The story of Draupadi

In the epic Mahabharata, Draupadi is the daughter of King Drupada, originally known as Princess Krishnaa (due to her dark complexion) and becomes the wife of the five Pandavas. When Yudhisthira becomes the king of Hastinapura, Indraprastha and the Emperor of India at the end of the war, Draupadi again becomes Queen.

Drupada had been defeated by Arjuna on behalf of Drona, who subsequently took half his kingdom to humiliate him. To gain revenge on Drona, he performed a great sacrifice to beget a powerful son who could kill him. Having been struck by Arjuna's valour, Drupada also prayed at the sacrifice for an exceptionally beautiful daughter to give to his, as a token of his appreciation. Draupadi thus emerged with Drishtadyumna from the sacrificial fire.

Upon Draupadi's emergence a divine voice said she would be the reason for the destruction of the Kauravas. When Draupadi grew to be a young woman she was considered very beautiful, mainly for her glowing dark skin, large dark eyes and graceful figure.

It is believed that Goddess Kali had given a part of her powers to her, for the destruction of the Kauravas. As Drupada was the ruler of the kingdom of Panchala, Draupadi was also known as Paanchali. She was named by Brahmanas as "Krsnā" due to her radiant dusky skin {the Lord Krishna was also dark-skinned) and is very often referred to and addressed by this name in the Mahābhārata.

Drupada intended that Arjuna alone win the hand of his daughter. Upon hearing of the Pandavaas' supposed death at Varanavata he set up a swayamvar for Draupadi intending to bring Arjuna out into the open. The princes vying for Draupadi's hand had to shoot 5 arrows at a revolving target, while looking only at its reflection in a bowl. Drupada was confident that Arjuna alone could accomplish this task. Arriving with his brothers disguised as brahmins, Arjuna successfully tackles the target. He and his brothers also defeat the other suitors who attack them, enraged at a brahmin winning a Kshatriya princess's hand.

While in exile, Kunti, mother of the Pandavas often advised her sons that they share everything they have (or obtain through Bhiksha i.e. alms) equally amongst themselves. Upon returning home with Draupadi, Arjuna addresses his mother first "Look mother, I have brought Bhiksha (alms)!". Kunti, unmindful of what Arjuna was referring to, unassumingly asked her son to share whatever it is with his brothers. Thus, in order to obey their mother's order all five accepted Draupadi as their wife. This is fraternal polyandry.

According to another source, when Sage Vyasa visits the family, he explains to Draupadi that her unique position as the wife of five brothers results from a certain incident in her previous birth. She had in that lifetime prayed to Lord Shiva to grant her a husband with five desired qualities. Lord Shiva, pleased with her devotion, tells her that it is very difficult to get a husband with all five qualities that she desired. But she sticks to her ground and asks for the same. Then Lord Shiva grants her wish saying that she would get the same in her next birth. Hence she gets married to five brothers each who represents a given quality.

None of the Draupadi's children survive the end of the epic. Parikshit, grandson of Subhadra and Arjuna, is the sole Kuru dynast who survives, at the end of Mahabharata.

Draupadi’s Cheer-Haran, literally meaning stripping of one’s clothes, marks a definitive moment in the story of Mahābhārata. It is the central reason of the Mahābhārata war, the rivalry between Pandavas and Kauravas being the more general cause.

Yudhishthira and his four brothers were the rulers of Indraprastha under the sovereignty of Emperor Dhritarashtra. Dhritarashtra’s son Duryodhana who resided in the capital of the empire Hastinapur was always jealous of his cousins. Together with his brothers, his friend Karna and maternal uncle Shakuni, he conspired to call the Pandavas at Hastinapur and win their kingdoms in a game of gambling. Shakuni was an inveterate gambler and very skilled at winning by unfair means. The idea was that Shakuni will play against Yudhishthira and win at the gambling table what was impossible to win at the battlefield.

As the game proceeded, Yudhishthira lost all his wealth and kingdom one by one. Having lost all material wealth, he went on to put his brothers at stake one by one and lost them too. Ultimately he put himself at stake, and lost again. All the Pandavas were now the slaves of Kauravas. But for the villain Shakuni, the humiliation of Pandavas was not complete. He plods Yudhishthira that he has not lost everything yet. Yudhishthira still has Draupadi with him and if he wishes he can win everything back by putting Draupadi at stake. Yudhishthira walks into the trap and to the horror of everybody present, puts Draupadi as a bet for the next round. Shakuni rolls the dice and gleefully shouts "Look, I have won”. Duryodhana commands his younger brother Dushasana to forcefully bring her into the forum. Dushasana barges into the living quarters of Draupadi who had just finished her bath and was drying her loose hair. Dushasan grabs her by the hair and brings her into the court dragging her by the hair.

