Princess Paanchali’s Story
Is having 5 husbands a great thing ?
What more could any woman want, you might say. Specially if the 5 husbands, between them, bring to the table, a sons-of-gods combo. Of righteousness, strength, bravery and beauty.
Certainly the lot of Draupadi, husband to the 5 Pandava brothers, doesn’t seem bad ( OK OK she had to spent 13 years of her life in exile, and also get gambled away to bad cousin-in-law Duryodhana). But then she had a whole war fought over her. All the men who abused her were killed, or the blood of their hearts drunk up.
But read Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray where , the dark, fire born princess with flashing eyes, tells her own tale, and you figure out what a bad deal Draupadi really had.
And for a trendier, more colloquial version, read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘The Palace of Illusions‘. Mistress of Spices Divakaruni lives up to her reputation and gives us a racy and romantic tale.
Divakaruni tells the story of not just Draupadi and the god Krishna, but also of the most tragic hero in the whole wide world – Karna, the son of the Sun God. Cast off on the river as a baby, by his unmarried princess mother , and from then on doomed to tragedy.
All of this make The Palace of Illusions a zippy read . And what could be more tragic than the Draupadi Karna romance ( even if its strictly unhistorical) ?
Told colloquially, the Mahabharata, has a charm of its own. Never mind that Draupadi calls brother Dristadyumna ‘Dhri’. Or that her nurse Dhai Ma grumbles “And my buttocks , I swear, they were flat as chapattis”.
After all, is the Mahabharata, as we know it, really historical ?