharata because I don't remember Urmila :(

churningthewordmill said...

Sounds like an intersting book.. but more than the book, your wooden trunck(or watever it is called!) caught my eye! its beautiful!!!

Indian Home Maker said...

Priyanka - Read more about Urmila, and women characters in our Mythology in this blog by Deepa.
http://teashoponthemoon.blogspot.com/2006/04/two-epics-many-versions.html

Indian Home Maker said...

homecooked Who was the poet? Was it Maithilisharan Gupta? How true, examining other angles like this one also gets us into the much needed, habit of questioning set norms and opinions. Maithilisharan Gupta also wrote about how Kaikeyi felt. I must say those days seem more liberal than these days, when our fundamentalist politicians start burning buses at the smallest dissension!

Indian Home Maker said...

churningthewordmill - Thanks!I also love that wooden chest...I thought it went with an ancient epic retold. Do read the book, it has Mills & Boon style romance also, guess who was this noble, courageous, loyal but cursed guy she loved? I love this interpretation. You will also love her depiction of Krishna.

Jyoti said...

I have been dying to read this book!! If only i got the time *sigh*...

btw the poem that homecooked is talking about finds mention in the Ravan serial on Zee Tv. An episode was dedicated to it.

Was gonna come here to vent about u missing from your blog, and u have 2 posts! :D

Alankrita said...

Maithli Sharan Gupt did write the Ramayan from Urmila's point of view.... its in Hindi...and in verse.. pity I do not remember

Also Buddha's enlightenment from Yashodhara's perspective( "sakhi vo keh ke jaate")

Anonymous said...

Would you mind reviewing the following excerpt on the Mahabharata?

http://godprinciple.com/war1.aspx

Homecooked said...

Actually I dont remember the poet.I never really liked poetry in school but a few did make an impact.Maybe its the same poet bcos I remember my teacher talking about Kaikeyi too about how she did everything because she loved her son and how mothers do everything for their childrens good....I hope I am not wrong about this,but I cant be sure.

Homecooked said...

By the way,who was Draupadi in love with? Was it Karan? I remember only the principal characters of Mahabharat but I dont really remember if Karan fought with the Pandavs or against them.

Indian Home Maker said...

jyoti - I am really touched! You noticed I was missing:)Husband back after a long time, then friends visiting...and all the time I am thinking, this is worth blogging, this will be a good picture to add with this post.
I did not know about this serial on Zee TV. It's really nice that they are showing such progressive stuff. I am going to find some more info on Maithali Sharan Gupta.

Indian Home Maker said...

alankrita You are right! I asked my mother and now I remember reading excerpts from this verse. Urmila, Kaikayi and Yashodhara's side of the stories were a part of the Hindi Syllabus in most Indian boards. It's wonderful. It seems these versions have been very popular with the masses. Unfortunately along with that they also say, "If they could not escape their destiny, how can you hope to?" Well, many of us are:)

Indian Home Maker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indian Home Maker said...

anonymous Yes, I just took a look at this ..will read it at leisure and review it too. But I have a question, if a message is meant for the masses, but not easily understood by the masses, then isn't it a waste?

Indian Home Maker said...

homecooked You want me tell you the name!! It will spoil the fun, but actually I saw in many reviews on the net they have mentioned the name anyway, yes you are right it was Karan. What's really interesting and fascinating is how she first sees him, what she feels, what she likes or not like about him, how does she think he's better than her husbands, and does he know? What does he feel? Karan is Kunti's first born son, son of Surya, he was born when she was a young girl and she had to abandon him. My another grouse with our culture is this, why should she have had to do this??? It proves Mahabharat happened because we punished a mother and child for our society's biased laws. We made her go against nature.Karan has been more popular than Arjuna all along. More people name their boys Karan than Yudhishthir, Bhim, Nakul or Sahadeva and in this generation, even Arjuna.

Aryan said...

HHaaaa...I am here for the first time. Nice blog you have. I think I should for sure read the book..
Aryan's mom

dipali said...

Have to read this one. Another excellent book written about Draupadi is Pratibha Ray's 'Yajnaseni'. (The Oriya original was published in 1985, the English translation in 1996).
Urmila's 'vyatha' deserves more publicity!
The trouble with most of the tragedies in our epics that they are all due to the working out of past 'karma', so there seems to be no scope for rational decision-making by anybody. Even Draupadi having five husbands is supposed to be because of her careless utterance when she was granted a boon by Lord Shiva.
Is this the message they convey? Of fatalistic acceptance? Not useful, I think!

Indian Home Maker said...

