Continuation of our series on Mahabharata revisited – Draupadi’s insult.I am not a mythologist, I do not intend to hurt anyone’s beliefs or sentiments, this is purely my perspective on the great scripture, if it resonates that’s awesome, if not just let it go.
Now that’s out of the way, let us set the scene, Draupadi has just returned from Hastinapur where her own brothers-in-law tried to disrobe her in front of the entire court, which included her five husbands, father-in-law and other elders of the family, all in the name of a game of dice and loopholes the wicked found in the then law of the land. They were jealous of the rise of her husbands in wealth and power and wanted to destroy their morals. You see they knew they stood no chance in an actual battle against her husbands, the pandavas and hence tricking them by twisting the laws and logic of the time was the only option they sought. She seemed to be collateral damage so to speak. She had tried to reason, beg, plead with all the elders and the powerful in the court, nobody helped her as none of them wanted to break their own personal dharma for the greater justice. She tried everything she could to help herself. In the end she accepted what was happening and surrendered to Lord Krishna asking for his mercy, her dignity was miraculously saved. But the insult was too grave, the empress of a huge dynasty was treated like this, the shock of it all hit her hard, she left Hastinapur alone and came back to her palace at Indraprastha where she locked herself in her room. Imagine, she is furious, hurt, humiliated and she feels she is impure after this incident. She does not want to see or talk to anyone, seething with rage, stricken with grief, in tremendous pain and agony, asking again and again why did this happen? What was her fault? The pain and darkness seem never ending and she sees no future. She closes all the curtains and extinguishes all the lights in the room. Representing the present state of her being in pure agony. Our ego gets hurt even when someone passes a remark, imagine her state of public humiliation and helplessness.
After the miracle where her dignity was saved, the wicked still persuaded the king and as per the laws of the land ended up on a compromise, Draupadi and her husbands will not be enslaved but they will be exiled to the forest for 12 years and the 13th year they need to be in complete Agyatvaas, i.e live in total disguise. If they are successful and no one identifies them in the last year, they can come back.They have still lost their kingdom, wealth, subjects and land, so they will still return to nothing. She sees no justice being served, even after her insult, she is the one who will need to endure this test, while the wicked continue to enjoy the royal life, unaffected. The situation still seems totally unfair and uncalled for. I want to remind you here, we are not looking at Draupadi as a woman who was insulted, we are looking at Draupadi as all humans and her emotions and struggle is what we need to concentrate on. We all have experienced pain, loss, insult, in some form or another and all of us at some stage of life have burnt in the agony of being helpless, unable to see any light in the darkness. Life feels meaningless, what happened to us feels like meaningless carnage and we wonder what karma we have from our past that we are facing such a situation. We withdraw within, we don’t want to talk to anyone and even if we do, we find that nobody understands the severity of our suffering, nobody is able to say the right things that will pacify our heart. It does not matter how big or small the hurt, it still hurts.
When Draupadi is in this state, locked in her room in total darkness, her family try to convince her to open the door, they even try to knock down the door, fearing she may harm herself, but the door does not budge, it is locked by her sankalpa or intention and the sankalpa of a grieving heart is too strong. Lord Krishna then comes to her, no sankalpa is strong enough in front of him, he opens the door and calls out to her, he says “Oh friend, friends share everything in life, I have come to take my portion of your grief, won’t you share your woes with me?”, Lord Krishna always interacted with Draupadi as a friend and this also shows to the world that true friendship does not see male/female, rich/poor, old/young. She asks him to leave as there is nothing that can be done and no one can help her anymore, everything is lost, she is impure now. Lord Krishna says” People bathe in a river and wash their impurities but that does not make the river dirty”.
Upon hearing this she runs to him and falls at his feet, crying inconsolably and cries out “Why me oh Govind? Why me, what karma is it that this happened to me? Such a grave insult, what was my fault in all this?” Lord Krishna consoles her, he says this was not her karma, this was an unfortunate incident that happened to her, it was the karma of the kauravas, ie. The cousin family that led them to commit such a big sin. She looks at him and says “ But Govind how does that matter? I am the one suffering the pain and agony”.
To which he replies, “then give up the pain and agony, what happened to you was not your karma, but if you hold onto the pain and agony you are creating and making this your karma. Give up your pain and agony to the supreme lord, he is ever ready to accept the world’s pain and suffering”. Let us take a pause here, he is saying when something bad happens to you, it is not always a result of past karma and it maybe chance, but if you hold onto it, keep it close to your heart, relive the incident again and again emotionally and mentally, then you are making it your karma and you are creating new negative karma. It is a lot to digest, we are caught up in justice and injustice and cannot look at the bigger picture and that is being human, when we are suffering we are unable to see beyond.
The lord then asks her to first and foremost forgive everyone involved in this incident. First and foremost forgive Duryodhana, once you forgive them their downfall will begin. She looks at him in disbelief, she is suffering, she is the one who faced this insult, she was let down by her own family, nobody helped her, everyone just watched in silence and when this was not her fault and here is Govind just asking her to forgive them.
