From the following excerpt of the Mahabharata, it is clear that Draupadi rejected Karna based on his tribe.

"And (some amongst) those kings in exerting with swelling lips each according to his strength, education, skill, and energy,--to string that bow, were tossed on the ground and lay perfectly motionless for some time. Their strength spent and their crowns and garlands loosened from their persons, they began to pant for breath and their ambition of winning that fair maiden was cooled. Tossed by that tough bow, and their garlands and bracelets and other ornaments disordered, they began to utter exclamations of woe. And that assemblage of monarchs, their hope of obtaining Krishna gone, looked sad and woeful. And beholding the plight of those monarchs, Karna that foremost of all wielders of the bow went to where the bow was, and quickly raising it strung it and placed the arrows on the string. And beholding the son of Surya--Karna of the Suta tribe--like unto fire, or Soma, or Surya himself, resolved to shoot the mark, those foremost of bowmen--the sons of Pandu--regarded the mark as already shot and brought down upon the ground. But seeing Karna, Draupadi loudly said, 'I will not select a Suta for my lord.' Then Karna, laughing in vexation and casting glance at the Sun, threw aside the bow already drawn to a circle.

It is the wish of Draupadi not to select anyone she doesn't want to marry. But I doubt that why she rejected Karna based on his tribe? Are there any supporting slokas from scriptures supporting Draupadi's decision of denying Karna based on his tribe?

  • 4
    What is the guarantee she should also follow that? Isn't it based on assumption? A woman had freewill on whom to select a husband and she still have that. Questioning her choice is an insult to her choice. Scriptures are there are for guiding us towards good path and not to dictate against our will. She didn't like Suta as his lord. There is a reason. What is there more to discuss? Why didn't she like Suta? There can be many reasons. Only she can tell. Who are we? Why are we questioning her decision? Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 8:02
  • 1
    If rejecting a particular tribe comes under free will and personal choice of a person without considering other factors, then it is an obviously irrational decision whatever reasons that person possesses.
    – hanugm
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 8:34
  • 1
    Atleast the statements provided by you like "Girl can go with freewill by rejecting particular tribes(not varnas)" is present somewhere, you can give as an answer. Obviously a gril can't go with freewill by avoiding varna. So it is not an absolute freewill that is followed in hinduism. Freewill also got restrictions. If it does not fall under such restrictions, then there will a reference to give as an answer.
    – hanugm
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 8:43
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    Again we are judging a person here. She has her reasons. Whether it's rational or irrational are not our thing to judge. Rejecting is her own will. If you don't like eating mango, I can't force you showing a rule from book that one should eat a mango. Why she rejected him is based on many conditions. We don't have such conditions now. We can't go into mind of Draupadi and answer it. It's a matter of consent. Even if we have shown some support from a book, how do you know that is the same as Draupadi thought? It will give rise to speculations. Women have/had free will. Some book can't stop it. Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 10:10
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    Then how hinduism is judging a person as incorrect if she do marry with higher varna person?
    – hanugm
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 10:24

3 Answers 3


According to the scriptures, the Pratiloma marriage, where the Varna of the wife is higher than that of the husband, is not considered as good.

See the following passage from Agni Purana:

An anuloma marriage is a marriage where the husband is from a higher class than the wife. The offspring of such a marriage belong to the mother’s class. A pratiloma marriage is a marriage where the wife is from a higher class than the husband. Chandalas were born this way from brahmana women, Sutas from kshatriya women, Devalas from vaishya women, Pukkashas from kshatriya women and Magadhas from vaishya women. Chandalas are executioners, Sutas charioteers, Devalas guards, Pukkashas hunters and Magadhas bards. Chandalas should live outside the villages and should not touch those belonging to any other class.

So, a Suta, who is born of such a proscribed marriage, is basically considered as out of the 4-caste system.

Similar verses from Manu Smriti:

10.11. From a Kshatriya by the daughter of a Brahmana is born (a son called) according to his caste (gati) a Suta; from a Vaisya by females of the royal and the Brahmana (castes) spring a Magadha and a Vaideha.

