I read Draupadi by Pratibha Rai a few days after reading The Palace of Illusion by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. So comparison between the two was very inevitable. Both are very good in their own way so it is difficult to pick a favorite.
Originally written in Oriya, Draupadi is the second novel, after Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant, which I have read in Hindi language. I don’t mind reading Hindi novels. But mostly they are poorly written. But Draupadi is exceptionally well written.
It is the most beautifully written novel I have read till date. Her every description is word picture. She has used metaphors, trope and allegory to describe various situation, physical beauty of characters, cognitive dissonance and internal struggle. The beauty of her writing makes the book a page turner.
In Palace of Illusion, Draupadi was portrayed as a powerful and ambitious woman with revolting nature. While Draupadi of Pratibha Rai is intelligent, docile, devoted to her husbands and obedient, motherly warmness, generous, sacrificer and forgiving. Pratibha’s Draupadi is also aggressive but it never manage to come out full fledged because she is soft-hearted and thinks about others first.
Chunk part of the book Draupadi, concentrate on Draupadi’s relation with her five husbands. All the five Pandavs were very different from each other. There expectation from their wife Draupadi was also different so was their feeling towards her. How efficiently Draupadi satisfy each of her husband and kept them together is the core of the plot.
Among all her husband, Draupadi was more deeply and purely in love with Arjuna and even Arjuna loved her from the bottom of his heart. But they shared a strange marital relationship. For some reason or other, Arjuna always preferred to stay away from Draupadi. This made me think how strange love could be between two person. The author has done full justice in bringing out the feelings of both Draupadi and Arjun when they were not together which adds so much profound melancholy to the story.
What mesmerized me completely was the relation between Draupadi and Krishna. They both shared a platonic relationship which was sort of spiritual in nature. Who says that a man and a woman can never be friends. Draupadi and Krishna were bestest friends. The author has poured all her dexterity in portraying their pious and virtuous relationship. She has handled their relationship very well which becomes the soul of the book. If their relation was not portrayed properly the entire novel could have become a mockery.
Draupadi of The Palace of Illusion was secretly in love with Karna. But Pratibha has portrayed her as a very devoted and faithful wife to her husbands though before the beginning of the war, on the insistence of Krishna she vaguely drops the hint of having some soft feeling for Karna as well. Throughout the novel, Draupadi and Karna shares a sympathetic and hate relation.
The author has depicted Karna’s character in grey shades and Arjuna was always superior in every way to Karna. Even his charity quality and loyalty towards Duryodhana was looked upon his arrogance. But towards the end, with one masterstroke, author proves Karna to be better than Arjuna.
From time immemorial, Draupadi is blamed for the great Kurukshetra war. It is said that it was due to her that the war took place. But Pratibha, from the very beginning of the book, through her various characters has clearly stated that the war between Pandavas and Kauravas was inevitable and would have taken place with or without Draupadi. Draupadi’s insult was a mere catalyst. It is high time that we stop blaming Sita and Draupadi as the main reason of the wars.
Another thing which I loved about the book is that, it makes many references to Ramayana and Sita. Draupadi, many a times, draws an analogy of her situation with Sita’s situation in Ramayana. This makes the book so riveting and thought provoking.
The novel’s main focus was Draupadi’s relation with Arjuna, Krishna and Karna. The whole story revolves around it. Sadly Nakul and Sahadev doesn’t find much mention in the book.
Draupadi by Pratibha Rai is a masterpiece novel written on Mahabharata. Draupadi is a very powerful character of the epic but sadly is always overlooked. And Pratibha has done full justice in portraying Draupadi’s character and has given voice to her sacrifices and plight. Its an awesome novel and a must read especially if you love reading Hindu mythological genre.
Draupadi was originally written in Oriya by Pratibha Rai. It was later translated into Hindi and English. Hindi translation is done by the author herself and it is impeccable. The English translated version is called Yajnaseni, The Story of Draupadi.
Buy Draupadi by Pratibha Rai in Hindi
Yajnaseni: The Story of Draupadi by Pratibha Rai in English
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