MeI first read Mahabharata at the age of 7, when my father gifted me a comic strip version of the epic saga. 😎
Then the book was prescribed in my school curriculum, in class 5 and 7th respectively.
Having read and watched so many versions, I judged the The Palace of Illusions
to be yet another version of the epic. Chitra ma’am proved me wrong, as the book turned out to be different from the other books I had read, as it describes Draupadi’s point of view and has delved deep into the mind of woman. We have all read the valor, sacrifice and commitment of the warriors who were involved in the great battle of Kurukshetra, but this book is a mind blowing account of the sacrifices and courage shown by women before, during and after the war. You can’t put it down once you have started.❤️
What is the book about?
The book recites the tale of Draupadi or Panchali who is born from fire with her brother Dhri and it’s foreseen that she will bring about the biggest and disastrous turn of events in the history. The Palace of illusions initially is a tale of a princess trapped in the webs of dilemma as she tries to prove herself again and again. She consistently questions and condemns the patriarchy norms of the society, which is why she’s also the black sheep in the kingdom. Her relationship with her brother has been portrayed beautifully. She simply condemns the man she secretly loves for the sake of her brother. Draupadi’s relationship with Lord Krishna has been portrayed beautifully too. He seems to be answer of all the questions of her rebellious mind. He not only encourages her, but also makes her feel confident in her own skin.
She is greatly concerned about what her future holds and tries to take help of a seer who warns her of the consequences of three actions she shouldn’t perform if she wants to change the course of events prewritten in her destiny. Her Dhai ma is her companion in the kingdom, who retells Draupadi the story of her birth and enthralls her.
She’s devoid of freedom and power at her father’s kingdom, which she later gets by becoming the wife of five powerful Pandavas, but it doesn’t quench her thirst for happiness as her heart resides with her husband’s arch nemesis (and borther) Karna. Her plight has been beautifully explained in this quote,
Love comes like lightning, and disappears the same way. If you are lucky, it strikes you right. If not, you’ll spend your life yearning for a man you can’t have.❤️
The book also portrays the constant change in her life, from being the most powerful woman to being sent away to live in the forest. Throughout the book, she consistently questions the actions of men around her, and raises a few eyebrows.
Chitra ma’am has done justice to Draupadi’s character by depicting the inner conflicts, the inferiorities, the hidden emotions of Draupadi during the yester years, and by also showing the momentary pride after becoming the most powerful queen.
The book can be easily classified as a mythological fiction as it leaves several questions unanswered, but Chitra ma’am leaves no stones unturned to close every loophole in the plot.
Several instances of the book can be easily connected to the present situation of the society. Two of them are :
- In spite of being born as a princess, she couldn’t escape from the trials of being a girl. Her father’s ignorance towards her shows his evident hostility as he had not performed the yagna for her.🙄
- She lost her individuality after marriage, as now, she was Panchali before being Draupadi. This is evident from the fact that Yudhishthira pawned her without her permission.😏
Apart from the engaging plot, I liked the way Chitra ma’am has portrayed the strained relationship between Kunti and Draupadi. The author makes no effort to show it as a ideal relationship, by keeping the mild hostility flickering in it.
The plot loosens a bit and becomes hard to believe in places where Draupadi dreams about things and meetings which can’t be possible. Also Maharaj Dhrupad conducting the Swayamvar for the sole purpose of making Arjuna his son in law is quite debatable since the Pandavas were rumoured to be dead in the Lakshagrah incident at that time. (There are several theories pertaining to this incident, so it can’t be called a work of imagination).
Draupadi’s constant search for love and the anguish she feels is heart wrenching at places. You will actually feel the gush of emotions seep into your heart as you turn the pages and you will realize Draupadi is one of us. Flawed yet beautiful, searching for love, trying her best to fix situations, and find justice for herself.
Even after you close the book, Draupadi will stay with you.
Draupadi ; a woman who was the queen of five kings and yet couldn’t get the respect and love she deserved. A woman who had five sons and yet could never be their mother.
I feel the Hindi title has done justice to the entire saga, as it indeed is Draupadi Ki Mahabharat (Palace of Illusions)
The tale truly shows the consistent war inside Draupadi’s mind that she fights with herself, unknown to everyone outside.
The Palace of Illusions is a mind blowing saga of a fierce feminist entrapped in the patriarchal society, thriving for freedom, gasping for love.
Over all, it’s a must read.
My Rating – 8/10
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