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The Palace of Illusions

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Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to a time that is half history, half myth, and wholly magical. Narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Pandavas brothers in the Mahabharat, the novel gives us a new interpretation of this ancient tale.

The Palace of Illusions traces the princess Panchaali's life, beginning with her birth in fire and following her spirited balancing act as a woman with five husbands who have been cheated out of their father’s kingdom. Panchaali is swept into their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war involving all the important kings of India. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her strategic duels with her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands' most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female redefining for us a world of warriors, gods, and the ever-manipulating hands of fate.

360 pages, Hardcover

First published February 12, 2008

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About the author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

60 books5,186 followers
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her themes include the Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies. Her works have been translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi and Japanese. Divakaruni also writes for children and young adults.Her novels One Amazing Thing, Oleander Girl, Sister of My Heart and Palace of Illusions are currently in the process of being made into movies. http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/books.... Her newest novel is Before We Visit the Goddess (about 3 generations of women-- grandmother, mother and daughter-- who each examine the question "what does it mean to be a successful woman.") Simon & Schuster.

She was born in India and lived there until 1976, at which point she left Calcutta and came to the United States. She continued her education in the field of English by receiving a Master’s degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

To earn money for her education, she held many odd jobs, including babysitting, selling merchandise in an Indian boutique, slicing bread in a bakery, and washing instruments in a science lab. At Berkeley, she lived in the International House and worked in the dining hall. She briefly lived in Illinois and Ohio, but has spent much of her life in Northern California, which she often writes about. She now lives in Texas, which has found its way into her upcoming book, Before We Visit the Goddess.

Chitra currently teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the Univ. of Houston. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston. Both these are organizations that help South Asian or South Asian American women who find themselves in abusive or domestic violence situations. She is also closely involved with Pratham, an organization that helps educate children (especially those living in urban slums) in India.

She has judged several prestigious awards, such as the National Book Award and the PEN Faulkner Award.

Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (an English film) and Suhasini Mani Ratnam (a Tamil TV serial) respectively. Her novels One Amazing Thing and Palace of Illusions have currently been optioned for movies. Her book Arranged Marriage has been made into a play and performed in the U.S. and (upcoming, May) in Canada. River of Light, an opera about an Indian woman in a bi-cultural marriage, for which she wrote the libretto, has been performed in Texas and California.

She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy. She has two sons, Anand and Abhay (whose names she has used in her children’s novels).

Chitra loves to connect with readers on her Facebook author page, www.facebook.com/chitradivakaruni, and on Twitter, @cdivakaruni.
For more information about her books, please visit http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/, where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

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Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,135 reviews2,162 followers
May 28, 2021

(Throwback Review) I have read a book called രണ്ടാമൂഴം Randamoozham, which is the reimagining of the epic Mahabharat from Bhima's point of view written by M.T. Vasudevan Nair. It is considered one of the best epic retellings ever written. After reading Randamoozham, none of the epic retellings made any impact on me until I picked this book. This one is a brilliant retelling from Draupadi's (Panchaali) perspective. This novel tells us the story of Panchali right from her birth, through her swayamvar, her marriage, her rift with her mother-in-law, her infatuations, her account of the epic war, and her opinion about almost all characters in Mahabharat.

If you are a person who hasn't read Mahabharat yet and not familiar with it, this book will be giving you a lot of information about the vast and intricate epic. If you are a person who has already read the epic, this book will provide you a new view of it. The author had taken the liberty of a writer and crafted a new subplot involving Draupadi and Karna and Draupadi and Krishna.

The author's great coup was picking up the ideal character for writing a female-oriented book. Reimagining epics is very risky as there is a high probability that it will be construed negatively if the author is not confident or doesn't live up to the expectations.

What I learned from this book
1) Draupadi’s perspective of power
The author tells us Draupadi's perspective of a man's power and the power of a woman. She also says who will be more powerful in the future
"The power of a man is like a bull's charge, while the power of a woman moves aslant, like a serpent seeking its prey. Know the particular properties of your power. Unless you use it correctly, it won't get you what you want." His words perplexed me. Wasn't power singular and simple? In the world that I knew, men just happened to have more of it. (I hoped to change this.)"

2) Should we grieve for the dead?
Draupadi is mentioning what Krishna advised Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita. This is one of the most important ideas in Gita.
"Just as we cast off worn clothes and wear new ones, when the time arrives, the soul casts off the body and finds a new one to work out its karma. Therefore the wise grieve neither for the living nor the dead."

3) Draupadi’s opinion about war and revelations
We can see Draupadi trying to stop the war multiple times. But she understands later that it is impossible to stop the Mahabharat war.
“War is like an avalanche. Once begun, it can't cease until it has reached all the destruction it is capable of.”

Draupadi tells us the truth regarding the revelations
“No revelations can’t endure unless it is bolstered by a calm pure mind.”

My favourite three lines from this book
“A situation in itself,” he said, “is neither happy nor unhappy. It’s only your response to it that causes your sorrow.”

“Expectations are like hidden rocks in your path—all they do is trip you up.”

“A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself.”

What could have been better?
I haven't seen any mention of Draupadi's silent relationship with Karna in any of the versions of Mahabharat I read. So we can infer that the author used the author's freedom a craft a fictional story involving both. This might bring a contentious fight among some readers for creating a subplot which they might think unnecessary. I have no problem in author making such a subplot, but I felt that Draupadi's vast amount of feelings for Karna and vice versa seemed contrived. She should have dampened her sentiments a little bit. Still, we can't disparage the author's courage to make such a connection that could have easily backfired.

5/5 The author brilliantly edifies her readers the importance of women in our society through a story we are all familiar with. This is a must-read book if you love reading Women-Centric books.
40 reviews73 followers
March 17, 2009
I was intrigued as soon as I heard the plot of The Palace of Illusions, and I knew I was going to like it right away. I think Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni deserves three out of the five stars I gave her just for thinking of the idea itself. The Mahabharata has been part of India's ancient culture and history for the past 3000 years, and yet no one ever thought of narrating the epic from a different point of view.

Of course, I personally cheered at her choice of Draupadi as her narrator, having given a lot of thought to the treatment of women in the Mahabharata. Draupadi, or Panchaali, which is what she is called in this book, has been one of the most mysterious creatures in the grand epic. She has five husbands, the five Pandava brothers, but does not have the choice and freedom of a polygamous wedding, as she is passed around from brother to brother, every year. She has always been portrayed as the victim by all the accounts of the Mahabharata I have read, even though the readers knows little to nothing about her feelings. In this book, Draupadi is anything but the victim. She is shown as a fiercely independent, rebellious woman, who wants to take her destiny into her own hands. While her thoughts and actions sometimes made me less sympathetic towards her character, I still felt like she was empowered and strong-willed.

I won't go into the details of the book, as the Mahabharata is quite a complicated saga. However, I will say that it was very refreshing to read the story through Draupadi's gendered lens.

The author did a wonderful job of sticking to the script of the original epic. Had she strayed from it, she wouldn't be according it the respect that it deserves. But as such, she rewrites the story so masterfully, changing nothing but Draupadi's feelings. These were a bit intriguing to me, as her relationship with Krishna and Karna are brought into play. These feelings are not part of the original Mahabharata, and that is about the only liberty she took with the script. I thought they were a nice addition, and it helped make the book a little more universal, because who doesn't like a love story? But I will get into the reasons why I was a bit disappointed nonetheless.

If I had to criticize this book, I would say two things:

--The manner in which gender roles are portrayed is a little constrictive. It seems that the author is a cultural feminist, one who believes that there are differences in the nature of men and women. Men fight wars, display characteristics of aggression, strength, competitiveness and violence. Women use the power of words, and are supposed to be caring, nurturing, motherly, and cooperative. Most South Asian feminist would agree with this point of view, but it would have been really wonderful if Chitra Banerjee had broken through these "stereotypes" a little and ensured that the reader remained more sympathetic towards Draupadi when she did not follow these gender roles, instead of giving off the impression that she is a bad mother and wife. For example, I would have LOVED to read something along the lines of: "well yes, maybe she is negligent of her children, but she never wanted children in the first place; in fact, she never wanted this fate for herself, so it is useless to criticize her for not fulfilling her duty".

--This is a personal thing too, but I have noticed that most women's self-empowerment stories always have to do with secret feelings or affairs that they have with men that are not their husbands. Although that is not the only way that women can empower themselves, but most stories about South Asian women seem to show them in this light. This is not the first (think Brick Lane, Pikoo's Diary). I just wish that Draupadi's feelings for Krishna and Karna had been toned down a bit, to show that illicit thoughts or affairs are not the only way for a woman to empower herself.

