Source: The Mahabharata – Kisari Mohan Ganguli, https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/index.htm
The following episode is from the epic Mahabharata. It is from the volume on Vana Parva. The context is when the Pandavas along with their wife Draupadi, have been cunningly exiled by Duryodhana with the help of Shakuni, and are living in the forest for 12 years and one year of incognito. The incidence itself is dated to have occurred more than 5500 years ago. It is advised to keep in mind the norms of the time. It will be imprudent to compare them to today’s world and judge in today’s terms. It is good to understand that even though the world was quite different 5500 years ago, we see the underlying human aspects and values are fairly consistent to today’s world.
As the Pandavas with their queen Draupadi lived in Kamyaka forest, and were frequented by Rishis and Sadhus who consoled the Pandavas and spent time teaching the righteous way to live and to rule. One day, Krishna and his beloved wife Satyabhama visit the Pandavas and Draupadi at their hermitage in the forest. The men sat outside and inquired about the wellbeing of each other, laughed merrily and seated themselves at ease. Draupadi and Satyabhama entered the hermitage. With the hearts full of joy began to talk about delightful topics about their families. Then the beautiful Satyabhama, the daughter of Satrajita, then asked Draupadi the following questions out of curiosity, in private.
What is that behavior of yours by which you are able to control and rule the sons of Pandu? These Pandavas are all intelligent, good-looking and strong like the Lokapalas (also Dikpalakas – guardians of ten directions) themselves. Beautiful lady, how is it that they are always obedient and never angry with you. O’ Lady of lovely features, the Pandavas are ever submissive to you and are watchful for your command.
Tell me Draupadi, daughter of Drupada, the reason of this. Is it by practice of certain vows or asceticism, by homas and sadhanas, efficacy of science, the influence of youthful appearance, use of drugs or particular formulae? What is it please explain to me, dear princess Panchali of the Panchala kingdom?
Thus, hearing the celebrated Satyabhama, the chaste and blessed Draupadi answers to her questions as follows.
O’ Satyabhama, some of the practices mentioned are pursued by females of wicked intensions. These might be some of the tactics used against one’s enemy countries as we have heard from certain stories. How can I ever do such a thing to the justful Pandavas? When a husband learns about his wife’s addiction to incantations and drugs, from that hour all the love and trust between them will evaporate and the relationship will be troubled by fear. Such a person troubled with fear, will not be able to have peace and happiness in a family setting anymore. Actions such as these will result in negative karmic repercussions. I do not follow any of them.
A wife should never do the least injury to her husband. Hear me now O’ lovely lady, of the behavior I adopt towards the high-souled sons of Pandu. Keeping my vanity aside, controlling the desire, restraining jealousy and wrath, I serve the Pandavas with devotion of heart. I will not allow any degradation in the quality of the services I perform. I refrain from uttering false or evil words, look, sit or walk with impropriety. I do not cast glances indicative of the feelings of the heart, I serve the sons of Pritha (another name of Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas). My husbands are mighty warriors, blazing like Sun and fire, handsome as the moon, they are endued with fierce energy and prowess and capable of slaying their foes in the blink of an eye.
Be it celestial or man or Gandharva, young, wealthy, deck with ornaments, none else does my heart like. I never eat or sleep before them. I always wake up before them, setup things ready for their daily needs. If they are out and returning from the fields, forest or another town, I hastily get up and go greet them and offer seat and water. Be it a palace life or living in the forest, I keep the house and all household articles well-ordered and clean. Carefully I cook and serve them food at the proper time.
I never indulge in angry and fretful conversations, never follow wicked mind. I am always engaged in some activity and do not stay idle. I do not stand by the gate longer than necessary. I never stay long in places for answering calls of nature, nor in pleasure gardens by the house. I always refrain from laughing loudly, except at a jest, or indulging in high passion or anything that gives offense to others.
Indeed, dear Satyabhama, I have engaged in waiting upon my lords. A separation from them is never agreeable to me. When my husband leave home for a long duration, I go devoid of personal pleasures of fragrance paste and flowers, but absorb in penances. Whatever my husband does not eat, do not drink or do not enjoy, I renounce it as well. Controlled by the instructions imparted to me, I always seek the good of my lord. The duties taught by my mother-in-law and the great sages, of treating and respecting the family members and relatives, running the house, be it a palace or a small hut. I follow the duties of giving alms to the needy, offering worships to gods, of oblations to the diseased, boiling of food in pots to offer our ancestors, serving the guests of reverence and those who deserve our regards. I discharge all my duties day and night without idleness. Having humility at heart and approved rules, I serve my truthful lords ever observant of virtue. While eating, sleeping or other activities, I never act against the wishes of my husband.
O blessed Satyabhama, my husbands have become obedient to me in consequence of my diligence, humility, enthusiasm with which I serve the superiors. I never speak ill of my mother-in-law. Personally, I wait everyday with food, drink and clothes upon the revered and truthful Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas. Never do I show any preference for myself over her in matters of food or attire. I personally make sandal paste for Kunti, who is the princess daughter of Kunti Bhoj, whose heart is ever loving and forgiving as Earth herself.
