Friday, July 5, 2013

The Palace of Illusions - Chitra Banerjee Diwakaruni

We often recollect the feminine characters from the epic Mahabharatha as helpless and weak.They usually  portrayed in a way that they were only meant for supporting their fathers,husbands and sons.Their true virtues are always underrated in the process of depicting them.Contradicting with that,writer Chitra Banerjee gave Draupadi,a powerful voice to justify her crucial and substantial role in the epic.The palace of Illisions written by    Chitra Banerjee Diwakaruni is the great epic Mahabharatha from Draupadi's perspective.

She laughed our loud." I can't teach you that",she said."Love comes like lightening,and disappears the same way.If you are lucky it strikes you right.If not you spend your life yearning for a man you can't have.I advise you to forget about love,princess.Pleasure is simpler,and duty,more important.Learn to be satisfied with them.
Copyright A Homemaker's Utopia
Veneagance as seed,Draupadi emerges from the holy fire along with her brother Dhrishtadyumna (Dhri) as  daughter of the Panchala king,Drupad.She is emotionally attached to her beloved brother Dhri.But the princess has no privacy.Being individual and rebellious by nature,she couldn't be happily with her life under her father's too much control.Drupad forces her to concentrate/indulge in  feminine interests.But she was determined to learn what a king was supposed to know.She secretly craves to learn war skills and political lessons only meant for men in those days.She dreams to be queen of her own palace some day (Palace of Illusions).Draupadi shares a special relationship with Krishna.While seeing the portraits of her suitors in Swayamwar,for the first time,she sees Karna.His eyes with ancient sadness makes her fall in love with him.But in Swayamwar,in order to save Dhri's life,she forcibly insults Karna by asking him about his birth.But the moment she realises,she lost him for a life time she had to marry the five Pandava princes and reaches Hastinapur.

My situation was very different from that of a man with several wives.Unlike him,I had no choice as to whom I slept with,and when.Like a communal drinking cup I would be passed from hand to hand whether I wanted it or not.

If the sage was cared to inquire I'd have requested the gift of forgetting,so that when I went to each brother I'd be free of the memory of the previous one.
When I asked him what kind of palace he thought I should have,Krishna said,"Already you live with in a nine-gated palace,the most wondrous structure of all.Understand it well:It will be your salvation or your downfall."

The well known story line-up made me aloof,when I picked up this book.But the spellbound narration made me completely lost in the story.While reading the personality traits of the central character Draupadi,we completely forget that it is an Epic.In this novel,the most powerful and enigmatic woman of Mahabharatha appears as an ordinary woman with many imperfections and shortcomings.Irrespective of her sincerity in performing her wifely duties towards her five husbands,she feel distressed that she couldn't give Karna's place to anyone of them.Its her misfortune,she neither cared the person(Bheema) who loved her most ardently nor loved by the person (Karna) whom she gave her heart.Besides Arjun gets angry,when she obeys Kunti's words and  accepts his brothers as husbands.He also marries Subhadra and shares his major part of affection with  her.Draupadi is a good example for the fact that 'women are naturally doubtful'.Her character portraits different shades as a proud Queen,a distracted mother,a secret lover,a rebellious daughter-in-law,a helpless woman humiliated in Kuru Court,an angry & nagging wife who keep on reminding her husbands about revenge and so on.Her often regrets about her lost love and feels her life couldn't be so miserable if she would have married Karna.The lost lives of her brothers and five sons in the war of Kurukshetra couldn't affect her endurance and determination.She remains stable in those hard times and supports her husbands.It is not an understatement to praise her audaciousness is not less than any great warrior in this epic.

The princess who longed for acceptance,the guilty girl whose heart wouldn't listen,the wife who balanced her five-fold role precariously,the rebellious daughter-in-law ,the queen who ruled in the most magical of palaces,the distracted mother,the beloved companion of Krishna,who refused to learn the lessons he offered,the woman obsessed with vengeance - none of them were the true Panchali. If not who I was ?

Yes I broke the first rule,the unwritten one,meant not just for warriors but all of us.I took love and used it as a balm to sooth my ego.

Coming to the other characters like Dhrishtadyumna,Kunti,Gandhari,Uttara,Sikhandi and Bhanumathi,their roles were a bit more elaborated in this novel.Kunti not only represents the caring mother for the five great warriors of that time but also an authoritative mother-in-law for Draupadi.She never hesitates to take,even the burden of crime on her shoulders to save her sons from wax house.When Kunti meets Karna before war,quite surprisingly,she lures him that he could also possess Draupadi as wife,if he could spare her sons.The role equally prominent with Draupadi is Karna's.Till the end they both share a secret emotional bonding with each other.But Draupadi unintensionally hurts Karna whenever they come face to face.On the other hand,though  Karna loves her,he gets angry with her recklessness and insults.This leads him to take part in her humiliation in Kuru sabha but he repents later.The two people with equal ego and self respect share mysterious and undefined relationship till the end.
He was right,in order for a victory to occur,someone had to lose.For one person to gain his desire,many had to give up theirs.

