Neera Mishra is the founder, trustee, and chairperson of Draupadi dream trust. She is a social entrepreneur working for the last two decades for the revival of ancient Indian heritage with a special focus on places like Delhi or Indraprastha and Kampilya. Today, we are going to talk about Draupadi’s birthplace with her.
Kampilya – Birthplace of Draupadi
Anuradha Goyal – Neera Ji welcome to Detours.
Neera Misra – Namaskar, thank you for inviting me Anuradha.
Detours conversations with Neera Misra
Anuradha Goyal – So, today we are going to talk about the land of Draupadi, her birthplace. We know that Draupadi was the key Character in Mahabharata. She was the ‘Icchashakti’ in Mahabharata. We have heard about the place. We heard about Panchal. But we really do not know where is it located on the map of India? So, let’s begin by talking about where exactly is Kampilya located?
Neera Misra – Very very good question. Because beyond the Archaeologists, Scholars of Ancient India, Sanskrit scholars very few know where is Kampilya?
It is currently located in the district of Farrukhabad. Kampilya in ancient times was a Janpada in itself. It was a state in itself and its location as I said, is in the district of Farrukhabad. That it is about 300 KM’s from Delhi. We go via Agra highway then Agar, Tundla, Eta state road. From Kanpur, it is about 150 KM’s where you have to come to Farrukhabad, and then from the city, it is about 40 KM’s. From Lucknow, it is about 200 KM’s. It is on the banks of the river Ganga. So far as the geographical location is concerned it is this.
So, Draupadi also called Panchali which means she comes from Panchal. Now tell us if Kampilya and Panchal are the names of two regions or if one of them is a subset of the other or how are they related?
Panchal was the first political confederation of ancient India. Kuru and Panchal were one whole kingdom and Panchal people who were more into education and Vedic learning and more sophisticated and maybe into research they were not able to get along very well with the Kuru people so Panchal five tribes separated and they formed a confederation of 5 tribal areas and that was called the ‘Panch anchal or Panchal.’ Kampilya, being part of that and most ancient location of that area became the capital city of the Panchala Mahajanpada.
See, Panchal was a Janpada before it became a part of the Panchal. So once it became a confederation of Panchal it became the capital city of Panchala Mahajanpada. Mahajanpada is a larger state like Kuru was a Mahajanpada so one is a part of the other.
So, we do know that Draupadi was a daughter of Panchal and Kampilya but this place must have existed before that also. Do we know anything about the Pre- Mahabharat History of this region?
Yes, in fact, Kampilya is mentioned in our Ancient text as one of the ten oldest cities of our nation, of the Bharata or the larger Aryavarta area. It is considered as part of the ‘Nabhi of Prajapati’. We have a lot of physical remains of places that are linked to Pre-Mahabharata. I would start with Satyug or maybe I call it Vedic period. One of the oldest temples there which has mentioned in Yajurveda and the shloka, whenever we do havan or Grihpuja or anything starts with it.
So that time is there and that temple is considered the place where the Parvati when Shiva had cursed her during the time of Ganga after an incident had come there and she had done Tapasya. Draupadi is considered the reincarnation of Parvati. So one point of Pre-Mahabharata is Kampilvasini Mandir. After that there is Kapil Muni ka Kutiya and adjacent to it is another very significant temple of the Treta period which is called Rameshwar Temple, established by Shatrughan, brother of King Ram of Ayodhya and this he did after Ram returned from winning Lanka.
A lot of Sadhus and Rishis approach him, there are these danavs who are influencing badly and affecting their Havans. Kampilya area was a land of Vedic learning and Karmakanda. They used to do a lot of Yagya. So, Shatrughana was sent to fight and kill those danavs and on his way back from Mathura, it is also mentioned in Kampilya Mahatmay which is basically a dialogue between Vaishampayan and Parikshita that’s a time when Mathura was born. On his way back to Ayodhya, he comes to this very auspicious land and there he says that this is very important land and Shivlinga it is said that brought from Sri Lanka – Ashoka Vatika has been established over here.
