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Nalayani – The Previous Birth Of Draupadi

The previous birth of Draupadi, Nalayani is a character in a sub-narrative in the Mahabharata (Adi Parva Chapter 195 – 196). Her story provides the explanation as to how and why Draupadi became destined to get married to the five Pandava brothers.

The young and beautiful Nalayani was the chaste and dutiful wife of the aged, decrepit and leprous sage Maudgalya, who was otherwise highly meritorious.

Once it so happened that a bit of his leprous finger broke and fell into his dish. Nalayani ate the food from his dishes as usual, of course after removing the finger. The sage was astounded at her devotion to him and asked her what she wished for.

She desired to lead an amorous life with him in five bodies. Sage Maudgalya granted her wish. In this wake, the couple sported taking different forms, such as man-woman, mountain-river, tree-creeper and so on.

When the sage got tired of that life, he reverted to penance, but Nalayani wanted to continue the amorous life.

At this, the sage got angry and cursed her to be born as the daughter of the Panchala king, when she would have satiation in amorous sports through her five husbands.

For the alleviation of the grossness of the curse, she performed severe penance. Shiva granted her the boon that her five future husbands would be from a noble family and would be good-natured. Moreover, she would retain her virginity when she resorted to each of them by turn, stipulated after marriage.

Shiva also asked her to go to the Ganga River and take the handsome person who would come there. She went to Ganga and waited there, shedding tears.

At that time, the devas were performing a ritual at Naimisharanya. Lord Dharma (Yama) was one of the performers of the ritual. Since he had not been attending to his duties of Lord of death, nobody was dying and the population was multiplying. At this, the gods were worried and informed Vishnu. One of the gods, Indra, who had attended the ritual, was strolling on the river bank when he saw golden flowers floating down the river. His curiosity was aroused and he went up the river to trace their origin. He saw a beautiful lady shedding tears, which were transformed into flowers.

 When asked why she was weeping, she took him to Shiva. He in turn took both to a caver where four more Indras were waiting. He told Nalayani that those five gods would be her husbands in her next birth. He asked the five Indras to go down to the earth and lighten the increasing population of the evil people there. Then all the five Indras went to Vishnu asking for help in their mission. Vishnu pulled out two hairs from his body, one black and the other white. From the black hair was born Krishna and from the white his brother Balarama, and both were to be of help in exterminating the evil living beings on earth. This mission was accomplished during the Kurukshetra War in the Mahabharata.

Nalayani was born as Draupadi in her next birth and she became the wife of the five Pandava brothers.