I am fairly interested in ancient tales of Ramayan and Mahabharat and have followed closely whenever they were telecast on television yet I never gave enough thought to Draupadi. Everytime I watched I didn’t think beyond what I saw.
The Indian society rarely glorifies women or even gives them more importance than absolutely necessary, and the same thing happened with Draupadi. All popular versions of Mahabharat talk about how her birth was a byproduct of a huge yagna, how she married 5 pandavas and how her humiliation in court led to the great war….. And that’s about it.
The first couple of times I heard about the book that tells the story through Draupadi’s eyes I didn’t even give it a second thought. I mean tell me again why should I be interested in knowing her point of view? Until one day when positive reviews poured in for it on an online book club and I was intrigued.
The book engrossed me from the very beginning. Even when I wasn’t reading I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It may be a work of fiction but the way the author has woven the story around facts makes it feel real. Draupadi’s feelings – be it the initial rejection by her father or her desire to sit through the lessons with her brother, the camaraderie she shared with Dhri, her curiosity when she was shown pictures of various princes for the Syamavar, her power struggle with her mother-in-law, jealousy for the other wives of her husband’s – all make her human and not a mere subject of a mythological tale.
The book tells a tale I have seen and heard numerous times before in a refreshing way. It also has some great quotes that resonate with truth and wisdom, and make the book even more appealing.
Your childhood hunger is the one that never leaves you
As I got closer to end the book evoked plethora of emotions. I felt sorry for the love she couldn’t have, the mistake she couldn’t correct and the tragedy she had to witness. The countless deaths during the war brought the fear of death followed by a temporary feeling of detachment.
At the end I felt so sad when she states that she longed for love yet didn’t find it all her life. I felt sorry for the girl with innocent curiosity, the beautiful bride many desired, the Queen who had five powerful husbands but not the love she craved for so passionately.
The end is poetic and emotionally intense. It left me numb, exactly how I felt when I finished reading Kite Runner and after watching Bajirao Mastani and The Bridges of Madison County. Such was the impact that I went back and reread part of the book right away and didn’t pick another for a few days thereafter, wondering which book will be able to match the charisma of The Palace of Illusions.
What stands out in the book besides her passion for someone who she couldn’t have is her exceptional relationship with Krishna. We all know his role at her worst moment very well but the way Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s tale involves him in Draupadi’s entire life makes their relationship very endearing. He was with her even before her birth and stayed after everyone had left. Krishna’s tender affection in her last moments makes her as well as me feel peace. That is love in its purest form. Yet Draupadi couldn’t see it all her life.
Isn’t this what happens to most of us? We keep looking for love, wealth, happiness…. All the time blinded by our own craving, not realising that the very thing we desire we possess already in some other form.
The book gives you much food for thought and I’m sure it’ll stay with me for a very very long time.
Truth, when it’s being lived is less glamorous than our imaginings.
If you haven’t read it yet you are missing a great piece of literature.
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