The Palace of Illusions - Book Review
Updated: Jul 12, 2020
Since childhood, we have always heard the tales of Mahabharata - A story of rivalry between cousins, Kauravas and Pandavas. We have heard the story revolving around the war that happened to get the throne of Hastinapur. These stories also talk about how brave each warrior was and how they got their superpowers and special weapons,etc. But what about the female characters who were somehow involved in these wars? What about their roles in the lives of these warriors? Knowingly-unknowingly, these important characters get skipped to show the other side of the tale only. So, recently, I have read a book, which narrates the Mahabharata through Panchali’s perspective, which also involves the roles of Kunti, Gandhri, Subhadra, Uttara, Bhanumati,etc in the story. The book is called “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
As this is an epic and well known by many, I don’t want to explain the plot. Chitra has placed Draupadi in the center and narrated the story of Mahabharata through her perspective. This covers the story of Draupadi, right from her birth to her deathbed. If you read this book, you will get to know the different shades of Draupadi. My favorite version of her is when she becomes a queen of Indraprastha. She does everything possible in her control to help her husbands. She indeed was a beauty with a brain.
The language of this book is way beyond beautiful. Chitra, the author, writes like a goddess of writing. If you don’t believe, just read this book and you will be a fan of her writing. I love the way Chitra has used metaphors to explain the situation. The best examples of this can be seen when the conversation between Krishna and Draupadi happens. While reading, I used to wait for Krishna to meet Draupadi, as much as she used to wait for him to see him and get some advice.
Here’s one of the Krishna’s advice:
“A problem becomes a problem, only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself.”
Draupadi’s relation with her husbands,Krishna, Kunti, her father, her brother, other wives of her husbands, her sons, her stepsons, Kauravas, her caretaker Dhai Ma, and most importantly Karna is explained so exquisitely in this book. I am completely impressed with the amount of efforts and research involved in writing this book. Honestly, if I will ever be able to write 10% of the way Chitra writes, that will be the biggest literary achievement for me.
Just have a look at one of the sentences of written in the book that completely amazed me.
“ I rubbed her legs until she fell into a twitching sleep, and as her muscles relaxed against my fingertips, I found that by some inexplicable osmosis Kunti’s secret had become my secrets. I, too, would guard it now.”
This is how the great choices of words and metaphors will make it irresistible to binge-read this book.
Every character of the story is described so well that you get attached to them. The scenes are well placed and you will face no confusion while reading. Even if this is a retelling, the author made sure to not contradict with any major fact of the Mahabharata.
I personally got to know many secret things hidden in the tale of Mahabharata, maybe because I anyway didn’t know much about this epic. I recommend this book to everyone because I want you to feel everything I felt while reading this book. This book too made me cry just like The forest of enchantments. After reading these two books, I have realized that both Sita and Draupadi both fought against victim blaming.
I definitely recommend this book and I will re-read this for sure! Take a bow, Chitra.
Here are some of the “personal” thoughts and reflections, which I framed in the form of questions.
Draupadi was born out of fire and still, as a woman, she had to go through shameful things that no woman should go through. What kind of society we live in and when will this society be safe for women?
In each book I am reading, I am witnessing that marriages end up disempowering women. Why is it so? What fault are women at? How can someone’s gender decide the rights for that person? This is the harsh and shameful fact that we live in the society where privileges are distributed according to gender.
Yudhishtir believed that Draupadi was his possession and that’s why he found it OK to gamble her. This incident in the book made me very angry and sad at the same time. What right the husband has on his wife who has gambled himself and lost? This shows how patriarchal our society was and still is. There are many such incidents that disturbed me. This happened a long time ago. Still, I know many people who think this way. If you marry a person, that person isn’t entitled to follow each and every stupid decision of yours. We have evolved so much from the Mahabharata times, but does evolution only mean physical growth and enhancement in technology?
Sorry for the rant, but it was important for me to put it in the form of my reflections. You should read this book and you will feel the same.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this and planning to read other books written by the same author soon! But this book is added to my favorite books list for sure.