Despite this, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in either women's issues or grand epics. The writing was in no way spectacular, but it portrayed emotions adequately enough. I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it, and I have a feeling I will never think of the Mahabharata in the same way again.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,292 reviews2,290 followers
March 16, 2023
A rather disappointing read for me.

No, it wasn't influenced by how much this book has been hyped ever since it got published and it's still the favourite of many.

No, it wasn't influenced by too much expectations.

No, it wasn't influenced by my lack of information or ignorance regarding the events the main character tried to describe (which I feel she failed miserably except for a few parts) in this retelling of the Mahabharata epic.

Let's start with the things I truly appreciated regarding the book.

First, the writing style is really good. It's rather visual and at times captivating.

Second, the retelling from the point of view of Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas and the daughter of King Draupad, is quite fascinating to consider accepting the fact that nothing much is there to read about the Hindu mythology let alone retellings or POV from the myriad number of characters in the epics like the Mahabharata or the Ramayana.

Third, the sarcasm is lit and the voices are clear.

Now time to spill some tea. I don't want to because tea is very precious to me but I have to because my reader heart is really disappointed.

I was enjoying the book till 30 percent of the book (until Draupadi got married to the Pandavas) but things become really repetitive and monotonous because of the way how the character's voice seem to falter a lot and was getting more like a secondary character. From there it read more like she was living in her own illusions let alone the Palace of Illusions.

Yes, the Palace of Illusions is a palace built for the Pandavas and specially for her as a gift to them.

Not judging the moral or the decisions taken by the characters (because we all know we cannot do that because it happened and it cannot change), I just couldn't stand it when Draupadi was obsessed with the thought that each of the Pandavas wanted her (of course, it's fine when they are your husbands who take a yearly turn to be the husband) but imagining Karna yearned for her or even Krishna flirted with her and wanted her was getting too much for me.

Girl, you made your point. Move on. It's just that it's everywhere in the whole story.

I would say this book's narration or events are almost the exact same as how the Doordarshan TV series showed the Mahabharata as. I felt like there wasn't much insight or information or anything different or unique to learn from Draupadi's point of view.

I was expecting at least something insightful from her side, what manner she was taking all those events that happened.

All the important events that happened, may it be the wars or the Swayamvar or even when she was pawned to Duryodhan due to Yudhisthir's gambling, nothing much was given much importance I felt. I wanted more descriptions, more impact, more reactions from the other characters most importantly strong powerful reactions and words/thoughts from her. But it was like I was re-watching that tv show again.

The ending was so underwhelming. None of the characters stood out. None of the events described in the book stayed with me. It's just that I was already familiar with them beforehand that I was able to read the book with ease. Otherwise it would have been something else.

I had to force myself to read the book till the end because I felt like I would do some kind of injustice to this much loved book if I write a review without completing the book.

Hope I like her other retelling better.

Not much tea spilled. So let's chill.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
871 reviews1,759 followers
May 16, 2020
Fascinating retelling of Mahabharata from Draupadi's PoV but I did not like the parts where author took the liberty about Draupadi and Karan to the point where she kept blaming herself most for what happened to him. It was OTT for me and kinda ruined the book for me.
Profile Image for mentalexotica.
269 reviews115 followers
March 1, 2018
I don't know why I do this to myself. Why I bother with this author when book after book has been nothing but ... Wanting, for lack of a better word.

The Mahabharata is my favorite story of all time. It is every book in one book and to take on the task of retelling the story from the perspective of Draupadi is the literary equivalent of hitting a jackpot of an idea. But. Here comes Ms Bannerjee Divakaruni to ruin that wholly awesome party.

This book is shallow, trite and vapid. The protagonist, otherwise known to be a woman of unequalled passions, valor, and beauty doesn't seem to emotionally age beyond her twenties.

But all these are still subjective plaints. My big bone to pick is the appalling use of language. The author doesn't lack an impressive vocabulary or expression, and so I struggle to understand why this book reads more like a drugstore paperback and less like a retelling of classic literature.

Phraseology is adolescent, and language is simplified to the point where one needs to remind oneself constantly that we are in ancient India. No grandeur. No grand intonations. No class. And no real wit. Even Draupadi's quasi flirtations with Krishna sound like they've been lifted from 90s high school sitcoms. The attempts at humor are putrid and labored. The star-crossed love affair with Karna is frustratingly drawn out with no just cause. Why bother with the angle? It achieves nothing other than a 200-page lament and a rather pathetically orated outburst towards the penultimate chapters.

I could go on for a while but it's really venting spleen. In a nutshell, read it if, like me, you are a real Mahabharata-phile but not really otherwise. It's an easy read not because it flows effortlessly but because it's somewhat idiotically written and poses no real challenge to the mind.

I've given it a two. One for effort and one for actually being enough of a story for one to complete it. Though that is hardly the author's medal.
Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,333 followers
September 2, 2016
“A woman is not a touch but a response to it”

----Pratibha Ray

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, an Indian best selling novelist, has penned an extremely emotional and gripping mythological-cum-historical-fiction novel, The Palace of Illusions that narrates the great epic Indian mythological tale, Mahabharata from the point of view of the most brilliant and fearless female character, Draupadi, who weaves her thoroughly soul touching yet enduring life story starting from the day she was born to the day she left her palace and kingdom to follow behind the footsteps of her husbands to heaven. Yes, in modern terms, you call it a fan fiction of Mahabharata.


A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharat—told from the point of view of an amazing woman.

Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to a time that is half history, half myth, and wholly magical. Narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Pandavas brothers in the Mahabharat, the novel gives us a new interpretation of this ancient tale.

The novel traces the princess Panchaali's life, beginning with her birth in fire and following her spirited balancing act as a woman with five husbands who have been cheated out of their father’s kingdom. Panchaali is swept into their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war involving all the important kings of India. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her strategic duels with her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands' most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female redefining for us a world of warriors, gods, and the ever-manipulating hands of fate.

Panchaali, daughter of king Draupad, was born out of fire, when her father prayed and fasted for a son who will take vengeance on his enemies. So apart from Panchaali, a dark beauty and highly intelligent and smart young girl, Dhrishtadyumna, a fierce young boy was also born out of the very same fire. While growing up, Draupadi confided in only three people who were closest to her heart, her caretaker, Dhai Ma, her brother, Dhri, and her only friend, Krishna, who guided her through all her troubles with his wise and thoughtful advice. But when the time arrived for Swayamvar, Draupadi's heart has already found the man of her life, but due to her father and Krishna's strategy and scheme to protect the king and the kingdom from his enemies, thereby yet once again Draupadi followed what others wanted her to follow before her heart's desire. Once landing into the palace of her husband, Arjun, Draupadi, once again, had to fight for and obey the rules and the opinions of her mother-in-law, Kunti, who asked her to marry off five of her sons, instead of only one. From then on, Draupadi had to lead a sad and enduring life filled with only grief, pain and loss and embarrassment. But not for once Draupadi spoke out aloud of her grief either to her husbands or to her own family, instead she quietly obeyed and payed heavily for everything that her husbands did.

This is one of the most enthralling and magical re-telling of the epic mythological tale that changed the history, spiritualism, thoughts and beliefs of Indian society. The whole tale felt like an astounding, mystical and breath taking read that blew my mind with the intensity of Draupadi's heart breaking life story as well as with the opportunity to lose myself in the thrill of the greatest mythology, Mahabharata told from the perspective of a brave woman. The author has not only imagined and projected her version of this epic tale, but has also included the wise words of Vyasa, the original author of Mahabharata.

The author's writing style is exquisite and eloquent and has laced the story line with so many deep, heart felt emotions that will move the readers for the characters' plight. The narrative is somewhat intellectual, thoughtful and truly authentic and it is told from the first person point of view of Draupadi, so that will let the readers contemplate with her honest voice. The pacing of the book is very slow and while reading, the readers might feel a bit lethargic due to the usage of heavy words and too many philosophical adverbs by the author.

The characterization of the protagonist, Draupadi, is really well carved out with all her flaws and her stronger aspects, with her desires and her hatred and with her positive and negative thoughts, thereby letting the readers experience and get to know Draupadi in her raw form. Draupadi has been brilliantly portrayed into the story and has been brought alive with so much vigor by the author. The readers will be shocked to go through the intense pain of Draupadi's struggle with her childhood days, her marital life, her role as a pawn in the game of the greatest war in the history of our country, her emotions towards how the brothers fought against his own blood just for the price of kingdom. In short, the rest of the supporting characters, do not much role or depth in them, either way, from Draupadi's minds the readers can chalk out a brief sketch of those characters.

In a nutshell, this is an excellently well written fan fiction based on Hindu mythology that will enlighten the readers' minds and souls as well as keep them entertained all through out the book.

