Mythology has always been close to my heart from the days of my childhood when my grandmother used to tell me the stories. On weekends I used to get up early only to make sure that I don’t miss the series of Ramanand Sagar. I guess it was the budding of my love for stories which has shaped my personality today.
I have always felt that Mahabharata is one of the most well-written stories of all times. An array of characters intertwined in a complex plot; yet when everything unwinds itself at the end you remain dumbstruck at the each unfolding.
This book “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakurni is not the retelling of the story of Mahabharata. This is the story of Panchali, daughter of king Drupad also known as Draupadi, her loneliness in her father’s home suffocated by riches and pressure of patriarchal society, her affection for her brother Dhri who was her only friend and companion in her parent’s home, her friendship with enigmatic Krishna, her belief that she was born to do something greater than getting married and leading the life of a mistress.
Her curiosity about her future led her to sage Vyasa who told her that she will be married to 5 men and will become the cause of the death of her loved ones. Disturbed with the foretelling she asked her ways to amend it. But in spite of sage’s advice was she able to change the inevitable? Was she able to mitigate the coming catastrophes? Hasn’t she done all the mistakes for which she was warned? Her heart fluttered for Karna yet she married Arjun and as the fate has laid upon her, as per the words of Kunti she was married to all the 5 brothers.
The Palace of Illusions later built by Pandavas in their kingdom filled with magic and adorned with all the materialistic adjectives was envied by all the visitors and becomes the cause of the mass destruction. The wonderful palace became the home for Draupadi and she loved it more than her husbands. Envious of his cousin’s prosperity and insulted by Panchali’s laugh, Duryodhan won everything from the Yudhishter in a deceitful game of dice. Strange is how a person who has lost himself can still wager on her wife. Dragged into the sabha full of men, Draupadi was humiliated in the worst way she could ever imagine. Failed by all his loved ones, scorned Draupadi spoke the curse which seeds the great war of Mahabharata.
Filled with vengeance, Draupadi instigates her husbands to take revenge for her insult. But after avenging her public humiliation, has Draupadi finally found solace? Was the cost she paid in the form of the death of her loved ones worth the vengeance she carried in her heart for so many years?
This book is quite gripping and difficult to put down once you begin it. The character of Draupadi grows upon you as the story progresses. You can empathize with her and along with it one can feel the err of human nature. I will definitely recommend this book.