Draupadi Instructs Satyabhama

K.M. Ganguli Mahabharata Vana Parva Chapter 231

Vaisampayana said, “After those brahmanas and the illustrious sons of Pandu took their seats, Draupadi and Satyabhama entered the hermitage. With joyful hearts the two ladies laughed merrily and comfortably seated themselves. O king, those ladies, who always spoke sweetly to each other, having met after a long time, began to speak about various delightful topics arising from the histories of the Kurus and the Yadus. In private, the slender-waisted Satyabhama, the favorite wife of Krishna and daughter of Satrajit, asked Draupadi these questions. ‘By what behaviour, O daughter of Drupada, are you able to rule the sons of Pandu, who are heroes possessing strength and beauty like the demigods themselves? Beautiful lady, how is it that they are so obedient and are never angry with you? Without a doubt they are ever submissive and watchful to do your bidding! Tell me, O lady, the reason for this. Is it the practice of vows and asceticism? Is it incantations and drugs? Is it the power of science or the influence of your youthful appearance? Is it the recitation of specific mantras, the Homa, collyrium or other medicines? Tell me immediately, O princess of Panchala, what that blessed and auspicious thing is by which I may likewise make Krishna obedient and submissive to me.’

After Satyabhama posed these questions, the chaste and blessed daughter of Drupada responded. ‘O Satyabhama, you are asking me about the practices of wicked women. How can I answer or speak about the objectives of such wicked females? It doesn’t become you to ask such questions or to doubt me by thinking that I have resorted to such behaviour. You are intelligent and Krishna’s favorite wife. You should know better. From the moment a husband learns that his wife is addicted to incantations and drugs, he begins to dread her like a snake hidden in his bedroom. Can a man troubled by fear have peace? And can one without peace have happiness? A husband should never be made obedient by his wife’s incantations.

We hear of painful diseases transmitted by enemies. They who desire to kill another send gifts laced in poison so that the man who contacts such lethal powders by tongue or skin is quickly deprived of life. Women have sometimes caused dropsy and leprosy, decrepitude and impotence, idiocy, blindness and deafness in men. These wicked women, ever treading the path of sin, at times likewise injure their husbands. But the wife should never do the least injury to her lord. Hear now, O illustrious lady, of the behaviour I adopt toward pleasing the high-souled sons of Pandu. Keeping aside vanity and controlling desire and anger, I always serve with devotion my husbands and their other wives. I wait upon them with a deep devotion of the heart, by restraining jealousy and relinquishing any sense of degradation or humiliation that may arise due to the services I perform. My husbands, the sons of Prtha, handsome like the moon, are mighty warriors that blaze like the sun or fire. They are endued with fierce energy and prowess and are capable of slaying their foes with a mere glance of the eye. I serve them ever fearing to utter what is false or evil or to look, sit or walk with impropriety, or to cast glances indicting any misgivings in my heart.

My heart is not attracted to any other, be they celestial, man, Gandharva, young, decked with ornaments, wealthy or comely. I never bathe, eat or sleep until my husbands and their attendants have done so. Whether they are returning from the field, the forest or the town, I hastily rise up and honor my husbands with water and a sitting place. I always keep the house, the household articles and the food well ordered and clean. I carefully store the rice and serve the food at the proper time. I never use angry or fretful speech and I never imitate wicked women. I always do what is agreeable to them and I am never idle. I never laugh except at a joke and I never stay at the house-gate for any length of time. I never stay for long in places for answering the calls of nature or in pleasure-gardens attached to the house. I always refrain from laughing loudly and indulging in high passion and from anything that may give offense. Indeed, O Satyabhama, I am always engaged in waiting upon my lords.

I find separation from my husbands to be something extremely disagreeable. When they leave home for the sake of any relative, I renounce flowers and fragrant pastes of every kind and I begin to undergo penances. Whatever drink, food or enjoyment my husbands reject or dislike, I also reject and dislike. I always devoutly seek the good of my lords. I always discharge without idleness of any kind those duties my mother-in-law imparted to me and all else that is known to me. Those duties are with respect to relatives, alms-giving, offering worship to the gods, oblations to the diseased, boiling food in pots on auspicious days to be offered to ancestors and guests and service to deserving persons.

In a fully humble state of mind and observing the approved rules and regulations, I serve my meek and truthful lords who are themselves ever observant of virtue considering them poisonous snakes that are capable of being easily excited. Such behaviour, which is based upon regard for the husband, is the eternal virtue for women. The husband is the wife’s god and he is her refuge. Indeed, there is no other refuge for her. How then can the wife do the least injury to her lord? In sleeping, eating or adorning myself, I never act against the wishes of my lords. Always guided by my husbands, I never speak ill about my mother-in-law.