Verdict: A must read for historical fiction readers.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
2,971 reviews1,179 followers
April 9, 2022
Pre-review: The tales of the Mahabharat narrated by the female main character (Draupadi)? Plus the book cover is so lovely~ I'm in.

The story is set in an ancient time when mortals could still communicate with gods a bit more easily, guru, sages and sorceresses roamed the land, etc, etc; quite exciting so far. Although I'd admit the heroine isn't the most adorable character from time to time.

Premise: in ancient India, King Drupad longed for revenge, in order to bring his enemies down, he prayed to the gods and offered a fire sacrifice, then in a great pyre of fire two children were miraculously born, Draupadi (or Panchaali) and her brother Dhrishtadyumna (Dhri for short), the King welcomed Dhri with open arms because the prince would clearly bring the revenge and glory he desired whilst Draupadi was mostly ignored and locked in her father's palace with a strange prophecy: she would change history in the future.

Since I know only the basic of the Mahabharat so I found this retelling to be rich with fine details, human dramas, conflicts, plot twists, complicated family history and secrets, some gods (plus the awesome magical weapons and boons they offered) here and there and good writing but what I don't really like is the romance between the heroine and a certain someone, I mean........come on, the two only met each other occasionally through the years and yet the guy was the one the heroine longed for most in her life? Come on! I think her friendship with the mysterious, godly(?) Krishna is a lot more delightful and believable.

In the myths, Panchaali seems to be merely a beautiful prize her father gifted to the Pandava brothers after Arjun won her hand, a faithful wife, a victim of schemes and kidnapping, a long-suffering woman of men's lust and violence, nothing more. Her emotions and thoughts are hardly mentioned (for example, what did she think about having to marry five men at once and shared among them?) Therefore I'm delighted to see Ms. Divakaruni dug deeper into the source material and offered us a look into Panchaali not as a goddess (she is in fact worshiped as a goddess by some people) or a brave, virtuous heroine, but as a flawed woman, and told her life story from her own viewpoint through her girlhood to her old age. So we can see how Panchali grew from a curious and energized girl, a proud and headstrong queen (for many times too headstrong and prideful for her own good), a disillusioned wife and eventually a revengeful and heartbroken woman who had weathered many losses.

As with most of the stories from the Hindu mythology, karma plays a major part and the main characters, from the protagonists to the antagonists, are always dragged down by their own stubbornness, greed, self-righteousness, pride and lies, etc etc; for example, it is made clear early on that King Drupad had brought his own humiliation and defeat to himself after he mistreated his former friend Drona, which turned the latter against him. Even the most well meaning and kind-heartened people would make mistakes and they would usually pay dearly for their mistakes, as all beings are entangled in a web of karma of their own making.

On the other hand, I really don't like the heroine's longing for this I mean......wow, just wow. It's even worse than the general insta-love.

I'd already mentioned I like the life-long friendship between the heroine and Krishna, anyone who knows enough Hindu myths would know Krishna is the reincarnation of Viṣṇu (one of the Big Three main deities), but I like how the heroine wasn't certain about Krishna's godhood while the other characters regarded the man as either a demi-god or a trickster.

Yet, there isn't much strong friendship between the heroine and the other women in the book (the heroine noted the women in her father's palace are afraid of her for her unusual birth and her unusually foretold 'destiny') excepts the one she had with her wet nurse Dhai Ma, and the friendship she formed among her daughter in law and the other noble women when those women, as widows, banding together to look after other even less fortune widows, sadly such sisterhood hasn't been described in detail.

The tension between the heroine and her hardened mother-in-law, Kunti, how the older woman made her many difficult decisions to safeguard her sons' well being--regardless of how these decisions would make others suffer, is well written.

As to Panchaali's five husbands: the Pandava brothers, Arjun (the greatest warrior of the time), Yudhishthira (the oldest brother) and Bhima have more screen time and their relationship with their chief wife (Panchaali) are developed better than their twin brothers: Nakula and Sahadeva. I know, it is hard to tell the life stories of all five brothers at once, so many of their famous adventures and conquers are only mentioned in passing.

Among the male characters, the heroine's brother Dhri doesn't seem to have flaw. Perhaps all kind big brothers are flawless in their eyes of their adoring little sisters? Plus Dhir endears himself to me with the few scenes of him playing together with his sister and how he refused to let go of his sister's hand when the King wanted to accept only him in the fire rite.

PS: I requested the public library to buy this book, seems like it's a good choice. I hope there will be more of Ms. Divakaruni's creations to be found in the future.
19 reviews1 follower
August 24, 2008
Just a petty complaint:
I'm in the middle of this book and have a strong enough sense of the story to be able to make a heart felt plea: enough of the blatant foreshadowing! It's as if the author has no other creative or subtle use of language to hint at things to come. It always involves the last sentence of the chapter, starting with the end of Chapter 1, "I didn't know then how sorely that love would be tested, or how much it would cost both of us", "I didn't know that I'd never see this fragrant flower-laden road - or the palace I so loved - again", "The current of destiny seemed to have flung us ashore and receded. Not knowing that it was gathering in a tidal wave, we chafed in our calmness..." and so it goes over and over again. I know it's a petty complaint for a story that is so grand and epic as a retelling of the Mahabharat. It seems more of a reflection of how the author views her own writing abilities - as if she does not trust her skill at being able to work the story delicately, subtlely, and weave it carefully so there need not be so graphic statements that constantly thread an ominous and foreboding feeling throughout the whole book. It does not allow the reader to let down their guard to get lost in the story, as they are always waiting for the other proverbial shoe to fall.

Other than this issue, I admire the author's ambitions and think she deserves recognition for what she does accomplish with the story. Though her writing and story telling are not as sophisticated as Ki Longfellow or Anita Diamont, she has real potential and I look forward to watching her develop her talent.

Profile Image for Ashish Iyer.
761 reviews475 followers
January 8, 2023
Mahabharat from a different perspective - that of Draupadi's. The woman's viewpoint makes it more interesting since we've hardly had such stories from a woman's perspective. However, I did not like the new angle depicted between Karna and Draupadi though, not even a bit

There is absolutely nothing in the Mahabharata that supports these claims. None of the known Sanskrit manuscripts and translations based on them, including the Gita Press, KMG, Dakshinätya recensions or BORI CE, have any verse implying the claim. This myth comes from 'reimagined', 'retold, 'creatively adapted' works based on the epic.

There was no romantic angle between Draupadi and Karna, there is not one hint of Draupadi showing any interest in him. She did nothing that lends any credence to the myth of her being attracted to Karna or anyone else except the Pandavas. Instead, in the Mahaprasthāna Parva 2.6, responding to Bheema's question regarding the fall of Draupadi on their final journey to heaven, Yudhishthira says, Though she was married to all of us, she loved Arjuna more.'

For someone who is looking for an introduction to the Epic its a strong NO, as the book is a huge & a bold deviation from the original.

Not Recommended.

And I suggest my friends to please read the original Mahabharata. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is surely a beautiful writer, no doubt there. But there is concern with modern so called Itihasa writers like Devdutt and Amish to name a few. They write with their own interpretation to spice up the story and readers like us start thinking that this is the correct story and start arguing with their friends. Please read the original Itihasa.
Profile Image for Vani Kaushal.
Author 3 books254 followers
December 3, 2021
‘Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni had been on my TBR list for years, but honestly, I wasn’t sure it was for me. As I review it today, I have only myself to blame. I was totally swept over by Chitra’s prose, mesmerized by the conviction with which she writes the story of one of the most complex characters of Mahabharata, that too, in first person. Kudos to the author for successfully presenting a fast paced compendium of this epic Indian text, which as it happens, is also one of the longest poems ever written (it is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, as per Wikipedia).

The narrative is telling of the life and travails of Draupadi, the woman who was born out of fire, married to five of the fiercest warriors of her time (the Pandavas), the queen who ruled one of the most magical of palaces, one who refused to learn the lessons her friend, Krishna, a God incarnate, taught her, a woman who was obsessed with vengeance, and spurned by the world for having been the cause of the great battle of Mahabharta, the battle that saw clans obliterated, and millions dead.

Through smart dialogue, the author cleverly etches out the character of Draupadi, careening a bit as she does this, from how this character has been portrayed in other versions of this epic tale, giving her faults and imperfections, likes and dislikes, loves and hates just as us humans (thus delineating her from the conditions surrounding her unnatural birth). The novel delves into the secrets of her life, the man she loved above her five husbands, her feelings as she witnessed acts of perfidy by people she considered her own, the ignominy of insults heaped on her by the world. In the end, the reader has become so much a part of this central character that just like her, he/she is craving for something to redeem her. And redemption happens, yes it does! I have yet to read a novel that'd a more satisfying ending as this. Definitely something for me to learn there!
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 58 books8,105 followers
April 20, 2021
This is a retelling of the Mahabharata from the POV of one of the main female characters, who as I understand it get short shrift in the original. Pathetically, I have never read the Mahabharata so I am coming from a place of near total ignorance. With that said, I enjoyed this hugely (and didn't know what was going to happen, lol. Like being the only person in the theatre who doesn't know how Hamlet ends.)

