Narrator: We all have grown up on the vast, varied, and fascinating tales of the Mahabharata. The story is set in a time when the lives of men and gods still intersected, a time so ancient it is unbelievable yet, it’s teachings echo in our daily lives. This piece is an complex web of history, mythology and literature that each person encounters relatively young. But we aren't going to bore you with a story you already know. We want to show you what we felt was missing. Through the Mahabharata, the portrayals of women left us unsatisfied. There was no female voice. We wanted uncover the story that lay invisible between the lines of the men’s exploits. Better still, we wanted to have one of them tell it herself, in the unique female way in which she sees her world and her place in it. And who could be better suited for this than Panchaali? It is her life, her voice, her questions, and her vision that we invite you into in Panchaali.
As the word Panchaali is said, the shlokas start in the back ground. They slowly get louder.
There is a havan setting. There are around six pandits and King Drupad sitting around a fire.
The six pandits are chanting in rhythm.
Drupad gets up and pours ghee in the fire.
Drupad: I am King Drupad, ruler of Panchaal, one of the richest kingdoms in the continent of Bharat. We have been praying for thirty days, — fasting too. I want my son.
The flames rise. Dhristadyumna steps out.
A heavenly voice: Here is the son you asked for. He’ll bring you the vengeance you desire.
Drupud gets up and embraces him with tears in his eyes.
People begin cheering and chattering.
The flames rise. Draupadi steps out.
A heavenly voice: Behold, we give you this girl, a gift beyond what you asked for. Take good care of her, for she will change the course of history.
Draupad slowly walks towards Draupadi and Dhristadymna, both of who are holding hands. He opens his arms, for only Dhri. But they don't move. He picks them both up.
He holds both Draupadi and Dhristadymna in his arms.
Drupad: (To Dhri) I name you Dhristadyumna, Destroyer of Enemies
Drupad: (To Draupadi) I name you Draupadi, Daughter of Drupad
People begin whispering
A voice: To Draupadi, here is a warning; Three dangerous moments will come to you. The first will be just before your wedding: at that time, hold back your question. The second will be when your husbands are at the height of their power: at this time hold back your laughter. The third will be when you’re shamed as you’d never imagined possible: at that time hold back your curse.
Let it echo, and blackout.
Draupadi: He hesitated. When he opened his arms, it was clear they were only for my brother. It was only my brother he meant to raise up to show to his people. Only my brother that he wanted. I didn’t forget that hesitation, even though in the years that followed King Drupad was careful to fulfill his fatherly duty and provide me with everything he believed a princess should have. In his own harsh and obsessive way, he was generous, maybe even indulgent. But I couldn’t forgive him that initial rejection. My attendants were trained to speak in elaborate flatteries. My father’s wives avoided me.
Draupadi walks in center stage. Spot light is on her.
Women are chattering and laughing and talking
Draupadi stops looking down, tilts her head up and smiles. She walks out of the spotlight as the light now covers the whole stage.The laughter dies down, she tries to talk to them, but they speak stiffly, briefly and don't meet her eyes. Drupad’s queens are also there. Draupadi approaches them and bows.
Sulochana, Drupad’s youngest and most beautiful queens is standing with her hands tightly clutching her child. The child runs towards Draupadi to play, Draupadi picks her up in her lap but before she can say a word, Sulochana snatches her child away and slaps her so hard that she bursts into tears
The slap echoes into silence.
Sulochana: I am sorry I am not feeling to well. I wish to retire to my chambers.
Draupadi nods, she close to tears.
Everyone else also leaves.
Draupadi and Dhai ma are on the stage, spotlight is on them. Draupadi is crying in the middle of the stage. Dhai ma is standing next to her.
Draupadi: What did I do wrong, Dhai Ma? Why do they hate me?
Dhai Ma: You did fine. Ignorant cows! They’re just scared of you.
Draupadi: Of me? Why?
Dhai Ma: The world consists of people like Sulochana, who can’t see beyond their little lives of mundane joys and sorrows. They suspect anything that fell outside the boundaries of custom. They could, perhaps, accept men like Dhri who are divinely born, to fulfill a destiny shaped by the gods. But women? Especially women who might bring change, the way a storm brings the destruction of lightning? All your life, they will shun you. But the next time, you must be prepared. Promise me Draupadi, you must prepare.
