The Indian Epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata have always fascinated me. With vivid character and plot portrayals, their stories have often awed, inspired and sometimes even appalled me. And so whenever I feel like switching to a work of fiction, I pick up books that re-tell these great tales, albeit from newer story angles.
In one such quest, I landed with the book – “Palace of Illusions” written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
Only a few books can be judged by their covers, and this happens to be one of them. I instantly bond with the author as she speaks of her own admiration for the tales of Mahabharata, and on her urge to give some recognition to the strong female protagonists who equally contribute to the great tale.
Through her book, the author beautifully sketches and re-tells the story of Mahabharata, from the point of view of a powerful lady protagonist – Draupadi. History and mythology magically woven into words, it traces tumultuous life of the fireborn princess – her marriage to the pandavas, their beautiful palace of illusions, their exile and finally about the epic war.
All through the book you feel her battling the manipulations of fate, her stormy relationship with Kunti, her innate love for an enigmatic Krishna, and an intense portrayal of her inability to express her deep-rooted feelings towards one man, who is also Pandavas biggest enemy.
I have repeatedly seen this book tucking out of bags of women passengers in India, and have often wondered if this was a conscious choice or they randomly drew a parallel between Panchaali’s journey to theirs. I believe it is the author’s strong intent behind such oblivious actions, where she wants people to correlate their journey with Panchaali’s and comprehend the impact their own actions might or might not have on their destiny.
“Only a fool meddles in the Great Design. Besides, your destiny is born of lifetimes of Karma, too powerful for me to change. But I’ll give you some advise. Three dangerous moments will come to you. The first will be just before your wedding: at that time, hold back your question. The second will be when your husbands are at the height of their power; at that time, hold back your laughter. The third would be when you’re shamed as you’d never imagined possible: at that time, hold back your curse. Maybe it will mitigate the catastrophes to come”
-Chapter 5 : Smoke