O blessed lady, my husbands have become obedient to me because of my diligence, alacrity, and humility with which I serve superiors. Every day, I personally wait upon the revered and truthful Kunti, that mother of heroes, with food, drink and clothes. I never show any preference for myself over her in matters of food and dress. And I never verbally reprove that princess equal to the earth herself in forgiveness.

Formerly, eight thousand brahmanas were fed daily in the palace of Yudhisthira off plates of gold. Yudhisthira entertained Eighty thousand additional grhastha brahmanas of the Snataka sect. There were thirty serving maids assigned to each of them. In addition, ten thousand sannyasis had their food carried to them on plates of gold. All these brahmanas were duly worshiped by me with food, drink and clothing taken from stores, only after having offered a portion to the Supreme Lord.

The illustrious son of Kunti had a hundred thousand serving maids with arm bracelets, golden neck ornaments, costly garlands, wreaths, gold and sprinkled with sandalwood paste. Adorned with jewels and gold, they were all skilled in singing and dancing. I knew the names and features of all those girls and also what they were, what they are, and what they did not.

Kunti’s son of great intelligence also had a hundred thousand maidservants who daily used to feed guests with plates of gold. While Yudhisthira lived in Indraprastha, a hundred thousand horses and a hundred thousand elephants used to follow his procession; these were the possessions of Yudhisthira while he ruled the earth. It was I, however, who regulated them and established the rules to be observed by them. And it was I who had to listen to all complaints about them. Indeed, I knew everything about what the maidservants and other classes of attendants of the palace, the cowherds and the shepherds of the royal establishment did or did not do.

It was I alone amongst the Pandavas who knew the income and expenditure of the king and the extent of their wealth. Those bulls among the Bharatas, assigning to me the burden of looking after all those that were to be fed by them, would pay their court to me. This load was extremely heavy and would have been incapable of being born by persons of evil heart. I used to bear it day and night, sacrificing my ease and all the while affectionately devoted to them. While my husbands were engaged in the pursuit of virtue, I alone supervised their inexhaustible treasury, which resembled that of Varuna. I used to serve the Kuru princes day and night, bearing hunger and thirst so that my nights and days were the same to me. I used to be the first to wake up and the last to go to bed. This, O Satyabhama, is the charm that has made my husbands obedient to me. Never have I practiced the charms of wicked women nor do I ever wish to practice them.’

Vaisampayana continued, “Hearing Draupadi’s virtuous words, Satyabhama, having first reverenced the virtuous princess answered saying, ‘O princess of Pancala, O daughter of Yajnasena, I am guilty. Please forgive me! Among friends, conversations in jest arise naturally and without premeditation.’

Mahabharata Vana Parva Chapter 232

Draupadi said, ‘I shall now tell you how to attract the heart of your husband without the use deceitful means. By adopting such a method, dear friend, you will be able to draw away your lord from other females. In all the worlds, including that of the celestial beings, there is no god equal to the husband. When he is gratified with you, you may receive from him every object of desire; when he is angry, all these are lost. It is from her husband that the wife obtains offspring and various articles of enjoyment. It is your husband that provides you with handsome beds and seats, robes and garlands, perfumes, great fame and heaven itself.

One cannot obtain happiness in this world easily. Indeed, the woman that is chaste obtains happiness along with distress. Always adore Krishna with friendship and willingly accept any physical inconveniences or sufferings. By offering beautiful seats and excellent garlands and by providing Him with various perfumes and prompt service, act in such a way that He will become devoted to you thinking “I am truly loved by her!’ When you hear the voice of your lord at the gate, rise up from your seat and wait in readiness within the room. And as soon as you see Him enter your chamber, worship Him by promptly offering Him a seat and water to wash His feet. When He commands a maidservant to do anything, get up and do it yourself. Let Krishna understand this temper of your mind and let Him know that you adore Him with all your heart.

O Satyabhama, whatever your husband speaks in your presence, do not blab of it even if you think it doesn’t deserve to be concealed, for if any of your co-wives were to speak on that matter with Vasudeva, He might get irritated with you. Feed those that are dear and devoted to your lord and always seek His good. You should always keep yourself aloof from those that are hostile against your lord, those that seek to injure Him and those that are addicted to deceit. Forgo all excitement and carelessness in the presence of men, conceal your inclinations by observing silence and do not converse or associate in private even with your sons Pradyumna and Samba.

You should form friendships only with highborn and sinless females who are devoted to their lords and you should always avoid the association of wrathful women who are addicted to drink, who are gluttonous, thievish, wicked and fickle. Such behaviour is reputable and leads to prosperity. Not only is it capable of neutralizing hostility, but it also leads to heaven. Therefore, worship your husband by adorning yourself in costly garlands and ornaments and smear your body with ointments and excellent perfumes.’

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