Book Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni– is an adaptation of the historic Hindu epic “The Mahabharata.” According to many critics, it is one of the best epic retellings ever written. The tale describes the prehistoric era’s treatment of women. It demonstrates how strong women can be and how determined they are to pursue happiness while exercising their fundamental rights.

I love reading mythology, and as a result of which, I stumbled upon this book, and I’m so glad I did! This is one of the best versions and interpretations of “The Mahabharata” (after the real one). It is written from Panchaali’s (Draupadi) point of view, which means we get a feminist point of view in this one.

The epic Mahabharata has been given new life by Divakaruni, who gave Panchali a voice in “The Palace of Illusions.” The book is unmistakably a feminist work of literature in which myths are revised, rewritten, and retold from a female perspective. The inner lives of women are the main subject of this book.

Excited much? I know you must be. Don’t worry; I have more than what you asked for!

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni | Book Review

About the Author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Author of The Palace of Illusions.
Source: Telegraph India

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chitra Divakaruni is a published author of 21 books, including Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Before We Visit the Goddess, Palace of Illusions, The Forest of Enchantments, and The Last Queen. She is also an activist and teacher. Her most recent book, Independence, tells the story of three sisters as India breaks free from British rule in a war-torn Calcutta. She writes both for youngsters and adults.

Her works have been translated into 30 other languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Bengali, Hungarian, Turkish, Hindi, and Japanese, and have appeared in over 100 publications and anthologies.

Her works have been staged as operas and adapted into movies, plays, and dance dramas. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has won several honors, including the American Book Award, the Light of India Prize, the Premio Scanno, and the PEN Josephine Miles Award.

She was listed as one of the 20 Most Important Global Indian Women in 2015 by The Economic Times. She teaches creative writing as a McDavid professor at the renowned University of Houston Creative Writing Program, where she also resides with her husband, Murthy.

As a domestic violence and education campaigner, Divakaruni has worked closely with the following charity organizations: Pratham, which educates poor children in India, and Daya and Maitri, which helps victims of domestic violence start over.

Book Overview | The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Cover Image of The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Full Title: The Palace of Illusions

Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Genre: Mythology Fiction

Publishing Date: 1 January 2008

Page Count: 360

Themes: Women, feminism, women’s rights, marginalisation, awareness, perseverance, bravery, power, myths, legends, and historical accounts.

Main Characters: The protagonist and narrator of “The Palace of Illusions” is Panchaali. She and her brother, Dhri, are created from fire and brought into their father, King Drupad’s, realm.

Point of View: Panchaali’s point of view.

Setting: The Mahabharat period, which is depicted in “The Palace of Illusions,” is a period that is a hybrid of myth and history and is entirely magical.


The story follows the lives of Princess Panchaali, starting with her fiery birth and continuing with her energetic juggling act while juggling five husbands who have been defrauded of their father’s kingdom.

During years of exile and a dreadful civil war involving all the significant rulers of India, Panchaali joins them in their quest to restore their heritage. She stays by their side throughout the entire ordeal.

Her deft maneuvers with her mother-in-law, her complex friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, and her covert attraction to the enigmatic man, her husband’s most dangerous foe, are all never lost in the background. A fiery woman named Panchaali redefines a universe of warriors, gods, and the always tinkering fates for us.

Book Summary| The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Panchaali, a princess born from fire, tells the story from her point of view. Dhri, her brother, was also born similarly. They live in a world where magic and supernatural entities are prevalent.

As soon as Panchaali reaches marriageable age, King Drupad holds a competition to find her a husband. Great warrior Karna first succeeds in the contest’s archery test alone, but Panchaali humiliates him by inquiring about his parents. She has love feelings for him even if he is unable to provide an answer to her query. Karna leaves feeling ashamed.

One of the Pandava princes, Arjun, intervenes and triumphs in the competition. Panchaali visits Arjun’s relatives back home. Panchaali must wed the remaining four Pandava brothers, according to Kunti, his mother.

King Bheeshma divided the empire between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, governed by Duryodhan after Panchaali married the Pandava brothers. The Pandavas settle in the Palace of Illusions, a great edifice that Panchaali adores and constructs the thriving city of Indra Prastha. Duryodhan is humiliated when he falls into a pool while on a visit, and the people around Panchaali laugh at him.

The oldest Pandava, Yudhisthir, wagers the Pandavas’ palace and freedom in a dice game the following time they go to Duryodhan. As a result, Panchaali and her husbands are banished to the woods for 12 years while Duryodhan gains control of the Palace of Illusions. In exile, Panchaali’s only goal is retribution.

The Pandavas hide in a nearby palace after spending 12 years in exile. Panchaali, posing as a maid, rejects Prince Keechak’s advances and his threats to rape her. Keechak is killed by Panchaali and her husband, Bheem. This bloodshed led to the Great War between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.

In the conflict, many people close to Panchaali die, including Drupad, Dhri, and Karna. Panchaali’s husbands decide it is time for them to pass away and enter the afterlife after learning about Krishna’s passing shortly after the conflict. Karna and Panchaali are reunited in heaven.

My Takeaway From the Book

The quotes of Citra Banerjee Divakaruni
Source: Firstpost

Since this book is another version of the Hindu epic “The Mahabharata,” there is much to learn and take away from this book. I learn a lot from this particular book which I have discussed here.
Excellence is more significant than a person’s chance of birth.

Even though Draupadi was born a princess, the world views her as a queen due to her bravery and prowess. You now understand that where and how you were born is irrelevant; what matters is how much you are willing to accept and live by the advantages or disadvantages of your family.
Only when you think something is a problem, does it become one.

Krishna seems to be speaking to the world when he tells Draupadi this. We all have issues, but surprised! We also all have solutions. The answer is rather straightforward: if we shift our attention away from the issue and instead concentrate on finding a solution, we will see that there never was a problem.

Expectations serve to trip you up like unnoticed boulders on your way. This taught me that not all expectations are harmful. Expectations from ourselves and others are normal, but we shouldn’t be inflexible. We should also have the ability to welcome uncertainty.

What Did I Think of the Book? The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

This book is excellent. This book offers a female perspective on the Mahabharata, one of ancient India’s eternal epics. The story is told by Panchaali, a patriarchal woman who is also known as Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas.

Her life is depicted in this book, from her fiery beginnings through her lonely childhood and uncertain marriage to her accomplishments and subsequent losses. This book is an emotional roller coaster of joy, grief, conflict, carnage, and values. When values are acquired, one can appreciate the value of life.

Even though I couldn’t quite comprehend Karana and Draupadi’s relationship in this book, the author didn’t disappoint me in any way, just put forward some new ideas.


This article holds a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

Conclusion| The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

This superbly crafted fan fiction, based on Hindu mythology, will entertain readers throughout the entire book and enrich their minds and spirits. For all the mythology lovers out there, this is a MUST-READ for you.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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