Draupadi is standing in the middle of the stage as she was before. During the blackout only Dhai Ma left.
There is chaos, a few maids run here and there.
He approaches Draupadi and touches her cheek. She is confused.
Sikhandi: Little sister, I thank you from the depth of my soul for what you’ll do for me.
Draupadi: Who are you?
Sikhandi: I was our father’s eldest daughter.
Draupadi: But you’re a… a man!
Sikhandi: A mistake of my childhood has thrust me into a role I must play.
Draupadi: You too have a role?
Sikhandi: Oh yes, I must kill the greatest warrior of our time and for that I had to be a man, determined to do on my own what no man dared do for me. Remember that, little sister: wait for a man to avenge your honor, and you’ll wait forever.
Draupadi: But why did you just thank me?
Sikhandi: I thanked you because you’ll help me fulfill my destiny.
Sikhandi: You’ll bring about the Great War where I’ll meet Bheeshma and kill him. But I should have begged your pardon instead for all the humiliation you’ll suffer before the war, and all the sorrow afterward. And much of this you’ll endure, sister, because your destiny is linked with mine.
Krishna, Dhri and Draupadi are sitting.
Draupadi: Krishna, why does my father allow you to visit me freely when he has kept me segregated from other men and women? Why does he let you stay but not Sikhandi?
Krishna: You shouldn't worry about this. Your swayamvar is coming, have you decided on anyone?
Draupadi: You are acting as if it is my choice. Father has constructed an impossible test, and I am merely a prize waiting to be given away.
Dhri: No Draupadi.. It’s noth—
Draupadi:(To Dhri) We’re nothing but pawns for King Drupad to sacrifice when it’s most to his advantage. At least I’m just going to be married off. You—he’s willing to push you to your death just so he can have his revenge.
Dhri looks hurt.
Krishna: But Draupadi, aren’t we all pawns in the hands of Time, the greatest player of them all? Aren’t we all born with a certain path, a prophecy you would say, to follow?
Draupadi:(Quietly) Do you think that a princess afflicted with a skin so dark that people termed it blue is capable of changing history?
Krishna: A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself.
Dhri: Before the wedding, there is to be a test of skill. The king who won it is the one my sister will garland. But it’s not an ordinary test. You must pierce a fish made of metal, revolving high on the ceiling of the wedding hall. However, you can’t look directly at the target but only at its reflection in a pool of whirling water. You must shoot five arrows through a tiny hole in a shield to hit the target, but you can't they use your own weapons. You must use the Kindhara, the heaviest bow in existence. Let the games begin.
Three kings stand in three different positions on the stage.
A spotlight shines on the first king. He tries to pick the bow up but fails because it is too heavy. The spotlight stops.
A spotlight shines on the second king. He picks up the bow with great pain but can’t string it. The spotlight stops.
A spotlight shines on the third king. He struggles to pick up the bow and barely strings it and as he poses, the arrow falls from its position. The spotlight stops.
Karna comes to the platform. He picks up the bow with ease and strings it and then aims but before he leaves the bow, Dhri stands up.
Dhri: Renowned though you are for your skill, Karna, my sister cannot have as her suitor a man of a low caste. Therefore I humbly request you to return to your seat.
Karna: Who dares stop me?
Dhri gets sword and rises
Draupadi: Before you attempt to win my hand, king of Anga, it said, tell me your father’s name.
Silence as HOLD BACK YOUR QUESTION echoes
Karna leaves shamefully.
A brahmin comes up (Arjuna in disguise during his exile).
He picks up the bow and strings it with ease and aims. He is able to pierce the eye of the fish in the first go.
Draupadi places the garland around his neck.
Arjun and his new bride enter the hut, where Kunti is cooking food, facing away from the door.
Arjun: Ma, come and see what I’ve brought home today.
Kunti: Son, I can’t come right now or the food will burn. But as always, whatever you brought should be shared equally amongst all my sons.
Kunti turned in horror to find that it is not food but a woman. She regains her composure.
