Book Review – The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year journalism student.
How often do we read the perspectives of the strong, brave women in stories? How do we know what Sita, Draupadi, or Radha went through? How did these epics unfold in front of their eyes and how were they affected by it all?
Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year journalism student
Like many others, I grew up with tales and stories from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. During vacations at my grandparent’s house, my grandmother used to tell me at least one bedtime story about Lord Ram or Lord Krishna. Even though I grew up to be an atheist, the fascination that I have always had for Ancient Epics still stays.
I saw this book on my mother’s shelf around 8 years ago and asked if I could read it and she said, “I’ll bring it to you when you’re old enough to read it”.
I will admit that I read it only a month ago even though I could’ve read it way long back.
Before I tell you what the book is about, it is important that you understand why the narrative is significant.
Every text that we’ve read about history has been from a male perspective or offers largely the side of the man. For example, the Mahabharatha, as we know it, was the war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas resulting in Pandava victory; and the Ramayana was Lord Ram rescuing his wife Sita from the cruel Raavan.
The question is, how often do we read the perspectives of the strong, brave women in these stories? How do we know what Sita, Draupadi, or Radha went through? How did these epics unfold in front of their eyes and how were they affected by it all?
These questions are exactly what Chitra Divakaruni answers. She gives these epics the voice of the woman who is a central character, without whom, the epic wouldn’t exist.
In simple terms, The Palace of Illusions is the Mahabharatha in the words of Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas.
The Palace of Illusions transports us to a time that is half history, half myth, and entirely fantastic. The story, narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the Mahabharat’s famed Pandavas brothers, offers a fresh perspective on the epic.
The story follows Princess Panchaali from her birth in a fire to her spirited balancing act like a lady with five husbands who had been tricked out of their father’s kingdom. Panchaali becomes swept up in their struggle to retake their throne, standing at their side through years of exile and a horrible war.
All throughout this, Draupadi is the central character, not the war, not her husbands. Throughout the story, we focus on her relationships, her feelings, her friendship with Lord Krishna and Karna, and her tumultuous relationship with her mother-in-law Kunti.
Panchaali is a fiery woman who reimagines an entire universe of warriors, gods, and fate’s ever-manipulating hands for us and we see the epic battle through her eyes, quite literally.
Now a lot of you may think that you already know what the Mahabharatha was and why it happened and what will happen at the end, what we aren’t familiar with, is Draupadi’s story.
And it is safe to say that it is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and an enigmatic one.
Anyone above 14 can read and easily understand this novel and once you do, you must read Divakaruni’s Forest of Enchantments which is the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective.
Headline image by freeimageslive.co.uk – Rodrigo
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