I was itching to read The Palace of Illusion by Chitra Banerjee from a long time. After reading Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant, I was quite smitten with the Hindu Mythology especially Mahabharata. The creativity of imagination in authors amaze me.
I’ve already read Mahabharata from Karna POV(Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant), Duryodhana POV(Ajaya by Anand Neelakantan), and Bhima POV (Bhima The Lone Warrior). Now latest from Draupadi point of view in the book The Palace of Illusion.
When I started reading I was wondering that why the book was named as The Palace of Illusion. Well IndraPrastha or The Palace of Illusion marks the rise of Draupadi’s authority over Pandavas. It was the palace of her power which made her queen of queens. When The Palace of Illusion was taken away from the Pandavas in the gambling, Draupadi’s heydays also perished with it. So the Palace of Illusion was of great importance and matter of pride for Draupadi.
The Palace of Illusion has been written in the first person and the story has been told from the Draupadi’s perspective. It might be first effort by any writer to re-write Mahabharata from a woman’s POV.
The first half of the book is very well written. The author has successfully brought out the feelings and the character of Draupadi. The book starts with a bang. Draupadi has been told by her Dhai Ma how she was born. The entire scenario has been beautifully explained. Draupadi also shares her own observation about her birth which gives a feeling of how much unwanted she felt during that time. The author has also described her childhood in details which helps the readers to develop a better understanding for her character.
There are few episodes in the first half of the book which I particularly enjoyed reading as they were something new to read. . Like her special meeting with the Sage Vyasa, roles of dhai ma & the sorceress, her conversation with Bhishma and her platonic relationship with Krishna were a treat to read and added freshness to the story. Draupadi’s meeting with the rishi Vyasa was, particularly, beautifully written and startled me completely. I think that was the best part of the whole book.
The author has mentioned in brief details about his relation with her five husbands, father, brothers, Krishna, Kunti and her husbands’s other wives. It was very disappointing that Draupadi’s relation with her five husband was never portrayed properly. In fact there was only vague mention of it. Her relation and feeling with each of her husband should be written in much more details.
Instead, the author concentrated on the mysterious relation between Karna and Draupadi. All the ebullient of Draupadi concentrated on Karna. It is only this relation which has fully evolved in the book while others were clearly over looked. There was a love and hate relation between them. Avenge and revenge relation between them.
In the book, Draupadi and Kunti shared a very strained relationship. A typical sas bahu relationship which never turned remotely friendly even in the needing time. There is only brief mention about her relation with other women.
The second half of the book was not so interesting to read as it was the mere narration of Mahabharata in Draupadi’s voice. It is the same story we all know about the epic. Nothing different. Second half of the story clearly lacked freshness and creativity. There was no surprise element no great story to reveal.
What is noteworthy is the author’s writing style. Author has used various means to tell other events happening around Draupadi in which she is not directly involved. Like his brother Dhri tells her the story of Pandavas birth and of Karna, various other character telling their stories to her, sometimes stories are told in Draupadi’s dreams, stories are told through the Draupadi’s eavesdropping habit, Rishi Vyasa gave her special vision to witness the Great War etc.
Author was very confused with Krishna’s character. Sometimes she portrays him like a mysterious character and other times as a incarnation of Lord Vishnu. There was no new layer in the character of Krishna or any other character. Krishna was portrayed as his original character.
Draupadi’s character has always been accused for the main reason behind the war. But through Krishna, the author has to some extend given a fair judgement on it. Mahabharata was such a great war that it couldn’t have started just because of Draupadi. Had she been the reason the war should have started immediately. But it finally triggered when Duryudhana refuse to give even five villages to Pandavas to rule.
Also Krishna says that the seeds of Mahabarata war were sown long ago when five Pandu sons came to Hastinapur. Dhritrashtraya, Gandhari, Sakuni, Kunti, to some extent Karna were also equally responsible for the war.
Verdict: First part of The Palace Of Illusionn was superb but the writer looses her grip in the second half. Also Draupadi’s relation with her five husband should be given equal importance as Karna. But otherwise to is a good one time read.