Chapter 11: Draupadi: A Rare Woman
Draupadi is certainly a unique woman. Women, in general, are very jealous; they really live in jealousy. If one wants to characterize man and woman, he can say that while ego is the chief characteristic of man, jealousy is the chief characteristic of woman. Man lives by ego and woman by jealousy. Really jealousy is the passive form of ego, and ego is the active form of jealousy. But here is a woman who rose above jealousy and pettiness; she loved the Pandavas without any reservations. In many ways Draupadi towered over her husbands who were very jealous of one another on account of her love. They remained in constant psychological conflict with each other, while Draupadi went through this complex relationship with perfect ease and equanimity.
We are to blame for our failure to understand Draupadi. We think that love is a relationship between two persons, which it is not. And because of this misconception we have to go through all kinds of torment and misery in life. Love is a flower which once in a while blooms without any cause or purpose. It can happen to anyone who is open. And love accepts no bonds, no constraints on its freedom. But because society has fettered love in many ways we do everything to smother it, to escape it. Thus love has become so scarce, and we have to go without it. We live a loveless life.
We are a strange people; we can go without love, but we cannot love someone without possessing him or her. We can very well starve ourselves of love, but we cannot tolerate that the person I love should share his or her love with anybody else. To deprive others of love we can easily give up our own share of it. We don’t know how terribly we suffer because of our ego and jealousy.
It is good to know that Draupadi is not a solitary case of this kind; she may be the last in a long line. The society that preceded Draupadi was matriarchal; perhaps Draupadi is the last vestige of that disintegrating social order. In a matriarchal society the mother was the head of the family and descent was reckoned through the female line. In a matriarchy a woman did not belong to any man; no man could possess her. A kind of polyandry was in vogue for a long time, and Draupadi seems to be the last of it. Today there are only a few primitive tribes who practice polyandry. That is why the society of her times accepted Draupadi and her marriage and did not raise any objections. If it was wrong, Kunti would have changed her instructions to her sons, but she did not. If there was anything immoral in polyandry even the Pandava brothers would have asked their mother to change her order. But nothing of the kind happened, because it was acceptable to the existing society.
It happens that a custom that is perfectly moral in one society appears completely immoral to another. Mohammed had nine wives, and his Koran allows every Mohammedan man to have four wives. In the context of modern societies, polygamy and polyandry are considered highly immoral. And the prophet of Islam had nine wives. When he had his first marriage he was twenty-four years old, while his wife was forty.