Title of the book: The Palace of Illusions
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an Indian-American award-winning writer. She is the professor of creative writing at the University of Houston and is an author of a few best-selling novels. I decided to give it a read since it’s a highly recommended novel. I know I’m late in joining the bandwagon but better late than never. Here’s what I think about it.
The Palace of Illusions is Draupadi’s narration of her life and the Mahabharata. She rejects the name Draupadi (King Drupad’s daughter) and renames herself as Paanchali (which means from the kingdom of Paanchal). But even today people remember her as Draupadi. The Hindu society still remembers her negatively. One example being that no girl is named after her. But she is headstrong and so are her actions. Actions that doomed her entire clan as well as other people. In Indian mythology, she is known as the “Kritya” (whose actions bring destruction). But Divakaruni takes us on a tour and gives new interpretations about Draupadi.
She has presented Paanchali’s life as a series of choices made for her by other people in her life. Being the powerful person that she is, she manages to voice her opinion in the patriarchial society that she lives in. Divakaruni’s interpretation of the Mahabharata gives a new perspective to the epic. And also Draupadi being the cause of the Battle of Kurukshetra. The Palace of Illusions is the reason Duroyodhana challenges the Pandavas. Since wealth is his greatest possession, he wins the game by cheating. The Pandavas lose everything to Duroyodhana including Draupadi. We all know about the Vastraharan that takes place right after and Draupadi cursing the Kauravas. To avenge her, the Pandavas declare a war.
Furthermore, Divakaruni also tells us about an enchanting relationship that Draupadi has with Krishna. They have a strange connection which Draupadi questions from time to time. He calls her “Krishnaa” which means a female version of His own name. Also not forgetting the high point of the story according to me, is Draupadi’s attraction towards Karna. Knowing that his life is a different kind of suffering, she does not hold back her question. The kind of distant relationship that they share is beautifully written and makes your heart sink. You end up wishing that you could get more of them. And we all know how the story ends, in bloodshed.
And finally Divakaruni’s choice of words and writing is exceptional. Her use of metaphors makes you want to read more. It’ll surely make you want to accept that Divakaruni’s version of the Mahabharata is the real one.
This is the story of Draupadi. A woman wronged.
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