Book Review: The Palace of Illusions

Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A sheer piece of literary brilliance by an author I had longed to read. She was well recommended by my writer friends and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book was a retelling of the Mahabharata from a Point of View that I had never heard before. That of Draupadi’s take on the events that unfolded right from the time she had emerged from the sacred fire joining her brother Dhrishtadyumna (Dhri) to the time she merged with nature or made her way above mortal pursuits.

Panchaali was initially not wanted by her father who had prayed for a son to avenge his insult at the hands of Dronacharya. But was accepted since she came in with a prophecy of being instrumental in changing the history of the great Bharata.

Since then strewn into a man’s world she was filled with rebellion at the archaic laws that treated women as objects to be tucked away into the mighty palatial folds, to be used for physical gratification or to procreate. She had a mind of her own and didn’t mince words to give her opinion often drawing the ire of the elders or the people around her in general. Her only solace was her childhood friend Krishna.

She grew up to fall in love with, Karna, only to reject him during her Swayamwar in order to protect her brother from dying. But that was a decision she questioned throughout her life being a wife to five husbands (the Pandavas) or a mother to five princes and a daughter-in-law who was scorned by her mother-in-law. She had to live a life filled with misery giving up everything she yearned for including the special Palace at Indra Prastha and also had to bare her soul when she was humiliated in the court of Hastinapura when her righteous husband lost her in a game of dice. She spent the rest of her life in a quest for vengeance and eventually had to live to see her near and dear ones leave her in the war of Kurukshetra.

I applaud the author for her courage to paint a realistic picture of the lesser-known facts from the epic Mahabharatha. She hasn’t glorified anyone but subtly shown the emotional roller coasters faced by Draupadi throughout her lifetime. The language is lucid and binds the reader well with the past. As the back cover says, it’s, half history, half myth, and wholly magical!!

A treat for readers who like mythology!

 

 

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