Dipali - I am going to find both 'Vyatha' and 'Yajnaseni' Thanks!
Yes I agre with you I was disappointed with the power given to destiny, karma and 'vidhi ka vidhan'. I wish Divakaruni had made Draupadi argue against this justification for all the injustice meted out to the characters. In Mahabharata (original version), was Draupadi in love with Karan? Wasn't it against her 'pativrata dharam' to even think of another man, even when they married many times? She has made Panchali strong, but she could have been stronger.

dipali said...

I don't know what the poem was called- but the 'vyatha' was what it described!

Indian Home Maker said...

Wasn't it by Maithali Sharan Gupta? My mother said she does not remember the name but has read excerpts from the book.

dipali said...

He was the author alright, but I forget the name of the poem.

Imp's Mom said...

ever since i read the synopsis i have been wanting to read this book...

and ur the first person i have come across who has already read it...gotta get em this book...soon!!!

Indian Home Maker said...

Aryan Welcome! I hope you enjoy my blog: )Yes, do read this book, I found from my mom that she has changed it somewhat from the older interpretations, which have made it far more interesting. Tell me what you think once you've read it...

Indian Home Maker said...

Imp's mom - Do read it, it has a touch of feminism, in the sense that Draupadi is not too pleased with the way her future is decided by her father and Kunti; and she is no obedient wife, her opinion of our Yudhishthir's gambling and Arjuna's meekness in front of his mother and his infidelities, shows she is nobody's fool. Today's women will identify with her. And then there's Karan. It's available in Landmark, I am sure in Crossword too...buy it before somebody bans it! Or better still, wait till it is banned, then it will be available on every road side for 75/-Rs.

Anuradha said...

Hi Indian Homemaker, I have read quiet a lot of your comments on Unchahi blog and came across this post of yours. I think patriarchy in India has tried time and time again to rewrite and reinterpret the character of Draupadi into more conventional norms when she actually was a very feminist character. They prefer to call her sati when infact she is known originally as one of the panchkanya - a rather curious thing to call a women married to five men. Here is a fantastic interpretation of the Draupdi as she should be seen in real sense a - rebel and dare i say a feminist instead of a victim.
http://www.manushi-india.org/pdfs_issues/PDF%20144/Panchkanya%2019-30.pdf

eve's lungs said...

IHM - I went out and bought the book after reading yr post . Although I dont much care for CBD's style , this book is quite good in terms of the subject matter . I am going to look for Professor Lal's volume on Karna - I dont know whether there's one on Panchali, though.
And Dipali- if you come back here , you can borrow my copy after Im through!

Indian Home Maker said...

Anuradha I have added your link to this post,but the difference between that depiction and C B Divakaruni's Panchali is that CBD's Panchali is more real, you can actually identify with her. She THINKS and she QUESTIONS, she disapproves, she is NO sati, she is blind to no faults of her husbands. I also liked the Karna angle.

Indian Home Maker said...

eve's lungs What I loved about this book is that CBD's Panchali is so, so real. And Karna of course. Did you find Professor Lal's Karna?

Devaki said...

Hi Indian Homemaker, I blog-hopped to your place from don't-remember-where and loved it! Your handle for starters, it's nice to know an intelligent thinking woman who does not hesitate to call herself a 'homemaker'. :-)

I finished reading 'The Palace of Illusions' a couple of weeks back and liked it for the most of the same reasons you mentioned. The best part is that it 'personalized' history and mythology for me. Loved that aspect!

Hey, and can I blogroll you? I'm going right ahead assuming you won't mind! ;-)

Indian Home Maker said...

devaki I am honored to be on your blog roll:)
I liked Draupadi's anger when they started discussing her life and future without even consulting her! Now I am hopping to your blog :)

Anonymous said...

i picked the book up on the fly on my trip to the bookstore. I must say i loved the book... it is a great read and recommend that everyone, even if you arent familiar with the Mahabharata, to pick up and read the book... Is there any truth to the love Draupadi felt for Karna (in the Mahabharata text) or simply adding masala?

penandpaper said...

Your blog is very interesting and it feels like a nice, cosy place to spend some time. I cannot access wordpress right now, so I'm just writing my comment here.

I have read "Yajnaseni" by Pratibha Ray and "Yuganta" by Irawati Karve, so when I read "Palace of Illusions", it did not match up to any of the I read before that. It You must read both of them, then you will know. I'm a Mahabharata enthusiast and these days I'm just collecting every possible book on Mahabharata. Check out my blog for the list: http://recommendbooks.blogspot.com/2009/03/yajnaseni-by-pratibha-ray.html
Just a couple of moments back, I found one more book called "The Mahabharata reimagined" by Trisha Das.
I will definitely check your blog on wordpress.