History, Mythology+Fantasy,  Literature+Fiction

Re-imagining the Epic with The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

There are days when I just feel like re –reading my favourite books, soaking in every bit of the familiar text. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee is one such book. I have never been fond of reading mythology. The genre would bore me to the core and I seldom cared to pick it up or give it a try. Yet this book shattered it all, and I was left with bated breath as each page unfolded the tale in a most different fashion.

“The power of a man is like a bull’s charge, while the power of a woman moves aslant, like a serpent seeking its prey. Know the particular properties of your power. Unless you use it correctly, it won’t get you what you want.” His words perplexed me. Wasn’t power singular and simple? In the world that I knew, men just happened to have more of it. (I hoped to change this.)”
― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions

Taking you back in time, with a whole new perspective

Going back in time, to the great era of the Mahabharata, it’s the tale of Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Pandavas. Born out of fire, and growing up as a spirited young woman, Paanchali is given in hand as wife to five husbands. At the time of the Pandavas exile and on the brink of a civil war, Paanchali has to face turmoil of all kinds. Her relationship with her mother in law, her attraction to Karna who is hated by her husbands, her life seems to be caught in a web of thorns. When all things seem to be settling down, her embarrassing the Kaurava prince in her castle leads to the great gamble and then eventually the great Kurukshetra war. Out of all this, Paanchali, emerges as a fiery woman, redefines the rules thrust upon her by society, as she tries to take her destiny into her own hands.

What stands out

The characterization of Panchaali surely stands out in the narration. Amidst all the battle, politics and power play, her character as a rebellious and independent woman took me by storm. Besides I loved this take of the Mahabharata, through her eyes, rather than the usual portrayal of Panchaali as the victim. A book that brings mythology in an easy way. The narration is simple, yet grips you in every way.

The Palace of Illusions is Chitra Banerjee’s masterpiece, and is surely worth every bit of your time.

The Palace of Illusions

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  • Soumya Prasad

    One of my favorite books of all time and that too by an Indian author! She brings out the story of Draupadi so well. Every chapter was so well detailed and I loved the way she spoke about the effect of war on the people involved.

  • Shilpa Gupte

    Oh, I loved this book so much! And, this is the book that got me hooked to mythology. After reading this book, I read several others based on Mahabharata and also enjoyed them all.

  • Esha M Dutta

    Read it and loved it. This is one book that I have not just read over and over again but have also gifted to a number of people. I love Divakaruni’s style of writing and this one is an all-time favourite. The portrayal of Draupadi’s character was simply astounding.

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