President Droupadi Murmu of India is a person of many firsts — the first tribal president, the first president to be born after the country’s independence and the first Odisha-born commander in chief of the Indian armed forces.
She scripted history by becoming the first person belonging to an indigenous community to be elected as the president of India. All that is well-documented. But how many of you know that the new president’s original name was not Droupadi?
In an Odia magazine interview, she revealed that her original Santhali tribal name was Puti. It was changed to Droupadi by a teacher in her school, who apparently didn’t like the Santhali name. Droupadi was a queen in the Indian epic Mahabharata, known for her courage and grit.
“Droupadi was not my original name. It was given by my teacher who hailed from another district, not from my native Mayurbhanj,” Murmu told the magazine.
“The teacher did not like my previous name and changed it for good,” she said when the magazine asked why she is called Droupadi, a name similar to the Mahabharata character.
After a spate of deaths in the family (she lost her two sons and husband in quick succession over the years), Murmu slipped into depression but held herself together by the sheer courage of conviction.
Around this time she turned vegetarian and now almost exclusively eats Sattvik food, a PTI report said. Sattvic food is high fibre, low fat, vegetarian and is mostly based on Ayurvedic principles. The president occasionally digs into a sweetmeat though. Arisa pitha — a rice-jaggery-cardamom-ghee-sesame blend being her prefered preparation.
With a deep love for all things tribal, Murmu is quite fond of Santhal tribal saris. Jhal sari, a traditional Santhali sari, designed with motifs of birds, fish, flowers, leaves and animals is her favourite.
A relative of the president told a news agency that Murmu asked them to bring a dozen saris with them to New Delhi, and true to her style she took the oath of high office in her traditional attire.
A stern disciplinarian, as per her daughter Itishree Ganesh Hembram, Murmu is no-nonsense but affable personality.
The 15th president of India is a regular blood donor, having donated blood over 100 times till date.
(With inputs from agencies)