Draupadi Jeopardizing Jurisprudence: A Critical Analysis of Dharma as Law in the Light of Draupadi’s Question(s) in the Sabha

Komal Agarwal

Center for English Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Email:

Volume 9, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n1.14

Received March 1, 2017; Revised March 27, 2017; Accepted April 3, 2017; Published May 7, 2017.


The character of Draupadi in the Maha?bha?rata has generally been read through the victim-perpetrator lens, where she is either seen as being at the receiving end or violence, or as an agent of questioning the very violence that is perpetrated on her, mostly by appealing to the morality of the men, warriors and kings present in the Assembly Hall, the scene of violence. The present paper reads the character of Draupadi in a new light: as a learned scholar and dialectician who is well-versed in the issues/debates of law, the legal code, and the codified system of ethics. The paper argues that it is her act of challenging and negating the prevalent, largely ‘masculine’ judicial system that she ends in pitting an alternative legal system against the then socio-judicial order. In so doing, she poses hair-raising questions against the abstract concept of ‘dharma’ and its drawbacks and the authority of the king on earth: thus unsettling the two pillars on which the society in the ancient times was based and sustained itself, both the cosmic principle which holds, and the kingly counterpart which executes. She marks a paradigm shift in and punctuates the masculine system of jurisprudence, thereby exposing its follies and its weaknesses, also anticipating the possible improvements in the present day legal set up in the country.

Keywords: Draupadi, Maha?bh?arata, dicing, law, dharma.

Full Text PDF>>