Yajnaseni is the story of Draupadi in her own words. The original story in Oriya is by Pratibha Ray, and the English translation is by Pradip Bhattacharya.
The story starts with the Swargarohan where the Pandavas and Draupadi are headed for the heavens and want to attain it in their human body. Draupadi falls at the foot of the hill and the rest of the story is about her life as she sees it from the time she comes out of the sacrificial altar and till the time she has fallen down.
+ + +
- Beautifully captures the complexity of Draupadi and the tough time she must have had in managing five husbands.
- Her dilemmas and the solutions she comes up with to take care of her image and at the same time be a loving wife is brought about well.
- The author has revealed the black of the characters along with the white in a balanced way. At the end of the story, I felt sorry for Draupadi that she couldn’t get better husbands – Yudhistra is unemotional and unempathetic; Bheema is more interested in getting a larger share of Draupadi’s time (like he used to in food); Arjuna shows his resentment, in having to share his hard-won princess) by keeping away from her; the narcissistic Nakula is worried that Draupadi is more beautiful than him; the insecure Sahadeva assumes that Draupadi will not give him the required attention and plays the martyr.
- Krishna’s relationship with Draupadi is wonderfully vague. He is a sakha –a friend – platonic but with a little attraction thrown in. The author does not gloss over the fact that Draupadi was attracted to Krishna and Karna.
- On the eve of the battle, the author creates the situation for each of the Pandavas, Krishna and Draupadi to express what they would have otherwise never done. This brings out the negativities in the open rather than just been perceptions.
– – –
- Draupadi’s anguish on finding her sons and brothers murdered could have been given more space. After all, that is the defining moment for her – the realization that war has consequences for victors as well as losers.
? ? ?
- Draupadi wonders when Arjuna keeps making vows of celibacy – Why does celibacy assume so much importance? Is the thought of being with a woman so distracting that people take this as the highest form of vow? Isn’t it possible to not be celibate yet aim for and achieve the best? I loved this question. I have never found women taking the vows of celibacy. Wonder why!!!
- I didn’t quite understand the character of Maya and her relationship with Draupadi.
In popular culture, Draupadi has been a butt of jokes and a largely misunderstood character – living with five husbands, having a soft corner for Karna, being responsible for the war and so on. My takeaway from this has been how Draupadi has faced the various dilemmas that have confronted her and how well she has tried to resolve them. My admiration for her has gone up after reading the book.
Yajnaseni : Fiery daughter of the fire.