The Palace of Illusions, a book by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, a historical fiction novel is a must read for all those who have keen interest in reading and Indian mythology. It narrates the timeless tale of the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective. This is where the book holds the interest of the reader, as you get to see things from a different view from the one you’ve remembered from childhood.
It portrays Draupadi as a strong willed woman (And a dark skinned beauty , defying the definition of beauty that the society prescribed) who you begin to admire as you read more into it. And yet she is as much a human as anybody, facing an ocean of different emotions where she faces her fury, jealousy and a secret attraction to a stranger she barely came to know. Her journey as an open minded woman born into a man’s world governed by vows and rules adds on a personal touch to the story that in some parts agrees to the situation today. The book title is inspired by the Palace build by the five Pandava brothers when the kingdom is divided between the Kauravas and the Pandavas where it all began from unintended insult to Duryodhan ( the eldest of the Kauravas) to the story of treachery , betrayal and vengeance at last with the great war. It traces Draupadi’s life from her fiery birth , a lonely childhood with her brother being her only solace and her complicated friendship with witty but mysterious Krishna and her life after marrying the five Pandavas.
Draupadi’s narration gives a deeper meaning to this age old legend as it feels so real that you would end up admiring and relating to Draupadi at some point too. And Krishna’s part as described in the book as Panchali’s ( Draupadi) companion who guides her throughout and holds her together just makes it even more beautiful to read. The author has done an amazing job in making this historical fiction look so real.
At the end I’d like to add my favourite lines from the book that would remain with me forever.
“A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself”