King Drupada may have been a minor character the Mahabharata. However, the king who is largely absent from the main plotline plays an important role in bringing down two of the greatest Kaurava warriors.
If you’ve been following our stories from the Mahabharata you will likely know the tale of Drupada, who made the mistake of angering his childhood friend Drona and turned him away from his court. In revenge Drona got his pupils, the Kuaravas and Pandavas to attack his kingdom. Drupada was bound and gagged and presented before Drona who took away half his kingdom.
In order to seek revenge, Drupada performed a fire sacrifice seeking blessings from the gods. From the fire were born two of his children – Draupadi who went on to marry Arjuna – and Dhrishtadyumna, a warrior well-versed in all weapons. When the gory Kurukshetra war breaks out, Drupada and his family side with the Pandavas. Meanwhile, Drona, who’s fighting on the opposite side, is wreaking havoc among the Pandava ranks. Ultimately, Krishna realises that it’s impossible to defeat an armed Dronacharya so he urges Yudhishthira to speak a half-truth. Simultaneously, he instructs Bhima to kill an elephant named Ashwatthama from their stables and tell Drona that he’d killed Ashwatthama.
When Drona hears Bhima, he doesn’t believe a word and to confirm this goes to Yudhishthira whose charioteer is Dhrishtadyumna. Yudhishthira had earned a reputation for speaking the truth and so Drona believed that he could get the real story from the Pandava prince. Except, when Drona asks Yudhishthira if Ashwatthama was dead, he responds: ‘Ashwatthama is indeed dead’ in a loud and clear voice but adds softly ‘but I am not aware if it’s Ashwatthama the elephant or Ashwatthama the man’.
Drona is heartbroken and drops all his weapons. Seeking the opportunity, Dhrishtadyumna jumps out of the chariot and slays Dronacharya thus bringing down the greatest teacher in the country and one of the most important Kaurava warriors.
But Dhrishtadyumna wasn’t the only child of Drupada to kill a great Kaurava general. Just days before Drona’s death, another of Drupada’s child is responsible for the falling of another great warrior.
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Shikhandi who was said to be genderfluid is used as a shield by Arjuna to prevent Bhishma from attacking him. On seeing Shikhandi, Bhishma puts down his weapons since he had vowed to never fight a woman or anyone who was a woman and Arjuna fires a volley of arrows so as to create a bed for him before he ultimately dies.
Bhishma also recognises Shikhandi as Amba a princess he had wrong in her previous birth and who had sought revenge her entire life. Shiva grants Amba a boon due to which she’s born as Shikhandini, comes to be known as Shikhandi, and brings about the downfall of the greatest warrior of his generation.
It is thus that not one but two of Drupada’s children bring about the end of two of the greatest warriors in the Kaurava camp.