Amritha S – Agency, Narrativity and Gender in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s “The Palace of Illusions”

     Agency, Narrativity, Gender in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace Of Illusions.

The researcher, Kavita Nair in her article, “Agency, Narrativity and Gender in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace Of Illusions” observes how Divakaruni’s Draupadi has more agency than the other interpretations.  Draupadi has a critical insight into her own story in this version.  Draupadi not only responds to her life s events critically, she also analyses the responses of others, trying to deconstruct their words and intentions.  The researcher is dissatisfied with the way the female characters are portrayed in the original Mahabharata. Though there were powerful characters such as Kunti, Gandhari, and Draupadi in the epic, they did not have the space to express their thoughts and opinions as openly as the contemporary versions.

Draupadi in Divakaruni’s version is assertive. She wants to break free from the belittling interpretations of herself. She wants to voice her own story and script her own destiny. The researcher then focuses on the prophecies of Draupadi’s life. Draupadi, according to the researcher is a modern feminist. She wants to position herself as a subject in the play of events, rather than an object of desire, who gets caught up in the web of men’s desires. Though, she is skeptical about the prophecy coming true, as she feels her own self-stifled in the palace of her father’s. Draupadi s desire for an individual palace is her quest for an identity, to have a story of her own, away from the pandemonium of her patriarchal father’s house. The researcher further analyses the book, in terms of Draupadi’s words, where she says her life should be a riot of colour and sound. She then brings in an analogy between her life and the Indian performative art, Nataka.

“She hints at the theatricality of her life by suggesting the ‗drsya‘ aspect (color) and the ‗sravya‘ aspect (sound). She wants her life to be seen as a Nataka, which privileges her character using the multimedial narrative mode of theatre. Significantly, Draupadi, in keeping with the Indian Nataka tradition” ( Nair 4).

The researcher reads the book, positioning Draupadi as the Sutradahari, who narrates her own life, and her own choices. She does not want to play a part in any other script. She wants to play the leading role, in her own story, as it gives her more freedom and space to express herself.

“Discussing the structure of a classical Nataka, Lockwood and Bhat say, ―…our view is that the prologue of a Sanskrit drama is carefully crafted by the playwright so that by aesthetic design the sutradhara must take a specific leading role – not just some role”           ( Nair 5)

According to the researcher, Divakaruni’s version is the most authentic, as it has no authorial intervention. Though Ved Vyasa appears as a character in the book, there is absolutely no one except Draupadi’s voice in the story.  Even when there are other narrators like Dhai ma in the story, Draupadi makes sure the construction of the story inscribes her in history.

The researcher comments on how Draupadi, plays the role of a Sutradari, who calls the title of the play to the audience and also plays a major role in the play. Draupadi as the Sutradhari introduces the book as Panchali’s Mahabharata, and initiates actions where she plays the lead role. She is more assertive and has more agency in this version, as she is writing her own story. The researcher adds, all the versions of Draupadi are constructionist accounts, which served the cause of patriarchal hermeneutics. Divakaruni addresses these issues and turns them into acts of resistance.

Druapadi’s journey from being a subject of narrations in all other interpretations  of  the Mahabharata is holding a position that subjectivizes narration itself. The researcher believes by being both the narrator and the point of action in the novel, by giving Draupadi a voice, Divakaruni gives womanhood a voice.

Nair, Kavita. “Agency, Narrativity Gender in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace Of Illusions.” LANGUAGE IN INDIA 11.6 (2011): 150-58. Web. 30 June 2016.








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