The epic sweep is magnificent, the many interweaving stories are deftly handled, the dozens of characters well differentiated which helped a lot, and Draupadi's narrative voice was mostly terrific: flawed, selfish, vengeful, bitter, and with enough self knowledge and longing for better to keep us on side. I will say, there was a *lot* of doomy foreshadowing ('if I had only known...') which became a bit noticeable to me, but may well have a different effect if you already know the beats of the story. A wonderful ride. I need more of this.
126 reviews24 followers
May 6, 2008
A retelling of the Mahabharata from Draupadi's point of view sounds like it has much potential -- but this attempt is let down by trying to encompass all of the epic, and bringing in the stories of almost all the characters, instead of staying faithful to Draupadi's (feminist) viewpoint. Making it a half-baked encapsulation, instead of a re-interpretation.
Profile Image for Vikas Goel.
19 reviews
September 3, 2015
Goodreads should provide the option of choosing 0 stars just to express the feeling after reading this book.
When I read "Chanakya's Chant", I thought no book can be worse than that. But how wrong I was! At least 10-15 times, I felt like tearing my hairs or throwing the book away.

The writer,Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, has managed to do something which I never thought was possible. Take the greatest epic and turn it into a senseless, boring and fictitious story with no head or legs.

The Story
The author has used her wild imagination to throw away the facts and create her own story. The story has so many factual errors that I was sometimes wondering whether the author has read Mahabharata like she claimed in her "author's note".
Draupadi coming out of fire undesired.
Draupadi and Krishna's friendship during childhood.
Draupadi's meeting with Vyasa.

There are just too many to even list out.
The author does not even know that at those times, the vedic way of life was prevalent and was followed widely. She does not get any fact right and just makes up her own reasons as she wishes.
Even in the last of the pages, she could not understand the simple fact that the last journey was supposed to be about renouncing all the world connections and termed the detachment as "lack of humanity"!! Are you seriously kidding me??

Even after all these liberties, the author is just seem to be creating a substandard movie story.

The Writing
The writing was so substandard and bad that even Chetan Bhagat's writing seemed better. The author has used so many cliches and twilight (for the lack of proper example) kind of dialogues that it didnt seem to be something that happened 8000 years ago. I agree that English and Hindi and many other languages are sometimes not sufficient to convey your thoughts properly when you are writing about epics that were originally written in Sanskrit but that does not mean that you should be using words like "death warrant" or
His eyes were filled with ancient sadness. They pulled me into them. I wanted to be the reason for his smile"
Girl, its just a portrait for Christ's sake.

The author thinks that the readers are stupid and needed to be spoon fed. Every other page contains her mindless stupid questions and not just one but 7-8 in a row. Stop it!!

She foretells every thing beforehand as if she wants to use the future information to justify her present actions. There is no flow in the story. The reader doesnt get intrigued or challenged at any point of time.
This is not how you tell a story to a reader!

And these are just a few in the long list of senseless writing and story-telling.

The Love track between Draupadi and Karna
This was the part which I was most looking forward to. Because whenever I have read Mahabharta, I always felt that Karna had some feelings for Draupadi but not the other way round. So I was looking forward to this part. But what I get is a girl has fallen in love with a portrait because of "ancient sad eyes" and "his sad story of birth as her own"
Who didnt have the sad background stories in the entire epic? Did Pandavas had normal births? Did Pandavas have an amazing childhood? Did Krishna had a peaceful life? Did Bheeshma had a painless journey?
And on top of this illogical explaination about this love, Draupadi compares every reaction of her husbands with Karna? A man she has never talked to, a man she does not even know. Please give me break!!!
She does not stop here. Karna, two sentences before is referring her as her daughter and two sentences later is confessing his love for her!!

Kill me now!!

Draupadi Portrayal
Draupadi has always been one of my favorite female character in all the epics. And what the author decides to make her into? She decides to portray her in all the colors possible without paying any attention to the fact that she was supposed to be the "QUEEN OF BHARAT", the most powerful woman to have lived!!
She turns her into a rebellious just for the sake of it without giving any proper explainations for her rebellion.Its like "I am a feminist" but when you ask why? The answer comes as "Just because everything is so wrong? All laws are against women?"
Then she thinks its not enough. So the author turns her into a woman who loves her palace more than anyone else!!! WOW!!! Bravo!!
Then she decides to convert her into this venomous cribbing woman. Then into a vengeance seeking monster. Then into a sad, crying creature. Then into an egoist maniac. Then into a person who is detached. Then into a mad woman. Then into a God!!!
I am exhausted!!! Can't take this anymore.

I dont understand that how these senseless books end up as "International Bestsellers". Perhaps, its the way she has written her story, catering only to the people who don't know the epic and give them what they like. Magic, sorcery, confused characters(not in a good way), some misplaced feminism, and lots of bullshit!!!

I can go on and on about the most pathetic book I have ever read. But it just isn't worth my time.
I will have to be more careful while trusting the rating on goodreads from now.
Profile Image for Manpreet Kaur.
147 reviews683 followers
November 30, 2017
I am really happy I picked up this book.
I was truly bored of Mahabharata retellings and I never intended to read more of those.
I am glad I do for this book is a MUST READ.
Written from Draupadi's perspective, the book is just too good. Written beautifully with praiseworthy story telling, this book wouldn't disappoint you.
Profile Image for Shravanthi.
230 reviews122 followers
February 6, 2017
How can you tell an ancient story in new light? And how can you tell it to a generation, who as children have literally grown up with this story, and as adults will have high expectations of it?

Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni has the answer in The Palace of Illusions.

The story of Mahabharata is nothing new to me. A kingdom greater than any - cousins fighting for the throne - sacrifices, promises, boons, curses - war - bereavement - atonement. An epic. The Mahabharata is an elaborate story, which can be perceived from any character's point-of-view and still have a rich storytelling experience. So, why not tell in from a woman's perspective?

While I was growing up, Mahabharata was always about the virtues of the brave men who went to war. There wasn't one story about what it was to be a woman during those epic times. This book is the wonderful tale of the woman who was the cornerstone of Mahabharata. Told in first person, this tale takes us to the depth of Draupadi's soul and shows us her views as the events of the great epic unfurl.

The best part about The Palace of Illusions was that, as a modern woman, I felt very connected to Draupadi. How Chitra ji manages to walk the fine line between the old and new interpretations of the character of a 'strong woman' is beyond me!

The author mixes the right amount of fiction into the archaic tale without taking away its original flavor. I mean, I have never heard of Draupadi's love story in the original. Draupadi is a fire born princess with lofty goals for her life. Sadly, none of them come true when she married the Pandavas. It is only fair that she keep thinking of where things went wrong for her and wondering if she married the right guy(s).

Draupadi's love story arc comes as a surprise because I have never imagined this possibility before! I just assumed that Draupadi accepted her life and marriage with satisfaction. The version that we have all been given has been avoiding a crucial detail about her character - Draupadi is a woman driven by resentment and regret of her own choices. How could she be happy in that miserable married life? Have we been painting Draupadi as a meek martyr when she clearly was much more?

five husbands

It was a new take on Panchaali and I think it fits her perfectly. Brilliant interpretation Chitra ji! It might or might not be true. I don't know if other interpretations tell the story the same way, but you have convinced me of your interpretation so beautifully, that now I begin to wonder if your version is the original version and if the truth somehow got diluted in the million re-tellings.

Where do I begin? Wow.

Never have I ever read a story with a POV with such strong intentions and inner monologue. The story in The Palace of Illusions is the story of Draupadi from birth to death. She was a woman beyond her times. She was headstrong, intelligent, virtuous (in her own way), ambitious, proud and was a feminist believing that the place of a woman is not just in the back of the palace, but right next to her royal husband.

Draupadi bow and arrow

Emotionally, we see the bitterness that shapes up Panchaali from the start. We see her angry, we see her withdraw, we see her contemplate, we see her lash out in blind fury, we see her curious, we see her loving. As the story progresses, the insight into Panchaali's inner doubts and fears become much our own. We see the princess who felt like a misfit at her own dad's place but eventually found a home in The Palace of Illusions. My heart goes out to her.

