Shades Of Words

The Palace of Illusions



A  story so powerful that it has transcended thousands of years, Mahabaharata is timeless , relevant and inherent in the pschyce of every India. It takes courage to mess around with it and re-write it. Well, Chitra Banerjee has done a pretty good job. No, the story is neither changed nor there is an alternative ending but what the readers are treated to are a fresh new perspective. Imagine being there when it all started..and imagine seeing it through Panchaali’s eyes – the woman who started it all.

The narrative starts from her birth – moves back and forth between flashbacks and present , digging out stories of the past and building out characters. Chitra’s Draupadi is a young rebel, a tomboy foerver craving for her father, King Draupad’s attention. She is determined to leave a mark on this world. Always conflicting with her elders on her expected role as a princess and a woman, she finds comfort and solace with her confidante Krishna, King of Dwarka.

Though Draupadi’s tries hard to fight the social structures around her, from very early on in her life, she has to bow down to higher values – like protecting one’ family honor and pride , like choosing for the greater good of the kingdom. It starts with her Swayamvar, where she compromises on her heart’s desire chosing Arjun over Karna. Next, when Kunti asks her to wed all her five sons. We see her evolution frpm a young , rebellious girl to a queen of the times. She starts moulding into the role expected of her showing flares of herself on some rare occassions.

Chitra provides interesting glimpses on dynamics of certain relationships (that could be very well true) . We take a look at our heroine’s relationship with Kunti –  by forcing her to wed all her sons, Kunti does not endear herself to her new daughter-in-law. What’s interesting to read is how Draupadi creates a position for herself in the household and learns to gain importance in the eyes of her husband. Then there is Arjun and Draupadi – how Arjun fits the bill with her image of prince charming and how early their relationship collapses with her marriage to his brothers.

What is probably truly original is Draupadi’s secret love for Karna…well I thought it was orignial till I did some research and found out that popular folk lore hints at an infatuation between Draupadi and Karna.

Though it is the story of Draupadi, what makes this book really interesting and worthwhile is the original background story of Mahabaharta. In a few chapters itself, Draupadi becomes a narrator and just one of the characters as the greater drama unfolds.

When I started reading the book , I thought that this first person narrative would help me understand and get an insight ( all hypothetical , ofcourse) into one of the most powerful and enigmatic heroines of all time. Well, it did. I also thought that maybe she will redeem herself for causing as much trouble as she did. Well she didn’t. But everyone else was at fault too. Mahabharata was a huge battle  of egos.

Should you read this book ? Oh yes.


Author: Vipula

Before talking about who we are, we’d like to tell you a bit about how and why Shades of Words came into being. It all started with the idea of “A place where we could share with likeminded people about things we enjoy. From books to music to movies to travel; Shades of Words was to be a place about the best of our experiences” We thought about why should anyone read us? The answer was that whatever we review would be a mix of our experience of the thing along with interesting and useful information about it. So in case you are reading us regularly or even checking us out once in a while then we have succeeded in our efforts someway somewhere. Who are we? Known as Kapil Sood and Vipula Gupta, we thought of Shades of Words on one fine Sunday afternoon. Tired of writing interesting RFP’s and project documentation; we decided to give this a shot. Yes! We work in Indian IT industry. Cupid struck us while were innocently slogging together on the highly intricate job of formatting and beautifying documents! And since then, we have been working together to establish Shades of Words as a place that we can claim as ours. (Because buying a house is still years away!) What else? Kapil also writes some blogs which you can read here and here.

5 thoughts on “The Palace of Illusions

  1. ooo you had me with the cover 😉
    I am crazy about arches … this sounds quite wonderful Vipula!

  2. Yes the cover is quite lovely isnt it – the book is amazing too. However, I was wondering if you would enjoy reading it cause its so Indian. But if you get a chance and time do try it – it is a good story and who cant resist books about kings and queens, love and war and loyalty and betrayals.

  3. I am drawn to all things Indian 🙂

  4. I liked your analysis here especially of the socio political environment. Its a very complex epic infact…one that could be interpreted in myriad ways.

  5. Patty – thats such a sweet thing. I could recommend so many indian things to you – from fabrics to movies to books

    zoya – i am glad your review. I too enjoyed your review as it was very different take on the same literature

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