The Palace Of Illusions
Author – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Publication – Pan Macmillan India
Somebody has rightly said that a person who reads never goes to bed alone. And the book that has recently been going to bed with me is The Palace Of Illusions, written or actually, wonderfully written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the author of famous works like Sister of my Heart, Mistress of Spices and many more.
The book deals with the soul of Draupadi as we know her, the historical character from the epic – The Mahabharata. It takes the reader to a journey of Draupadi or Panchaali (as she is addressed in the novel ) from her magical birth to the time she is dramatically married to the five Pandavas, from living in the grandest palace a queen can ever desire to long years of exile in dense forests and a devastating war between cousins.
Divakaruni has narrated the epic through the eyes and heart of Draupadi who fell in love with Arjuna, the undefeated one, but had to reluctantly marry his four brothers also. The modern time tug of war between a newly married girl and her authoritative mother-in-law ( Kunti ) has been impressively incorporated in this modern fiction version of the epic. It also brings us to fascination of Panchaali with Karna, The most powerful (though a victim of fate). The author has tried (and succeeded) to open up a woman’s heart through Panchaali’s character where she struggles for her respect when she is disrobed by Dushasana after her husband loses the game of dice, her love when she is married to the five Pandavas and craves for Karna in her heart of hearts, her place in history because of the heavenly voices that said at the time of her birth that she would change the course of history. In all these paths of her life, she is constantly guided and supported by her sakha, Lord Krishna.
The longing of a woman for eternal love has been beautifully depicted in words by Divakaruni. A rare feminist interpretation of The Mahabharata, The Palace of Illusions portrays the queen of Hastinapur as a strong woman of thoughts and actions. But underneath that strength, she possess a heart that longs for Karna, her secret love.
I can promise that anyone who reads this book will be surprised with the flow of the book, the two characters – Panchaali and Karna, one who struggled all her life, first for her father, then for her husbands and later for her respect and love; And the other one who struggled for a name, respect, family, friendship, and love of his life, Panchaali.
A masterpiece of words beautifully woven, one rarely comes across a historical fiction so beautifully written, with so much to relate, so much to respect and above all, so much to reflect!