Panchaali's story is that of a woman so blindly confident of her unique destiny that she brought about her own misfortunes. Her pride fell. And then, she grew, learnt humility, kindness, surrender and acceptance. She grew to find a woman's power in her. She grew to identify her devotion to Krishna, and her love for him which is beyond body and mind.

courtroom scene

I admit it. Usually when I think of Draupati, I only think of her shame and her terrible fate at the hands of Dushasha. I was so wrong. I hadn't given her much credit. Understanding Draupadi's background and her character was a privilege. It was amazing. I understood the bottled-up rage and fury against her husbands, the shame that befell the pride of the Queen of the Pandavas and the surrender that sparked from desperation and her love and devotion to Krishna.

It was amazing to fill in the emotional blanks that I had of Mahabharata when it comes to Draupati.

Throughout the story we see other women of her age - Sudheshana, Banumati, Subadra, Uttara. None of them even compare to her. None of them even come close to The Fire Princess! Not even Kunti, who after a point accepts that it isn't her place to rule over what the Panchali says. And that is the most inspiring part of Panchaali's story for me.

draupadi fire

The author/poet has a way with words. Her words flow like honey and read like a poem. I was completely in love with her words while reading the book.

Chitra ji's art of storytelling comes out in the most unlikely places. Her idea to interpret Mahabharata from a new perspective is seen even in short snippets. For instance, we all know the part where Arjun and Duryodhan ask Krishna to join them in the war. In this story, this incident is told from Duryodhan's point of view, meaning we are privy to his arrogance and utter confidence in his victory, in contrast to the third-person, moralistic tale we have been hearing so far.

While telling a tale of this magnificent scale it's impossible to avoid villains. Sometimes, flawed characters need to remain flawed. Chitra ji's story had the compulsive need to seek goodness in flawed characters, and that felt far-fetched. It is okay for the characters to have chinks in their armors. I felt that the reasons the author gives to justify them were mere excuses. I just feel that when writing POV, it's okay not to idolize everyone.

Chitra ji brings out the chemistry between Panchaali and Kunti (the original Saas Bahu drama!) in a few entertaining pages. She has an ease of telling didactic incidents with a funny twist. She just told a convincing Mahabharata in less than 400 pages. I admire that. Well done!

1) A fresh viewpoint
2) Intense
3) Unapologetically human
4) Short, quick chapters
5) One-word chapter names (I love one-word chapter names)
6) Stays true to the original Mahabharata

1) Difficult to read as a Mahabharata virgin. Should be familiar with the original story.
2) Glorifies almost everyone

The Palace of Illusions insures a place for Mahabharata in the modern bookshelf by baring a story that is incredibly true to humanity and intensely inspiring.

For graphic novel lovers, find a similarly intense (but not quite there) Draupadi: The Fire Born Princess
Profile Image for Chetana Thakur Chakraborty.
135 reviews11 followers
January 15, 2019
'The Palace of Illusions' by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is really a book worth reading! I think its a must read for people who have an interest in the rich literary heritage of India. The author has beautifully summed up longest epic (Mahabharata) in around 360 pages. The story is narrated from the view point of a very important female character in Mahabharata, Panchali. This, I felt, is very unique. This book has added a very interesting touch to the epic.
The book begins with 'fire' and ends with 'fire'. It truly rekindles a 'fire' that is, of satisfaction in our hearts after completing this amazing novel.
Besides, the cover of the book is so awesome and attractive.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.
Profile Image for Mery.
Author 38 books208 followers
February 17, 2017
Aku selalu suka sama kisah yang mengangkat sudut pandang berbeda dari seorang perempuan. Dan Drupadi ini dengan sukses telah menghipnotisku dengan kehidupannya yang penuh liku-liku...

Drupadi adalah titisan Dewi Agni, yang diramalkan akan mengubah sejarah...
Pada bab-bab awal Putri drupadi diramalkan bahwa dia akan menikah dengan lima pahlawan besar pada zamannya, akan menjadi ratu dari segala ratu, dicemburui para dewi. Akan menyebabkan perang terbesar, kematian kakak dan anak-anaknya, akan menyebabkan sejuta perempuan menjanda. Dan ramalan tersebut menjadi kenyataan.

Dia dilahirkan dari api bersama kembarannya Drestadumnya, demi membalaskan dendam sang Ayah yang bersitegang dengan sahabat lamanya Drona. Pembalasan dendam inilah yang menjadi akar bagaimana kesengsaraan dimulai.

Atas nama kehormatan, para pria tak bisa mundur dari sumpah yang telah diucapkan mereka. Atas nama kehormatan, para pria lebih rela bertarung habis-habisan dan merenggut nyawa yang pernah mereka kasihi.
Atas nama kehormatan seorang ibu membuang bayi pertamanya ke sungai Gangga.
Atas nama kehormatan Amba kembali pada Bisma, dan mengucap sumpah dendam.
Atas nama kehormatan pula Drupadi terikat sumpah yang akan membawanya pada sebuah perang besar.

Kenapa aku suka sama buku Palace of Illusions ini? :D
Karena pengarangnya tidak memihak pada satu tokoh pun. Bahkan tidak pada Drupadi sendiri.

Tidak ada yang patut disalahkan dalam perang tersebut. Tidak drupadi, tidak drona, tidak duryodana, tidak yudisthira...
Karena itu sudah menjadi suratan takdir. manusia hanyalah bidak waktu... bidak yang mempunyai peran penting saat waktu terus bergulir...
seperti yang dituliskan pada halaman 68
Takdir itu kuat dan cepat. Kau tidak bisa memperdayanya dengan mudah. Meskipun kau tidak mencarinya hari ini, pada waktunya takdir yang akan menemukanmu.

Favoritku tetap Bima.. :D
Gak peduli badannya keker kek, serem kek, pokoknya suka...Cintanya ke drupadi tuh bikin klepek-klepek...

Sudaaah gak bisa berkata-kata...
hanya satu yang kupelajari...

Dalam perang yang dibutuhkan sebagai senjata pamungkasnya adalah kebencian... bukan kasih sayang...
Profile Image for Supratim.
233 reviews443 followers
November 12, 2022
I had heard a lot about this book, and finally got the chance to read it. This novel tells the story of Mahabharata through the eyes of Panchaali aka Draupadi, a princess who was destined to change the course of history. Mind it - this is not the Mahabharata or a scholarly work analyzing the epic!! The author has taken some creative licenses and this novel presents a concise version of the great epic mixed with the author's imagination.

Before I begin my review of this novel, let me tell you a little bit about the Mahabharata. It is one of two great Indian epics. Some say it is THE epic. At a high level, the epic tells the story of a great war fought between two branches of the same family, the righteous five brothers called the Pandavas and their villainous cousins, the hundred brothers called Kauravas. But, this epic is not just a story of war - it has tremendous religious and philosophical importance.

"With its philosophical depth and sheer magnitude, a consummate embodiment of the ethos of not only India but of Hinduism and Vedic tradition, the Mahabharata's scope and grandeur is best summarized by one quotation from the beginning of its first parva (section): "What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere." This quotation rightly sums up Mahabharata, within which one finds myriads of relationships, stories and events." Source: https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikis...

I shall quote a few lines from the author's introduction as I believe it sums up Mahabharata pretty well - "Set at the end of what the Hindu scriptures term Dvapar Yug or the Third Age of Man (which many scholars date between 6000 BCE and 5000 BCE), a time when the lives of men and gods still intersected, the epic weaves myth, history, religion, science, philosophy, superstition, and statecraft into its innumerable stories-within-stories to create a rich and teeming world filled with psychological complexity"

Now a little bit about Draupadi. She had emerged from the fires of a great fire ceremony along with a twin brother, Dhristadyumna aka Dhri. The rituals had been conducted by King Drupad as he wanted a son who will take revenge on the king's behalf. Draupadi was an accident no one had anticipated. Therefore, while Dhri was accepted by his father, Draupadi had to spend her childhood inside the four walls of the palace in the care of her nanny. Later by a misunderstanding or as destiny demanded, she became wife to all the five Pandava brothers, faced immense trails and tribulations including the ignominy of Kaurava brothers trying to disrobe her in full view of the royal court as one of her husbands had bet and lost her in a game of dice. Lord Krishna himself had to intervene to protect her modesty. From then onwards Draupadi's thirst for revenge will propel her forward. She is one of the strongest character in the epic.

I admit that this was a very ambitious endeavor. But, the author had strayed a bit too much from the original story. Won't reveal much here as I don't want to give spoilers. I am giving the three star rating only because I admired and enjoyed the author's writing, she is a gifted storyteller indeed. As a bonus, this novel has whetted my curiosity for exploring more about the epic. In case the subject matter interests you, then you can give it a try.
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
763 reviews1,476 followers
February 11, 2011
One of my favorite books ever, and I don't say that lightly.
Now, if only Mr. Wright had ever given my copy back! (Note: Never loan a book based on the Mahabhrata to your Asian Humanities teacher. You might as well have dropped it into a black hole.)