10.26. The Suta, the Vaidehaka, the Kandala, that lowest of mortals, the Magadha, he of the Kshattri caste (gati), and the Ayogava,

10.27. These six (Pratilomas) beget similar races (varna) on women of their own (caste), they (also) produce (the like) with females of their mother’s caste (gati), and with females (of) higher ones.

So, basically a Suta, a Chandala etc are not considered as persons of pure origin according to the scriptures.

As you can see that the Purana even states to consider the Suta as an outcaste and that he should live outside the village.

So, in a society, where people were strictly following such rules of Varnas, we can not blame a Kshatriya woman for not accepting a Suta man as her husband. It is quite natural and in accordance with scriptural rules as well.

Also note that Draupadi was not aware of the true story of Karna's birth and she knew him to be a Suta Putra only.

  • first quotation says "Sutas from kshatriya women", but then 2nd says "by the daughter of a Brahmana"..
    – ram
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 20:45
  • Yes that must be a silly mistake by the one who hv done the translation.. may be the error crept in while typing. @ram the 2nd one is error free.
    – Rickross
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 8:55
  • @Rickross Is it written in original Mahabharata? Answers to some other questions says this is interpolation.
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 19:01
  • hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/16148
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 19:02
  • hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/35654/…
    – Vikas
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 19:02

Short answer - Shastras do not recommend Kshatriya-woman marrying Suta-man. So she rejected him.

Loong answer (with points & counter-points):
According to public knowledge, Karna was a Suta-putra.. except Kunti none else knew his real birth as son of Surya deva with Kunti solely through use of Durvasa mantra (without any physical union).

Suta means charioteer. Charioteer's post is in between fighting (kshatriya's duty) and advising (brahamana's duty) - He must be strong enough to withstand arrows. He must also know the battlefield well enough to navigate it, his master's strengths/weakness as well as enemy's strengths/weakness in order to provide advice to both defend and attack. He need not be strong enough to hurl arrows, nor he have enough knowledge to actually teach his master how to shoot them.

So, the best qualified man for this job should have both kshatriya blood and brahmana blood mixed - Yes, DNA does imbibe traits in birth. Scientifically proven, at least in animals (Race-winning horses and fight-winning bulls are set out to stud/mate). Which means his father and mother must be of those 2 different varnas.

Now, going by common sense, one may argue that it can either be Brahmana-father + Kshatriya-mother, or other way Kshatriya-father + Brahamana-mother. But, that is not the case. A Brahmana's son usually won't have the necessary strength/valor to face arrows in battlefield, and his knowledge/penance are better suited to serve the country in other areas.

Now, going by shastras, the first type (Brahmana-father + Kshatriya-mother) is anuloma (recommended) according to shastra. Second type (Kshatriya-father + Brahamana-mother) is Pratiloma (not-recommended) according to shastra. The son born from this particular pratiloma combination is called Suta.

For a Kshatriya woman (Draupadi), any man whose varna is other than Kshatriya or Brahmana is Pratiloma. Since Karna was the son of a Suta, society thought and expected him to belong to same Suta varna. So she rejected him.

The different combinations of varna-sankara (mixing) and their progeny are given here : https://iskcondesiretree.com/profiles/blogs/types-of-marriages
(Note - this is not direct scripture, but it points to Manu Smriti. If anyone has direct link, feel free to edit)

Common folk might cry - 'But VALOR ALONE is important' - first of all, right after this swayamvara, everyone tried to fight Arjuna and lost, including Karna. He also lost to Arjuna during Virata battle. So, compared to Arjuna, he is not better. Secondly, if only valor was important, Ravana had super-valor, but do we praise him ? No, we burn his effigy even now couple days back at Ram Lila. So valor alone is not important.

Now the common folk will cry again 'These 2 points only show that Karna was not valorous enough and that Ravana's character was bad. But during swayamvara, Draupadi neither knew about Karna's valor nor his character, meaning she rejected him solely based on caste, without even giving him a chance'

These same common folk, when afflicted with a strange disease, will accept a medicine when given by a doctor, but will reject the same medicine if the man was a bank-clerk or police-constable. Ask them why they do so? Whatever reason they give, give the same reason back to them.

