Polyandrous Union - The Princess of Panchal
"Panchali Draupadi" and her polyandrous union with the Pandava's
- A damsel in distress or a diplomatic arrangement?
What is Polyandry:
Marriage of a woman to two or more men at the same time; the term derives from the Greek polys, “many,” and anēr, andros, “man.” When the husbands in a polyandrous marriage are brothers or are said to be brothers, the institution is called fraternal polyandry. The story of Draupadi and the 5 Pandava brothers is hence a fraternal polyandry.
Practice of Polyandry:
There are 2 anthropologists who have done wide research and wrote papers on this practice - Katherine Starkweather, and Raymond Hames. Their findings show around 53 societies who practiced polyandry , however the "classical polyandry was found in some societies in Asia.
The practice of polyandry was mainly common in a hunterer-gatherer type of societies, where men would be gone hunting, and would arrange for other man/men to be the caregiver for the family while they were away. However in the "classical polyandry" situations found in Asia it was allowed in families in areas of scarce farmable land to hold agricultural estates together. The practice also may have existed in some places with weaker gender ratio, lesser woman than man. The marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife allows plots of family-owned land to remain intact and undivided."
- You can read more here: https://www.unl.edu/rhames/Starkweather-Hames-Polyandry-published.pdf
So now knowing this, we lay down our basis that polyandry was very rare but did exist as a part of some societies. There is a very recent finding of a famliy in Himachal Pradesh, India which has a polyandrous union (it is illegal by the Indian Law).
Lets dive into the story of Panchali Draupadi:
There was a general sense of war between Panadava's and Kaurava's already brewing. Hastinapur was a powerful military kingdom with many powerful allies.
The documented strategy and diplomacy, war tactics and power play in this grand Epic is of a high order. The polyandry was probably a power house creation. The pandavas needed the powerful king Drupada as ally. If Draupadi is to marry any one of the brothers, and if they do not remain alive, or is succeeded by other wives, or any dynamics changes, then Draupadi would not become the main queen - the patrani. To secure the strategic role of becoming the Queen of Hastinapur, irrespective of the dynamics and ensuring her son becomes the heir to the kingdom , this was a well thought off play from king Drupad. This alliance also keeps the brothers united amd their small estate undivided, and all the children equal rights from all fathers (which is normal in case of polyandry)
Ponder and Wonder - The popular story plot about Kunti unknowingly asking the Pandava's to divide the winnings is not well justified, the Pandava's being so obedient, the attendance at the swayamwar would have been a knowledge the mother would have had!