The Palace of Illusions: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

the palace of illlusions

This book! I don’t even know where to begin with how much I’m loving The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. While I don’t really do a holiday gift list; I would highly suggest buying this for any bookworms on your list this year.

The Palace of Illusions is amazing. I’m equally smitten with  Draupadi’s (the main heroine in the novel) re-telling of the Mahabharata from a female perspective, and Chitra’s ingenious decision to write it this way. Anyone who has watched the Mahabharata on TV or heard the stories from elders knows what a vital role Draupadi plays in the epic, but why has no one delved into her side of the story before? Kudos to Chitra for giving a voice and back story to this complex character.

Reading this book reminded me of a random incident that occurred on a visit to India when I was 15 – something I had totally forgotten. You could almost say it was my first encounter with Draupadi. I had gone with my Aunt to visit her brother’s family in Uttar Pradesh, not far from Delhi and Kurukshetra (the site of the famous final battle of the Mahabharata). While we were exploring the area, her brother took us to a historical site that was mostly cordoned off with warning signs from the Indian government. Apparently there had been some sort of discovery of a golden dome there, and locals believed it was a part of the famous Pandav palace! The area was quickly closed off by the government after the discovery.

There was however a small area with a variety of stone structures open to the public, and a local priest told us that many people believe those structures were part of Draupadi’s bathing chambers. While it’s impossible to know if any of those facts were true, I remember being completely blown away by the size of the massive bathing pool, and feeling a strange sense of serenity there. {It was also the first time I ever visited a mandir and saw actual cobra’s in prayer! But that is another mystical story for another day.}

While reading the Palace of Illusions I couldn’t help but wonder if that place I visited so long ago was really the burial ground of the palace described so vividly in the book? Was I in fact standing in the land that was once Khandava; the Pandav kingdom? And most importantly – will I ever have the chance to go back, or will I just have to dream about that place much like Draupadi did about the Palace of Illusions? {Some books take me on a much deeper journey than I ever could have imagined}

Even if you don’t know the story of the Mahabharata, this is a great read. Any woman can connect with the struggles and emotional turmoil of Draupadi. She was famous for marrying five brothers, but there was is much more to her story than being a wife. 

I hope you find some time over the holidays to catch up on a good read, and if you aren’t sure what to pick, try a visit to The Palace of Illusions.

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2 Comments

  1. AC
    December 17, 2014 / 2:33 pm

    Very interesting! Will definitely give it a read! Thanks for the suggestion!

    • December 19, 2014 / 7:21 am

      I hope you do! Let me know what you think of it :)

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