>… by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni
Draupadi or Paanchali is a pivotal character in the stories of Mahabharatha. She is the impetus for the Kurukshetra war and most famous as the wife of the five Pandavas. This book is a condensed version of the epic narrated from Draupadi’s point of view. The aim of the author is to explain why Paanchali did what she did. The cause and effect pattern of the epic is most evident in this book. Most of Draupadi’s actions are explained by causes in her past.
For those who don’t know many of the stories of Mahabharatha, this book can be a good introduction. The major characters , the concepts are all given in a brief but complete manner. I was especially impressed by the way the author wove in the stories of Baka and Ekalavya also into the book. Many less known facts about Draupadi are also brought up in the book , like her childhood friendship with Krishna when he would call her Krishnae. Her rebellious nature is also a revelation to us. Her resentment of her egotistic father because he did not care for her or the prophecy she was born with as much as he did for her brother. Her solace with the ever enigmatic Krishna and with her dear brother Dhrishtadhyumna. The stories that she and her brother narrate to each other to pass long summer evenings are really creative and touching too. The fact that Vyasa had predicted to her the path of her whole life and even warned her of the mistakes she would make. It is also explained how, though Draupadi knew the consequences of her actions, she could not react to the situations in any other way than what was foretold. Her intense devotion towards her husbands , her unforgiving nature and her search for a home for herself are all deep rooted in her psyche. Even common incidents like her feuds with her mother-in-law are highlighted to show us more cause-effect incidents.
The title Palace of Illusions is derived from the fantastic palace that the Pandavas build for themselves at Indraprastha. It is the first step they take to transform the barren land to a prosperous city. Draupadi who never felt at home at her fathers palace or at the palace of the Kauravas always yearned for her own home, one where she could truly be a queen and the mistress of the house. All that was good in her life is represented by this palace , the loss of which hits her hard and further fuels her anger.
The one thing Mahabharatha lacks is an all encompassing romance throughout the epic. All characters have romantic interests and of course Draupadi’s marriage to the five brothers is a stand out but there is not a continuous love story that will remain in people’s hearts. Perhaps to increase the allure of the book the author introduced a Draupadi – Karna angle into the book. Karna being the tragic hero of the book ,most pitied and most beloved for many is indeed a good candidate for a love story.I agree that the relationship between the two was a rocky one , what with one insulting the other at crucial moments of the epic but no place have I heard it to be a romantic one. Though this forbidden love is interesting from a fiction point of view,this is something not present in the epic. This development kind of disappointed and drove me to laughter too. Draupadi yearning for Karna , the ego battles and especially the Titanic like end bordered on hilarity.
Other than the one obvious flaw , I found this book to very entertaining. The story is well formed and in a fast paced style. It has the right amounts of suspense and drama included. The character descriptions also are nearly accurate and many of the stories of Mahabharatha are stringed together admirably.In fact once you start reading, it is hard to put down this book. Highly recommend you to try this one. Divakaruni does a good job.
This review is written by Pavithra. You can find her writings at Pavithra Kodmad’s Pages