In the Mahabharata, what was Draupadi's question?  Discuss its meaning and implications.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Draupadi's question and its wide ranging implications goes to the heart of The Mahabharata.

Draupadi's question is a complex one.  Yudhisthira has lost everything in the game of dice that Duryodhana and his uncle, Sakuni, set up.  He has wagered Draupadi, his wife, in order to appease his debt to Duryodhana. As he continually loses, Duryodhana insists that Draupadi be brought to the court as his "prize."  When the attendant goes to fetch Draupadi, she tells the servant to deliver a question to Duryodhana and the entire court.  The question is whether Yudhirsthira wagered and lost himself before he wagered and lost her.    Draupadi's question reflects her enlightened condition.  

The meaning of Draupadi's question goes to the essence of dharma, or one's sacred duty.  The meaning behind Draupadi's question is that if Yudhisthira had already lost his own freedom, he has no claim over another person's.  Her question causes those in the court to think about what constitutes individual rights. The implications of the question are also wide ranging. Her question raises legitimacy about the entire dice game.  The game, itself, was not fair because it presumes that Yudhisthira has the power to wager other people and elements of his kingdom.  The conclusion that can be drawn from her question is that he did not possess the ability to wager others so freely after his own freedom had been lost.  

In a larger sense, the implications about Draupadi's question foreshadows what Lord Krishna will later claim about the game, itself.  Given how Durodyhana and his uncle Sakuni used a form of hidden magic to ensure that Yudhisthira would lose in the game of dice, Draupadi's question shows how the game was fixed. As a result, none of its outcomes can be accepted in a world where dharma is sacred. Sakuni and Duryodhana claim that they have a right to Draupadi because it is dharma to gracefully accept defeat.  However, Draupadi's question suggests that when deception and fraudulence are used for self- serving ends, dharma cannot be claimed as a justification.  Dharma holds  a great deal of importance in The Mahabharata.  Some of the most important elements of the epic work are framed in her question. 

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