The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni: An insightful book review

Review, Book Review
the palace of illusions book review
Shruti Mehta

Ever since we have parted ways with our theme 15 days of fabulous poetries, our minds are still humming the soft notes and the passionate lines of the poems. Now that our treasure of the Love Poems is swarming, we thought that its about time that we embrace change. Our shenanigans gave us a glimpse that it has been ages since we got our hands at a book, read it at peace, and reviewed it. We thought why not change it? So today we bring you The Palace of Illusions: An insightful book review.

The Palace of Illusions

The name of the book is splendid, isn’t it? The title The Palace of Illusions does not give away the plot. Though Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni published it in 2008, we were so drawn to this book that we had to add it to our collection of book reviews. We are immensely gratified to present this pick to you all. While our hearts are thumping in anticipation, we still stand in awe of this book. (P.S: Spoiler alert. We couldn’t stop ourselves from revealing some instances from the book.)

While growing up in an Indian household, the chances are almost rare that one might not have heard about the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Today, the Mahabharata has caught our attention. The society believes that the epic was caused by Draupadi. Yet we fail to notice the voice of Draupadi, whose life was influenced majorly. This does not sit well with us. The fact that Draupadi has no voice in this epic is bewildering and misogynic. But the book the Palace of Illusions is a solution to all our complaints.

Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni in her book the Palace of Illusions does a phenomenal job of making us hear the voice of Draupadi, knowing her life journey in her eyes. Who thought that someone would take this initiative and provide an artful voice to the females of Mahabharata? Give them equivalent significance as that the male leads of the epics are given? Divakaruni does it all flawlessly. We are awed by the feminist perspective and the revelations that the book makes. Or should we say, a human perspective?

Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni

Our excitement has got the better out of us and we cannot cease our blabbers. Let’s take a look at some unforeseen aspects from the book the Palace of Illusions.

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Draupadi’s unique and unfazed relationships

The epic of Mahabharata has always portrayed Draupadi as an idealistic wife, daughter, and mother. But is that always the case? These epics have glorified these beings as Gods, which they were not. The epic gave them the position of almost a God or a deity. But the Palace of Illusions focuses on the imperfections of these characters and humanizing them. We were able to connect through the thicks and thins, the ups and downs that Draupadi faced during her life.

Well, we all know that it is easier said than done. Draupadi and her life with her 5 husbands was a path of thorns. She was not given a choice and almost all the important life decisions were obligated to her. The stripping incident is so beautifully depicted by Divakaruni that it has left us gobsmacked. It is an incredible illustration that both explicitly and decorum can be merged.

Draupadi

The love for Dhristadyumna

Draupadi and Dhristadyumna both emerged from the holy fire. While Dristyadyumna was born to destroy the enemies, Draupadi was bestowed as a gift to King Drupad. In the book, The Palace of Illusions, King Drupad did not wish for Draupadi and was not willing to accept her as well. But even in childhood, Dristadyumna never left her hand. They were almost inseparable. He was always there to support her.

Their bond got people green-eyed. They remained close till the time Dhristadyumna had to part for his training. In the epic of Mahabharata, we see that the bond of these siblings is lost somewhere in the glory and destruction of the war. But, this book discovers that bond for us again and we marveled in it.

The playfulness with Krishna

Draupadi

Generally, we bicker and share our secrets with our siblings. But life more or less seems abridged without the presence of a good friend. In the book of The Palace of Illusions by Divakaruni, we see the sacred bond of Draupadi and Krishna. An empty mind is always a devil’s abode. But, Lord Krishna always entangled Draupadi into a maze of words, letting her find her way through things. It not only strengthened their bond but also imbibed life lessons in Draupadi.

Their pure bond of friendship is celebrated in the epic, but the book too lives to the equilibrium of this bond. It gives us some amazing scenes to cherish and smile at. Krishna irritated Draupadi and yet cared for her to no extent. Isn’t it what friends do? We so relate to it and wish that there is one such friend in everyone’s life.

