From Dhritarashtra to Duryodhana, each character from the epic Mahabharata is “alive” today, former president Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday, even as he hailed Draupadi as a woman of immense substance who possessed inner strength to speak out against “insults and injustice”.
He was addressing a gathering after the launch of the book “Draupadi and Her Pancala: Re-asserting Their Place in History” at the National Museum. The book has over 20 scholarly pieces on her.
Draupadi, one of the most iconic female characters in the Mahabharata, was the daughter of Drupada, ruler of ancient kingdom of Panchala.
Mr Mukherjee hailed the character of Draupadi for her qualities and said she is ever relevant today and it was time to recognise and honour this woman of “immense substance”.
“Nearly all papers bring out her inner strength, challenging all odds, fighting adversity with dignity. And therein lies her inner strength as a woman, which tells her to speak out against insults and injustice,” he said.
Draupadi’s actions and reactions emphasise the place of women in society, another issue that is ever relevant in today’s world, he said.
“In fact, each character in Mahabharata is as alive today as it was during the period when it happened. You just have to look around in society and you will find a Dhritarashtra, a Duryodhana, a Shakuni, but there will always be one Draupadi, raising voice for justice,” Mukherjee said.
“We must all give our unending eternal support to her,” he said.
Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana and Shakuni are among the most well-known characters from the ancient epic.
Dhritarashtra is the blind mythical character, who is the king of the Kuru Kingdom, who had hundred sons, including Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas.
Shakuni, maternal uncle of Duryodhana, is an extremely intelligent but devious man, as portrayed in the epic.
The former president said many people seem to be lost in the misconception and misinterpretation of the ‘real Draupadi’.
“Today’s society needs to know about the real Draupadi and learn from her intellectual and devotional strength. Draupadi is ever relevant and it is time, we recognise and honour this woman of immense substance,” he said.
Mr Mukherjee also described how Lord Krishna, was Draupadi’s “friend, spiritual master and guide” and gave her energy to raise her voice not only to “overcome her trials, but speak up against gender discrimination and all sorts of injustice”.
He said scholars of various different disciplines have combined work, tracing from the Rig Vedic time to medieval time period, to post-modern period, and “puts her on a pedestal on which she truly belongs”.
“She was the greatest daughter of not just Panchal, but also of our Bharat… The book also discusses the belief that Draupadi was responsible for the Kurukshetra war narrated in Mahabharata,” he said.
Director General of the National Museum, BR Mani, described the span of the mythical kingdom of Panchal an the area in contemporary India which is believed to be that region and the excavations that have taken place.
Due to turbulence of almost seven hundred years of external invasion and almost two centuries of colonial domination, and “distortion of our ancient texts”, many people have been “deprived of knowing our own legacy”, Mr Mukherjee said.
“This makes this work (book), a significant documentation of the heritage and culture of our ancient time,” he said.