• Sonal Patade

The Palace of Illusions: Mahabharat from the viewpoint of Draupadi

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, narrates the great epic Mahabharat from the perspective of Draupadi- Daughter of Drupad in the book- The Palace of Illusions. The author is known for her agenda to write women protagonists, and the book aptly proves Draupadi as a real lionhearted woman than her usual image as a tragic heroin.

The personification of Draupadi’s character is so beautifully handled that Draupadi calling her brother- Dhrishtadyumna as Dhri makes you feel that she is one of us. You throw away the traditional interpretation of her character when she says I resented the tutor’s declaration that women were the root of all the worldly troubles.”

Sometimes the tone of the book gets witty when the author describes Draupadi’s opinions that cannot be declared publically. This change in the tone makes reading a delightful experience. The dialogues between Krishna and Draupadi are insightful, their friendship is depicted as more of mentor- mentee relationship, where Krishna answers Draupadi’s doubts.

Illustration of Draupadi and Karna’s relationship sounds a bit of exaggeration to the extent that their love story seems the prime theme of the book. Author tries to justify Draupadi humiliating Karna in the Draupadi Swayamvar and Karna not defending her in Draupadi Vastraharan.

The book has 43 chapters and for someone who knows Mahabharat the book seems little lengthy and repetitive; but writing around a great epic such as Mahabharat is itself a difficult and challenging task and as you move towards the end, you start to appreciate the author.

If you are someone who loves mythology and have ever tried and liked stories based on the Mahabharat, the book is for you. Having known the Mahabharat definitely gives you an edge, but the book makes you unlearn and re-learn few of the plots from the conventional Mahabharat. It gives you a new outlook to look at the same story in an unfamiliar yet intriguing way.

I remember my roommate consoling me at three in the midnight when I finished reading this book. The ending is emotionally moving and makes you weep as if you have lost someone close to your heart. While you are reading the book, you live in a different world- the ancient era of Pandavas and Kauravas, you witness the Kurukshetra war but this time you are not on the battle ground but in the tents of sisters, wives and mothers of the warriors. You realize the loss caused when you read after-war story. Your heart aches when you read about devastation of Dwarka kingdom.

When everything seems gloomy and you cannot hold your tears back, the last chapter soothes your soul and gives you strength to smile again. You feel the pain and yet feel empowered as if you have overcome the most strenuous battle along with Draupadi- the Daughter of Drupad who immerged out of sacrificial fire and was prophesied as the one who would change the course of history.

Thank you so much for reading!

- Sonal Patade

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