Draupadi and Sita are two characterizations of feminity. One is more sensual and provocative, while the other is the symbol of purity. Draupadi is a princess, and the daughter of King Drupada. She is one of the main characters of Mahabharata. Sita is the wife of Rama, who is a depiction of the supreme god Vishnu. She is one of the main characters of the Ramayana. Draupadi would be the depiction of strong, controversial feminity, while Sita is the depiction of the perfect wife and woman, which would be the central traits that would make the two women very different personalities. Krishna Dharma’s depictions of the two epics will be used to analyze these characters’ personalities.
Draupadi is the wife of the five Pandava brothers. The idea of her having five husbands makes her controversial. This fact is known to the other characters surrounding her and the five brothers, which comes up during the gambling game of dice. Karna argued against Draupadi’s position during the dice game. When one of the brothers put her at stake during the gamble and lost, Karna took the position to argue that she should belong to the Kaurava family, who won the gamble. She was dragged before the family, almost naked and having just one sari to cover herself with. Whereas Vikarna argued on her behalf, saying the state of her position is immoral and unjust, Karna thought to himself, “that there was no sin bringing Draupadi into the hall in her present state. After all, she had already accepted five husbands. What kind of moral woman was she? In his opinion, she was unchaste,” (Dharma, Mahabharata 191).
Here, we have two characteristics to analyze Draupadi’s personality. One is her option to have five husbands. This is frowned upon in Hindu society, since it is not common for a woman to have too many husbands. This would suggest that her character is very self-directed, and will opt to do what she wants. The second characteristic would be that she is almost naked. Before she was dragged out, there was a male servant that was acting as a messenger between the Kauravas and Draupadi, letting her know that she was staked at a gamble and was lost. She would have to be wearing a single sari and allowing a stranger to see her and speak with her. This is a hallmark of her sensuality and her insistence in being this way. In her sensual nature, there is also power. This is evident when the servant keeps being sent back to insist that she should meet with Duryodhana and the other Kauravas. The servant “was always obedient to Duryodhana but he feared Draupadi’s anger,” (Dharma, Mahabharata 187).
Draupadi also depicts her feminine strength in the way she perceives her husbands. When the servant informed her that she and the rest of her husbands are to be given away to the Kauravas, she replied, “how can this be true? Who would stake his own wife in a gambling match? Surely the kind was intoxicated,” (Dharma, Mahabharata 186). This suggests mistrust between herself and her husband, Yudhisthira, who lost the gamble. Instead of putting faith in her husband and standing up for him, she assumes that he expressed a complete lack of responsibility during the game – irresponsible enough to get so intoxicated and gamble away his whole family.
This kind of attitude towards Yudhisthira is not only saved for him. It is also expressed towards her other husbands and men. When she was dragged out by Dushashana, she looked upon her husbands and other men for help. When they didn’t do anything, she reprimanded them, “How do you all say nothing as this wretch drags me into the hall? Shame on you!” (Dharma, Mahabharata 188). They didn’t do anything on the concept of subtle morality, in which they had to honor the game they lost. Draupadi, knowing that her husbands couldn’t do anything to help her, decided to pray to Krishna for help. This is her taking her destiny into her own hands and actively doing something to fix her situation. Krishna “provided Draupadi with an unlimited supply of cloth to cover her,” (Dharma, Mahabharata 192), and so she was unable to be stripped naked by the Kauravas. In other words, through her prayer, she was able to save herself from humiliation and sexual assault.
Sita exerts strength in a very different way. She is much more respectful to her one husband, Rama, and it is through her loyalty to her husband that her personality is so different from Draupadi’s. It is also important to note Rama’s character is relation to Sita. Rama is a depiction, or an avatar, of the holy god Vishnu. This depiction is noticed by other characters, such as Sita’s father Janaka, who asked about Rama and his brother Lakshmana: “Tell me who are these two boys accompanying you? They appear like two powerful tigers and they rival the gods in beauty and grace,” (Dharma, Ramayana 49). Her position as the wife of a god would put her in the position of being a deity – or a woman of holy value. This would make Sita’s character as one to be worshipped and respected since she is a deity as the wife of Vishnu’s avatar. But it is also her actions that make her a pious and loyal wife.
She is normally described as speaking to her husband very gently and respectfully. For example, the “lovely Sita invoked divine blessings upon [Rama]. Following her husband to the gate,” (Dharma, Ramayana 83) is a mark of her nature. Her blessings are her expressions for emotional support to her husband (as opposed to chastising or reprimanding him, like what Draupadi does to her husbands). People also say of Sita, “surely that godly lady has performed the highest penances to have been blessed wit this great hero Rama as her husbad,” (Dharma, Ramayana 84). Following her husband is also a sign of her personality, which is that of a woman who is very loyal and pure in society’s eyes. In general, this would essentially make Sita the symbol of the perfect, pure woman.
Even when Rama and Lakshmana were exiled, Sita stood by her husband and persisted with her loyalty. She was “eagerly awaiting him,” (Dharma, Ramayana 99), like the doting wife that sits at home and waits for her husband to come home. She understood that he had bad news to give her, and was sensitive to him about it and listened. When he suggested that she stay in the city while he left for exile in the forest, Sita became angry in an occasion that she actually reprimanded Rama. Described as “noble,” Sita “described how the father, mother, brother, or any other relation were never the shelter of a chaste woman with a husband. The wife should share her husband’s fortune under all circumstances,” (Dharma, Ramayana 100). In this, Sita declares unwavering loyalty to Rama, no matter what kind of misfortune befalls them. This is a personality that follows her husband. While this is her choice, it is different than Draupadi’s choice to safe herself, instead of following her husbands’ reluctant dedication to honor.
This loyalty to Rama continues even when the deity Ravana kidnaps her. As she is struggling with Ravana, she thinks to herself that “she preferred to fall to earth and die than be carried away by him,” (Dharma, Ramayana 227). Ravana was overwhelmed with lust when he saw Sita, which is why he decided to kidnap her. Dharma’s depiction of the epic does not suggest that he raped Sita, but Ravana tried to seduce her by boasting about his wealth and power. Sita refused his advances, and spoke furiously to him. Ravana is another god, which showcases her insistence to be loyal to Rama. She thinks to herself, “How could he even dare to suggest that she abandon Rama for him? Her mine would not for a single moment contemplate a sinful act. It was only with deep regret that she looked at Ravana at all He could imprison her or hill her as he liked, for she had no use of life without Rama,” (Dharma, Ramayana 230).
Through looking at these examples, Sita would rather choose to die than to be a wife to Ravana. This is a testament to her love and devotion for Rama, which is what marks her as like a perfect wife. She gets to keep her chastity by preparing herself for death, which should speak for her personality in general. For her, death is better for her than to lose her chastity. In this way, there is no question of her morality by the other characters like there is for Draupadi’s chastity.
Draupadi and Sita essentially have choices of their own as to how they want to be like in relation to their husbands. The choices that they make, however, reveal very different characters. Draupadi is a woman who takes more control of her situation, whereas Sita takes a more passive stance and chooses to follow. When she cannot follow her husband, Sita chooses death. Draupadi on the other hand would choose to save herself in such a situation by taking action when she can.
Dharma, Krishna. Mahabharata: the Greatest Spiritual Epic of All Time. Imperial Beach: Torchlight Publishing, 2012.
Dharma, Krishna. Ramayana: India’s Immortal Tale of Adventure, Love, and Wisdom. Imperial Beach: Torchlight Publishing, 2004.