As with all my posts under Mythic Fashion, I’d like to start with saying that Sanathana gives one and all the freedom to interpret, re-interpret and understand religion as per them. This, is my version of Draupadi, based on my readings, research and embellished with my own imagination.
Everyone knows of Draupadi… though most of the younger ones know her just as the woman from Mahabharata who had five husbands! The first image that probably comes to your mind is her miserable, pitiful self during the ‘mayasabha’. But that’s not what the real Draupadi was all about! She did have five husbands… and she did make them dance to her tunes… and she did by the way, happen to change history!
So for all those of you who don’t know who or why Draupadi was… here’s a little bit about one of the most wonderful, gorgeous and powerful female characters ever written about, in any culture or any text!
Draupadi, had a supernatural birth… she wasn’t born to a mother… she wasn’t even born an infant… Draupadi, was born of fire! She emerged, out of fire… an adult, as a result – or let’s say, a bi-product, of her father, King Drupad’s desire for a Son, to destroy his Arch-enemy, Drona! Legends say that Draupadi came out of fire… wild-haired, dark and gorgeous after her brother Dhrishtadhyuma. They say the fire went so crazy when she emerged that the universe sought-of figured, that she wasn’t just special… but that she would change the course of history.
However, in spite of her grand birth-scene, Draupadi, unlike other goddesses and princesses, had to struggle all her life! She always found herself standing facing the toughest of challenges – rejection, ridicule, exile… and she took them all head-on. Finally, when she was insulted in the courtroom by none other than her own family members, her patience reached its breaking point and her strength morphed into deep-seated anger, which gave rise to an intense, dark desire for vengence!
That’s when she decided to say F*** You to the world, and decided that she’d make the universe spin around her instead, getting it to do exactly what she wanted! And that’s exactly what She did!!
They say that her need for vengence was so strong and the determination in her eyes so palpable, that even the Pandavas (her 5 supernatural husbands) were intimidated by her!
Draupadi, was thought of as a re-incarnation or the human-form of Goddess Durga!
As a queen, She was kind, loving and generous… that’s when She was Gauri!
As a woman seeking vengeance, She was Kaali… untamed, un-controllable and fearsome, with wild flowing hair!
Gauri is Prakriti… nature… Mother Earth. She is naturally kind and giving and loving. But when mother earth is insulted and tormented, the duality within her gives way… and She takes the form of Kaali… and her wrath is something that even Gods fear…!
And what’s what makes Draupadi so relevant in today’s world. Draupadi is a state of mind! In today’s day and age, every woman is in the Draupadi state of mind! Every woman is powerful and confident and wants to have it her way! She loves and respects her duality… and she wants to (& likes to) take control! We all have this dire need to reclaim our place in this world… A place which Draupadi owned… which Durga owned… but which, with the passing of years, the invasions and corruption of beliefs… got lost somewhere. Today, every modern woman – urban or rural, educated or uneducated, is invoking Draupadi within her!
She symbolizes the strong, determined, go-getter woman of today… Someone who’s not a feminist, but one who believes in her dreams and ambitions! Someone who’s confident… so confident that she knows she’s going to have it her way, no matter what! (Here’s an article by Devdutt Patnaik that explains Draupadi and the relevance of Mahabharat in a different context… the context of Draupadi symbolizing civilization and law & order. )
In terms of her physical description, Vyasa, in order to describe Draupadi uses words like ‘slender waist’, ‘large firey eyes’, ‘beautiful’, ‘wild hair’, ‘radiant’ at different points in the Mahabharat. The other name for Draupadi is also ‘Krishnaa’, which means ‘Dark coppery skinned’! Draupadi, was always described as beautiful… Not sexy or seductive. However, it was her beauty in combination with her confidence, arrogance and intensity that made her a Diva… and made her irresistibly attractive to everyone who laid eyes on her!
Let’s look at 5 physical symbols of Draupadi:
- Fire: She is born from fire… that too, the fire of vengeance and passion…hence, has Firey, intense eyes which can intimidate, attract or enchant anyone.
- Wild hair: Dark, untamed, flowing locks… which after her humiliation she swears not to tie till she washes them with the blood of her violators.
- Crimson Red: The colour of her ‘sindoor’ which symbolizes love… is also the colour of blood & vengeance that she swears to cover the city in! Also, in popular portrayal, she is mostly seen wearing red or orange, both colours that symbolize fire and passion.
- Dark Skin: She was dark and dusky… with skin that radiated the glow of fire
- Expression: More than the soft and kind expressions, the popular portrayal of Draupadi has always been in her hurt, angry & intimidating form… Yet, there was a duality to her! She could love endlessly and hate bitterly.
So here’s how I used these symbols and her character description to create 2 mythic yet fashionable looks inspired by her…
This look is inspired by the story of her birth. The mythic story of how she walked out of fire… gorgeous and glowing! (as mentioned above). Hence,
- Fire: The colour of gold for me symbolizes fire… I’ve added little touches of gold with the large brass wrist-cuff and the septum ring, but didn’t want to overdo it in order to keep it closer to my personal style.
- Wild Hair: Thankfully… I have naturally curly, black hair… which really couldn’t be any wilder! I’ve just had the curls defined and fluffed up to give it a more pronounced untamed look.
- Crimson Red: I’m wearing a plain blood-red chiffon saree with a thin ‘copper’ border in a dhoti style.
In addition, I’ve added a big red bindi which in my mind, demands a certain amount of respect and symbolizes strength and confidence. (The bindi, contrary to what people think is not just a symbol of a married woman, it was worn by both men and women alike (like a tilak), because the point where the bindi is worn is supposed to be the center of all energies in your body… and the bindi –which back then was all natural and not the sticky thing we wear now – kept them cool and calm while also adorning the point of congregation of all your energies)
- Dark Skin: For an already wheat-ish complexion, we’ve used bronze make up, to give it that ‘coppery’ glow that Draupadi is said to have had.
- Expression: Well I’m no good an actor, but I’ve tried to bring in the intensity and depth of her expressions using symbolism … like with the Kaali necklace in a string of rudraksh (from Razia Kunj) that symbolizes her anger and the burning desire to punish the wrong-doers.
The reason why I’ve tied the saree in a dhoti style rather than the traditional saree draping style is because I’d imagine that if she’s to step out of fire… then she’d probably require a little more freedom of movement than what the traditional, feminine drape offers. (And it looks cooler, and more warrior-like too!)
The blouse, is actually an old maroon bandhani dupatta which I lifted off my mom’s closet. I’ve just tied it like a tube blouse, leaving the ends long at the back.
I personally love this look, because it’s something that I could just add a pair of heels to, and easily wear to the Durga Puja or a Diwali Party, to an award function or an evening event, a formal dinner or even to a friend’s wedding reception, and look glamorous and totally stand out!
There’s a second look I created for Draupadi, is obviously inspired by her personality and the strength of her character, but styled by my own imagination. It’s a work wear look that I put together… the thought behind which, is that if Draupadi lived in the modern day, how would she be and what world she dress like! And if you think that you belong to the powerful Draupadi archetype, you definitely must come back and check it out! (check it out here)
Hope you like the pics…
Photographs Courtesy: Sonalee D
Make up Courtesy: Sanghamithra Pillai
Location Courtesy: Monteria Resort, Khopoli