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The Palace of Illusions

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  25,651 ratings  ·  2,648 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
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Mansi Lamba 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…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)
Sanjay That is correct, and there are many versions to this. One of them is that Drupada is outraged on hearing about their demise and goes to the sage who…moreThat is correct, and there are many versions to this. One of them is that Drupada is outraged on hearing about their demise and goes to the sage who predicted that his daughter would marry Arjuna. The sage reassures him that his prediction would come true, and advises him to hold the swayamvara.
Another version says that Krishna goes to Drupada, hinting that Arjuna and the pandavas are still alive, and suggests that he have a test in the swayamvara that only an archer of the highest skill would be able to pass.
There may be other versions as well, and I'm not a master of this epic. So I suppose if you're in my place, just keep an open mind and enjoy reading.(less)

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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
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!

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
“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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
Nov 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2k15
My memory often tends to fail me when it concerns my childhood but I distinctly remember illustrated Indian books, a splurge of my parents hoping it would instill many virtues, sprawled on my bed waiting to be read. With time, I started to develop an interest on my own towards works like the Panchatantra, Jataka Tales, Amar Chitra Katha, i.e., just about anything that had conversing animals or a touch of mythology in it. These books are unique in the fact that at the end of the story, they have ...more
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
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
Lubinka Dimitrova
Beautifully written and captivating... And the stories... Ah, the stories... They reminded me of the reason I've always loved indian mythology. This was a really satisfying book.
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 c
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
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.

Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We are complex, so are our lives. How can it be, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie rightly pointed out, that our stories are not a compilation of heterogeneous narratives? Our narratives are lessons for us to surmise on the basic effervescence of our lives. Why discard them as illogical and barren in modern times? The Palace of Illusions paints the other side of a story. Contrary to the prevailed portraiture of Panchaali as a victimized women, this saga establishes her as a fierce and rebellious perso ...more
Book Riot Community
A version of the Mahābhārata told from the perspective of Princess Panchāli, this did more for me that an entire semester of studying the original text for college did. Panchāli’s character is fascinating in that she is married to five brothers in the Hindu epic, and the novel talks about this with due credit to the patriarchal context.

Verdict: Buy.

from Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Hindu Mythology Retellings:
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of indian mythology, anyone
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.
Rosamund Hodge
Oct 01, 2012 added it
Shelves: 2012
This novel ended up reminding me a bit of Till We Have Faces: the basic plot is "mythological woman has passionate, interesting life, eventually finds peace and enlightenment." Except that it's based not on Greek mythology but the Mahabharata, which it retells from the perspective of Draupadi/Panchaali, the princess who becomes (partly) the cause of a cataclysmic war.

I liked it quite a bit. It's a fast read, yet lyrical, and the portrayal of Krishna is fantastic, a really compelling mix of lovab
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
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
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.
Nidhi Mahajan
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is extremely difficult to comment upon the beauty of Divakaruni's words. She has attempted the enormous task of retelling the Mahabharata, one of the greatest Indian epics. The Mahabharata is often called a 'history', a record of the past composed by Vyasa. Many versions of the epic exist today and it continues to intrigue intellectual minds. Many interpretations of the Mahabharata have been attempted and Divakaruni's The Palace of Illusions is one of them.

The Place of Illusions is a retellin
Preethi Venugopala
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read from Chitra B Divakaruni.

'The Palace of Illusions' is Mahabharata seen through the eyes of Panchali, the wife of the five Pandavas. Mahabharata is an epic with many thousands of characters and side stories and narrates the story of the Kuru dynasty. The story happens in the third age of man Dvapar Yug, when the walls between the world of man and the Gods were thin. Even though I knew every twist and turn and every side story; the story when told by Panchali and
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Mahabharata through the eyes of its most controversial character - Panchali or Draupadi.. Its an interesting take.. and Chitra Banerjee through her master story teller stroke has done a fair justice to it. Although at time she turns Panchali into a more complex character then she could be.

To read more, visit Storywala
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review
Like I've said before, what does it say of a story when countless people, centuries later, can continue to render it in their unique way? It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who's completely enthralled by the phenomenon that is The Mahabharata. It's even more heartening when renditions are such that they do justice to the epic.
This is the Mahabharata told from the viewpoint of Draupadi, and as a reader, I could easily believe this to be indeed her autobiography. I could sense the
Nithya Subramaniam
"All of you will die from this day's work. Your mothers and wives will weep far more piteously that I've wept. This entire kingdom will become a charnel house. Not one Kaurava heir will be left to offer prayers for the dead. All that will remain is the shameful memory of today, what you tried to do to a defenseless woman"

For years, Draupadi was an enigma, shrouded in mystery. I never really understood her. For me, she was the Regal and Loyal queen of the Pandavas, who took her lumps and stood
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I started reading this one a little too late. Quite a few of my friends, and my sister, had already read most or all of it and it was nothing but inevitable that I'd be told all the spoilers. Even then, it was surprisingly refreshing to finally come across a woman's perspective on Mahabharata. The Palace of Illusions offers a passionate feminist perspective on dharma or duty that is the sole purpose of living for everyone in Hastinapur, especially Draupadi who was born to change the course of hi ...more
Pratibha Suku
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in mythology-Indian Mythology
The book touched almost all the major aspect of one of the most important figure of Hindu/Indian mythology. Nice narration though more than a strong female (as I think of her) it made her an egocentric character. The focus was much on her "lost love" and this as overshadowed her various other equations. The dialogues are nicely put up keeping one in the book.

Being born into a conservative Hindu brahmin family,much of the story about Draupadi is known to me. What I was looking was some thing mor
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Is this book worth reading? 15 120 Mar 05, 2019 04:01AM  
International Reads: April 2015 - The Palace of Illusions 4 96 Apr 07, 2015 09:57AM  

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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
“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.” 131 likes
“I am buoyant and expansive and uncontainable--but I always was so, only I never knew it!” 97 likes
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