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Rape of Draupadi in front of Arjuna in Bhil Mahabharata: A fine reflection of moral bankruptcy of our society

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This building up of Karna and Vasuki as a hero at the expense of an innocent woman is a fine reflection of the moral bankruptcy of our society today.

Draupadi is one of the central characters in the epic Mahabharata written by Ved Vyas. The wife of five Pandavas had faced several attempts of disrobing her like after the game of dice, during exile by Jayadarath and by Keechak during her stay in Matsya Kindom. On all these occasions she was saved by Lord Krishna and her husbands.

However, Mahabharat has different interpolations with each interpolation glorifying a certain Characters of Vyas Mahabharata. One such interpolation is Bhil Mahabharata which has one dedicated chapter on the rape of Draupadi by the snake God Vasuki.

Here is the summary of the chapter:

Vasuki, the head of Snakes (or Snake God) was attracted towards Draupadi, who came to Hastinapura, tied up and hung Arjuna from the peg after defeating him and then raped Draupadi in front of his eyes. The author has tried to show Arjuna as a helpless man whose wife was raped in front of him and couldn't do anything apart from watching it. As per the storyline, this continues for many days. Vasuki visits Hastinapur in the night, ties Arjuna and hangs him from the peg and rapes Draupadi in front of his eyes. The suffering ended when Karna, the first son of Kunti defeated Vasuki on the request of Arjuna.

A journalist Vinod Kumar has published the part of this chapter on his blog When a reader asked him for a full version of Bhil Mahabharata, he replied that he doesn't have the full version. But he shared the link of a book by Indrajit Bandyopadhyay.

The description of the book "Rape of Draupadi" reads: (Source)

Draupadi is a wonder woman in the history of literature. She is undoubtedly the central character in Mahabharata. Other than the Draupadi we find in Vyasa’s Mahabharata – in all Folk Mahabharatas –Draupadi is a powerful woman with powerful sexuality. In the Buddhist Jataka, Draupadi has illicit sexual relation with a hump-backed servant; in some Folk Mahabharata of South India, Draupadi has secret sexual desire for Krishna and Karna; in Bheel Bharata – a Folk Mahabharata of the Bheel (or, Bhil) tribes of Rajasthan – she has sexual relation with Vasuka Naga, a ‘snake’ king and is Vasuki’s willing sexual partner for sometime; and in Devi Bhagavata Puraana, Kichaka, the brother-in-law of King Virata of Matsya Kingdom, rapes her. In the present story, my attempt to reconcile ‘classical’ and Folk Draupadi, is by infusing the Greek mythical elements in Draupadi’s sexual relations outside her polyandrous marriage. Draupadi – to me – is the superior example of woman’s Evolutionary Psychology in full splendour.

The author Indrajit Bandyopadhyay has explained how Draupadi had illicit sexual relations with several men and she was a willing sexual partner of Vasuka Naga (The Snake God Vasuki) in Bheel Mahabharata. In his book, the author has infused the Greek mythical elements in Draupadi's sexual relations which clearly shows the book is a work of fiction based on different interpolations of Bheel Mahabharata.

In his blog post, Vinod has credited Satya Chaitanya as the author of this piece. He had published this article on but has been taken down from the website. Here is the link of the deleted article which now redirects to the home page.

Pic: Satya ChaitanyaVisiting Faculty at XLRI School of Business, Jamshedpur

Dr. Arindam Mridha, Senior Assistant Professor, Department of English, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India has also published a paper on this chapter in which he has concluded that Draupadi was Vasuki's willing sexual partner.

"initially it seems Vasuki rapes her, but on scrutiny it does not seem so, and Draupadi is Vasuki?s willing sexual partner for sometime"

But he has also given credit to Vinod Viplab, Satya Chaitanya and Indrajit Bandyopadhyay.

Pic: Indrajit Bandyopadhyay, Author of the book "Rape of Draupadi"

Most of the answers we found on Quora was also linked to the article written by Satya Chaitanya on which is now deleted. But the copy of the article exists on other blogs.

So, we zero down on three persons (Vinod Viplab, Satya Chaitanya, Indrajit Bandopadhyay) who were responsible for putting this porn like storyline on the web. The storyline was first written by Satya Chaitanya on and was copied by others from there. The article by Satya Chaitanya was also included in a recent book on Mahabharata.

Bhilo Ka Bharat By Bhagwandas Patel 

We found an article on the Times of India which has attributed Bheelo Ka Bharat to Bhawandas Patel. Tribals only have the oral tradition of passing on their version of the epics from one generation to another. Traditions live only in the word of mouth. Different narrators incorporated interpolations in tune with their existing tribal traditions to make the story more acceptable amongst the tribal populace.

''Bhilo Ka Bharat'', is a compilation of tales from the Doongri Bhil version of the Mahabharat. Author Bhagwandas Patel says that for the tribals the epic is not one continuous narrative as it is in the standard text but presented in disjointed episodes.

