All Hindus at some point of time would have heard or read about Mahabharat. We all know about the Kurukshetra war and the epic battle.
The story we heard or read was widely narrative by a third person point of view.
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee narrates the epic from Draupadi’s point of view. She described the events right from the birth of Draupdi until the Mahaprasthan she takes with her husbands to leave behind material life.
I realize, a story tells you only one side of the tale, i.e. the story from Protagonist’s side. If the same story and the same incidents were narrated by another character of the same story, it would end up as a completely different story.
We knew the Draupadi who was faithful to all her 5 husbands, who had the greatest of all palaces in the history of mankind, which she eventually lost, her humiliation and the vengeance she sought. But, do we know the story of the small girl with various dreams? Do we know the girl who faced initial rejection from her father when she emerged from the Yagna fire, the girl who wasn’t very much welcomed because King Draupad wanted only a son to avenge Drona. The young girl, who wanted to be loved, who dreamed of having a palace like none other, the fears she, as young girl had and all her feelings have not been given any importance in the tale we heard.
The palace of illusions so beautifully captures the emotions of a girl, a young adult, a woman, a wife and later a mother and grandmother. Somehow, the emotions of a woman centuries ago, resonates with today’s generations as well. Her fears, dreams, humiliation, ignorance, vengeance, determination and finally evolving as a better person, all connect with the readers. You realize, we haven’t known the character of Draupadi at all.
The facts do not change. But the emotions, motives and the thoughts behind each incident are different, almost piercing. I will recommend reading this book, to know the entire life story of Draupadi, to look at the same story by a different lens, to understand the nuances of difficult decisions and their forbearing on the future, to appreciate the choices of each character in the light of the given circumstances and shift the impressions you had about a few characters for so long.
Without giving away much, these are the take backs from the book, according to me:
- A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself.
- Wait for a man to avenge you honor, and you’ll wait forever.
- Ah, forgiveness. It’s a virtue that eludes even the great.
- Nothing has more power over us than the truth.
- Your childhood hunger is the one that never leaves you. No matter how famous or powerful they became, my husbands would always long to be cherished.
- No one can shame you, if you don’t allow it.
- All this time I’d believed in my power over my husbands. I’d believed that because they loved me they would do anything for me. But now I saw that though they did love me – as much perhaps as any man can love – there were other things they loved more. Their notions of honor, of loyalty towards each other, of reputations were more important to them than my suffering. They would avenge me later, yes, but only when they felt the circumstances would bring them heroic fame. A woman doesn’t think that way. I would have thrown myself forward to save them if it had been in my power that day. I wouldn’t have cared what anyone thought. The choice they made in the moment of my need changed something in our relationship. I no longer depended on them so completely in the future.
- A situation in itself, is neither happy nor unhappy. It’s only our response to it that causes your sorrow.
- We cannot force ourselves to love – or to withhold it. At best, we can curb our actions. The heart itself is beyond control. That is its power, and its weakness.
- Duryodhan’s last words to Yudhisthir echoed in my ears: I’m going to heaven to enjoy all its pleasures with my friends. You’ll rule a kingdom peopled with widows and orphans and wake each morning to the grief of loss. Who is the real winner, then, and who the loser?
- Karna would never have abandoned me thus. He would have stayed back and held my hand until we both perished. He would have happily given up heaven for my sake.
A truly enthralling, interesting and intriguing book. I wish I could say some more, but I am at loss of words. Go ahead and read it and prepare yourself for some amazing surprise.