Draupadi and Kunti with the Pandavas
India, Punjab Hills, Kangra, ca. 1800. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Lent by a private collection.

This painting from a manuscript of the Mahabharata epic illustrates an early episode in which the five Pandava brothers, disguised as Brahmin ascetics, have won an archery contest by which they secure the lovely Draupadi as bride and bring her to their mother. Several episodes are depicted on this page in a series of vignettes in which the characters appear repeatedly to indicate the passage of time. Draupadi's independence and fearless spirit, evident throughout the period, is a product of her upbringing as a warrior's daughter.

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Draupadi and Kunti with the Pandavas

We see Draupadi, the Pandavas, and their mother, Kunti, eating a meal; then their figures are repeated as they lie down to sleep. Draupadi's brother eavesdrops on their nighttime conversation to ascertain the identity of the ascetics. He then hastens back to report to his father to stop worrying about Draupadi, because the ascetics are indeed princes in disguise. It is quite naturally important that the daughter of a monarch be married to one of royal blood.