Here’s why you should read the Palace of Illusions

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By Reetisha Appadu | 30 June 2018

I believe no two readers can share entirely the same opinions about a novel. Author preferences, the storyline, themes, language and vocabulary are amongst the most common areas for differing views. I enlist further below the reasons why I would personally recommend reading this book.

The Palace of Illusions, written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of those books that keep your reader’s mind insatiable until the end. She narrates the life of Panchaali/Draupadi/Krishnaa in the most remarkable way from her birth sourced from Agni (fire) until her death-bed in the snowy mountains of the Himalayas, piercing through her vivid childhood, her marriage to the 5 Pandavas brothers, a secret love, her extraordinary Palace where she felt as the Queen of Queens and her humiliation in the court of the Kauravas Kingdom that led to the well known Mahabharata, a poem in the name of the greatest war on the battlefield of the Kurukshetra, whilst at all times being accompanied by Krishna/Govinda, her friend and adviser.

Time be counted, it took me only a handful hours to quench my impatience. Here’s why I recommend reading this book:

  • It provides quick insight into the Mahabharata. Though half-myth and half-history, the book is sufficient in itself as it explains how the Greatest War was conceived and how it ended. Though only a 360-page book, it’s a great delight into an epic tale and perhaps the fastest way to grasp its most significant elements.
  • It brings all the main characters to light in a very simplistic format. I could not find an easier way to recall all of them, their roles and their objectives except from this book – the Pandavas (Yudhistir, Bheem, Arjun, Nakul, Sahadev) and their mother Kunti, the Kauravas (Duryodhan, Dussasan and others), their parents Gandhari and Dhritarashtra and their friend Karna, Draupadi, her brother Dhri, her father King Drupad and her sons, Krishna, the Sage Vyasa (the author of Mahabharata), the warcraft Guru Drona and many others.
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  • The book is all about the viewpoint of a woman – for once, in such tales! When the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyanam are generally recited, casted and read, they are most often seen from the points of a man – Arjun, Krishna, Rām, Hanuman take the lead roles in a raffle. For once, it’s contemplating to be absorbed into a woman’s take of the tale – it’s all about ‘her’ – her feelings, her thoughts, her experiences, her hardships and her stories of love and companionship. It could not be more invigorating to see courage, perseverance and unbending will all into one powerful force.
  • Peek through that time’s gender issues and other complexities. Deprived of the warmth of her father King Drupad simply for being born a girl, denied warcraft and general education given it was only meant for man, Kingdoms were mostly ruled by men and never by women – I have enough reasons to believe gender discrimination all started then through Draupadi. But, oh wait! Thinking about it, would ‘Kingdom’ have ever become ‘Queendom’ if a woman ruled it? Or maybe we can find better. Stripping out any sexism, what could have been a most appropriate unisex term? To say the least, even at that time, dark skinned girls were looked down for milky and almond hues skins were considered exceptional beauty. To that Krishna replied: “A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself.”

Let yourself be carried away with the magical description of what the Third Age of Man was, that is Dvapara Yuga, as it ended with the Mahabharata, then giving birth to the Kali Yuga, our present time.

I will be glad to hear your reviews of the book if you happen to read it. I can only hope I ignited your interest enough. As for now, I’m up for my next book.

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