Anyhow I'm not really sure how to describe why I love this book so. The story is beautiful, that's a large part of it. The characters are strong and well-shaped, that's another part of it. The prose is gorgeous. The setting is truly magical. The tragedy twisted at my heart. I read it once and was impressed; read it again slowly, savoring, and was swept away.
Hinduism really has a claim on the whole 'fate and reincarnation' thing that keeps getting tossed around in YA. And while reincarnation isn't a subject of this book, fate is. If you want to read a brilliant, tortured star-crossed romance, this book is for you. If you want a great adventure story, this is a good bet. If you're wondering what this Mahabhrata thing is all about, try this perspective on for size before you go after the far lengthier versions. Because of this book, one of my goals is to get through a 900+ page translation of that great epic, and if I'd never read The Palace Of Illusions, I might never have discovered the Mahabhrata at all.

Thank you, Ms. Divakaruni.
Profile Image for Apoorva.
164 reviews679 followers
October 2, 2021
Stories are powerful. They mold our personalities in the subtlest of ways. When we are younger and impressionable, the mind imbibes a strong sense of right and wrong through carefully constructed words.

I had an exuberant childhood; I can almost call it perfect! Though most of my memories from the earlier years are crumpled like an old photograph, I do have a recollection of the ones that forged a beautiful part of my life .

One such memory is my grandparents, especially my grandma telling me wondrous tales from the epic scriptures. I remember pestering her to tell me more stories, and she, possessing the patience of a saint, would keep coming up with new.

The tales consisted of everything from Gods and Demons, a fight of good against evil, the rise of heroes, the wisdom of sages, cautionary tales, stories that taught values and morals. I don't remember when I lost my knack for listening to narrations from my grandma. And it's been a while since I thought of her.

"The Palace of Illusions" made me take a dive into nostalgia. It's a retelling, and a feminist take on the epic "Mahabharata" told from the perspective of Draupadi-Panchali. And even though I have heard the original tale long ago, I only recall it in bits and pieces. So reading this book felt familiar and fresh at the same time.

In my opinion, old stories are fashioned out of the beliefs, traditions, and circumstances utterly unique to that era that do not hold up in the modern world. Is that why I felt a little loathsome about women's role relegated in the background or about men having multiple wives, about the unfair discrimination based on caste? If Gods aren't immune to vice, sin, and folly, what chance do we have as humans?

However, I do now want to dismiss all the good that the ancient chronicles have to offer. These stories are filled with profound wisdom; if you ignore the unpalatable aspects and take the time to examine them in-depth, I'm sure you can find something that will help you in your life's journey.

Coming to the book in question, I did enjoy reading it. The author achieved what she had set out to do, put the women's voices in the forefront where men occupied the lead role. I empathized with the main character for all the good and bad choices she made.

At the same time, I felt terrible for all the choices that had been made for her; and she had no agency over her life. Still trapped in that narrow box, Draupadi-Panchali managed to captivate me through all her charms and flaws. I felt connected to not only her but also the other women in the story.

The book starts with a bang, the pace slows in the middle, but it hits its the peak in the climax. The ending left me speechless. If you want a different perspective on your favorite childhood tales, I highly recommend reading this book!

Profile Image for Pooja Singh.
86 reviews428 followers
February 7, 2019
"Love comes like lightning and disappears the same way. If you are lucky, it strikes you right. If not, you'll spend your life yearning for a man you cannot have."
- Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
A novel take on the age-old saga of Mahabharata, narrated by Panchali or fondly known as Draupadi, this enchanting tale takes you to the beginning of her birth in the fire, to her earlier days in her father's palace, to her stint as a woman with five husbands.
We all are probably aware of the courses that Mahabharata took but do we ever think of what happened and why it happened especially from the point of view of a woman who was supposedly 'modern' and lucky for her time, being married to five men at a time?
The story provides answers to all these questions and opens up your eyes about the circumstance that led Draupadi to be the cause of the war.
The narrative also provides important insights about her friendship with Krishna and a long lost love, that never came to fulfilment.
How were her relationships with the Pandavas? What were the sacrifices she had to make as a woman of that time and to support her husbands in the war?
Did she really get what she wanted in the end?
Beautifully narrated, highly engaging and refreshingly stimulating.
The parts where the war is described does get a little boring because most of it is already been told so many times before, but the different take that the book offers on the war more than makes up for it.
Highly recommended for lovers of Indian mythology.
Genre: indian-literature, mythology, war, fiction, fantasy, historical-fiction
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
Reading difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐/5
Profile Image for Anshu Sharma.
231 reviews61 followers
January 22, 2019
Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective. The premise seemed pretty intriguing given that Mahabharata is one of my favorite epics of Hindu mythology and the beloved story being told by a female character whom I admired made it even better.

The concept was pretty good but the actual realization seemed pretty lacking. The story paints every incident with such bland and broad stokes that the magic and beauty of Mahabharata seems lost in the telling. Every incident is narrated by Draupadi in such a toneless voice which makes her seem nothing like the strong and admirable character she truly is.

The 2 stars is for the Mahabharata that I love and not for this book which adds nothing to it.
Profile Image for Mia Prasetya.
400 reviews250 followers
June 15, 2010
Bisa dibilang saya merasa beruntung bisa membaca buku seindah ini. Terlebih lagi sedari SD ayah saya yang juga pecinta buku rutin menghadiahi saya buku Mahabrata karangan R.A Kosasih. Kaget juga karena di usia saya yang sekarang, kurang lebih 20 tahun lewat sejak pertama kali mengenal tokoh Pandawa lima, ternyata saya masih mengingat garis besar kisah Mahabrata ini

Istana khayalan benar-benar membuat saya berkhayal jauh, seakan-akan saya ikut berada dalam Hastinapura, ikut bersimpati dengan Dropadi dan tanpa saya sadari, ketawa sendiri mendengar celetukan Dropadi yang ngasal juga.

Pada awal buku, Divakaruni mengajak kita berkenalan langsung dengan tokoh utama, Dropadi. Kisah kelahirannya yang fenomenal, kondisi ayahnya yang terbakar api dendam, kakaknya yang sangat mencintainya dan teman sehati Dropadi, Krishna yang bijaksana. Siapapun akan mudah jatuh hati dengan sosok Dropadi, perempuan yang cerdas, blak-blakan, haus akan ilmu, tidak menyukai pertempuran bahkan ia bertekad merubah pola pikir sang ayah dan kakak tercinta (sangat berbeda dengan apa yang terjadi di kemudian hari). Sejak masa mudanya Dropadi menyadari ia bukan seperti perempan kebanyakan, ia tidak menikmati pelajaran khas wanita, dan takdir memang membawanya jauh dari perempuan kebanyakan.

Suatu ketika, Dropadi menanyakan nasibnya kepada pertapa,
“Kau akan mengawini lima pahlawan terbesar pada masamu. Kau akan menjadi ratu segala ratu, dicemburui segala dewi. Kau akan menjadi pelayan, kau akan menjadi penguasa yang paling hebat lalu kehilangan itu.
Kau akan diingat karena menyebabkan perang terbesar pada masamu.
Kau akan dicintai, meskipun kau tak selalu tahu siapa yang mencintaimu”
Ramalan itu kembali diucapkan Srikandi, dan Dropadi mulai menunggu, takdir apakah yang menantinya di depan sana?

Betapa takdir mempermainkan nasib seorang wanita, Dropadi yang jatuh cinta pada pandangan pertama dengan Karna, seorang anak kusir kerajaan yang pada akhirnya juga mencintainya yang ironis baru diketahui sesaat sebelum Karna meninggal. Perkawinannya dengan Arjuna, pandawa yang berhasil memenangkan sayembara menjadi suaminya, namun sesuai dengan titah sang ibunda pandawa apa yang menjadi milik seseorang harus menjadi milik bersama. Dropadi menjadi istri dari kelima Pandawa. Ia memiliki istana yang sangat indah, namun sebagaimana yang ditulis di ramalan pertapa bijak, ia akan kehilangan semuanya itu.