So, this Mandir has one of the oldest Shivalinga. So, there are three very significant points, Kapil Muni, Mandir of Kapilvasini and this Tretayug temple. Of course, besides the Ganga which is you know how old it is
So, the Asur that you mentioned is Lavanasur?
Yes, it is Lavanasur
That is very interesting Neera Ji to know that though we know the places through Draupadi or Panchali – the place had existed way before her. She was the part of this continuum in the life of the holy place. Maybe the most popular or the most well-known one. But the place had existed before her and continued to exist after her. So let me bring back to the current time and ask you, today if we go there, what is it that we see from the Pre-Mahabharata Period?
From the Pre-Mahabharata Period, I have just told you we have these locations which are connecting to Tretayug, Satyug, and Itihasa. That period as I said it was the land of Vedic learning, it was the base of the Upanishad, so you will get an ambiance of knowledge over there. Besides that, it is also the place where the ‘Charaka Samhita’ – the book of Ayurveda. So you will get a lot of people practicing Ayurveda over there. So these are the Pre Mahabharata.
Mahabharata era also very interesting points are there. Let’s start with the birth of Draupadi. Kampilya became famous as the birthplace of Draupadi. There is Draupadi Kund where the havan happened and adjacent to it there is a temple established by Draupadi. We all know her story that after her Swayamvar with Arjuna she was told to take 5 husbands and there was a big confusion over there.
There is a lot of dialogue that how she should take that. Lord Krishna brings this whole dialogue to an end by saying “At least remember your previous birth, you were Parvati and you are reborn as Draupadi. These 5 Pandavas are Shiva which was boon given by Shiva. So there is a temple called Kaleshwar Mandir. Normally traditionally it is interpreted as Kaleshwar meaning Draupadi accepts the 5 husbands and says “kaal ke aage jhukti hu aur mai Shiv ke panch roop ko grahan karti hu. (I bow before time and accept Shiva in the form of 5 Pandavas as my husband)”. So, we have these small little temples over there which have Chaumukhi Shiva’s representation.
The main Shivlinga is Yudhistir and 4 faces are other Pandavas. We have a small Brahma Temple. Within the holy place, we have Neempur where the Swayamvar ceremony happened. The state symbol of Uttar Pradesh – the fish revolving and there is bow and arrow comes from Matsyabhedan, showing dedication direction and determination.
When we talk of today’s Kampilya, the geography has shrunk to a Kasba as I would say. But in ancient times Kampilya was very widespread as I said it was Janpada. When we move from the place, little ahead of today’s town, within old area we had a temple called Mandavar temple. It is now in the city of Farrukhabad is called Pandav bag which is Pandava’s Temple.
There is a special Shiva Temple. There are these ghats, where there is Durvasha Rishi Ashram and Dhaum Rishi ka Ashram. Remember, Dhaum Rishi was the one who was the part of Pandavas. Rudian is where the Ganga is also flowing, where the Pandavas did tarpan to their parents while they were staying there. Interestingly there are two villages where you learn the story of Draupadi’s birth. It is said that her father wanted a Yoddha son. He prayed and went to the priest to do the Yajna so that brave son is born so there are Yoja and Upyoja, the most knowledgeable priest. There are two villages there currently, there is a very ancient temple, a 24 avatar Vishnu temple, 4½ feet which are also there so these are specifically linked to Mahabharata.
At Ekchakrapur, where also Bhim had stayed one night. There all these are in and around. Then we come to the post Mahabharata Period. We all know that whenever a place is famous for learning or political reasons, all the famous people of later generations visit, so Buddha came over here.
Buddha was fascinated by Kampilya and within the area, but as I said it has been shrunk, so now, we have a separate place called Sankhisa. There is an Ashoka pillar over there and it is said that Buddha acquired Swargya which means he got the knowledge which made him realize life beyond the earth. Because he was disturbed by those 4 incidents in his life and wanted to know what is life. That’s what inspired him to move into Tapasya in Gaya etc. Sankhisa is a very important Buddhist point where we have a lot of guest houses of countries that believe in Buddha.
