Mythology is in! Growing up with Grandma’s stories took a back seat with increasing influx of Western thought and ideas. But today, thanks to Amar Chitra Katha and the introduction of Indian animation films, Indian children are revelling in the rich and wonderful stories of our hoary heritage. Vikram and Betal and the Panchatantra tales enchant young readers. Pictorial and abridged versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata introduce children to the well-loved, oft-repeated stories from these epics.
Stories of Shiva, Stories of Krishna, Stories of Vishnu etc are omnibuses published by Amar Chitra Katha.
Chitra Banerjee Divakarunni’s Palace of Illusions is an adaptation of the epic Mahabharata told from the perspective of Panchali, the wife to the five Pandava brothers. The novel begins with the birth of Draupadi from the sacrificial fire along with her brother and goes on to talk about her lonely life in her father’s palace , friendship with Krishna (who is always there for her in times of need), her ever growing attraction to Karna from the first time she sees him, her marriage to Arjuna, and how by a quirk of fate she becomes the wife to his brothers too, her animosity towards her mother-in-law Kunti. From being a princess, she is suddenly transported to a life of hardship in a forest along with her husbands, goes on to be the queen at Indraprastha , the Palace of Illusions and destiny once again plays a part when she faces ultimate humiliation in public, when she swears vengeance which culminates in the war of Kurukshetra .
The book is an instant hit with the women as it is written in a contemporary manner. The feelings and emotions and the bottled rage she expresses are so relevant even to the women of today. Draupadi when she is young feels very insecure about the fact that she is dark and hence unattractive. The advice that Krishna gives her is so relevant to all the young women of today. He says others see you as you see yourself. If you have the self confidence and feel good about yourself nothing else matters.
Again towards the end of the book, after the war when Dhritarashtra grieves for his sons Krishna says if you hadn’t been selfish and thought about just you and your children and were gracious enough to think of your dead brother’s children also as yours, this tragedy could have been avoided. So relevant to today’s world, full of selfishness and greed.
However, Draupadi comes across as a woman full of pride, arrogance and vengeance because of which she loses all her sons, brother and kith and kin.
Similar in content, is PrathibaRoy’s Yagnaseni, which portrays Draupadi’s intense devotion to Krishna, her friendship with him, her silent yearning for Karna and her impassioned plea for justice in a man’s world. This is something that all women of the modern world find kinship with and reach out in empathy to the plight of the beleaguered Draupadi.