relocating to Guwahati, reading a good solid book is close to impossible as I just don't have the time to curl up and ignore the world for prolonged periods of time. So I've been reading short stories and books that can be read in chapters. good books, but books that can be kept down and got back to after a period of time.
Yudishtar & Draupadi is one such book. When I ordered it off flipkart, I had hoped for an insight into Draupadi's relationship with Yudishtar - very little is written about Draupadi's feelings and attitudes towards her 5 different husbands within the Mahabharath. Hence it is left to books like Chitra Bannerjee Diwakaruni's Palace of Illusions and Pratibha Ray's Yajnaseni to bridge this gap.
Personally, I have always wondered why Yudishtar was lauded for being the upholder of dharma and received direct entry into heaven swarglok, as there are 2 very big question marks for me against his "righteous behaviour"
The first was in taking the decision to share Draupadi amongst 5 brothers. There are schools of thought saying that
1. Kunti did this on purpose so her daughter-in-law couldn't fault her for fathering sons from 4 different men. and
2. that Draupadi in a previous life had performed penance to obtain a good husband, but when it came time to ask for her boon, she repeated it 5 times and hence was blessed with 5 husbands
both cases seek to absolve Yudishtar from the burden he placed on Draupadi.
The second was the fateful game of dice with the kauravs. It seems like greed, pride and ego got in his way as he continued to gamble away items that he could not afford to lose, finally staking away his brothers, himself and then Draupadi. As a corollary to this, he stood quiet and did not say a word when the Kaurav's attempted to disrobe Draupadi in public. Bhim made his protest with a vow, as did Draupadi herself and it was Krishna who came to her rescue, but Yudishtar just sat quietly while his wife, the main queen of the Pandavs was publicly humiliated.
Pavan K Varma has an interesting take on this relationship: His view is that - Draupadi never forgave Yudishtar the decision he took, that she be shared among the brothers and recognised his lust behind this decision. The lust he and every man assembled felt for her at her swayamvar although they were incapable of winning Drupads challenge. The lust, knowing that as the eldest he would be the first one to wed her, even though her heart and hand had been won by Arjun.
Since the decision was never in her hands, and seemed to be solely Yudishtars, she let him know her scorn, anger, derision and displeasure each time he was in her presence.
Bhim had his strength and Arjun his skill at archery. Both made them very popular with the ladies. Yudishtar had nothing to set him apart except what he considered his skill at dice. And in an effort to redeem himself in her eyes and win fame and fortune he agreed to take up the Kauravs invitation to play. However when he had lost even himself, he realised it was Draupadi who had driven him to agree to the insane wagers and staked her too.
Draupadi's question in the open assembly "whom did he lose first himself or me?" implied to him the taunt that since he hadn't lawfully won her hand, he had no right to wager her away and lose her.
All their trials in vanvaas, she thought to be his fault and let him know it.
However when all his 4 brothers in their quest for water, angered the yaksha by not answering his questions and lay dead, a realisation dawned in Draupadi that Yudishtar was her only husband left and Yudishtar himself knew that he had lost it all. His kingdom, his brothers, his life as he knew it. Draupadi was still there, but she had never loved him and he had nothing left to lose.
It was in this frame of mind that he answered the yakshas questions honestly and realised the yaksha was actually Dharma - the Lord of Justice - his father.
Pavan Varma uses the first few pages give a background to the incestuous bloodline of the Pandavas & Kauravas: A lineage that was fragile, often broken, compromised and patched up, enfoldong within it dark secrets of sexual excess and denial and the trauma of sexual inability. Of pregny notably effete or marred by diability. A family history of illegitimate liaisons, legitimised covertly and the perpetuation of a dynasty through ways above the bounds of morality.
The rest of the book is a series of sonnets - first in Yudishtar/Kaunteya's perspective, then in Draupadi / Panchali's perspective, the fabled question answer session with the Yaksha/Dharma and finally on the change in the relationship between Yudishtar & Draupadi.
I'm not much of a poetry reader, but this was fairly easy reading. The question-answer session between Yudhishtar and the yaksha makes you ponder awhile.
Definitely read Yudhishtar and Draupadi if you have an interest in the side stories and emotions in the Mahabharat, or enjoy poetry based on mythology, otherwise there isn't much further insight to gain from this book.