The Lord continues, he says the moment you forgive them, this battle ceases to be personal, personal vengeance is bad karma, imagine if these people can treat an empress like this, what will they do to ordinary women of the kingdom? Cast your personal pain and insult into the supreme and embrace the pain of all the women and oppressed men in this society, fight for justice, when you fight for justice it is dharma yuddha, if you only seek personal vengeance it is bad karma and you will suffer even more. Like the river that flows into the ocean and pours all her impurities into him, pour all your impurities, pain and agony into the supreme. Fight for a cause that involves the collective good of the society, so that these people cannot harm more innocent women and men. Dharma yuddha you will always find the higher powers will help you for the justice you seek, personal vengeance will weaken you. This reminds me of people who kill for revenge, they are victims at the beginning but when they take the law in their own hands and plot a murder, they become the murderer. The hindi movie Badlapur comes to mind, the hero’s wife and child are killed in a robbery attempt and the hero spends the rest of life tracking down and punishing and torturing the people involved. In the end only to realize he has turned into a monster worse than the robbers.
I started thinking about this, and it’s not at all easy to let go of pain and suffering especially if something has happened to you recently. You may have lost a loved one, lost a job, been cheated by the ones you trusted, lost your dignity, lost everything in life, and it is not easy to let go of the feeling of injustice that has happened to you. The people who wronged you might be doing well, happy and secure and even laughing at you or mocking you, they could be more powerful than before and more prosperous in the material sense with no worry and you are left with all the challenges and the pain. You want to turn back time, maybe you can do something to stop this incident from happening, but you know that’s impossible. What is the only way out?
I reviewed and listened to the dialogue of Draupadi and Lord Krishna again and again, even though it is extremely difficult, it is possible, it is the challenge the higher power has placed in front of us and it is to force us towards evolution, can we transform our personal grief and loss into a positive force to work for the good of society? You may feel, I don’t want to evolve, I never asked for this challenge, I don’t want to be a hero, I just want a simple , happy life, why is that so difficult for God to provide? Well, I still do not have an answer for this question and it has come in my mind too, but he chooses his warriors, we are born by his will, we go through life by his will and we will leave this life by his will. Then where does free will come into play you may ask? Free will is how we choose to conduct ourselves in this life, the choice to smile and then walk the path or be dragged onto the path kicking and screaming.
The entire purpose of our life is to help our soul evolve and unfortunately that does not happen in a cozy life, the illusion of material happiness and success as deemed by society is not the reason for our existence, it is a reason for society to have a structure. Do you truly believe you are born only to then go to school, get a degree, get a job, get married, procreate, retire and die? That is the most boring existence ever, it is comfortable yes, but superficial.
If you have gone through unpleasant times in life or are currently experiencing pain and agony, seething with rage, wondering at the sheer randomness of events, give yourself time to grieve but know that the pain and agony will not go away on their own. Nobody is going to wave a magic wand and make you happy again. Transforming your pain and agony into wisdom that can help others, into fight for justice that can help the collective, knowing that the higher power is always by your side, you may feel let down but remember he is the epitome of mercy and compassion, offer your pain and agony to him and continue to work, you will find meaning and purpose and it will strengthen you so much from within that your soul will thank you.
Do not take the story literally, this situation where a strong , pious woman is facing a huge turmoil in her life, a random incident she had no control over, of no fault of hers and yet she is suffering and the Lord demands of her forgiveness first and foremost of those who wronged her, so that she can become the crusader of justice and fight for the collective good. We all are asked the same thing at some point, in some shape or form, what will we choose? It is not a switch to flip unfortunately, one pep talk or one article will not make the pain go away, but a small step, just to consider this, to read more about it to try and keep trying, even if you fail many times but to keep trying to transform internally.
Have I attained this mindset, have I become free of my pain? Not yet, I am trying, in my own way and I will keep trying. I urge you all to do the same, look at your situation, how can you use your pain to help others? If it is a person who has wronged you and you know this person can harm others, forgive him/her for your personal harm and then find ways to bring them to justice, it will not be fast and it will not be easy. After Draupadi was insulted, they had to go into the woods and live like sanyasis for 12 years and then the 13th year they had to live in disguise undercover, she had to live an entire year as a hair dressed for another queen, giving up her ego, her identity, getting insulted and treated as a servant when in fact she was the empress of the entire kingdom and yet she successfully completed it and then waged the war, the dharma yuddha against the evil. Truth triumphed in the end, and a new era was born with reforms in justice and dharma that helped generations to come. We may not be called to make such big sacrifices, but to everyone his/her pain is bigger than another’s, if we can help even one person for a short time by transforming our pain into wisdom, we would have done a lot.
I pray you find peace and solace, I pray you find the strength to forgive, even if there is no one who wronged you, forgive yourself for the decisions you took, I pray you find the courage to give up your pain and suffering unto the supreme lord and are able to transform this into wisdom for the good of the collective.In the next post let us discuss the agyatvas and how it prepared the Pandavas for the war.