ASI protected area
Like we have the Burmese, the Japanese houses. It’s an ASI protected area. In the modern time that is something very interesting, you would like to know internationally that Steve Jobs was a great fan of Neem Karori Baba. People have heard of Neem Karori Baba but few people know what was his place of origin. He is from Farrukhabad from this part. There is a station called Neem Karori Baba. Mughals came and right in front of the Draupadi Kund, there is a Mughal ghat made for the queens of Mughal kings. So that is is how everybody came and tried to keep some sort of remembrance for themselves.
Guru Nanak Dev
I am sure Guru Nanak Dev would also have visited because he literally visited every place in India?
Yes, we have a Gurudwara there. But I am not confident that he visited. I can find out of course. Before partition, Gandhi twice visited Kampilya. We have a beautiful museum in cantonment. There are 2 cantonments. There is a beautiful museum of Freedom Struggle. We have very ancient Shivlinga over there on the Ganga ghat.
Fatehgarh is basically the area of the secretariat. But Fatehgarh comes from the name of Fateh, which means they won the whole period of pre-partition. A lot of freedom struggle happened over there. Just like it happened in Meerut and all these places are marked. There are celebrations and so Ganga has a lot of importance in the life of any Sanatan Dharma.
In fact, I wanted to ask you about the festivals that are celebrated there. Are there any special festivals that are celebrated only in Kampilya?
Considering the importance of the place, even Alexander Cunningham had visited. A lot of documentation had started about its heritage and its importance. DM Shri Tripathi in 1978 started the first Kampilya Mahotsav. It celebrates the antiquity and culture of the place. Somehow it got transformed into the Farrukhabad festival. So now it is celebrated as the Farrukhabad festival. On the banks of Ganga and in the Draupadi Kund there is a Mela happening almost twice every year.
Ram Ganga Mela
There is a Ram Ganga Mela, in the month of January, where a lot of Rishis come over. Sadhus bank near on the banks of Ganga. During this Ganga Sagar also they celebrate, they call it Ganga Dusshera Mela. There are different festivals like Purnima ka Snan which is considered very auspicious. On that day you will not only find people going to Ganga but also come to the Kund. Unfortunately, though it is a Havan Kund. One very enterprising MP made it concrete and water got filled over there. This is about 25-30 years ago. People still consider it so holy that they go and take a dip over there.
India today when they were covering my walk over there, they covered that part women doing puja in Draupadi Kund. Kartik Mela is happening, Poornima ke din nahate hai. Kampilya is also considered as the place of 13th Jain Tirthankara. So besides Buddha, there is Tirthankara, Vimal Kumar Ji. There is the Shwetambar Temple and Digambar temple. They also celebrate lots of Jain Festivals where people come in busloads at this pooja. It’s a different version of Vedic pooja. Everything is an offshoot of Vedic culture.
So, Jains are celebrating, Buddhists are celebrating. Of course, the whole Sanatani Dharma is celebrating. All traditional festivals which are auspicious for Prayagraj or Kashi are equally auspicious there.
All this is very tempting, I really want to visit, but tell me practically speaking are there facilities for tourists to stay there? Are there hotels, accommodation, you know facilities to move around, people to show around the place?
In terms of accommodation that is boarding and lodging, there are two-three options you will get. If you want to go directly to the city of Farrukhabad and then take a drive down to different places then there are good hotels, reasonably good hotels, and reasonably priced hotels around Rs 1000- 1500, air-conditioned with backup. Of course, their facilities are not advanced. You see, here so you will have to tell them in advance’ ki bhai mere ko aaj dinner karna hai’. So he starts going to the market and buying your stuff. But they are good very well maintained otherwise.
