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Draupadi and Krishna's Friendship

In: English and Literature

Submitted By DrashtiShah
Words 1812
Pages 8
Drashti Shah
Dr. Maaz Bin Bilal
Rethinking Friendship
28 December 2015
Understanding Krishna and Panchali’s friendship and exploring this relationship through its narrative in the book ‘The Palace of Illusions’
Panchali, the beautiful and the fierce princess of Panchal, the embodiment of feminism, the bold dark-skinned woman born out of fire is the protagonist of The Palace of Illusions. It is a narrative of the greatest war of Indian mythology, Mahabharat from the perspective of Panchali.
Unlike most books that view Draupadi as a kritya, a female demon which requires the sacrifice of its own clan, The Palace of Illusions humanizes Draupadi and adds volume to the character by her virtue of integrity, love and forgiveness. Criticized for having a mind of her own in an extremely staunch patriarchal society, Panchali found solace in her Sakha, Krishna.
“Perhaps the reason Krishna and I got along so well was that we were both severely dark-skinned. In a society that looked down its patrician nose on anything except milk-and-almond hues, this was considered most unfortunate, especially for a girl.”(Divakaruni, p.8)
Panchali and Krishna’s friendship was a rare one and beyond the norms of those times. Chitra Banerjee's beautiful portrayal of Draupadi's relationship with Krishna - a mixture of friendship, sibling love, and that of devotion. Draupadi developed a sense a kinship with Him right from her childhood. Whenever her mind wandered into wilderness or when she sought answers for some of life's mysteries, Krishna was the one she turned to.
Panchali was close to her brother(who was also born out of fire) and to Krishna. She amused herself with her caretaker’s stories but was always waiting for Krishna to come meet her. She felt very lonely and bounded by the palace and her heart longed for freedom and love.
There have been instances where Panchali’s fascination and love for Krishna can be misconstrued as desire and longing.
“At that time, I only knew that I adored the way he laughed for no reason, quirking up an eyebrow. I often forgot that he was much older than me. Sometimes he dispensed with his kingly jewels and wore only a peacock feather in his hair. He was fond of yellow silk, which he claimed went well with his complexion. He listened with attention to my opinions even though he usually ended up disagreeing. He had been a friend of my father’s for many years; he was genuinely fond of my brother; but I had the impression that it was I whom he really came to see. He called me by a special name, the female form of his own: Krishnaa. It had two meanings: the dark one, or the one whose attraction can’t be resisted. Even after he returned to Dwarka, the notes of his flute lingered in the walls of our cheerless quarters—my only comfort as Dhri was called away more and more to his princely duties, and I was left behind.”(Divakaruni, p.12)
Panchali was also called Krishnaa, the female form of Krishna which resonates with Plato’s Symposium, where he believed that every human has his other half and the unison of these two halves is what completes them. Although a lot has been speculated over Krishna and Panchali’s relationship; as a matter of fact, King Drupad had considered Krishna as a suitor for Panchali. Although, Panchali never thought of Krishna as her husband.
Draupadi always considered Lord Krishna as her Sakha or beloved friend and Krishna addressed her as Sakhi, this as symbolic of the platonic love existing between the fiery Draupadi and the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna. This love can be seen when Draupadi thought that Krishna had died and realized how her life didn’t seem to have a purpose.
“When I thought you had died, I wanted to die, too.” Krishna gazed into my eyes. Was it love I saw in his face? If so, it was different in kind from all the loves I knew. Or perhaps the loves I’d known had been something different, and this alone was love. It reached past my body, my thoughts, my shaking heart, into some part of me that I hadn’t known existed. My eyes closed of their own accord. I felt myself coming apart like the braided edge of a shawl, the threads reaching everywhere. How long did I stand there? A moment or an eon? Some things can’t be measured. I know this much: I didn’t want it to end. Then his voice intruded into my reverie, laughter stitched into its edges, just as I’d feared. “You’d better not let my dear friends the Pandavas hear that! It could get me into a lot of trouble!”(Divakaruni,p.166-167)
Panchali tried to understand Krishna and took pride in being able to observe and understand people but she never seemed to understand Krishna.
“But Krishna was a chameleon. With our father, he was all astute politics, advising him on ways to strengthen his kingdom. He commended Dhri on his skill with the sword but encouraged him to spend more time on the arts. He delighted Dhai Ma with his outrageous compliments and earthy jests. And me? Some days he teased me until he reduced me to tears. On other days he gave me lessons 12| on the precarious political situation of the continent of Bharat, and chastised me if my attention wandered. He asked me what I thought of my place in the world as a woman and a princess—and then challenged my rather traditional beliefs. He brought me news of the world that no one else cared to give me, the world that I was starving for—even news that I suspected would be considered improper for the ears of a young woman. And all the while he watched me carefully, as though for a sign.”(Divakaruni, p.11-12)
