Q: Black Draupadi?

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu
Mon Aug 25 15:20:14 UTC 1997

I like to apologize for not responding sooner.

David R. Israel <davidi at mail.wizard.net> wrote:

> Regarding Draupadi's polyandry, Vidhyanath Rao wrote:
> > And, of course, Dumezil had a very different explanation for this. I
> > have never seen any of those who claim that Draupadi's polyandry is
> > a sign primitivity to attempt to explain why Dumezil must be wrong.
> > I am not even sure that many of those even knew what Dumezil had to
> > say.
> I'm among those who don't know what Dumerzil had to say on this (or 
> any other) topic.  Might you care to share (in some summary form) the 
> view / interpretation / idea(s) in question?

The short, potentially misleading, answer to this particular question is
that prominent `senior' godesses are rare in IE traditions (except
Greek) but there is always one or two. Why this explanation matters for
Draupadi can only be answered by reading Dumezil in extenso.


The discussion about the historicity of Mahaabhaarata seems to be a fit
occassion for a question that has always intrigued me. The critical
edition puts two geneologies (in 1.89 and in 1.90), and van Buitenen's
notes say that there seems to be no way to reconcile the two. What I
don't understand is the presence of two very different versions and the
fact that the editor(s) did not feel capable of picking one as better
supported than the other. I do not have access to the edition itself
(only to Tokunaga's e-text; so call me a cheapskate :-) I will
appreciate if someone can summarize any comments the editor makes on
this point. Especially, any pointers to discussions of this in the
literature about historical interpretation of the Mahaabhaarata.

The really strange thing is the geneology just prior to Pratiipa. The
second one shows no strange pattern. But the first shows a break, which
Suktankar felt was unbridgable, just before Pratiipa. But the portion
prior to that has only two points in common with the second geneology:
(1) Ajamii.dha has a son Sa.mvarana, who married Tapatii and begot Kuru;
(2) Parik.sit has a son named Bhiimasena. But the second genelogy does
not mention any Janamejaya at this point, only much earlier, as a son of
Puuru and a long-removed ancestor of Du.s.santa and Bharata. Going back
to the first: It makes Parik.sit a son of Abhi.svat and grandson of Kuru
and a nephew of a Janamejaya (1.89.42--46). Among Parik.sit's seven
sons, it lists Bhimasena and Ugrasena (but not "Srutasena), names which
occur in Late Vedic texts with the patronymic Paarik.sita. To me it
seems that it mentions another Janamejaya as a son of Parik.sit, though
van Buitenen avoids saying so explicitly (1.89.47,48). It gives this
Janamejaya eight sons, among whom are Dh.rtaraa.s.tra, Paa.n.du and
Baahlika (1.89.49,50)! Dh.rtaraa.s.tra is credited with eight sons too,
including a Hastin (1.89.51). Now comes the break, after which it starts
anew with Pratiipa, Santanu etc.

This is all very intriguing. Unraveling this knot is obviously crucial
to any attempt to extract history from MBhr and attempts to connect the
Epic names to Vedic literature (Parik.sit and Janamejaya known to Vedic
literature are which ones? Pratiipa's ancestors or Abhimanyu's son and
grandson?). Surely there must some discussion of this in the literature.

Nath Rao (nathrao+ at osu.edu)		614-366-9341

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