Saurabh Sharma's Reviews > The Palace of Illusions

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
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's review
Nov 19, 2011

really liked it
Recommended for: Fans of mythology, historicals, Culture
Read from November 19 to 22, 2011 — I own a copy

The Palace of Illusions is at its core a retelling of the epic Mahabharat through the eyes of Draupadi, also known as Panchali, wife of the Pandavas. The authoress does a tremendous job of capturing the essence of the epic in a crisp and compact story that keeps the reader engaged and enthralled through out. The book is not judgmental about any of the characters and shows them in different shades leaving the readers to form their own opinions about them.

At the centre of the story is Draupadi's unquenchable and hidden desire for Karana. She marries Arjun in a Syamwar but it is Karana who she really loves and that unfulfilled yearning remains a constant though her life. The book begins with Draupadi as a young girl growing up with her brother Dhri and traces her life and the various events that made her the woman we know today. To the author's credit she does not try to portray Draupadi as a virtuous, idealistic heroine but shows her for what she was, a resilient, headstrong and passionate individual who rebelled against the norm. She had the two vices Desire and anger that eventually lead to the great battle of Mahabharat.

The author also strips the other characters off their heroic and virtuous status and we see them in Draupadi's eyes as regular people, talented and skilled undoubtedly but not without faults. I think the credit for this should go the source, it is the beauty of Mahabharat that there's no white or black but simply fate and circumstances that create heroes and villains.

Krishna is another important character that has a special place in Draupadi's heart and though he is not shown as a God, yet he comes across as an exceptional personality who is detached yet involved in all that happens as the story unfolds. In the end it is him who has all the answers and one simply cannot help but admire him.

In the end I would just say that while from a story point of view this is just a retelling there are aspects or insights into Draupadi's heart that make this book special. It does justice to the epic and can be a good initiation, for the uninitiated in the world of Vyas' Mahabharat.

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11/19/2011 page 25
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