Written by S Nagarajan

Research Article No. 1689; Dated 4 March 2015.


Memory:Queen Draupadi of Mahabharata and Emperor Napoleon of France

Emperor Napoleon had an excellent memory. He memorized the rosters of his units and used to call the soldiers by name. It is estimated more than one lakh soldiers were in his army. Baron Meneval, Napoleon’s secretary, wrote in his memoirs that his memory had been described as ‘astonishing’. Various biographers describe his memory as ‘very retentive’, ‘near photographic, ‘prodigious’, and ‘phenomenal’.

Cyrus had a memory so prodigious that he knew by heart the names of all the officers and soldiers of his armies. Emperor Otho, the successor to Galba had learned the names of all the soldiers of his army. He used to call everyone by his proper name.


Similarly Mithridates , the famous king and emperor Adrianius knew by heart the names of all their soldiers. Themistocles was able to remember thirty thousand citizens of Athens by name. Xerxes was reputed to be able to recall the names of the one lakh soldiers in his armies. We believe all these statements without raising any question.


Let us compare these interesting facts with the photographic memory of Queen Draupadi of Mahabharata. She revealed her very rare qualities to the Queen Sathyabama, the wife of Lord Krishna in an intimate chat. She informed Sathyabama that one lakh sixty thousand Brahmanas (priestly class) were daily fed in the palace of Yudhishthira. He also had a hundred thousand well-dressed serving maids with bracelets on arms and golden ornaments on necks, and decked with costly garlands. They were all skilled in singing and dancing. Draupadi knew the names and features of all those girls, as also what they are and what they were, and what they did not.

Yudhishthira had also a hundred thousand maid-servants. These servants daily used to feed guests, with plates of gold in their hands. And while Yudhishthira lived in Indraprastha a hundred thousand horses and a hundred thousand elephants used to follow in his train. These were the possessions of Yudhishthira while he ruled the earth. It was Draupadi, however, who regulated their number and framed the rules to be observed in respect of them; and it was she who had to listen to all complaints about them. Indeed she knew everything about what the maid-servants of the palace and other classes of attendants, even the cow-herds and the shepherds of the royal establishment, did or did not! We are astonished with the statements of Draupadi.


When we compare these statistics with that of Napoleon and other kings we are compelled to admire how sharp was her intellect and memory!While we are ready to believe historians like Pliny, the same way we have to believe the statements of the great Queen Draupadi also. This astonishing memory is one of her qualities only. The women of the world should learn more about Draupadi and should follow her footsteps by developing rare skills.

Note:  The original Sanskrit slokas of Mahabharata were translated by sri Ganguly in 1873-1886. The English version has been taken from public domain and for authenticity sake used here. Readers could download the full Mahabharata from net.

Three Stories on Amazing Memory Power


Written by London Swaminathan
Post No:–1070; Dated 28th May 2014.

A strange story about Yajur Veda is repeated like parrots by all the scholars. Nobody has explained the meaning behind it. Yajnavalkya and his Guru Vaisampayana had difference of opinion. As a result of a quarrel, Vaisampayana ordered him to return whatever he learnt from him. Immediately Yajnavalkya “vomited out” the knowledge he possessed. Other students who were present there became Tittiris (parrots) and “ate all the vomit”. Then Yajnavalkya prayed to the Sun God and received a new Yajur Veda what is known as Shukla Yajur Veda. After giving this story, all the scholars proceed to explain the great philosophy in the Upanishads. Nobody explained the meaning of the story. Probably they thought the meaning is obvious and there is no need to explain. Actually it is a story of an amazing memory feat.

Vaisamapayana and Yajnavalkya had an argument. Yajnavalkya decided to leave his Guru. Guru asked him to teach his fellow students before he left. But Yajnavalkya would have told him that he had no time for it, but ready to recite only once .This would allow anyone to pick up whatever possible, if one has an amazing memory. In the Vedic days students had an amazing memory power. That is what happened. When Yajnavalkya recited it for the last time all the students became parrots and grasped it (Tittiri= parrots, vomit= recitation, ate the vomit= grasped and memorised.). So this must have been the greatest memory feat in the ancient India.

Parrots are famous for learning human voice. We have many stories of parrots reciting Vedas in Brahmins’ houses in the history of Adi Shankara and Tamil saint Tirujnana Sambanda. So the Vedic story of Tittiri eating the vomit of Yajnavalkya is nothing but memorising it as and when the Veda is recited! Such people are known as Ekata or Ekagrahi.
Sri Ganapathy Sachidananda Swamy with hsi parrots.

Hindus in ancient India, learnt by rote a lot of things. Vedas are taught and learnt by word of mouth until today. Ancient scholars were famous for their superhuman memory. In Tamil Nadu there were scholars who can remember eight or ten tasks done at the same time. They were known as Ashtavadanis or Dasavadanis.

Second Story : Nyaya Sastra
Pandit Vasudeva Sarvabhauman who wanted to get mastery over Nyaya Sastra approached the top most people in the field. Mithila was a great centre of Nyaya Studies (Logic). The professor who had the best logic book there did not allow anyone to copy it. So Pandit Vasudeva went there and learned the whole text book by heart and started his own institution in Navadweepa to teach logic.


Third Story: Intelligent Poet
Dharana matrka is one of the ancient arts of India. Dharana means to remember. To make everything easy to remember, Hindu saints gave most of the science in Sutra (aphorism) form or in verses. There is an interesting story about it. A king had announced a reward of thousand gold coins to the poet who would satisfy him with a new, self composed verse. He had in his court seven scholars who were masters of memory. The first could reproduce anything on hearing it only once, the second twice, and the third thrice and so on. When any poet came to the royal court with his newly composed verse and recited it aloud, the first pundit stood up, challenged its originality and reproduced the whole verse himself. The second pundit then stood up, challenged and reproduced for he had already heard it twice; then the third and the fourth and so on. All the poets who came to the court left the court without getting any reward and they were utterly confused as well.

ganapathy sachi

One day a poet came and recited a verse which meant that the king’s father had borrowed hundred thousand gold coins from his father. The king was completely taken aback and asked his pundits if they knew anything about it. Then the poet smiled and said, “You must admit that this is an original verse, though the purport is not true. Now give me the promised amount”. The king was highly satisfied and gave him the reward.

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