Krishna, the master mind that he is, guided many decisions of Panchali that eventually carved out history. Draupadi is the instrument of Lord Krishna. Using her, he realized his mega-plan of annihilating the Kauravas. The choice of Draupadi as the instrument, which caused his actions, explains the special place she had in his scheme of things, Draupadi was put through severe tests in her life and her every action was observed. The only true friend, who validated her persona and came to her rescue each time she found herself in doldrums, was Krishna, whose divine presence she experienced constantly in her life. Panchali was not aware of the political agenda behind Krishna’s actions but she eventually realized why Krishna did what he did.
Krishna had even laid the seeds of Arjun in Draupadi’s mind. Krishna, the scheming puppeteer, for solely political reasons convinced that Arjun marrying Panchali would be a great benefit for Panchala, as Arjun is the greatest archer of the times and he would never fight against his father-in-law, King Drupad. When Panchali realized this, she was rather shattered.
“My mouth filled with ashes. How foolish I’d been, dreaming of love when I was nothing but a worm dangled at the end of a fishing pole.” ( Divakaruni, p.57)
Krishna has been criticized for being political and Panchali for being vengeful, but these are the exact catalysts for the enforcement of Dharma in the age of chaos. Krishna and Panchali’s path hence met and crossed over each other, as they had the same destination.
Krishna was touched by Panchali’s gesture when he killed Shishupal. Draupadi tears off a piece of cloth from her lavish and rich queen's attire to tie around a wound on Krishna's finger in front of the royal court. This happens right after Krishna uses the Chakra to kill Shishupal. The spinning Chakra on his finger leaves a cut and Draupadi stems off the blood flow. Krishna promises her that he would pay her back with interest for every thread lost from her dress (which he did, later, at the cheer-haran).
During the cheer-haran, when all failed, even Panchali’s husbands and the elders in the court, she resorted to her beloved Krishna. Draupadi turned to Lord Krishna as her husbands bowed their heads in shame. She threw out both hands and with both hands in salutation she cried to Krishna, and miraculously the more Dusshasana pulled her robe, the more it was still there on her person. Several meters of the robes he pulled, yet it was still there. Dusshasana was tired drawing her saree but he could not find the end of it. This shows us the bond between a brother and sister and the promise of security.
There is an element of bhakti in their relationship. Although Panchali did not think of Krishna as a deity but she prayed to him and thought of him during her most testing times. Panchali, being a skeptic never really believed in the divinity of Krishna, her mind giving her reasons and asking her to be rational, saying how could God be her friend and play around with her like a sibling, but her heart knew better. During her cheer-haran, it was her bhakti that saved her from the monstrous act of the Kauravs and she knew and believed in Krishna’s power and divinity. Her devotion, was that as Das explains the submission of a mad lover to their deity, where Panchali knew that no matter what, she always has Krishna and she unknowingly worshipped him.
In her journey towards Mahaprasthan, Panchali was dawned by the realization that even though her husbands loved her, they regarded their dharma over their love and the only love that was all pervasive was the love for Krishna. The only truth that existed was her love for Krishna and the friendship they shared. Her devotion for Krishna was her only salvation.
“It’s only now I see that he’d always been there, sometimes in the forefront, sometimes blended into the shadows of my life. When I thought myself abandoned, he was busy supporting me—but so subtly that I often didn’t notice. He loved me even when I behaved in a most unlovable manner. And his love was totally different from every other love in my life. Unlike them, it didn’t expect me to behave in a certain way. It didn’t change into displeasure or anger or even hatred if I didn’t comply. It healed me. If what I felt for Karna was a singeing fire, Krishna’s love was a balm, moonlight over a parched landscape. How blind I’d been not to recognize it for the precious gift it was!” (Divakaruni, p.356)

Works Cited
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee. The Palace of Illusions. Print.
Plato. The Symposium. Trans. Alexander Nehamas and Pay Woodruff. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1989. Print.

Das, Sisir Kumar. The Mad Lover. Indian Literature, Vol. 47, No. 3 (215) (May-June, 2003)

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