Unable to withstand the distress of his wife, an emotional Bhima even threatens to burn up Yudhishthira’s hands with which he placed Draupadi on stake. Arjun tries to help Draupadi but Yudhistira forbids him. Bhima vows to cut off Dushasana's hands one day in battle. Arjun vows to kill Karna for insulting his wife

Now in an emotional appeal to the elders present in the forum, Draupadi repeatedly questions the legality of the right of Yudhishthira to place her at stake when he himself had lost his freedom and as a consequence did not possess any property in the first place. Everybody remains dumbfounded. Bhishma, the patriarch of the Kaurava family and a formidable warrior, has only this explanation to offer to Draupadi - "The course of morality is subtle and even the illustrious wise in this world fail to always understand it.” He now commands the Pandavas to strip themselves in the manner of slaves. They obey by stripping off their upper garments.

Then Kauravas demand the same from Draupadi, who remains crying. Then to the horror of everybody present, Dushasana proceeds to strip Draupadi of her sari. Seeing her husbands unable or unwilling to help her, Draupadi prays to Lord Krishna to protect her modesty. Lord Krishna now works a miracle so that as Dushasana unwraps layers and layers of her sari, her sari keeps getting extended. Seeing Draupadi being violated so brazenly, Bhima in a roaring rage, vows to tear open Dushasana’s breast one day and drink his blood. Finally, a tired Dushasana backs off without being able to strip Draupadi.

Duryodhana repeatedly challenges Yudhishthira’s four brothers to disassociate themselves from Yudhishthira’s authority and take their wife back. No one dares to denounce their loyalty to their eldest brother. In order to provoke the Pandavas further, Duryodhana bares and pats his thigh looking into Draupadi’s eyes, implying her to sit on his thigh. In impotent rage Bhima vows in front of the entire assembly that one day he will break that very thigh of Duryodhan in a battle.

Finally, the blind monarch Dhritarashtra's conscience is stirred, in part fearing the wrath of Pandavas against his sons. He intervenes and asks Draupadi to wish for whatever she desires. Draupadi asks her husbands the Pandavas to be freed from slavery. Dhritarashtra grants her wish and also restores to Pandavas all they lost in the game of dice. Free from the bondage Bhima, hotheaded as ever, immediately proposes to his brothers to slay all Kauravas present then and there itself. Yudhishthira and Arjuna prevent him from taking any rash action. After many words of reconciliation between Pandavas and Dhritarashtra, Pandavas withdraw to their kingdom along with Draupadi and their entourage.

Shakuni, Karna and Duryodhan later convince Dhritarashtra to invite Pandavas for a new game of dice, with modified rules. It was following the defeat in this new game that Pandavas were sent into exile for 12 years.

However, not pledging her, given that the other Pandava brothers had already been pledged and lost, would also not have resolved the dilemma Yudhishthira faced. The lack of a definite way to resolve the conflict is what has led to this passage being extremely controversial. That the elders like Bhishma, Drona, and Dhritarashtra remained silent spectators of the entire episode adds valuable insight to their personalities too. Vidura was the only one who objected to the whole thing but he did not have the authority to stop it. In any case the passage must be seen in the light of the mores of the times of its writing which lay a few millennia ago.

Krishna treats Draupadi as his sister, pledges his friendship to Draupadi and vows to show the world the greatest example of friendship. This is quite possibly why Krishna helps Draupadi when the Pandavas lose her in a gamble.

As per Narada and Vayu Puranas, Draupadi was composite Avatar of Goddesses Shyamala (wife of Dharma), Bharati (Wife of Vayu), Sachi (wife of Indra), Usha (wife of Ashwinis) and hence married their earthly counterparts in form of Five Pandavas. Enraged at a jest by Parvati and the four goddesses, Brahma cursed them to human birth which the solution Parvati brought about was to be born as one woman, Draupadi and hence share the earthly body for a smaller period of time. Draupadi 's characteristic anger and fight against injustice reflects the Parvati or her Shakti, Kali inhabiting Draupadi 's mortal flesh at times. At other times, Draupadi was docile and even waited to be rescued (as in case of Jayadratha and Jatasura) showing the qualities of other goddesses like Sachi and Usha. Other times, she showed cunning and guile to hide their true identity and still use Vayu putra Bhima to kill Keechaka like Goddess Bharati would. Draupadi was also avatar of Goddess Shree or Wealth who was joint wife to five Indras, aka Five Pandavas. She was to be born several times for imprisoning the Indras. First time was as Vedavati who cursed Ravana (here we find yet another goddess Avatar Swaha, wife to Agni). She then came again as Maya-Sita especially to take revenge from Ravana while Agni hid the real Sita. Third one was partial either Damyanti (whos ehusband Nala was equivalent to Dharma, Vayu, Indra just like the Pandavas) and her daughter Nalayani. She married Sage Mudgala. Fifth Avatar was Draupadi herself. So we find in Draupadi, a composite avatar of Kali, Parvati, Sachi, Shyamala, Usha, Bharati, Shree, Swaha, the eight goddesses.

Krishna calls Draupadi his sakhi, or friend. Another story says the reason he helps Draupadi is that she prayed with utmost devotion. When Krishna had cut his finger on the Sudarshan Chakra, she bound it with her Sari, this act being the origin of Rakhi. The another story of origin of Rakhi is Sachi tying thread to Indra. Sachi's avatar is Draupadi.

Also, Krishna is the one who opposes her marriage to Karna and promotes her marriage to Arjuna

Draupadi is the exemplification of bhakti to God. She showed utmost faith to Lord Krishna.