If you want to go and stay then there are these Dharmshalas which are the Jain Dharamshala. Some of them have a few rooms with air conditioning with an attached bath, etc. But it should be preplanned. It should not coincide with their festivals otherwise it gets occupied. Then there is a guest house in tehsil Kaimganj. To reach the destination you have to come to this tehsil and then go to Kampilya, which also has few guesthouses. They are not hotels but reasonable with power backups and water is not a problem. Actually it’s a Doab area and very good water and a very fertile area.
It’s so rich in agriculture that you know when you go there during the period of November you don’t want to come back. If you go in December then also you don’t want to come back. There are so many vegetables and fruits to eat. The Ganga is there. So, staying is not a problem.
In terms of connectivity when we started to work there 2003 you won’t believe there was not even a broad gauge railway line. There was this Purana (old) meter gauge line. There were no roads, it used to take 10 hours for me to reach over there. So, the first thing we did we tied up with ITDC. We did a proper study on how to develop cultural tourism here and focus was on infrastructure development. Today roads are very good and today there is a broad gauge railway. So if you want to go by train you can take an overnight train it goes at 10 in the evening and reaches there in the city of Farrukhabad at about 6:30 AM.
Now there are also buses the sleeper Volvo buses traveling, so you can take that also. So, there are three ways of going you can go by your own vehicle. You can take a taxi or you can go by train, you can take a Volvo bus. Normal buses are running now. You won’t believe it when we started work there was not even a bus at the place. One of the first things people asked me ‘Madam bus service toh chalao’. So there is a bus starting from Kampilya every day and it takes you to tehsil and then you take your different buses. So now it’s pretty easy.
Draupadi Queen of Indraprastha
So let me bring you back to Draupadi we know she was the daughter of Kampilya, we know she was the first queen of Delhi, queen of Indraprastha but we don’t see a lot of temples dedicated to her or lot of her in the material world around us and I do remember you talking about Draupadi Kund. Are you aware of any Draupadi temple anywhere in the country?
Draupadi is also known as Panchali, the daughter of the Panchal kingdom. Not the wife of Panch people, but the daughter of Panchal kingdom. She is revered among the Panchkanya which are Sita, Ahilya, Taara, Mandodari, and Draupadi. Now unfortunately for over the last thousand years, there has been we know a political turmoil and invasions on India where a lot of destruction had happened. Fortunately for us, South India was saved and South India is full of temples of Draupadi. There is a Draupadi Amman temple I have visited, 5 temples in Chennai itself. One temple, they say almost 1500 years old they say but I think it is older.
There is a temple in Karnataka called the Dharmaraja temple. That temple celebrates Draupadi in April every year for 15 days. They call it the “Karaga” festival. Where they dress up as Draupadi and they dance for the whole night to remember and to worship. She was the Dharma she was the representation of the fight for dharma, the intellectual partner of Krishna who helped the Pandavas to reunite to establish the rule of dharma.
In Southeast Asia and Bali, you will find Draupadi being revered. There is a reunion island down the south absolute tip of India where they converted to Syrian Christians. But they still have a temple called Draupadi Amman temple and they sort of pray to her.
Coming back to Indraprastha it is very unfortunate that even in Purana Qila which is the Garh of Pandavas where she was the first queen of Indraprastha, there is no temple for her. There is a Kunti temple inside the Purana Qila. There is a Yogmaya temple in Mahrauli which is all a part of Indraprastha. Mehrauli is also linked to Shakti. Now the tradition says she was the sister of Krishna and Draupadi is also considered as the sister of Krishna. So I would personally call/think that Shaktipeeth Temple in Mehrauli was a dedication to Draupadi. Somehow over this turmoil of the political people, it has not been recognized as there has been no one to raise their voice or take it as a place of importance.
So, in Delhi, the only place that we have linked to Mahabharata for say is the place where Rajsuyayagya of Yudhisthri took place then the Pandava Qila area where Pandavas used to stay and this temple over there. Within the Purana Qila, there is a place in the east part of the Ishan Kon, remember there all the temples are in the east part which is also called Kilayi Kona. It is also a place of worship by another community. But if you minutely examine the pillars of that time they have all Hindu motives on it. Just like you see in the Qutub area that they were all Jain temples, all Hindu motifs.