They will cry back 'Taking medicine is not same as Shooting rotating fish. Medicine from untrusted man involves risk to me. Whereas Karna shooting a random fish does not risk Draupadi. So she can safely check his valor without risk. Then she can check his character (Ravana's example). If both are good, then she can marry.'.

This is like saying 'Have lab-animals test the medicine without risk to you. Then check if there are any side-effects/allergies. If both are good, then take medicine'

Alright. How would you go about checking someone's character, or checking medicine's side-effects ? Live with him for a while like modern-day girlfriend. This is same as taking a little bit of the medicine. Both are out of question because of risk involved.

So we are left with - asking other people who we trust about the person and about the medicine. Now we reach the crux of the matter.

She did ask elders and trusted people and knowledge books and research papers and experts in the field (aka RISHIS). They all said, THERE WILL MOST LIKELY BE SIDE-EFFECTS. Marrying a SUTA-man is not recommended for KSHATRIYA-woman. Valor alone is NOT ENOUGH. Even if the valor existed for the period of the rotating-fish test, we don't know if it will last a lifetime. Same could be said for Arjuna, but character and Compatibility and Force of dynasty/blood-line are also important. Even if a person wanted to do a bad thing, the fear of bringing shame to the name of his long-chain of famous forefathers will prevent him doing it. This shame may not be there for a man who didn't have illustrious ancestry.

Why, even today, they set race-winning horses or bulls to stud, so that the DNA can propagate. Why not let a random horse or bull mate, and then check whether the calf can run/fight - depending ONLY on valor, not on birth? Because they don't wan't to risk it. And even if the horse/bull could fight, we don't know how long it might last.

Because Birth is tied very closely with valor, character, demeanor, compatibility etc. - all points that even a modern day bride looks for in a man. If a person has just one aspect, but you can't be sure of all, then you likely won't risk it.

Valor alone is not enough. Valor displayed in a tournament alone is not enough. Arjuna already had the victory over Drupada under his belt, when he was just a student. Karna had no such victories. Draupadi didn't know if Arjuna was alive, nor if he would even show up to swayamvara. Still, according to elders, Karna was a known risk, because he was Suta-putra and it was Pratiloma. Hence she would rather wait for an unknown variable than accept a known risk. Even if some other Suta, or Vaishya had taken up the bow, she would have still said no. Even if it was some other Kshatriya, with proven valor, she could have still said no based on her personal preference. Some might say 'she only gave the excuse of Suta-putra, when in fact, she didn't like him. If some other varna man proved his valor, she might have accepted him' - Both reasons are perfectly acceptable to shastra - whether rejecting based on varna or personal preference. Her personal preference was Arjuna (she was literally born from sacrificial fire directly at age of 16 to marry Arjuna). But the man who won the tournament was a Brahmana, which is Anuloma, hence she married even without bothering if it was Arjuna or not, later only they all found out the Brahmana was actually Arjuna.


Your whole question is based on a false premise. According to the Critical Edition of the Mahābhārata, Draupadī did not reject Karṇa based on his (birth-based) varṇa or profession. In fact, Karṇa participated in the svayaṃvara just like the other assembled kṣatriya kings, then attempted to string the bow and failed at it.

Chapter 179   (Droupadi-svayamvara Parva)

Vaishampayana said, 'When all the kings gave up attempting to string the bow, the great-souled Jishnu arose from among the Brahmanas. On seeing Partha advance, with a complexion resplendent like that of Indra's flag, the chief Brahmanas shook their deerskins and created a loud uproar. Some of them were pleased. Others were displeased. Others among them, who lived by their wisdom and were wise, told each other, "O Brahmanas! If Kshatriyas like Karna and Shalya, who are famous in the world, have great strength and are well versed in Dhanur Veda, could not string the bow, how can this weakling Brahmana, with no knowledge of weapons, succeed? If he fails to succeed in an act that he has undertaken because of his juvenile inexperience, the Brahmanas will become objects of ridicule in the eyes of the kings. Therefore, stop him from attempting to string the bow. He is doing it out of vanity and childishness, inexperienced at being a Brahmana. We will not be ridiculed, not incur anyone's disrespect. Nor will we displease the kings of this world." Others said, "He is handsome and youthful. He is like the trunk of the king of elephants. His shoulders, arms and thighs are built well. In perseverance, he looks like the Himalayas. One who is so resolute may well accomplish the task. Without a doubt, he has great strength and great endeavour. Without these, he would not have gone on his own. Besides, among the three orders, there is no task in the worlds that Brahmanas cannot accomplish. Brahmanas abstain from food, live on air, eat only fruits, observe rigid vows and become weak, yet retain the strength of their own energy. A Brahmana should not be looked down upon, whether his deeds are right or wrong. No one should consider him incapable of performing a deed, big or small, pleasing or unpleasant." The Brahmanas continued to voice their opinions in this way.