Bagian tengah buku, Dropadi yang kita kenal dulu sudah berubah.
“Dia sudah mati. Separuh dirinya mati saat semua yang dicintai dan dia harapkan menyelamatkan hanya duduk tanpa protes dan menontonnya dipermalukan. Separuh dirinya yang lain musnah bersama rumahnya tercinta. Tetapi jangan takut, perempuan yang menggantikan tempatnya akan mengukir jejak yang lebih kuat ke dalam sejarah daripada yang dulu dibayangkan gadis naïf itu” h.289

Dipermalukan, kehilangan, dendam, kesombongan menghancurkan Dropadi dan ia bertekad tidak akan menyisir rambutnya sampai ia keramas dengan darah Kurawa. Betapa besar arti kebencian dalam diri seseorang, sampai pada akhirnya kebencian pun membakar hatimu sendiri, kau tak akan menyadarinya sampai semua yang kaucintai hancur, luluh lantak tak bersisa.

Kayaknya saya bisa jadi penerusnya Echa nih, ayo semua teman-teman yang belum baca buku ini, baca deh.
Banyak pelajaran yang didapat dari buku ini, salah satunya jangan meremehkan wanita ;D
Oia, agak beda dari buku komiknya dulu yang membuat saya kesengsem dengan Yudhistira, nah di sini Yudhistiranya agak oon sedikit, amat tidak pas dengan karakter Dropadi yang meledak-ledak. Hanya Bima yang bisa mengimbanginya, siapa sangka pendekar yang keker sumeker bisa bertekuk lutut di kaki Dropadi, Bima bersedia membantu Dropadi di dapur, bahkan rela membunuh demi Dropadi. Salah satu kalimat Bima yang saat ini saya jadikan status di fesbuk, “Tanpa kau di sisiku, untuk apa ada kerajaan?” Huwaah manis sekali, siapa yang sangka kalimat seromantis ini datang dari Bima?
Kalau Arjuna sih tidak banyak diceritakan di sini, terlebih lagi Nakula dan Sadewa.

Semua teramu lengkap di buku ini, perang dahsyat, ramalan, dewa dewi yang ga kalah keren dengan dewa dewi Olympus, kisah cinta fenomenal, cinta sejati Dropadi – Karna walau tidak pernah sekalipun mereka berkumpul tapi kita berasa ikut merasakan kesungguhan cinta mereka, ada di sini. Yak, kayaknya musti buat rak baru nih, buku-yang-saat-kelar-dibacanya-bikin-bilang-aaaaaaahhhh-indah-sekaliiii. Tapi kepanjangan keknya, hhhmmm, pokoknya baca aja deeeh, kalau mau saya bersedia meminjamkan buku ini.

Profile Image for ~Rajeswari~.
152 reviews35 followers
April 25, 2021
Buddy read with Nehal✨
The life that you’re living today is only a bubble in the cosmic stream, shaped by the karma of other lifetimes. The one who is your husband in this birth was perhaps your enemy in the last, and he whom you hate may have been your beloved. Why weep for any of them, then?”
I am a bug fan of mythological fiction.This book is the narration of Mahabharat from the perspective of Draupadi.What I liked about the book are-
• Raw emotions:The author didn’t try to mould Draupadi in an ideal Sati Savitri Woman.She took out her raw emotions, desires and malices(Nobody is perfect)
• Excellent Dialogues:Some of the dialogues were from Gita but the new ones were incredible too
• Draupadi’s appearance:The author didn’t try to “Whitten”Draupadi.She described the dark and beautifu. Draupadi (According to Religious books, Draupadi was dark)
• Love:The author depicted forbidden love in a intriguing manner
• Tragedy:The death tragedies of Pandavas and Kauravas we’re written in a heartbreaking manner
• Climax:The climax which shows us the death of Draupadi.Krishna accompanied her in her journey from the Earth to the Heaven.She met her loved one’s souls there avid of earthly egos and malices.She took Karna’s hand and started her new journey.

Profile Image for Nikhil.
33 reviews29 followers
September 20, 2020
Quite refreshing.
Though, I didn't enjoy the Draupadi and Karan's angle. It was just not convincing enough. But then these were the thoughts of Draupadi according to the author and can't be questioned.
Another angle of Draupadi and Kunti was portrayed quite convincingly and the events totally justified Draupadi's thoughts for Kunti.
I was expecting more of Draupadi in this book but I guess the author has made an attempt to narrate the Mahabharat through the protagonist. The entire epic is covered in just 360 pages and is written beautifully with all the major events covered (which is commendable.)
Profile Image for Aakanksha.
Author 20 books665 followers
July 12, 2019
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is based on Indian epic the Mahabharata which was written by sage Ved Vyasa. In this book, the story is narrated by Panchali's point of view. She is the daughter of the king Drupad, also known as Draupadi; wife of five Pandavas, and mistress of the breathtaking and stupendous palace.

Panchali was headstrong, but an egoistic and restless woman. Her harsh words lead to the end of an era, but it was entirely not her fault. She was just a pawn or instrument in God's play. The women were considered their husband's property. They have to do whatever they told to, which leads Panchali to a lifelong shame when her husband Yudhisthir lost their kingdom, his younger brothers Bheem, Arjun, Nakul, and Sahdev in a gamble to his cousin brother, Duryodhana in Hastinapur. That unfortunate day, Yudhisthir crossed all the limits and played gamble on Panchali and lost her too. Duryodhana and his brother Dussasan humiliate her in front of everyone. No one comes to her rescue, except Krishna. All of her husbands stay still and watch the disgraceful act, including the great warriors like Karna, Drona, Bhishma. The age-old rivalry between Pandavas and Kauravas played out in the ground of Kurukshetra, which is considered the end of Dvapar Yug.

Read the full review here - https://www.bookscharming.com/2019/07...
Profile Image for Anna.
125 reviews5 followers
March 26, 2008
I think Divakurani's short stories are genius-but she ought to lay off the novels. The book wasn't terrible, but there were some ATROCIOUS anachronisms sprinkled throughout and the heavy handed feminism was a bit much. It definitely gained in narrative voice as the plot progressed.

Interesting read, but wait for the paperback, or get it out of the library.
Profile Image for Thesunan.
54 reviews17 followers
March 21, 2010
buku pinjaman dari tante Mumut.. :)

PROLOG (boleh dilewat soalnya rada2 OOT :D)
Pertama kali saya tahu ada cerita tentang Mahabrata adalah waktu saya SD, film Mahabrata pada waktu itu ditayangkan oleh salah satu stasiun televise swasta, yang memang dulu sempat mendapat julukan sebagai Televisi Pilem India, soalnya stasiun televisi tersebut sering menayangkan film India. Namun saya sendiri kurang tahu tentang sejarah cerita tersebut, hanya beberapa tokoh saja yang ada di ingatan saya, terutama para Pandawa yang sering menjadi perumpamaan untuk menggambarkan orang yang memiliki sifat-sifat atau ciri-ciri seperti para Pandawa.

Yudhistira, adalah Tokoh Pandawa yang menggambarkan seorang pemimpin yang sangat jujur, yang (hampir) tidak pernah berbohong (walaupun pernah berbohong 1 kali tapi sebenarnya tidak berbohong). Tidak mendapat memiliki hasrat keduniawian, ketika mendapat titah menjadi raja, maka dia hanya menjalankan saja kewajibannya. Sungguh lah pemimpin yg sangat ideal Yudhistira ini. Seorang pemimpin yang dirindukan, andai saja di Indonesia ada seorang pemimpin yang seperti dia. Maka tak heran jika istilah atau menyamakan seseorang dengan Yudhistira belum pernah saya dengar sebelumnya.

Bima, nama yang sangat tidak asing, sering digunakan untuk menggambarkan karakter seseorang yang kuat, tegas, dan galak ketika berhadapan dengan ketidakadilan, bahkan salah satu anggota tubuh Bima menjadi ikon minuman suplemen buat laki2, iya benar kukunya.. bayangkan kuku miliknya Bima saja sangat kuat, apalagi bagian yang lainnya.. :)

Tokoh Pandawa yang lain adalah tokoh yang digilai oleh banyak perempuan, tokoh yang sering jadi sebutan buat orang yang memiliki paras rupawan dan tukang kimpoi.. hehhe. Dialah Arjuna, seorang yang suka puasa, dan berkelana, mempunyai wajah yang bercahaya, cahaya yang terpancar dari wajahnya inilah yang membuat lawan jenis maupun sejenis klepek-klepek.

Dua tokoh Pandawa yang terakhir adalah saudara kembar Nakula-Sadewa, yang saya tahu dijadikan nama sebuah yayasan yang menaungi para anak kembar, dibawah asuhan kak Seto.

Tokoh2 itulah yang saya ingat dari cerita Mahabrata, walaupun saya adalah penggemar wayang golek. Mungkin karena yang jadi pusat perhatian saya bukanlah tokoh utama dalam cerita Mahabrata ataupun Ramayana, melainkan tokoh2 (mungkin) fiksi, yaitu para Punakawan.