The book mentions an encounter between Vasuki and Arjun. Here Vasuki seduces Draupadi who accepts his advances. An angry Arjun wages war against Vasuki but loses. Vasuki ties him with hair from his mustache and keeps him captive. After several days Draupadi realises her mistake and asks Arjun to take Karan's help to defeat Vasuki and free her.

Nowhere in these episodes will one find the mention of kingdom or statehood as it is in the standard text. Tribals are unknown to the concept of political boundaries and castes. For them the word ''Bharat'' means ''war'' and not ''nation''," says the head of the publication department of Bhasha Research & Publication Centre, Aruna Johshi.

Pic: Bhagwan Das Patel: Author of Bheelo Ka Bharat

Bhagwan Das Patel had presented a paper in the Sahitya Akademi's seminar on Mahabharata in 2004. He had included the encounter of Vasuki, Draupadi and Arjuna in his paper. Here is how it is described by the author:

Earth cannot bear the weight of Draupadi's golden tresses. Hence, earth splits and the golden tresses fall on the breast of the sleeping king Vashuki in Paataal. Awakened, Vasuki seeks out the golden-haired woman in the inner apartments of Hastinapur. Here Arjun and Vasuki duel. Vasuki flings Arjun on the ground, mounts his chest and, binding his hands and feet with a hair from his whiskers, hangs him upside down before Draupadi's bed. Queen Draupadi bathes Vasuki in a copper tub, feeds him from a golden plate. Then he approaches her bed dressed resplendently. Draupadi sprinkles flowers and musk oil on the soft bed. The king of Paataal makes love to her on the bed while poor Arjun helplessly watches the erotic sport. Dawn comes and Vasuki cuts the hair tying Arjun with his gleaming sword. Arjun drops with a thud on the ground, his pride and sense of being a husband destroyed. Draupadi's desire for a lover is burnt up after the erotic bout and thus purified she progresses towards salvation.

We also found an interview with Bhagwan Das Patel in which he has given a weird reason to justify the rape (sexual encounter) of Draupadi by Vasuki. 

Clearly, the Bheel Mahabharata has a lot of variations from Vyas' Mahabharata. Bheels Mahabharata has glorified marginalized characters like Karna and Vasuki.

Inconsistency in Bheel Mahabharata

1. No mention of kingdom or statehood in Bheel's Mahabharata. Hastinapura was added by the author Bhagwandas Patel in this chapter. 

2. No mention of other Pandavas in this particular episode. What was Bhima doing and where was he when all this was going on.

3. If this incident happened in Hastinapura, then where was Bhishma?

4. If Lord Krishna can save Draupadi in Gambling episode (Cheer-Haran) then why didn't he save her this time?

5. Draupadi didn't have golden hair. She was a dark woman with bluish-black hair. Ref: Mahabharata Translation by K M Ganguly

6. When Kauravas poisoned Bhima's food and drowned him in the river, it was the Naga king Vasuki who saved Bhima and bestowed him the immense strength of ten thousand elephants.

Ref: Mahabharata Translation by K M Ganguly and Menon, [translated by] Ramesh (2006). The Mahabharata: a modern rendering. New York: iUniverse, Inc. p. 103

Now, if the Snake King Vasuki bestowed Bhima with the strength of ten thousand elephants then why would he rape Draupadi and that too in front of Arjuna?

Not Necessarily the same characters

As we have highlighted that there are too many inconsistencies in the book written by Bhagwan Das Patel. The tribal Bheels don't have any book or written documents. They only have the oral tradition of passing on their version of the epics from one generation to another. The episodes of which are narrated or sung during their festivals, usually accompanied by music and sometimes with dance – a captivating version that never fails to thrill, one of the secrets of its allure being its truly enchanting folktale-like quality. Traditions live only in the word of mouth. Different narrators incorporated interpolations in tune with their existing tribal traditions to make the story more acceptable amongst the tribal populace.

Since Bhagwandas Patel was the first one to bring Tribal's story into the mainstream scholar's world, we have to solely rely on his honesty. Many people argue that the characters are not the same. Abhimanyu is Bala Himmat in Tribal's version. The word ''himmat'' has its root in ''ahi-mat'' which means clever serpent.

There is one episode of Abhimanyu and Indrani where Indrani, who is the wife of Lord Indra, decides to marry the Kauravas. The Kauravas, however, spurn her proposal. Indrani then marries Abhimanyu and Lord Indra loses a battle to Abhimanyu when he comes to wrest his wife back. The episode clearly shows that Abhimanyu of Bheel's Mahabharata is not same as Abhimanyu of Vyas Mahabharata.

Do Bheels/ Tribals really sing a story where a woman was raped in front of her husband?

We don't have an answer to this question. Even if they believe in the story, it is highly possible that the woman in the episode is not the Draupadi from Vyas Mahabharata. 

Credit to Quora user Roopal Garg for inspiring the title.

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