Draupadi’s Prayer

Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj illustrates how Śrī Kṛṣṇa of Vṛndāvan is the fundamental shelter of all.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra is the representation of mind, and Vidura that of the conscience. Dhṛtarāṣṭra represents the mind only: the mind’s inclination more so towards enjoyment: wife, children, and so on. Bhīṣma represents the sense of duty, which may be vitiated. Vidura holds the highest position. The sense of duty may be misdirected, as we see in the case of the endeavour to disrobe Draupadī.

Bhīṣma did not oppose this. He is a sober man, and a devotee, but his conscience was cowed down by his sense of duty. Of course, he explained this: “Yudhiṣṭhir understands more about the conception of duty than I do, and when he did not give any opposition, then I could not.” That was Bhīṣma’s explanation. “What is the real direction of the Veda in this condition? The purport of Veda is known more so by Yudhiṣṭhir than myself. So, when he tolerated, I could not say anything.” But Vidura did not care for this. He simply thought, in general, about the goodness of the dynasty in the future and boldly approached Dhṛtarāṣṭra: “Under your care, taking advantage of your guardianship, what are these brutes doing? They are bringing danger to your dynasty by such actions. Are you dishonouring the Pāṇḍavas or are you dishonouring your own self? Draupadī is part of your family, so should you not help her in such a distressed state?” Dhṛtarāṣṭra was then awakened, like the mind pressed by the conscience. He asked Duryodhan to put a stop to such misdeeds and asked that Draupadī be brought to him. Draupadī was then taken to him.

This was a great test. This attempt to disrobe Draupadī in the assembly was a great trial to find out who is who.

Student: The Pāṇḍava’s also did not object?

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: They thought that they were bound  by their vow. Bhīma, now and then, burst out with promises, but Arjuna checked him, “We are one. Silently, we must accept what our elder brother [Yudhiṣṭhir] has done. Don’t be boisterous. Otherwise, our enemies will enjoy the dissension amongst us.” In this way, Arjuna dissuaded Bhīma at times, but Bhīma still made promises, such as, “Duḥśāsan! I shall break your thigh and drink blood from your chest.” Now and then, Bhīma made such outbursts, expressing his promises for the future, and later he did these things.

The Pāṇḍavas had to tolerate anything and everything. “The extreme may come over us, but we should try to stand united even in such condition—united with our hope towards Kṛṣṇa.” And Kṛṣṇa came through to their relief.

When Draupadī was placed in such an awkward position, we find the highest type of devotion. She looked at the respectable members in the assembly, but received no response. She looked towards her husbands—so great, so powerful, indomitable—but no response. Then, disappointed, receiving no help from any quarter at this extreme moment, she came with one hand to protect herself from the exploit, and with the other hand, she called out to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Then, she left behind even her self-help, and with both palms together, prayed to Lord Kṛṣṇa. At that time, she called Kṛṣṇa by the name Gopī-jana-vallabha, making a reference to Kṛṣṇa’s Vṛndāvan-līlā. Nowhere in Mahābhārata can we find any reference to the Vraja-līlā of Kṛṣṇa. It is all Dvārakā- and Mathurā-līlā. Only here, from the lips of Draupadī, do we find, “He Gopī-jana-vallabha! You are the protector of all. We all, after all, belong to You. Please come to my relief.” When she was frustrated and received no help from her powerful husbands, she came back to patiṁ patīnāṁ (Śu: 6.7): the master of the masters, the original master. “We belong, after all, to You. Protect me in this acute position, O Gopī-jana-vallabha! You are the friend of the gopīs in Vṛndāvan, without consideration of social position, status, or ownership, even that conferred by the śāstra, the laws of the Vedas. Your connection with us is above law. I take shelter of You for my protection.”

Immediately help came. We are told that Kṛṣṇa ordered, “May all the merits acquired by Draupadī in her previous life be immediately converted into cloth to protect her.” Her clothing then became of infinite character. The cloth was drawn, and drawn, and drawn, but it extended more and more to no end. She was all right.

Then Vidura went to Dhṛtarāṣṭra: “What mishaps are being committed by your sons? And you are sitting tight? You are responsible for all this misbehaviour, and it will destroy—it will burn—the whole dynasty, the whole capital, and every one of us here. Put out this fire.”

Dhṛtarāṣṭra then called for Draupadī to take heart. Then, of course, an order was given, and a truce was effected.


Spoken 14 November 1981.


Draupadī’s prayer is recorded in Mahābhārata as follows:

govinda dvārakāvāsin kṛṣṇa gopī-jana-priya
kauravaiḥ paribhūtāṁ māṁ kiṁ na jānāsi keśava
he nātha he ramānātha vrajanāthārti-nāśana
kairavārṇava-bhagnāṁ mām uddharasva janārdana
kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa mahāyogin viśvātman viśva-bhāvana
prapannāṁ pāhi govinda kuru-madhye ’vasīdatīm
(Mahābhārata: Sabhā-parva, 67.82–3)

O Govinda! O resident of Dvārakā! O Kṛṣṇa! O friend of the gopīs! Do You not know I am being humiliated by the Kauravas. O Lord! O Lord of Lakṣmī! O Lord of Vraja! O destroyer of affliction! Save me! I am drowning in the ocean of the Kauravas! O Janārdan! O Kṛṣṇa! O Kṛṣṇa! O best of yogīs! O soul of the world! O origin of the world! Please protect this surrendered soul, O Govinda! I am sinking in the midst of the Kurus!”