Friday, July 29, 2011

Palace of Illusions

Rarely you come across a book, that makes you feel like, that, there is one more side to the coin that you have already flipped over, many a times.

Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee's Divakaruni, is one such book. 

If you are an Indian or for that matter, even if you are not from India and have even a tiny bit of interest in Indian Mythology and the Indian Traditions, you must be aware of the Epics of Indian Mythology- From Ramayana to Mahabharata to Bhagwat Gita (which by the way comes from Mahabharata).
Now, we all know the basic story of Mahabharata -
Pandavas ousted by the jealous cousins Kaurava's leading to the epic battle at Kurukshetra, where Lord Krishna gave one of the most sought after sermons of Karma and Aatma. Where, the Good finally triumphs over the evil cousins! 

And lo Behold- Balance is again restored in the land of Bharat where the righteousness is restored.

What more you ask, is there to this mythological drama, which has been repeated over and over again if not on television then as course book in Hindi..

But...There is more.

The main reason behind the battle of Kurukshetra might have been to gain the kingdom back, but the nudge and the push was given by the most sought after character of the entire play, i.e Draupadi. And wherein all the writers have focused on the male characters and their perspectives, Palace of Illusions is narrated by Draupadi. By the girl who was born out of the fire *The unwanted child, who refused to let go of the hands of her brother Dhri*. 

The book traces the story of Draupadi, through her childhood and then her marriage, and finally to her last journey that she makes with her husbands. All the facts that are given in the book are the same that we all must have read or seen or heard through ages.
From, her birth, to her swayamvar, to her troubled marriage with the 5 brother *Can you imagine, staying with five men, at the same time*, to her complicated friendship with Lord Krishna, who names her Krishnaa, and finally it throws open a plethora of emotions that she has for the one man who she truly loves. 

Yes, there is also the relationship with the other wives and  her mother-in-law, Kunti *I used to always feel sorry for her and the conditions that she had to bring up her family, but after reading this book, I have a lot of changed perspectives* and the narration of the Battle at Kurukshetra.

The entire narration of the book is in first person, wherein Draupadi is telling her tale. Her story. Of what she really went through.
And, one thing that the author takes care of here is to make sure that she portrays the divinely born Panchali and Pandava's as humans!
Yes, of course, I still can't get over the fact, that none of the central characters of this Epic tale have a normal birth. In the times that these mythologies are set its seems, IVF was the more preferred technique of conceiving than sex! 
Like Draupadi says to her Dhai Ma, when she hears the story about the birth of Pandava's "It seems like no one's birth is normal anymore"

But over all, I feel, that this is by far one of the BEST perception of a mythology, that I have come across. The narration is simple. The research on facts, is very detailed, and trust me, I was mystified and once more pulled into the world of Panchaali after ages!
Go pick this one up!


Lipsy said...

Loved your review and the book looks interesting enough to grab a copy ...more so as I am keen to read the flip side through Draupadi's angle

Do enter my giveaway here

Rachit said...

An interesting review, will for sure give it a look.

Weakest LINK :)

Tangled up in blue... said...

Definitely on my list now! :)

RiĆ  said...

Sounds interesting...will pick it up sometime soon!

Jack said...


My curiorisity is highly raised. I would love to read this book and also check if there is any research involved or it is just fiction.

Take care

Banupriya said...

Sakshi, Have heard the same story from mom in a tamil novel. Will catch up with this book next time when i hit the book shop.