Friday February 1, 2019   |   Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions completes 10 years!

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s exceptional bestselling novel ‘The Palace of Illusions’ became a decade old in 2018! We feel extremely proud that she spoke with Bookaholicanonymous about this incredible journey! And we are looking forward to speak to her about her recently launched book 'Forest of Enchantments' as well.

First published in 2008, The Palace of Illusions’ received wide acclaim for giving a woman’s take on the timeless tale that is the Mahabharata. Narrated by Panchaali, wife of the five Pandava brothers, the novel traces her life from fiery birth and lonely childhood, where her beloved brother is her only true companion; through her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna; to marriage, motherhood and her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands’ most dangerous enemy. We celebrate once again a remarkable and deeply human story about a woman born into a man’s world.

About Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Who doesn’t know her! She is an award-winning and bestselling author, poet, activist and teacher of writing. Her work has been published widely, in magazines and anthologies, and her books have been translated into twenty-nine languages. Several of her works have been made into films and plays.

The interview:

Your book 'The Palace of Illusions' is celebrating its 10th anniversary. How do you feel? 

It's an amazing feeling, especially as people continue to write to me and tell me how much they love the book and how much Panchaali means to them. 

Why did you think of writing a book from the point of view of Draupadi?

She was the character I most identified with, that I was most interested in. 

 Are you celebrating her strength or pitying her?

I celebrate her strength, but I am quite aware of her shortcomings. She has a temper. She is feisty. She likes to get her own way. All of which makes her complex and fun. 

 Do you think she was a feminist? How?

Feminist is a label that means so many different labels, so I don't like to use it. Panchaali is certainly strong and speaks up for her own rights and fights for them when she needs to. She also grows and learns through her experiences. That makes her a wonderful heroine. 

 What kind of a relationship did she have with Krishna?

A very sweet and dear one. He is really her best friend, the one she can depend on throughout her life. Although she gets annoyed with him because he's the one who tells her when she is behaving badly. It is symbolic of the soul's relationship with God.


You write that she had a secret liking for Karna...do you think it was true? Why so? Are there some indications in the Mahabharata?

Clearly in the Mahabharat, Karna is interested in her. He tries to enter the swayamvar contest but is not allowed to. In the Mahabharat, she is interested in him early on when she thinks the Pandavas have been killed in a fire. From that, and from poems I read by various writers, I drew my portrait of their silent attraction to each other.  But because they are both honorable characters, it always remains silent and secret, and Panchaali remains faithful to her husbands. 

All of her five husbands were so different in character and nature. Did she have to make 5 times the effort to adjust with each one of them?

I think she did! But she figured out quite well how to handle them. In my book, she is in control of all her relationships!

What about the Pandavas...what did they think of Draupadi? What did she mean to them? 

She is dear to each of them in a special way. I particularly like how her relationship with Bheem develops as Palace of Illusions goes along. He is totally devoted to her and will do anything for her. He's ready to kill for her--and indeed, he does. 

What is the takeaway from the book?

I want my readers, male and female, each to have their own takeaway. I'm just presenting to them a fascinating woman with a great deal of energy and depth to her character. 

Bookaholicanonymous wishes Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni many many more successes. And thank you for taking out time to speak to us!


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