Draupadi, wife of Pancha Pandavas came from Punjab. She was a heroic woman. She was called Draupadi because she was the daughter of Drupada, King of Punjab/Panchala. She was also known as Panchali because she was a woman from Punjab/Panchala. She had another name Yagnaseni because she was born out of a holy fire/Yagna.
People of Punjab were famous for their heroic deeds. They protected Hindus from the onslaught of foreign invaders for over two thousand years. Draupadi was an intelligent woman, but she was an arrogant princess as well when she got married to the Pandavas. When the Pandavas constructed a new palace, Duryodhana and others were invited to view the palace. It was so beautifully done that Duryodhana mistook its crystal floor for water and lifted his clothes to step in carefully. Draupadi who watched it from the balcony burst into laughter. Women should never laugh at men, that too for silly mistake, like this. Duryodhana and his brothers were already burning with jealousy. This laughter rubbed salt into their wounds. They were all waiting for an opportunity to take revenge upon her.
When Dharama (Yudhistra), eldest of the five Pandava brothers, lost everything in the gambling, Sakuni, the most wicked uncle of Dhuryodana provoked Dharma to stake his wife Draupadi in the game of dice. When he did this and lost again, Duryodhana ordered his brother to undress Draupadi. When she was dragged into the court in front of all the elders in the Royal Assembly, nobody raised a finger against Duryodhana or advised him against this un holy, un Hindu act of molesting a woman in public.
But Draupadi asked them what right Dharma had over her when his independence was already lost in the gambling. She argued like an efficient solicitor. She asked the elders in the Royal Assembly to speak up. No one could answer her questions. But Krishna came to her rescue and saved her modesty. When Duschasana, brother of Duryodhana, tried to denude her by pulling her sari, it became longer and longer and there was no end to the garment. Krishna played many magical tricks throughout the Mahabaharata warand this was one of them. Beyond Krishna’s magical gifts, Hindus believe that chaste women can control even Nature’s forces. Tamils believe that a chaste woman can bring rains and stop anything at their will power. A woman can make or mar a man and she can make or destroy a country.
Draupadi Vs Tamil Heroines
In Tamil country, we have a great heroine by name Kannaki. Her full story is given in the great Tamil epic Silappadikaram. When her husband Kovalan was falsely accused of stealing Pandyan queen’s anklet and executed without proper enquiry, she went straight to the Royal court and challenged the king. Like Draupadi she also argued her case and proved that she was right. The ashamed Pandya king died of heart attack on the spot. Since such an injustice had never happened in the country his wife/the queen also died of heart attack. But yet Kannaki’s anger did not subside and she walked through the streets of Madurai and invoked God of fire to burn all the bad elements in Madurai, the capital city of Pandya kingdom. This is a famous story every Tamil knew. But there was another fiery woman who lived nearer her time who was not known even by Tamils. Her name was AnnI Njimili. Her unusual name itself is a tongue twister (அன்னி ஞிமிலி).
Anni njimili was an ordinary innocent village girl. Her father was also equally humble and a poor man. He used to take his cows for grazing every day. Kosars, a clan who were famous for their truthful words, were controlling that area. It was Anni Njimi family’s bad luck that the cows went into the field of Kosars. Immediately they arrested Anni Njimili’s father and took him to their leader. He ordered his servants to gouge his eyes. But knowing the seriousness of the situation, Anni went with all the elders of the village and begged him to pardon her dad. The arrogant Kosars did not listen to her and Anni’s dad lost his eyes.
When Draupadi was insulted in the royal court she made a vow not to tie her hair till she saw the end of Duryodhana. Probabbly Anni Njimili knew the story of Draupadi. Mahabharata and Ramayana were very popular in Tamilnadu two thousand years ago that we have new anecdotes in Tamil which were not found in Sanskrit versions of the epics. (Please read my Articles: WHERE IS RAMA STU? and TWO ANIMALS THAT INSPIRED INDIANS in the blogs). Anni also made the same vows. She swore that she wouldn’t eat or dress herself properly till the wrongdoers were punished.
Like Draupadi and Kannaki , Anni was very clever and she was looking for a hero who would punish the bad people. She had heard about valorous Thithiyan of Azunthur. She went to Azunthur and told him what happened. When Thithiyan saw the conviction of this girl, her love and affection for her dad and her determination to punish the bad people ,he made up his mind. He promised her that he would finish off the people who did this to her father. As promised, Thithian went to Kosar country and killed the people who did the barbaric act of gouging her dad’s eyes just for grazing the cows. On that day her angry face changed to beautiful face of a woman.
Sangam Tamil poems written two thousand years ago praised her heroic act and determination in Akananuru verses 196 and 262. Paranar who never missed any of the important events of his days like a war correspondent, recorded this incident in his beautiful poem. (Contact author: [email protected])