Draupadi is the most important female character in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. According to .. Alf Hiltebeitel in his acclaimed research work, “The Cult of Draupadi” explores the source of this myth as he travels through the rural areas of. : The Cult of Draupadi, Volume 1: Mythologies: From Gingee to Kuruksetra (): Alf Hiltebeitel: Books. Draupadi Cult and the Osiris Story of Egypt V. Krishnakumar In this section, we discuss the evidences from Draupadi cult that support our.
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O Lady who resides in Gingee, my mother Our beautiful goddess I only believe in you, please assist us. For the exiled Pandavas, my mother You protected them as a heroic goddess. A popular refrain at the Draupadi temples and festivals of Tamil Nadu, where drqupadi is worshipped as a village deity, it situates her, preposterously, in drauoadi land far south of the kingdoms of the Kurus and the Panchalas, reimagining her as the guardian, not just of her five husbands but also of the people who live amid the granite hills of Gingee and its surroundings.
We first hear snatches of the song at the Draupadi Amman temple in Melachery, north of Gingee Fort, a much-coveted 12th-century cklt originally built by the Kon dynasty, and bordering a forest that legend says was the haunt of demons. The small shrine, deserted but for the priest who stayed back in anticipation of our visit, is the adi peethamthe font of a tradition of goddess worship in a region of Tamil Nadu known as Tondainadu that dates back to the Pallava period CE.
Dfaupadi cannot keep her in the village.
Others say she is a peace- loving deity who can end wars and disputes. Almost everyone agrees that she is a deliverer of instantaneous justice. Is their Draupadi angry at being unjustly treated?
Is she seething with rage at her husbands for collectively gambling her honour away and at the court that draupadii this atrocity? At Dusshasana and Duryodhana who paid with their lives for disrobing her?
At Culh for wedding her to five men at once? At Jayadratha, the Sindhu king who abducted her after draypadi turned down his offer of marriage? In this avatar, she gets what she wants. In fact, legend goes that when Sunitan doubts the powers of the idol installed at Melachery, and plucks a single strand of her hair to see if it is real, blood oozes out of the wound and he is blinded.
The parallels to Drauladi, who is a mute spectator to her humiliation in court, and the symbolism of the long loose tresses—a symbol of female sexuality—are inevitable. In the mainstream rendition of the epic, the scene after the vastraharan is the turning point in the story, with Draupadi transforming from a hapless maiden into cuult avenger who would settle for cilt less than the blood of her abusers to wash her hair with.
Her story is reconstructed across Tamil Nadu by way of lore, organised storytelling sessions, and a yearly festival whose centrepiece is the enactment in the form of theru koothu street theatre over several nights of key scenes from the epic.
Copper plates of King Parameshvaravarman I CE from Kuram near Kanchipuram record that a part of cullt donation to the local village assembly hall was towards the reading of the Bharatham. The Cholas, the Vijayanagara kings and the Nayaks who later ruled the kingdom of Gingee presumably encouraged the draypadi form, and continued to patronise temples to Draupadi. AFTER THE HARVEST in January and then again from May to August, festivals celebrating Draupadi turn the landscape into grand arenas where light tramples colour, legend drips like a guttering candle over religious belief, and pagan worship over Hindu rituals as Draupadi is brought in a procession, installed at the venue of the performance, and the Bharatha koothu performed for her benefit.
The kaappu holy thread tied around their wrists is a symbol of their participation in her exile, as they can no longer enter their own homes or leave the village. He is working on a book that deals with themes of exile, memories of war and other interpretations of the Mahabharata as a conduit for local culture. For about two hundred nights drajpadi year, M Damodaran, a year-old master of Bharatha koothutells the story of Draupadi to thousands of people across northern Tamil Nadu. The nights he does sleep in his own house in Sozhanthangal, Villupuram district, he dreams of the jingle of the salangai anklets with bells and of the 14th-century poetry of Villiputhurar, whose cultt of the Bharatham in Tamil is the main text upon which koothu performances are based even today.
Koothu costs Rs The turnout numbers in the thousands, with popular episodes attracting tens of thousands.
The Cult of Draupadi, Volume 2: On Hindu Ritual and the Goddess, Hiltebeitel
Interest in koothu is at an all-time high—one, because of government efforts to revive the art form and to support artistes, and second, because village temples are hiring us more often than they did a decade ago. In a baritone that needs no accompaniment, he sings a song that moistens his eyes each time he performs it before a crowd. Draupadi has seen what ills are about to befall the country and she points out the omens to her mother-in-law Gandhari.
Interest in Draupadi worship has been on the rise, with several new temples to her coming up in Villupuram, a district already dotted with dozens of older shrines—in Alampoondi, Sevalapurai, Sathyamangalam, Keezhpennathur, Devadanapettai, Rettanai, Thandavasamudram and Thazhanur among other villages. She is also Veera Panchali, who roamed the jungles at night as a demon feasting on animals, until spotted one day by Bheema, who promises to keep her reality a secret if she in turn swore to protect the Pandavas.
In a version of the Mahabharata narrated elsewhere—by the Dungri Bhils of Rajasthan—Draupadi is ravished by the snake king of the netherworld, Visuka, after he is transfixed by a stray strand of her hair, as Arjuna helplessly looks on. In these local traditions, including the Yakshagana performances of Karnataka, Draupadi is given a lot more space and importance than in the Puranas.
Somewhere down the line, however, the worship of a feminist symbol as a redoubt against evil became problematic for communities with strong patriarchal and caste identities. Vanniyars closely associate with Draupadi as they consider themselves Kshatriyas, born of the sacrificial fire of Shambhu rishi to defeat demons.
Understandably, Vanniyars resist viewing Draupadi through a feminist lens, consigning her to the pantheon of a million ammans that watch over Tamil Nadu. She does, however, serve as a bulwark of socio- cultural memory in villages and towns that have built a temple to her. She is a conscience keeper, and this is why we walk on hot coals during her festival—to prove we are pure of heart.
The Cult of Draupadi, Volume 1
There may be gaps in her story, and she may sometimes quake in anger, but she is a protector of humanity. With chatty exuberance, Sivamuthu and his companion, a trained classical singer, pepper their storytelling with references to modern pop culture, cellphones and changing crop cycles. Draupadi, for instance, cannot break into dance, or leave the end of her pallu untucked. Even a god must fit a certain mould to pull crowds.
Parthiban is one of a handful of actors in the state who can play Dusshasana. I have heard sex workers refer to her as a thozhi a female friend draupasi, like them, was branded a whore for no fault of hers.
But Panchali could start and end a war, and the faithful who believe the goddess lives within them derive great strength from hearing stories of her. The powers that Vyasa does not vest Draupadi with are hers to summon in the lived space outside Purana, Itihasa and Mahakavya. Draupadi needs no hagiographer. She craves bhaava and stands for nyaaya as she paints her face green, dons a blingy outfit and heads out into the night to win a thousand hearts.
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