[INDOLOGY] Draupadii and polyandry

Artur Karp karp at uw.edu.pl
Thu Oct 25 17:47:39 UTC 2018

Dear All,

A, perhaps, simplistic explanation for the unexpected textual appearance of
Draupadi’s polyandrous marriage - quite unknown to the earlier strata of
the epic.

To my mind – a bit of cultural politics, at work. Surrounding inclusions of
new economically important tribal territories in the realm of the 'Aryas'.

The need to show to its fresh members that they do belong – despite some of
their outlandish customs. The need to demonstrate that we, the 'Aryas',
also share them - the example of one of them, of polyandrous union, is
certainly to be found in our great epic. And, considering the status of its
participants, it is given a properly high prestige.

Regards, etc.,

Artur Karp (ret.)

Chair of South Asian Studies,

University of Warsaw


2018-10-25 13:51 GMT+02:00 Simon Brodbeck via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info>:

> Dear Professor Houben,
> In this connection there is a book by Sarva Daman Singh entitled *Polyandry
> in Ancient India* (Motilal Banarsidass, 1978). There are also some
> enthological comments on the last few pages of A. N. Jani’s paper
> (“Socio-Moral Implications of Draupadi’s Marriage to Five Husbands”) in
> Bimal Krishna Matilal, ed., *Moral Dilemmas in the Mahabharata* (Indian
> Institute of Advanced Study / Motilal Banarsidass, 1989).
> After the Pandavas have already decided they will all marry Draupadi, the
> link from this particular polyandric marriage to other such marriages is
> apparently made by Yudhishthira, in amongst a battery of other explanations
> for it, when he addresses Drupada at Mbh 1.187.28cd: *pUrveSAm
> AnupUrvyeNa yAtaM vartmAnuyAmahe* (“We follow one after the other the
> path that was travelled by the Ancient”, trans. van Buitenen). In context
> this is a general comment on what one can do given the subtlety of *
> dharma*: the previous line reads *sUkSmo dharmo mahArAja nAsya vidmo
> vayaM gatim* (“The law is subtle, great king, and we do not know its
> course”). But the comment can be taken to imply polyandric precedents.
> Drupada seems to deny that there are precedents (or at least respectable
> ones) when he says to Vyasa: *na cApy AcaritaH pUrvair ayaM dharmo
> mahAtmabhiH* (“Nor has this Law been practiced by the Ancient of great
> spirits”, Mbh 1.188.8ab). But Yudhishthira then gives the example (*zrUyate
> hi purANe 'pi*) of Jatila Gautami who “lay with the Seven Seers” (Mbh
> 1.188.14). Jatila as Draupadi’s precursor in this regard is mentioned also
> by the women of Hastinapura at Mbh 12.39.5. But this precursor is evidently
> in the realm of distant mythology, not the realm of contemporaneous
> practice.
> Simon Brodbeck
> Cardiff University
> *From:* INDOLOGY [mailto:indology-bounces at list.indology.info] *On Behalf
> Of *Jan E.M. Houben via INDOLOGY
> *Sent:* 24 October 2018 21:59
> *To:* Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
> *Subject:* [INDOLOGY] Draupadii and polyandry
> Dear All,
> According to the Vedic Index of A.A. Macdonell and A.B. Keith, vol. I p.
> 479, "polyandry is not Vedic" (with obligatory references to extremely
> sporadic exceptions such as in the RV "wedding hymn"). Then in the
> Mahabharata there is suddenly the major character of Draupadii/Krsnaa
> marrying all five Pandava brothers. I am aware of the two volumes of Alf
> Hiltebeitel which are an excellent ethnographic study of the Draupadii cult
> in South India. However, what are currently the most important philological
> studies of the background of this character and of polyandry itself in late
> Vedic, post Vedic and epic/Puranic texts? Apart from purely/mainly
> structuralist approaches (Biardeau), I would be interested in explorations
> of whether the problematic presence of polyandry in the Mahabharata and
> elsewhere may imply a reference to contemporaneous (Mahabharata time)
> practices (just as the reference to Nagas burnt in the Khandava forest was
> taken as more than just an element needed in the narrative: it would also
> have been a reference to forest tribes and conflicting modes of resource
> use acc. to Irawati Karve and to Gadgil & Guha).
> With best regards,
> Jan Houben
> --
> *Jan E.M. Houben*
> Directeur d'Études, Professor of South Asian History and Philology
> *Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite*
> École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE, PSL - Université Paris)
> *Sciences historiques et philologiques *
> 54, rue Saint-Jacques, CS 20525 – 75005 Paris
> *johannes.houben at ephe.sorbonne.fr <johannes.houben at ephe.sorbonne.fr>*
> *johannes.houben at ephe.psl.eu <johannes.houben at ephe.psl.eu>*
> *https://ephe-sorbonne.academia.edu/JanEMHouben
> <https://ephe-sorbonne.academia.edu/JanEMHouben>*
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