Remember that little sister:wait for a man to avenge your honour,and you'll wait forever 

Can't you ever be serious?' I said, mortified.
'It's difficult,' he said. 'There's so little in life that's worth it.” 

 A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself.” 

I realized now that the main reason I'd accepted the sight from Vyasa was for the opportunity to watch Karna the way I never could in real life,to decipher the enigma that he was.Now I understood him-his nobility,his loyalty,his pride,his anger,his uncomplaining acceptance of the injustice of his life,his forgiveness.But the weight of this knowledge that I could not share with anyone was crushing me.

In the path of Mahaprasthana she realizes that all the men in her life loved their 'Dharma' more than her and there is only one true love exists in this world that is 'love of Krishna'.Finally Krishna clears her confusions and ignorance and gives her salvation.If we don't see this novel as an epic,we can define it as an unsuccessful  tale of love.If you read this novel,you surely feel the vision in to the hearts of some great forgotten women in the epic.


Vijay Prabhu said...

Nice review Nagini, will read it when I get my hands on it

Indrani said...

I didn't know about this Karna, Draupadi part.. nice review Nagini.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Vijay Prabhu,
Thank you Vijay..:-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Indrani,
Try to read it Indrani,I'm sure you fall in love with this book.Thank you..:-)

Indira said...

చాలా బాగుంది మీ రివ్యూ.మీరన్నట్టు ఇది ఒక పౌరాణిక పాత్ర అన్న విషయం పక్కనపెట్టి చదివితే నిజంగా ఒక విఫలమైన ప్రేమ కధగా భావించొచ్చు.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ ఇందిర గారు,
మీకు నచ్చినందుకు సంతోషం గా ఉందండీ.Happy to see you here.Thank you so much..:-)

indu chhibber said...

I normally don't read book reviews but this one was v.interesting although controversial.
I have never heard of this secret love of Draupadi's.Do you think it is a part of Mahabharat or is it the writer's liberty?

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Indu Chibber,
It was mentioned in many versions of the epic that Draupadi secretly loved Karna.I'm not sure about the facts but if you ask my personal opinion,the writer convinced me that it is true..:-) Thank you Indu..:-)

Arumugam Easwar said...

I read Mahabharata more elaborately. Honestly, Draupadi catch my like with her courage and determination. Your ardent review of the book tempts me to pick up the book and read.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Arumugam Easwar,
Yeah it is certainly interesting & engaging read.I'm sure whoever read it,surely fall in love with the narration.Thank you..:-)

aliasgarmukhtiar mukhtiar said...

nice review

रजनीश के झा (Rajneesh K Jha) said...

प्रभावी !!!

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Aliasgarkukhtiar,
Thanks a lot for dropping by..:-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ रजनीश जी,
व्याख्या के लिए धन्यवाद।। :-)

magiceye said...

Seems like a wonderful read. Thank you for the review.
On my must read list now.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Magiceye,
Yeah its a must read.Enjoy your reading Deepak.Thank you :-)

bushra M said...

Awesome review! :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Bushra,
Thank you so much dear...:-)

..nagarjuna.. said...

good review though the content and subject are controversial and, as before, I liked your review on 'Pustakam'... hope you'd not complain about it :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Nagarjuna Chary,
ha ha.Thank you so much Chary gaaru. That review in Pustakam is exclusive for you all.I'm happy you liked it :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful wonderful review. I loved reading this book a lot. Beautiful literature. I also recommend you to read Jaya by Devdutt Pattnaik. It is also retelling of Mahabharata combining with Folk tales.
You can read my review on Jaya in the link below.


A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Avirandom,
Thank you Avinash.Will surely read it.Thanks for recommending.Pls keep visiting :-)

Namrota said...

Mahabharata and Draupadi have fascinated me for years, I haven't read this book yet, but have heard a lot of good things about it.

I often wonder would the Princess be happier if she had married Karna, but then, Lord Krishna himself stopped her from doing so. She secretly loved/admired Karna but could be with him, she loved Arjun whose heart beat more for his other wife. She was humiliated with her husbands watching in silence and later she was accused of having impure thoughts about other man. She was surely one of the strongest characters and she deserved better.

Coming to your post, very well written Nagini :) And I wanted to write a post on Draupadi sometime, so when I do, I would like to link you back. :)

suraj mahant said...

It was good to see Mahabharat from Draupadi's point of view. You get to understand a few characters which you would not have had given a second thought to. Great read

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Namrota,
Hi Namrota,Completely agree with you.Thank you so much for your valuable feedback.Its my pleasure to read your review as well.Waiting for the link..:-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Suraj Mahant,
Thank you so much for your precious comment..:-)

A S said...

Nice review! I have heard a lot abt this book..will buy someday :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ A.S,
Thank you so much for the visit and comment.Pls keep visiting..:-)

Ghata said...

Finished reading this book 2 weeks back! And loved it thoroughly. Enjoyed your review as well...I felt quite the same way about Draupadi as a real woman.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Ghata,
It was a lovely read.Thank you so much for stopping by..:-) Pls keep visiting..:-)