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Chapter 11: Draupadi: A Rare Woman

We have our own ideas of what love is and should be, and that is why we misunderstand Draupadi. Despite our best efforts to understand her rightly, there is a lurking suspicion in our minds that there is an element of prostitution in Draupadi: our very definition of a sati, a faithful and loyal wife, turns Draupadi into a prostitute.

It is amazing that the tradition of this country respects Draupadi as one of the five most virtuous women of the past. The people who included her among the five great women of history must have been extraordinarily intelligent. The fact that she was the common wife of five Pandavas was known to them, and that is what makes their evaluation of Draupadi tremendously significant. For them it did not matter whether love was confined to one or many; the real question was whether or not one had love. They knew that if really there was love, it could flow endlessly in any number of channels; it could not be controlled and manipulated. It was symbolic to say that Draupadi had five husbands; it meant that one could love five, fifty, five hundred thousand people at the same time. There is no end to love’s power and capacity.

The day really loving people will walk on this earth, the personal ownership of love rampant today in the form of marriages, families and groups, will disappear. It will not mean that the love relationship between two human beings will be prohibited and declared to be sinful - that would be going to the other extreme of stupidity. No, everybody will be free to be himself, and to function within his limits and no one will impose his will and ideas on others. Love and freedom will go together.

Draupadi’s love is riverlike, overflowing. She does not deny her love even for a moment. Her marriage to the Pandava brothers is an extraordinary event - it came about almost playfully. The Pandavas came home with Draupadi, who they had won in a contest. They told their mother they had brought a very precious thing with them. Kunti, their mother, without asking what the precious object was, said, “If it is precious then share it together.”

The Pandava brothers had no idea that their mother would say this; they just wanted to tease her. But now they had to do their mother’s bidding; they made Draupadi their common wife. And she accepted it without complaint. It was possible because of her infinite love. She has so much that she loved all her husbands profoundly, yet never felt any shortage of love in her heart. She had no difficulty whatsoever in playing her role as their common beloved, and she never discriminated between them.

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