Book – The palace of Illusions
Author – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
This book is a re-exploring of the world-famous Indian classic, the Mahabharat—told from the point of view of an astonishing woman-Draupadi.
Related to today’s war-scarred world, The Palace of Illusions takes us behind in a time that is half history and completely magical. Recited by Panchaali, the wife of the famous Pandavas brothers in the Mahabharat, the new story gives us a new clarification of this olden tale.
The Palace of Illusion by author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a re-telling of the Indian epic, the Mahabarat, from the outlook of Draupadi. It is amusing and delightful story-lacing. It is entirely satisfying and at the same time enlightening.
This book is spellbound from the first page to the last, and adored the very human faces put on the achievements of the leads and gods in the story. Particularly Panchaali, the heroine, will twig in my mind as a flawed yet lovable woman, confounded in much, but writhing always to find truth and love. Krishna, too, in his many-faceted character, excels as an everlasting presence, only exposed in the end for his true identity.
Panchaali enters this world through a divine fire, an unwelcomed boon granted by the gods in addition to her brother, Dhristadhyumna, the child intended to kill their father’s biggest enemy, Drona. She weds with the five Pandava brothers, the eldest of whom, Yudhisthir, gambles and loses his kingdom to their cousins, Kauravas. After twelve years of banishment in the forest, the cousin declines to return the kingdom, and the Pandavas go to war against the Kauravas. It is a tale so epic that it has an epic name: the Mahabharata.
The Palace of Illusions is no alternate for the real Mahabharata, of course, but it’s a good place to start. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has taken one of the important pieces of Indian literature and absorbed on the story of Panchaali. Telling the events from Panchaali’s point, author searches Panchaali’s role in the battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The result is a touching tale of human tragedy which, according to author, gives us vision into a character who is important in the Mahabharata but mainly silent on her purposes, thoughts, and feelings.
Since Author Chitra comprises her first person narrator, the epic possibility of the basis material suddenly becomes more personal. This in turn leads to a good question: can one really cleanse the essence of something as long and intricate as the Mahabharata in less than four hundred pages? Having not read the Mahabharata, I can’t say for sure; however, I’m sure the answer is “no.” One of the reasons this epic is beautiful is its lasting but flexible nature as a source material.
I can’t show to how well The Palace of Illusions supports the legacy of the Mahabharata. Regardless, it is a beautifully-written, moving story about Panchaali, the Pandavas, and the Kauravas. At times it doesn’t go as deep into Panchaali’s life as I would expect of a story narrated by and about her. But that’s a minor objection compared to the sad story, one of personal and epic scope, developed against the landscape of an India where magic is commonplace and gods walk among us.