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The stubborn feelings for Karna

draupadi

Life cannot be a straight path without any detours. Our first crush is always special but it is not always meant to be; right? In the Palace of Illusions, we observe that Draupadi fell for Karna. It was not just his physique that drew her attention towards him but there was something indecipherable in his eyes. An emotion was so profound that she wanted to get lost in it and discover the depth of those emotions.

She chose Arjun in the swayamvar over Karna. But even after being a devoted wife of 5 husbands, Draupadi craved to be with Karna and find an infinity with him. She could not express her inhibitions because of the pressure of society. The Mahabharata epic misses out on these aspects of Draupadi’s life. They give no proof for this and depict Draupadi as an extremely righteous and deity kind of soul. But she too was a human and was prone to make errors.

Tore between the Pandavas

Arjun won Draupadi in the competition. Yet Kunti’s words to be divided equally amongst the brothers tore her heart apart. Draupadi was always drawn towards Arjun but she was helpless and had to serve all 5 brothers. In the book The Palace of Illusions by Divakaruni, we see her dilemma of being shared, her anger on being treated as a mere object, and the lack of choice to make life decisions.

The Mahabharata conveniently escapes or neglects these aspects. But this book is like a birds-eye- spot on and meticulous showcasing all these instances. All these emotions are personified and thus, we feel empathetic towards Draupadi. We wish that this patriarchal society tried to see and feel the pain of the women during this destruction rather than just glorifying the war.

The hostility with Kunti

Draupadi, in the Palace of Illusions, was not on amicable terms with Kunti. Kunti’s words caused her gut-wrenching pain. Her self respect was hurt. Thus, Draupadi was always hostile towards her. She admired Kunti but could not bring herself to dissolve the tension in their bond. It started on a wrong note and always remained very formal.

Draupadi

In the epic, Draupadi and Kunti shared a mother-daughter bond which is not true. All the aspects drafted in the epic are from an idealistic point of view. But is important to learn that life is not always perfect. Sometimes flaws are beautiful and it is essential that we live with flaws, embrace them instead of fearing and running away from them.

 The Palace of Illusions Review

The book The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni does a wondrous job of throwing light on Draupadi’s life. In the epic of Mahabharata and many other speculations of the epic, we only get a glimpse of the married life of Draupadi, her insults, and the war. But this book got us hooked with the childhood of Draupadi. It not only gives us a detailed view of her emergence from the holy fire but also her interests, her fascination towards palaces, and her relationship with all the people in her vicinity.

Childhood is an important phase of anyone’s life. The epic of Mahabharata does not show instances of this life phase of Draupadi. In The Palace of Illusions, Draupadi’s childhood and her bond with her caregiver is cumulated. Her varied pastimes without any doubt piqued our interest. The journey that made her confident in her body and color is intriguing. The grandeur of her marriage, the soul-searing pain as the aftermath, and the difficult life of exile embellished the beginning of her married life.

Draupadi’s inclination towards luxurious palaces has a history of its own. That is for you to explore and us to know. Her strong sexuality might catch some of you off guard. Her division among the Pandavas, her dilemma, her voice, her frustrations of not getting help on time, her relationship with her children, and her vision of the war had got us so piqued that we could not set the book down. The Palace of Illusions is set on a very different tangent than the epic of Mahabharata yet there are many similarities. There is so much to throw light upon that we now leave it upon our readers to quench their curiosity by reading the novel by Divakaruni.

By presenting The Palace of Illusions: an insightful book review, we do not intend to criticize the epic of Mahabharata by any means. We intend to initiate a change and light a lamp in the darkness of the patriarchal and misogynic society. Our wish is to highlight that the flaws portrayed in the book and state the fact that flawed flawlessness is a beautiful feeling to experience. This book takes one on such a wonderful roller coaster that it makes us a part of Draupadi’s journey.

the palace of illusions

We hope that you enjoyed our shenanigans and that we were successful in unveiling The Palace of Illusions. Some experiences are beyond words. We hope that you get an exposure to the same, for which, you will have to read the book The Palace of Illusions by Divakaruni. Show us your love and support by clicking on the small stars below. Subscribe to lovesmitten.com for decoding our escapades, becoming a part of our family, and spreading love in these tough times.

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