'Arjuna came to where the bow was and stood there like a stationary mountain. Circumambulating the bow in accordance with the rites, the scorcher of enemies bowed his head to the bow and joyously grasped it. In the twinkling of an eye, he strung the bow and grasped the five arrows. Through the hole in the machine, he suddenly pierced the target and it fell down on the ground. Thereupon, a great roar was heard in the sky and a great clamour arose in the assembly.


(The Mahabharata - Volume 1 by Bibek Debroy based on the Critical Edition)

You can read more about this incident in this answer which explains the contradictions in various manuscripts and how the Critical Edition team dealt with them.

Also, as noted in the next chapter, the Pāṇḍavas (who were in their brāhmaṇa disguise at the time) had no right to participate in the svayaṃvara as svayaṃvaras were usually only limited to kṣatriyas.

Chapter 180

Vaishampayana said, 'When the king expressed his desire to give his daughter to that great-souled Brahmana, all the assembled kings looked at each other and were filled with anger. The kings said, "We are assembled here and he passes us over like straw. He wishes to give Droupadi, supreme among women, to a Brahmana. This evil-hearted one does not respect us. Let us kill him. He does not deserve our respect or veneration because of qualities of age. On account of this, let us kill this wretch who insults kings and their sons. After inviting and entertaining in the proper fashion all the kings with food, he then shows them disrespect. In this assembly of kings, which is like a conclave of the gods, can he not find a single king who is his equal? The sacred texts clearly say that a svayamvara is for Kshatriyas; Brahmanas have no right in the choice of a husband. O kings! If this lady does not wish one of us as her husband, let us throw her into the fire and return to our kingdoms. Though that Brahmana has done injury to kings out of his impertinence and greed, he should not still be killed. After all, our kingdoms, lives, riches, sons, grandsons and all our other wealth exist for the sake of Brahmanas. But something must be done to prevent insult and to protect our own dharma, so that other svayamvaras do not end like this one." Having said this, those tigers among kings, with arms like clubs, rushed at Drupada with diverse weapons, so as to kill him.


Further, it appears the whole "svayaṃvara" was rigged by Drupada from the get-go. The contest was framed such that only Arjuna would win it.

Chapter 176

Vaishampayana said, 'O Janamejaya! Having been thus addressed, the Pandavas headed for the southern part of Panchala, ruled by King Drupada. On their way, the brave Pandavas met the great-souled, pure-souled, unblemished and illustrious sage Dvaipayana and paid their respects to him, in accordance with the prescribed rites. He too showed them his respect and after their conversation was over, on his instructions, they proceeded to Drupada's palace. Those maharathas proceeded slowly, stopping when they saw beautiful forests and lakes. At last, Kuru's descendants, devoted to learning, pure, amiable and sweet of speech, arrived in Panchala. After seeing the city and the royal residence, the Pandavas lodged in a potter's house. Adopting the lifestyle of Brahmanas, they begged for their food. No one recognized those warriors when they stayed there.

'Yajnasena always desired to give Krishna to Kiriti, Pandu's son, but he never revealed this to anyone. O Janamejaya! O descendant of the Bharata lineage! Thinking of Kunti's son, the Panchala got a very hard bow constructed, one that no one else would be able to bend. He had an artificial machine set up above and onto this machine he fixed a golden target. Drupada said, "He who can string this bow and, after stringing, shoot the target above with these arrows, will obtain my daughter." With these words, King Drupada announced the svayamvara everywhere.