Draupadi – Dharmic Woman
I have a feeling that it was the temple area of the Pandavas. But we need to now rework on it. The important thing is to recognize the importance of Draupadi, as the woman who sacrificed everything for the sake of establishing the Dharma. Especially the status of women. Do you know how she takes up the cudgels against the king in the Sabha that how can you treat a woman as an object? How can Yudhishthir pawn me, I am not a piece of property for him. She came from the land of Vedic learning. She was a very educated and highly Dharmic woman, morally upright. That’s why I think she could become the intellectual partner of Krishna.
It is time that Indraprastha also gives her due recognition. We will try we will revive the temples of Draupadi in Indraprastha.
This is so amazing that to hear Neera Ji that there is so much more that we need to know about Draupadi. So, I am going to wrap it up by asking you What is your personal connection with Draupadi? You have chosen to call your Trust as Draupadi dream trust. Please tell us more about it.
Draupadi’s birthplace is my ancestral place for many centuries. It is very difficult to say how many centuries. My father had to leave in 1947 for better pastures in Kolkata. So, I grew up in Kolkata but the cultural connect remains. I came to Delhi in 1994. Every time there is something some wedding happening or newborn birth so we have to go back to our Kuldevi that is Kampilvasini i.e Draupadi to do the pooja. So our connect remained and actually the land was also given to us by Shahjahan.
They recognized the knowledge of our family. One of my ancestors was a direct descendent there as Raj Kavi by Shahjahan. But my connection started in a very unusual way. I had a horrible car accident on Jaipur highway near Viratnagar. Remember the place where the Draupadi worked as a hairdresser to the queen of Virat. Two people saved me and they were those local villagers. For the 3 months, my face was broken, my legs were broken and I was completely bedridden.
The first thing that my parents told me was that we have to go back to your ancestors and do pooja as they have given you back your life because for 30 minutes I was unconscious on Jaipur highway. So, when I went back there, the moment I went to Draupadi Kund somehow, I don’t know what had happened. I just refused to move from there. Then and there I started writing about Draupadi.
I just started feeling that there is some energy there which is making me come back. Believe me, Anuradha I have grown with a life where going to villages is out of the way. I don’t even pick up a glass of water and you know you are the only daughter of your parent. There I was running to Kampilya every month. I don’t know what happened. My grandmother whose name was Ganga named me Thaneshwari. If you know Thaneshwar is the name of Kurukshetra. So there was this fighting spirit, I think. You know ancestors have better knowledge.
So, my connection with Draupadi happened somehow in very peculiar circumstances when I reconnected with her. It drew me so much that business I was doing, I closed that. Completely devoted myself to not only revive Draupadi’s status in our nation. But also reviving the history and culture of an era.
Our Vedas say if you want your daughter to be happy before her marriage educate her. That education will not enhance her personality to do good in life. But she will also add value to the family to which she is going. So, education was so important. Empowerment was so important. Swayamvar was so important. All these qualities that Draupadi represents liberated educated women.
I felt today we need this because so much fallacious history, fallacious information about our cultural heritage is disseminated so we need to do something. Draupadi is my icon actually. Because of this deep connection, I feel somehow there is something more than I can see. They say the heart has its reason which reason does not know.
Absolutely, I can see her energy flowing through you. I can see that genetic contact or you know Sthan energy flowing through you. I am sure it has a reason to flow, it has chosen you to flow through. So, Thank you so much Neera Ji. There are a lot of topics that we can discuss with you. Hopefully, you will come back in another episode on another topic. We wish you all the best and all the things that you do to bring Draupadi back into the land she once reigned from.
Neera Misra – Thank you so much Anuradha for this opportunity and whatever I can do to promote this whole idea of our Ancient India’s greatness and it will be my pleasure and blessings of Krishna.
Transcription by Harshil Gupta, and intern with IndiTales under IndiTales Internship Program.
Edited for this online publication.