There is a Sanskrit sloka on Panchsati or Panchkanya:
ahalya draupadi sita tara mandodari tatha ।
pancakanyaḥ smarennityaṃ mahapatakanaainiḥ ॥
Ahalya, Draupadi, Sita, Tara and Mandodari
One should forever remember the panchakanya who are the destroyers of great sins
(A variant replaces Sita with Kunti)
In childhood I had heard about Panchkanya or Panchsati; they basically stand for Five Virgins. For me, they were very respectful until I came to know more about them. I am still confused why they are called so, as they were no virgins and had multiple partners in their lives. Each of them experienced a tragedy and were used by men, but battled on with time and the social order. A free-spirited Ahalya was punished for her adultery. Draupadi, who challenged and ridiculed even her husbands, had her decorum constantly sullied by men.
All of these kanyas (Ahalya, Tara, Mandodari, Sita, and Draupadi), except Kunti, lack mothers in their life and took birth supernaturally. Kunti was adopted and separated by her real mother.
Although all of Panchkanyas are described as mothers but except Kunti none of the others had any emphasized motherhood tales.
Another common part about these kanyas is that they all had lost their relatives or companion. Ahalya was cursed and discarded by her husband. Tara had lost her husband, Draupadi her sons, and Mandodari her husband, sons and relatives in war.
When I go through the literature, it seems that the Panchasatis had slept with more than one men because the society had dictated them to. It may be possible that sleeping with those people was not their will, but also, there were no evidences of their extreme hesitations or resistance. For me, it is rather remarkable that they got to sleep with multiple men and then also got credited for the same. Since then things have changed drastically. Now a day we don’t hear this type of things.
I want to talk about all the five ladies here:
The word Ahalya means who has not been ploughed. Brahma—the creator of the Universe—gifted this perfect beauty to a sage called Gautam to keep her safe. She was regarded as the most beautiful woman in the entire universe.
Brahma placed Ahalya in the care of Gautama. He protected Ahalya from the eyes of the world until she gained puberty and was lastly married to the aged sage. In another version, Brahma was so astonished by Gautam's wonderful willpower that at the end of the testing phase he gifted Ahalya herself to him as his spouse.
Indra—the king of Gods, the one who would probably break through his way to the entire female population of the living world, had set his eye on this perfect lady. The king of the gods, Indra, was infatuated with her beauty. Even after the wedding, he did not give up on this woman of desires.
There are many versions of the incidents happened after this. I don’t know which one is correct. But here are the incidents:
1. Ahalya saw through the disguise; she still asked Indra to get over with it quickly and leave at the earliest. This version says that Indra comes disguised as Gautama, when the sage was away, and requests or orders sexual intercourse. Ahalya sees through his disguise, but still complies out of "curiosity."
2. Ahalya couldn't not see Indra through the disguise; however, she did not show disclosure of any kind at her accepted that it was, indeed, Gautam himself. Ahalya falls prey to Indra's deception and does not make out him or is raped.
Whatever happened was anybody's guess, but Gautam, in all narratives, cursed both Ahalya and her lover (or rapist) Indra.
Ahalya turned into a rock. Some say that she lived a life of celibacy and penance. Ahalya was cursed to become a stone and regains her human form after she is brushed by Rama's foot; and promptly resumed a conjugal life with Gautam.
Draupadi fell during the Mahaprasthan (way to heaven or swarg) because she had loved Arjun more than his brothers. Though the middle Pandava, Arjuna, disguised as a brahmin wins her in her swayamvara. Draupadi was compelled to marry all the five brothers on command of her mother-in-law Kunti.
Krishna made a law such that in the first year (which was Yudhishthira's) will be the first bed partner and all others have to take turns in a order (Y-B-A-N-S) to remain her bed-partner. Arjun was notably exiled for 12 years as he stepped inside when Yudhishthira and Draupadi were, well, not fully covered, thereby failing to adhere to the existing conditions.
If I talk in the way we talk in current situation; Draupadi had two other persons in her life. First was Karna, whom she couldn’t get anyway having a soft corner in her heart and second was the Sri Krishna as “So Called Best friends”.
Many of us know that Kunti had got a boon that she would be able to call any God whenever she felt like, and that too from Durvasa—the angriest sage. I don’t know how she managed that. As we don’t go away with the face value, even Kunti wanted to test the boon. She called Sun God first.
What happened I don’t know but Karna was born that day whom she had disposed off in the river. What type of boon it was that Kunti used to get a child every time from different Gods.
Following Sun she called Dharma, Pavan, Indra, Ashwini kumars and got sons from each gods. I believe that, as Arjuna was her favorite son, may be Indra was her favourite god.
Unlike the other kanyas, Tara was considered wise. One interesting thing is that, I just got to know that Indra or sometimes Surya (Sun) had to do things in the lives of many satis including panchkanyas. Tara had two buddies in her life—Baali (the son of Indra) and Sugriv (the son of Surya).
Tara's chronology was simple. She was married to Baali. They made a fine couple, Baali the unconquerable and Tara the wise. She frequently helped her spouse in organizational matters. Sugriv, in the meantime, was married to Ruma.
Then, one fine morning, Baali and Sugriv went out to brawl a devil called Mayavi. They struck an agreement as Mayavi entered a cave that Sugriv would remain in guard outside the cave while Baali would chase Mayavi inside.
But the things changed and Sugriva was petrified by a constant gush of strange, violent sounds that came his way from inside the cave. When the sounds did not stop, he thought that Baali was killed and placed heavy boulders at the doorway of the cave and ran away. Announcing Baali’s death he married Tara and led a desirable life.
It is pointless to talk about, Baali was not happy when he eventually killed Mayavi, detached the heavy boulders and returned to find the events.
Sugriv in fact tried to clarify the things, but he couldn’t. So he fled. Baali not only re-acquired Tara, but also took control of Ruma.
Sugriv, after some time, came back aided with the pledge of Ram and got Baali killed. Once again Tara changed hands (along with Ruma), and this time the transfer was permanent.
Mandodari had possibly the least impressive of careers. Of the quintet, she led a simple life. She got married to Raavan, did her level best to stop Raavan in her quest of Sita and, well, with the death of Ravana, had to marry Vibhishan, had the greatest career drop in the two epics combined.
Inquisitively enough, Indra had a role to play in her life as well. Raavan was a long-time adversary of Indra, and their son Meghnad was renamed Indrajit after he vanquished Indra. Despite her husband's faults, Mandodari loved Ravana and advised him to follow the path of virtue. Mandodari repeatedly advised Ravana to return Sita to Rama, but her advice fell on deaf ears. Her love and loyalty to Ravana are praised in the Ramayana. Different versions of the Ramayana record her ill-treatment at the hands of Rama's monkey generals. Some versions say they humiliate her, while disturbing a sacrifice by Ravana, while others narrate how they destroy her chastity, which protects Ravana's life. Hanuman tricks her into disclosing the location of a magical arrow which Rama uses to kill Ravana.
Like Tara, Mandodari's husband was also killed by Ram, and she too ended up marrying her husband's younger brother.If you are interested in such type of topics you can visit my page Emotions and Aftermaths. You can also subscribe to the posts and for the latest updates on the website. You know it is very easy.