Formerly, when my husband Yudhishthira ruled Indraprastha as an emperor, eight thousand brahmanas, well versed in the Vedas were regularly fed off from plates of gold. There were ten thousand sages or Yatis who were served their pure Sathvik food that enhances their meditation. Other guests of wealthy and royal background were served with luxury food along with singing and entertainment, served by maids who were well dressed with gold ornaments. I knew the names of each of the maids and their skills so as to appropriately assign work in appropriate areas.
During that time, Kunti’s son, ever observing the truth and the just ruled Indraprastha, had hundreds of elephants, thousands of horses and cows and the cow-herds, shepherds and attendants. It was I who regulated their numbers and allocated nourishment for the animals their caretakers of the royal establishment.
I alone, among the Pandavas knew the income and expenditure of the king and took account of the kings’ whole wealth. Those bulls among the Bharata race (Bharata-Rishabha), who had themselves managed different portfolio in the court had assigned to me the responsibility of the finances of the kingdom, which cannot be entrusted to people of evil heart. I used to bear day and night, sacrificing my ease, I managed their treasury thus, with affection and devotion. I have never fancied in making my husband obedient to me and never have I practiced the charms of the wicked.
Thus, hearing the words uttered by virtuous Krishnaa (another name for Draupadi-the most attractive one of a dark complexion), Satyabhama very respectfully reverenced Draupadi. Satyabhama says in a loving and affectionate voice, “O’ Princess of Panchala, I have been guilty, please forgive me dear Yagnaseni, born out of Yagna Fire. This conversation has arisen naturally among us friends and without premeditation”.
Draupadi smiled and continued, “I shall now indicate to you how to attract the heart of your husband free of deceit. By adopting it duly, you will be able to draw your husband Krishna’s attention towards you. When Krishna comes to your palace, get up from your seat, go to the door and welcome him, offer him seat, refreshments or anything else that he needs, understand his temper and take actions and care accordingly. Be cheerful and in a good mood, dress yourself handsomely with good clothes and ornaments, flowers and perfume. Do not talk negatively of other wives of Krishna. Adore Krishna with friendship and love. He is sure to reciprocate the same to you. Stay away from those who are hostile to Krishna. Even in excitement, conduct yourself with dignity even with your sons Pradyumna (Rukmini’s son) and Samba (Jambavati’s son). (Krishna had a total of 8 queens called Ashta-Bharyas. The queens were fond of all their children). Do ensure not to associate with women who are addicted to drinks, wrathful, wicked or fickle minded.
Then Keshava, lord Krishna who was conversing on various agreeable topics with the Pandavas and the other sages and brahmanas, led by Rishi Markhandeya, having bid them farewell, mounted his chariot and called for Satyabhama. Then Satyabhama embraced Draupadi and addressed her in these cordial words. O’ Panchali, let there be no anxiety, grief for thee! May you not have to pass sleepless nights anxiously, you along with the Pandavas will win back your kingdom that has been lost. O’ lady with beautiful eyes and auspicious features, people pious like you will not suffer misfortune for long. You shall all gain your lost kingdom and reign them soon as monarchs in peace.
Since the Pandavas started their life in the forest for 12 years, (Vana vasa), the 5 sons of Draupadi were sent to live with their maternal grandfather Drupada at Panchal Desha. The sons of Pandavas from Draupadi, also called as Upa-Pandavas frequently visited their aunt Subhadra, who was the wife of Arjuna and their son Abhimanyu at Dwarka. Subhadra being the sister of Krishna and Balram, lived at Dwarka while the Pandavas and Draupadi lived in the forest.
Satyabhama, who had recently seen the 5 sons of Draupadi at Dwarka, explains to her how they are growing up and how much they are adored. Satyabhama explains “Dear Draupadi, your son Prathivindhya from Yudhishthira, Sutasoma from Bhima, Srutakarma from Arjuna, Satanika from Nakula and Srutasena from Sahadeva are all doing well. They are all growing up to be handsome and have become skilled with weapons. They are all staying with Abhimanyu at Dwarawathi (Dwarka) delightfully. Subhadra looks after them with love and affection just like you, with much happiness. Rukmini, who is the mother of Pradyumna loves your children with her whole soul. The sons of Krishna and Balram watch over them with special affection. My mother-in-law Devaki, the mother of Krishna, loves to feed your sons with delicious meals and dress them up in expensive clothes. The Yadava clan consisting of Andhakas, Vrishnis along with Balram regard your sons with affection. O’ beautiful Panchali, everybody’s affection to your sons at Dwarka is equal to their affection to Pradyumna, our crown prince. Be happy with these thoughts of your children and do not worry”.
Having said these agreeable, truthful and cordial words, Satyabhama walked around the queen of the Pandavas with at most respect and reverence. With great satisfaction and smiles on their faces, Satyabhama bids farewell to Draupadi and mounts Krishna’s chariot. Then Krishna, the chief of the Yadavas, comforting Draupadi with his smile and bidding Pandavas with his wave, set out for his city of Dwarka, with swift horses yoked to his chariot.