Kunti: All through my life—even in the hardest of times—everything I said, I made sure it was done. I told myself I’d bring you up as princes in the halls of your forefathers, and no matter how much harassment I faced, I held on to my promise. Sons, if you value what I did for you, you must now honor my word. All five of you must marry this woman.
Freeze on their expressions
Dhai Ma comes in.
Dhai Ma (voiceover as each brother gets married to Draupadi ): Why, in the years of history, I’ve never heard of a woman with more than one husband! You know what our shastras call women who’ve been with more than one man, don’t you? A slut. Though no one seems to have a problem when men sleep with a different wife each day of the week! And why didn’t Arjun speak up in your defense? How did he let his wife be split amongst his brothers, as if your were not his newly wedded wife but a parcel of food brought home. Should you be denied a happy marriage with then who rightly won you at your swayumvar? But probably the worst thing is that not even once did anyone ask you if you wanted this marriage. If you wanted five husbands. This is not enact of love or duty, but one of cruelty.
Show that each brother getting married to Draupadi during the monologue.
Draupadi (Voiceover): The Pandavas came out of hiding to claim what was rightfully theirs and finally received five villages of Hastinapur, where they erected a palace. There were corridors lighted only by the glow of gems, and assembly halls so filled with flowering trees. Almost every room had a pool with scented water. We bumped into walls built of crystal so clear that they were transparent, or tried vainly to open windows that were painted on. Several times we stepped into pools that were disguised as stretches of marble floor. We called it the Palace of Illusions. However, it came with a warning: Live in the palace. Enjoy. But not invite anyone to come see. But of course we didn’t listen. We called everyone.
All the Pandavas, Kauravas, Palace courtesans are on stage.
Duryodhana falls into a pool of water illusioned as a tile and Draupadi laughs while the audience remains silent.
Silence as HOLD BACK YOUR LAUGHTER echoes
Draupadi’s laughter is heard echoing.
Draupadi: It seems the blind king’s son is also blind!
Draupadi: Enraged by the insult, and jealous at seeing the wealth of the Pandavas, Duryodhana decides to host a dice-game at Shakuni's suggestion.
Draupadi standing in the doorway watching the scene unfold
With each dice a spotlight goes off on the person he gambles away. The brothers are in a line, lights go off on them and even Draupadi at the end
Draupadi (During Blackout): But I asked everyone a single question: Is it not true that once Yudhisthir was Duryodhan’s property, he had no right to wager me? But no one listened.
Dushasaan pulls her by her hair. She screams.
Draupadi: (To the Pandavas) Was it not in your vows to protect me? How can you see me be plundered like this. How? (To Bheeshma) Had you not called me your dearest granddaughter? Had you not shared with me tender confidences that you kept from others? How can you see me and not do anything? (To Gandhari) Will you let your son do this to another woman? Will you not stop him? Do you not understand my pain? Can no one understand my pain?
Each to them bow their head after being referred to.
Draupadi breaks down and cries. Her cries fill the room. Duryodhan laughs and pats his thigh to signal she come and sit on his lap.
Duryodhan (while laughing): Remove the Pandavas’ fancy clothes and jewelry. All of that belongs to us now!
They take it all off.
Duryodhan: Why should Draupadi be treated any differently? Take her clothes, too.
Dushasaan clutches her sari and begins pulling. Everyone freezes.
Other people all over the room start screaming for help.
They start telling stories about what happened to them.
Draupadi walks away from her de-robing.
Fade begins. Only a spotlight remains on Draupadi.
Silence as HOLD BACK YOUR CURSE echoes
Draupadi: Not all woman have a Krishna to save them; not all have five husbands to avenge them. The men, they need to understand. We need to make them understand. Today, I shall not curse the Kauravas, but those who think that they can do this to a person and get away with it.
A spotlight shines on Durga with her spear aimed at the man and the man is shielding himself while he is standing.
A second spotlight shines on Durga with her spear aimed at the man and the man is shielding himself while he is kneeling.
A third spotlight shines on Durga hovering above a man with her spear pointed on his face and her foot on his chest as he is on the floor.
All this happens continuously.
Draupadi: Just because we are woman, does not mean we can be treated this way. Just because we are woman, does not mean we are scared. Just because we are woman, it does not mean we won’t fight back.