But Drupada wasn't sure if it was really Arjuna who had won the contest and Draupadī. However, the series of questions he later ponders over clarifies one thing which is, this particular svayaṃvara was not limited to one particular varṇa.

Chapter 184


Prince Dhrishtadyumna set out in great haste to tell King Drupada in detail everything that he had heard during the night. The Panchala king was sad, because he did not know where the Pandavas had gone. The great-souled one asked Dhrishtadyumna, "Where has Krishna gone? Who has taken her away? Is it a Shudra or one of low birth? Has a Vaishya who pays taxes placed his feet on my head? Has a garland been thrown away on a cremation ground? O son! Or is it a foremost man from our own varna, or is it one from a higher varna? Or has a lower being placed his foot on my head and defiled Krishna? I will be happy in my sacrifices if she has been united with Partha, that bull among men. Tell me truthfully. Which illustrious one has won my daughter today? Is there any chance that Vichitravirya's sons, foremost among the Kurus, are still alive? Is it perhaps Partha who took up the bow and shot the target today?"

So the possibility of Draupadī rejecting Karṇa for being a sūta doesn't even arise. Draupadī had no say in it. Because, the terms of this so-called svayaṃvara were that the best archer wins her as prize (vīryaśulka). Yudhiṣṭhira also later argues on the same lines with the priest Drupada sends to inquire about their varṇa and gotra. He tells the priest bluntly that Drupada has no business knowing their varṇa, profession or lineage after Draupadī had already been won according to the rules of the contest.

Chapter 185


Yudhishthira then spoke to the Brahmana. "The king of Panchala gave his daughter away according to his wishes and according to his own dharma. He set a price and this brave one has won her in accordance with that. Therefore, no questions can be asked about his varna, action, intention, means of living, lineage or gotra. All those questions have been answered by the act of stringing the bow and striking the target. In doing that, this great-souled one has won Krishna in an assembly of kings. Since that is the case, the king of the lunar dynasty has no reason to regret his decision or be unhappy. O Brahmana! King Drupada's eternal desire will certainly come to be true for the king, because I think that this king's daughter was unattainable otherwise. No one weak in strength or of low birth or unskilled in the use of arms could have strung that bow and shot down the target. Today, it is therefore not proper for the king of Panchala to grieve over his daughter. No man on earth can now undo the fact that he succeeded in shooting down the target." While Yudhishthira was uttering these words, another messenger swiftly came from the king of Panchala, to announce that the feast had been prepared.

  • But there is no cross reference for Karna's participation on the part of Bhishma, Kripa or Shalya. In addition, Karna was quite attached to the Sutas. Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 0:58
  • By "cross reference" you mean Karna's participation also mentioned elsewhere in the Mahabharata? Is that a requirement? Did you read this line by Drupada? ('Where has Krishna gone? Who has taken her away? Is it a Shudra or one of low birth? Has a Vaishya who pays taxes placed his feet on my head? Has a garland been thrown away on a cremation ground? O son! Or is it a foremost man from our own varna, or is it one from a higher varna? Or has a lower being placed his foot on my head and defiled Krishna?') This means Karna had every chance to win the contest. Draupadi had no say in it Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 16:58
  • Yes, I am fully aware of it. But when Bhishma, Shalya or Kripa said Karna's faults, they were always gandharva war and virata war, they never said anything about their participation in Droupadi's Swayamvara, not even Karna himself said of his failure in that Swayamvara. Also, although Drupada authorized the participation of the 4 varnas, the kshatryas did not tolerate a "brahmin" participating and winning, because the tradition was broken, but they did not get angry or attacked Karna when he participated, does not it seem strange? Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 17:25
  • It's possible Karna was in the audience but did not participate. He was probably just accompanying Duryodhana. Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 17:51
  • Yes, it is the most logical. In my opinion it is Karna (son of Gandhari) who participates or another Karna because unlike comics, television series, anime or manga; the names of the MB characters are not unique, as for example Arjuna killed 2 Shrutayus, there were 2 Kekaya warriors that they were also called Vinda and Anuvinda, a king of Magadha who was also called Jalasandha, among others Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 23:56

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