Growing up in India there are a few tales that will always be passed from generation to generation, the Mahabharata being one of the stories used to teach children important lessons and values for life.
Picking up The Palace of Illusions was probably one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I was able to relive an experience, not in its entirety, but in a manner I will never be able to forget. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has taken this legendary tale and transformed it to follow Draupadi (Panchaali) to narrate this epic saga.
You got it right; this book is in fact, written with a feminist perspective. The novel begins with Panchaali’s life, her magical birth to King Drupad. It then goes on to revealing a beautiful princess’ thoughts and her inner most desires. Her adventures truly begin when she becomes the infamous Pandavas wife and seeks out a quest to reclaim their right into their own father’s kingdom. While there is only one epic battle, the Kurukshetra, in this story, the events leading up to this battle are explained, debated and even encouraged through Panchaali’s reasoning. Whether it’s her romantic relationship with the Pandavas, her playful relationship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret fascination with Karna who is also her husbands worst enemy, this tale unfolds beautifully as a feminine touch is added to this male-dominated tale.
Though the base of the story comes directly from the legend, Divakaruni lets her imagination roam free as she goes into the depths of Panchaali’s character. She’s in constant dialogue with herself, giving the reader a chance to almost forget about the war and look at the situation from only her point of view. One can almost sympathize, and at times relate with the character that Divakaruni presents to us with the mastery of her words.
Despite knowing all the events that lead up to the main battle, and even the outcome, this book is a page turner! It becomes absolutely necessary for the reader to see the outcome through Panchaali’s eyes and to hear, feel, know her as she goes through love, pain, torture and finally, peace. I would personally recommend this to anyone who has an interest in understanding war through the eyes of a woman.
Some women are lost in the fire, some women, are born from fire.