Skip to main content

The Palace of Illusions - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Most of you who know me well, will know that I am a strong advocate of feminism – not the bra burning kind but of the kind that will seethe in rage at the blind acceptance of patriarchy. Patriarchal systems are so ingrained in the cultural norms of India that it will take more than a few hundred generations to eradicate. I won’t go into elaborate examples here because that is not the point of this post. However, The Palace of Illusions serves to challenge the manner in which the Mahabharata, one of India’s greatest mythological epics is narrated; this time, from a woman’s perspective. Yes, the Mahabharata here is presented to us from the eyes of Panchaali or Draupadi as she is more popularly referred to.

Divakaruni takes us through Draupadi’s journey from when she was born into the lap of luxury as a Princess to her doting father King Drupad to her many struggles as ‘wife’ to her 5 husbands – The Pandavas. The book is half myth, half fiction but is entirely enchanting. Whilst Draupadi plays the role of wife to her 5 husbands with great finesse, the author doesn’t let you forget Draupadi’s romantic desires where she secretly admires her husbands’ most potent enemy ‘Karna’ – how dangerous could this be? to what extent is Draupadi willing to go and how harmful could the consequences be?  

Draupadi’s close friendship with Lord Krishna is heartwarming and reaffirms certain foundations of solid friendships – constant companionship, good humour and shared interests. In contrast, through Draupadi’s interactions with her mother in law, Divakaruni also reminds us of the often complicated relationship a daughter in law shares with her mother in law.

The famous scene of  Draupadi’s ‘vastraharan’ (disrobement) as her husbands mindlessly gamble away their kingdom to the ‘Kauravas’ is narrated so poignantly by Divakaruni that it provides insight into Draupadi’s thoughts and feelings during such a disgraceful experience.

The build up to the battle of Kurukshetra preceded by years of exile, again from Draupadi’s perspective, is a refreshing deviation from the episodes of The Mahabharata that I remember watching as a child.

I would highly recommend this book as it attempts to provide us with a different outlook on the narration of an Indian Epic so deep seated in patriarchy that it needs appreciation for this very initiative!


  1. Brilliant review!! Have read the book and agree with you.

  2. Brilliant review!! Have read the book and agree with you.

  3. i have loved this book... it remains one of my favorite.. i have loved all those retellings of Mahabharata...

    1. :) Yes it's an epic in its own right


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Sab Moha Maya Hai - For The Sake of Valentine's Day!

14th February, Valentine’s Day. A day we are told we must “celebrate” as it epitomises this wonderful emotion that we as humans are capable of – Love.

“So, what are your plans for the day?” I was asked this question about a million times today and all I said was “Oh! I don’t know, I’m very unromantic!” to which I got responses like “But it’s the day of love” or “Come on! you need to celebrate love!” and so on. Having reflected upon this small talk that people often engage in to ease the awkward silences, I felt the need to put my thoughts to paper about the difference between romance and love as I find the two are often confused- one for the other. Romance is an expression of love, not love itself. Love is when you consistently strive for the wellbeing of another despite it causing you discomfort or pain. It is unconditional, not based on trivialities like tokens of affection which have sadly come to become measures of the extent of love. If you buy me a cake, you love me 30%, a design…

Flesh and Bone and Water - Luiza Sauma

I was delighted to receive this book for review from Penguin UK. Having grown up with memories of the Penguin logo in almost every bookshop I visited, it felt wonderful to be recognised as a reviewer by this world renowned publishing house. 'Flesh and Bone and Water' has nothing to do with South Asia. However, the commonality it shares with the region is that it is set in Brazil, a place that is often referred to as also being part of the 'third world' group of nations. "It's easy to leave a place when you're young. Coming back is harder. That's my advice : stay where you are." And so begins this beautiful novel which I would term as part coming of age and part an immigrant's journey from Brazil to Londres (London). More importantly why does the protagonist Andre venture back on a journey to his childhood home? The author Luiza Sauma has very poignantly narrated the story in first person so it feels like Andre is telling you his own story. You…

Serving Crazy With Curry - Amulya Malladi

Food! - That wonderful part of our existence that not only plays the essential role of providing daily sustenance but is also an archetype of culture and tradition. For me, food is a meaningful catalyst to creating unforgettable memories and associations. There are certain foods that I associate with certain events or significant people in my life. I also seek comfort in food be it a hot bowl of dal rice after a hard day at work or a sneaky piece of chocolate as a reward for achieving something (Yes, I do apply the principles of behavioural psychology to my own life!)
I first came across Amulya Malladi’s books in London’s local libraries. I was impressed that her books are well stocked which is an indication of their popularity. I read a couple of these books and soon found out the reason for this. Two words – Writing and Characters! Her writing is immensely engaging and her characters threaten to come alive page by page. This certainly applies to ‘Serving Crazy with Curry’.
Devi, our …