Draupadi serves as a crucial link between warring characters in the Mahabharata (an ancient Indian Sanskrit epic), particularly through her polyandry. Born of fire, personifying purity, yet bound by a matrimonial covenant, she is caught in a complex marital relationship with five husbands that completely changes her life and also theirs. In consonance with the aims of gyno- criticism, literary depictions of women seek not only to reconstruct but also to critique patriarchal conventions. Drawing on the perspective of feminist critical discourse analysis (Lazar, 2005), with its tools of speech acts, presupposition, vocabulary, and modality, this paper seeks to examine the varied representations of Draupadi in three translated texts of the Mahabharata by Buitenen, Ray, and Divakaruni. The aim of the paper is trifold: to study the construction of Draupadi through the events of her marriage and post-marital occurrences, to examine her power/powerlessness vis-à- vis others, and to explore the othering of her character against the notions of dharma (right conduct or action) in marriage. The analysis reveals that Buitenen’s translation emphasizes destiny and dharma, but it does not provide a voice to Draupadi and constructs her as an embodiment of ideal womanhood. In contrast, Ray and Divakaruni represent Draupadi as expressing emotions, opinions, and judgments of her own self and of others. She appears powerless and oppressed before patriarchal conventions yet reclaims power through her vivid articulations and her questioning of phallocentric norms. Thus, the women writers humanize Draupadi, lending her agency and critiquing misogyny.
"Draupadi’s Polyandry: A Study in Feminist Discourse Analysis,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 25:
5, Article 4.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol25/iss5/4