Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review : Palace Of Illusions

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Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

In simple words - the story is that of a great epic, the Mahabharata, which we all grew up listening to. The story in itself is complex and its characters even more complicated. Compared to another major Hindu epic - Ramayana, this one is too intricate with endless (almost) side stories of each character. The incarnations of God Vishnu in both the epics are also very dissimilar - Ram with his simple and truthful ways leads a much simpler life compared to Krishna who comes across as a very cryptic personality.

In this book, Chitra Banerjee has narrated the story of Mahabharata, from the eyes of one of the main characters of the story itself - Panchaali or Druapadi. The book starts with the story of birth of Panchaali and his brother Dhristadyumna through a yagna which was performed by their famous father - Dhrupad to take revenge from his one time bosom friend - Drona. Both these siblings knew right from the beginning that they have been brought in this world for a special purpose. In the course of time Dhraupadi comes to know through Vyasa himself, about the future that awaits her. How she will be instrumental in making history. While telling her so, he gives her advice to
- hold back your question
- hold back your laughter
- hold back your curse
when you desperately want to do these at some points in your life. But as she becomes part of destiny, how the same moments come and she does the same as has been destined already.
I appreciate the author's attempt to peep into the mind of Draupdi and narrate the incidents from her perspective. How slowly with time she comes to realise the essence of life - the freedom she feels towards the end in finding out that one was not as important as one had always assumed. She learns quite a few lessons that the great ups and downs in her life teach her. While undertaking her last journey, she remembers all the goodness of the dear ones in her life and how she had the chance to appreacite the goodness while she spent the time venting her dissatisfaction on them.

She dearly loved her "Palace of Illusions" but as she is taken by destiny through different times, she realises that actually all places are palaces of illusions and like every other home, the body is also a crumbling palace.
Throughout her life, she feels the presence of one of her closest confidant - Krishna with her, till her last moments on earth. He had always been there with her, sometimes in the forefront, sometimes just blended in the shadows of the life. But all through her experiences she does not miss noticing that even though Krishna takes care of her dearly, she does not get anything if she does not deserve it - like the Virat form that Krishna reveals to Arjun only and not to her even though with Vyasa's boon she chould see everything happening on the battlefield. This makes me think, the divine justice is so fair and no short cuts are possible.

A really engaging book and personally I liked the way it makes the readers also realise the common follies that we get entangled in while on this earth. A lot of material to ponder upon. Compliments to the author for such a well written product. I haven't read any of her other books but would love to read some soon.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A friend of mine appreciated this book and sent this comment, which I am posting here...

    Inspite of hearing,reading and watching(on TV)Mahabharat since childhood,it's amazing how this book can hold your interest till the last page. Draupadi is really a woman who has a unique individuality and a strong character. But the character who intrigued me throughout was that of Karna. Vibha,thanks a lot for suggesting this book.I agree with your review that the book "makes the readers realise the common follies that we get entangled in while on this earth.""one was not as important as one had always assumed"-that says it all.

    --Rekha Rajagopal Sanjith

  3. Thanks Rekha. It was great knowing your views on one of my favourite books.


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