[image error] Semar, nama lengkapnya Semar Badrayana. Semar Badranaya mengandung makna, di dalam sikap bijaksana tersimpan keberuntungan baik bak orang kejatuhan rembulan. Dia dianggap titisan dewa

[image error] Cepot atau Astrajinga anak tertua dari Semar, memiliki sifat yang humoris, tokoh ini biasanya dikeluarkan oleh dalang di tengah kisah untuk menyampaikan pesan bebas, biasanya nasihat atau sindiran-sindiran tentang keadaan yang ada di masyarakat.

Punakawan yang berhidung mancung ini adalah Dawala, biasanya muncul bersamaan dengan Cepot. Dia mempunyai sifat sabar setia dan penurut namun kurang begitu cerdas dan kurang terampil.

inilah anak bungsu dari Semar, yaitu Gareng, sama seperti halnya Cepot atau Dawala, gareng biasanya dikeluarkan sebagai hiburan.

Menonton pertunjukkan wayang golek adalah suatu keharusan di keluarga saya, minimal seminggu sekali, sewaktu almarhum bokap masih ada, kita suka nonton bareng apabila ada pertunjukkan wayang golek di hajatan tetangga atau acara di alun2 Kelurahan. Kebiasaan itu berlanjut sampai saya kuliah, kebetulan waktu saya kuliah salah satu stasiun televisi swasta yg sekarang terkenal karena menampilkan acara jodoh2an, menayangkan acara wayang golek tiap malam minggu. Berhubung saya seorang ‘anak rumahan’ yang gak pernah maen malem, di saat temen2 lagi asik kongkow, nongkrong, clubbing saya malah diem di kosan nonton wayang golek.. :)

Namun sayang sekali acara wayang golek di tv sekarang sudah menghilang, entah apa sebabnya, mungkin karena pertunjukkan wayang golek membutuhkan banyak biaya dan ratingnya gak begitu tinggi. Bayangkan saja berapa banyak dana yg mesti dikeluarkan untuk pertunjukkan wayang golek, ada dalang, sinden, dan belasan nayaga, kru di belakang panggung, dan belum lagi biaya buat puluhan golek, nah kan golek itu sendiri butuh “makan” hehehehe..

Padahal belum pernah ada pertunjukan wayang golek sampai di stop oleh aparat setempat, karena menimbulkan kerusuhan bahkan sampai ada keributan yang fatal. Jadi hiburan wayang golek benar-benar aman!
Tercatat banyak sekali dalang wayang golek, beberapa diantaranya adalah H Ade Kosasih Sunarya, Asep Sunandar Sunarya, Tarkim, R.U. Partasuanda, Abeng Sunarya, Entah Tirayana, Apek, Dede Amung. Yang sering mengadakan pertunjukkan di daerah saya adalah Dede Amung dan Asep Sunandar Sunarya dari Giri Harja 3.

Nampaknya cukup ngelanturnya… :D
"Cinta datang seperti halilintar, dan hilangnya pun demikian. Kalau kau beruntung, cinta yang tepat akan menemukanmu, kalau tidak, kau akan menghabiskan seumur hidupmu merindukan laki-laki yang tidak bisa kau miliki."

Buku ini mengingatkan saya tentang cerita Mahabrata, cerita tentang perang Bharatayudha yang melegenda, Buku ini ditulis dari sudut pandang Drupadi atau Pancali titisan dari dewa Agni. Seorang wanita yang akan mengubah jalannya sejarah.

Drupadi yang menikah bukan dengan orang yang dicintainya, walaupun dia dengan terpaksa menikah dengan kelima Pandawa bersaudara, ternyata lima orang tidak bisa menutupi kekosongan hatinya yang mendambakan seseorang yang berada di kasta di bawahnya, seorang anak laki-laki dari seorang kusir kereta.

Memang begitulah hidup apa yang kita inginkan gak selalu kita dapatkan, begitu pun Drupadi menjalani hidupnya hanya sekedar menjalani takdir yg sudah tertulis oleh yang maha kuasa, dan bahkan sudah bisa dituliskan Byasa sang peramal di dalam kitabnya. but sometimes, even if u know how something's going to end that doesnt mean u cant enjoy the ride

Selain pernikahannya yang sudah diramalkan oleh Byasa, Byasa juga meramalkan bahwa Drupadi adalah orang yang akan menyebabkan perang terbesar pada masanya. Byasa juga menyiapkan Drupadi untuk menjalani takdirnya, dengan memberikan latihan2 dari mulai latihan hidup sederhana seperti memakai pakaian murah, makan seadanya sampai tips dan trik di tempat tidur. Byasa juga mengajari aji-aji yang membuat Drupadi akan menjadi perawan lagi setiap kali bersama Pandawa bersaudara.

Takdir yang tidak bisa dilawan dan tidak bisa diperdaya, watak dari Drupadi malah mempercepat prosesnya. Kesombongan, pemarah dan pendendam, apalagi waktu dia dipermalukan oleh Duryodana, di depan banyak orang dia ditelanjangi. Karena kejadian itu keluarlah kutukan dari mulut Drupadi “aku tidak akan menyisirnya, sampai saatnya aku membasuhnya dalam darah Korawa.” Sebuah sumpah dan kutukan yang menyebabkan perang besar dalam sejarah.

Dalam perjalanan hidup menjalani takdir yg sudah dituliskan, Drupadi mengalami berbagai macam gelombang kehidupan. Hidupnya tidak pernah puas, kerinduan terhadap sang anak kusir kereta begitu menggebu2, selalu orang itu yang terlintas dalam pikirannya. Bahkan sampai akhir hidupnya

"kau lupakan saja tentang cinta, Putri. kenikmatan lebih sederhana, dan kewajiban lebih penting. Belajarlah untuk puas dengan itu.".

-----IT Imam Thesunan yg merindukan momen2 bersama sang Ayah waktu nonton wayang golek bareng----

Profile Image for e.c.h.a.
503 reviews253 followers
February 15, 2010

Buku ini telah memikatku dalam banyak hal:

Pertama, Cover yang menarik. Yup, terkadang mata saya suka sekali dengan keindahan cover suatu buku. Perpaduan warnanya seperti membawa saya ke Istana Khayalan. Cover aselinya juga keren..I Love Green :)

Kedua, tokoh utamanya yaitu Drupadi. Saya suka Drupadi. Saya mengenal sosoknya saat membaca Mahabharata. Yang sedikit diceritakan *plus saya skimming juga* tapi sukses meninggalkan bekas di hati.

Ketiga, kata pembuka yang dikutip Divakaruni :
Siapa saudara perempuanmu? Akulah dia.
Siapa ibumu? Akulah dia.
Fajar merekah bagimu seperti juga bagiku.

Keempat: Catatan penulis yang mengantarkan saya masuk ke zaman dimana kisah Mahabharata di mulai.

Yup, Divakaruni sukses menulis kembali kisah agung Mahabharata dengan menggunakan sudut pandang Drupadi. Drupadi, Putri Raja Drupada yang kelahirannya dari dalam api, dimana kelahirannya akan merubah sejarah.

Membaca buku ini seakan-akan mendengar kisah Mahabharata dari mulut Drupadi sendiri, mengulik bagian-bagian yang mungkin tidak tersentuh oleh Byasa dalam Kitab Mahabharatanya. Emosi Drupadi yang dilibatkan dalam setiap penuturan. Bagaimana perasaannya saat kelahirannya yang telah membuat dia mengemban karma. Hubungan dengan ayah dan kakak tersayangnya. Penikahannya dengan Arjuna serta dengan ke-empat Pandawa. Hasrat cinta terpendamnya.Hubunngan dengan perempuan-perempuan penting dalam kehidupan Pandawa. Kedekatannya dengan Krishna dan yang terpenting perasaannya saat menyaksikan perang yang melibatkan semua orang yang Ia kasihi di Kurukshetra.

Sangat mengasyikan memandang Pandawa dari pikiran Drupadi, mereka terlihat manusiawi di mata saya. Bukan hanya tokoh Pandawa saja tapi semuanya, terlihat manusiawi. Apakah karena emosi yang sejak awal sudah ditanamkan Divakaruni melalui Drupadi? Sehingga saya ikut merasakan apa yang dirasakan dari setiap tokoh yang ada dalam kisah ini. Dan, akhirnya saya bisa memandang semua tokoh dari sisi yang berbeda. Bukan melihat siapa yang jahat ataupun siapa yang baik. Tapi lebih karena karma & takdir yang melingkari semua. Karma, what you get is what you give

Dan, akan selalu ada Krishna dalam setiap kehidupan kita :-)

NB: Kalau yang penasaran dengan kisah Mahabharata tapi berat untuk membacanya. Pilih buku ini dan kau akan tahu semua cerita dalam Mahabharata.
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