Dhrishtadyumna (Sanskrit: धृष्टद्युम्न, dhṛṣṭadyumna, meaning "daring [and having] splendor" or similar), also known as Draupada, was the son of Drupada and brother of Draupadi and Shikhandi in the epic Mahabharata. He was the commander of the Pandava army during the Kurukshetra War. Dhrishtadyumna killed Drona, the royal guru, when he was meditating which was against the rules of engagement. Drona's son Ashwatthama, then killed Prince Dhrishtadyumna, on the 18th night of the war.
The king of Panchala, Drupada undertook a putrakami yagna, a sacrifice to please the gods and obtain offspring by their blessing. Drupada desired a son who could kill Guru Dronacharya, who had humiliated Drupada in battle and taken half his kingdom.
With the help of two saints (Maharishis Yaja and Upayaja), Drupada undertook the sacrifice. After his wife made the sacrificial offerings, Dhrishtadyumna emerged from the fire, a fully grown powerful young and armed man, together with his sister Draupadi. He already had martial and religious knowledge. Despite being younger than them, Dhristadyumna is appointed as the heir over his two siblings due to his heavenly parents.
Even though he was the prophesied killer of Drona, he was accepted as a student by Drona, and he learned advanced military arts.
In the war
When his sister Draupadi was won in an archery competition by a young Brahmin at her swayamvara, in front of all the princes and nobility, Dhrishtadyumna secretly followed the Brahmin and his sister, only to discover that the Brahmin was in fact Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers.
During the war, Dhrishtadyumna commands the Pandava army. On the 10th day of the war, he organizes the strategy which allows Arjuna and Krishna to confront Bhishma, bringing upon the latter his downfall. On the 11th day of the war, Dhristadyumna comes upon Bhima's charioteer with an empty chariot. Dhristadyumna is informed that Bhima had dismounted and entered the mass of the Kaurava army. Worried, Dhristadyumna beings to search for his in-law. Through his eyes, the reader can see all the carnage Bhima has wroth: elephants with their guts torn out, the carcasses of men torn everywhere, and a trail of blood that makes Dhristadyumna think he will never see "anything but red" in his dreams that night. Finally, he encounters Bhima, pin-cushioned with arrows, injured and bleeding, but ready for more. In awe, Dhristadyumna tends to Bhima and forces him to withdraw, fearful that if left unchecked, Bhima's blood-fury would doom the world.
The killing of Drona
At a point when Drona, as the Kuru commander was killing numbers of Pandava troops, Krishna advised Yudhisthira to adopt a plan to kill him. As it is known that as long as Drona has raised his weapons he is invincible to all other warriors, Krishna advised that it be proclaimed that Drona's son, Ashwathama had just died in the battle. It is known that out of the grief of such an eventuality, Drona will at least temporarily drop his arms.
Krishna justified this lie to Yudhisthira as necessary to the victory of morality in the war. As Yudhisthira hesitated, his brother Bhima killed an elephant in the Kuru army named Ashwathama and celebrated, shouting "Ashwathama is dead! Ashwathama is dead!".
Shocked with disbelief when the news reaches him, Drona sought out Yudhisthira to ascertain the news, believing that he would never speak a lie. Yudhisthira said "Ashwathama is dead but not your son; it is the elephant..." ( Sanskrit: Aśvatthāmā hatho hataḥ, अश्वत्थामा हतोहतः), but Lord Krishna asked the drummers to play their drums ( Sanskrit: naro vā kuñjaro vā, नरो वा, कुञ्जरो वा) such that Guru Drona could not listen to the last part of the sentence.
With Lord Krishna's plan a success; a now convinced, Drona laid down his arms and sat in meditation. Dhrishtadyumna took this opportunity, and beheaded him.
After the killing of Drona, Dhristadyumna was attacked by Arjuna, who was a devoted student of Drona, but was defended by Draupadi.
On the 18th night of the war, Ashwathama attacked the Pandava camp during the night, and killed Dhristadyumna. As Dhristadyumna begs for an honorable death, asking to die with a sword in his hand, Ashwathama ignores him, proceeding to beat and smother him to death.
In one of the many side-stories of the Mahabharatha, there is drama centered around the fact that Dhrishtadyumna, despite not being Drupada's eldest, is his heir. While Drupada and others give many reasons for this, it is implied that the real reason is because Dhristadyumna has a godly parent, and thus more coveted as a ruler since his rule would seem more blessed. Dhristadyumna somewhat internalizes this, looking down upon Satyajit's pacifism and Shikhandi's single-minded hatred of Bhisma. He makes a point out of never bowing to or respecting his siblings, never wanting to legitimize any claim to Panchala they might have.
However, during the war, Dhristadyumna changes. On the eve of the 10th day, Shikhandi reveals his past life to his brother. Horrified at Shikhandi's history, and now understanding his motivations, Dhristadyumna embraces his brother with new-found respect. After witnessing the massive carnage of the war, he begins empathizing with Satyajit's views and resolves to set things right with this reclusive brother.
Dhristadyumna is also juxtaposed with his older brother Satyajit. Handsome, a powerful warrior, and born of the gods, Dhristadyumna looks like he will be a great ruler compared to his quiet, baseborn, academic, and pacifist brother. But, at the end of the day, it is Dhristadyumna who lies died and Satyajit who ascends the throne, ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity in Panchala.
- "Positive thinking: Dhrishtadyumna". DNA. December 7, 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2012.