Not everybody has an interest in the Hindu mythology. In fact, most of our generation and the ones following, do not care to know about the various epics that formed the basis of our culture, learning and rituals. I know in these times of cynical practicality we do not have the time nor the interest in reading about Ramayana or Mahabharata or Ved Purana. But somehow I feel these did indeed shape the society, and still do. Without getting too philosophical, I will jump right into why you must read “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
Unlike what most people will think, The Palace Of Illusions isn’t a boring interpretation of the events that took place sometime around 5000 BC-6000 BC. It is instead a very complex yet relatable tale of people, their desires, their mistakes, their love and their demons. You will be surprised by how the times were same as now and so was the thinking. In fact somewhere between that era and the current age, came the widening gap of mindset.
The novel begins from the very beginning. The very cause of the great war between the Kauravas and Pandavas and how each little event led to the war. And all from the eyes of Draupadi. The one woman who indirectly caused these chain of events to occur. How this male dominated war had another aspect, that of a woman who got married to five brothers when not wanting to marry anyone of them. From the headstrong girl born out of fire, to the old wife who follows her husbands to heaven when all is won yet all is lost.
But it’s not just about Draupadi and the Pandavas. It’s also about the various other equally important men and women who in their own way teach us something. How and why the mighty, formidable grandfather Bhishma Pitama who had vowed to never touch a woman was ultimately defeated by one. Drona, the greatest warrior and teacher to the Kauravas and Pandavas, teaches his childhood friend Draupad the lesson of not keeping a promise. From Karna, the anti-hero who never truly knew his lineage, we learn the importance of loyalty, even when you have to fight against your own blood.
You cannot possibly lay your hands on a better re-telling of this tale. Even Game of Thrones and its labyrinth of a story can take a lesson from the Mahabharata. Don’t think this novel tries to give you any kind of “gyan”. It is a simple attempt (and a brilliant one at that!) to narrate the story of five brave men, their family, their wife, their wives and how they were mere pawns in the game of life. And all through the eyes of Draupadi. I have always been a fan of Chitra Banerjee’s work. I still remember borrowing the Sister of My Heart from the school library and falling in love with her style and form of narration.
Don’t hesitate, just buy the book, let the book do its magic, and make it a part of your collection. You will be surprised at how it surprises you!