Written by award-winning novelist and poet Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, it is a re-imagining and a re-telling of the famous Indian epic Mahabharata. But, there’s a twist: it is told from the perspective of a Draupadi, a woman who is generally seen as the main cause of the great war. The Palace of Illusions refers to the beautiful palace that the Pandavas built and the only place where Panchaali felt at home. It also refers to the Hindu concept of Maya.
The novel takes us back to a time that is half history, half myth, and wholly magical. It traces the life of Draupadi from her magical birth from fire till her death in the Himalayas. Driven by the fact that she is made for greatness, she finds herself in situations which would be impossible to think of women of those times. From living in exile in forests to being married to five husbands at the same, she supports the Pandavas in all their life quests.
The book also shows instances of her inharmonious relationship with her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the divine Krishna, and her secret attraction to her husband’s most dangerous enemy: Karna.
Despite Draupadi is portrayed as a fierce woman constantly forming new rules in a patriarchial society, Divakaruni has succeeded in bringing the reader, lush descriptions of Indian beauty and Hindu grace.
To conclude, though The Palace of Illusions provides a radiant entree into an ancient mythology virtually unknown to the Western world. Divakaruni’s impulse to flesh out the women of the Mahabharat results in a charming and remarkable book.