“What’s the use of clothes? You can strip me, but how can you clothe me again? Are you a man?… There isn’t a man here that I should be ashamed. I will not let you put clothes on me. What can you do? says Dopadi, the fierce character of short story ‘Draupadi’ written by Mahasweta Devi and translated by Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak.
Dopadi, named after central character Draupadi in Mahabharata is a revolutionary tribal woman who is stripped and raped by the men in power due to her political views and activities.
The Bengali heroine Dopadi takes a step forward from Draupadi as she does not seek divine intervention to protect her honor in the courtroom full of men.
Both Draupadi and Dopadi were the victims of the patriarchal systems and powers and rebel in their ways.
Draupadi rebukes her five husbands for not protecting her honor and also challenging their decision of staking her at the dice game when they had lost themselves. She pledges to wash her hair from the blood of her those who had tried to disrobe her. Her anger and the desire to seek revenge is cited as one of the primary reasons for the destructive war at Kurukshetra.
Draupadi is one of the Panchkanyas (along with Tara, Ahilya, Kunti, and Mandodri) in Hindu culture but is not considered ideal for worship especially in the northern part of India as an ideal wife such as Sita.
Draupadi is popularly known as Draupadi Amman is worshipped as the cult folk goddess in many temples across Southern India. In Gingee area of Tamil Nadu, she is considered the Parashakti or the Supreme Goddess who accompanies her five husbands to the forest to protect them. She is considered untouched, unruined and unflowered. She is known as the sister of Krishna and incarnation of Kali. One can read The Cult of Draupadi Mythologies: From Gingee to Kurukshetra a classic book by Alt Hiltebeitel to know about the folk Goddess and rituals associated with her worship.
Both the women are not intimidated and frightened by the powerful men and stand strong and firm to counter the brutal violence on their body and soul.
Image: The Pandavas and Draupadi, from the Ravi Varma Press, c.1910