Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Palace of Illusions” as Want to Read:
The Palace of Illusions
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Palace of Illusions

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  44,292 ratings  ·  4,659 reviews
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
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by Doubleday
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Palace of Illusions, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Mansi There are actually two ways of dealing with such curiosities.
One is by endlessly searching for facts trying to verify it and the problem with it is th…more
There are actually two ways of dealing with such curiosities.
One is by endlessly searching for facts trying to verify it and the problem with it is that we’re still not sure whether Mahabharata, or even Ramayana, really did ‘take place’ or not but that’s a whole other debate.
The other way is to treat it like literature is supposed to be treated. These epics were woven to inculcate values that the society lacked and it got modified according the need (different regions had different problems) So across India, you’ll find many versions of Mahabharata. No one version is ‘correct’ and you’ll find that no two versions are similar. ‘The Palace of Illusions’ is Chitra Banerjee’s version of it and in it Draupadi fancied Karna.
It’s different from the original but that’s the charm of literature. Different people derive different meanings from the same poem. So you could have your own version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with a happy ending. Granted, it completely modifies the original but it saves you from the heartache the tragedy delivers. ;)(less)
Ritika Goswami Initially they indeed thought that the Pandavas have died but the All Knowing Vasudev Shri Krishna indirectly let King Drupad know that they were aliv…moreInitially they indeed thought that the Pandavas have died but the All Knowing Vasudev Shri Krishna indirectly let King Drupad know that they were alive.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  44,292 ratings  ·  4,659 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Palace of Illusions
Dr. Appu Sasidharan
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing

(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 sw
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 give
Em Lost In Books
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. ...more
May 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
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,
Reading_ Tamishly
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
“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
Richard Derus
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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 t
Jul 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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 fragr
Vani Kaushal
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
‘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 ...more
K.J. Charles
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 dozen
Ashish Iyer
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

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.
May 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Manpreet Kaur
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Chetana Thakur Chakraborty
'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 w
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 trag
Vikas Goel
Feb 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bad-books
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
Pooja Singh
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
"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 M
Anshu Sharma
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, mythologia
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 to
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 wond
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 covere
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: finished
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.
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After what seems like an eternity, reading a book gave me simple and absolute pleasure and with every turn of a page, my excitement only kept growing. What is interesting is that, almost every Hindu has been told this story throughout their life in bits and pieces. Another book based on the same story simply should not be this engaging.

Mahabharata is the story of the rivalry between brothers Pandavas and Kauravas and the dire consequences that rivalry leads to. Usually, it is narrated in third p
Meera Nair
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s evocative script, The Palace of Illusions courses through the events in Draupadi’s life, giving us a panoramic glance at the life of the Panchaal Queen.

This retelling, while alluding to developments in both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, lends an air of empowerment to the female characters of the Hindu myths. Through its narration of the legends of Gods & kings, we read about humans’ inabilities to learn from their own follies.

I am so glad that this i
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book at its centre is Draupadi's version of Mahabharat. When I picked this book, I wasn’t too sure, if would relish a book on – battles, power-play, politics, adrenaline-filled glory and carnage. But the authoress had done a tremendous job of capturing the essence of the epic in the form of a story. The authoress had bereft the characters of divine, virtuous status and made them very real and human, which makes it very easy to follow, despite the complexities in the leading characters.

Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am so so happy that I could read this book. I enjoyed every page of it. This is the story of Mahabharatha - not the full one, but a few incidents as seen through the eyes of Draupadi - the Pandava wife. This book will be best appreciated only by those who have a knowledge of the Mahabharatha - the vast Indian epic full of intrigue, mysteries, magic, politics, family obligations and the strife for attaining the Kuru throne by two set of cousins - the good Pandavas (5 brothers with one common wi ...more
A fantastic read. Except for that twist in Draupadi's love life it would have been perfect. The stories of Mahabharatha were a part of my growing up. But i had never paused to think about what the people involved really felt and thought. So it was a surprise to read about Draupadi's feelings in her own words. What did a woman who was born from fire think about herself. ? What did she feel when she knew that she would have to marry five men ? Thete were times when I found my heart racing like whe ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Immortals of Meluha (Shiva Trilogy, #1)
  • The Secret of the Nagas (Shiva Trilogy #2)
  • Karna's Wife: The Outcast's Queen
  • The Oath of the Vayuputras (Shiva Trilogy, #3)
  • Sita: Warrior of Mithila (Ram Chandra #2)
  • Scion of Ikshvaku (Ram Chandra #1)
  • Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata
  • Train to Pakistan
  • 2 States: The Story of My Marriage
  • Sita's Sister
  • Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta (Ram Chandra #3)
  • The Krishna Key
  • Mrs Funnybones
  • Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished, The Story of Ravana and His People
  • Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT
  • The 3 Mistakes of My Life
  • The Twentieth Wife (Taj Mahal Trilogy, #1)
  • The God of Small Things
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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 ant ...more

Articles featuring this book

  Listen up, because our colleagues here at Goodreads have some excellent audiobook recommendations for you! Of course, the books they've...
66 likes · 37 comments
“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 can't have.” 164 likes
“I am buoyant and expansive and uncontainable--but I always was so, only I never knew it!” 116 likes
More quotes…