T h e Pa l a c e of Illusions a cognizant original v5 release october 10 Also by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Queen of Dreams The Vine of Desire The. Taking us back to a time that is half history, half myth and wholly magical, bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni gives voice to Panchaali, the fire-born heroine of the Mahabharata, as she weaves a vibrant retelling of an ancient epic saga. Which is the best book to read. Original filename: The Palace of Illusions (com v).pdf. Title: The Palace of Illusions Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. This PDF
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Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. Recasting the Indian epic Mahabharata from the perspective of Princess Panchaali, veteran novelist Divakaruni. bqhhmwtxkks - Download and read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's book The Palace of Illusions: A Novel in PDF, EPub, Mobi, Kindle online. Free The Palace of. Palace of terney.info - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online . —Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Almost no parents name their daughter.
Did they fear contagion? Already the world I knew was splitting in two. They suspected anything that fell outside the boundaries of custom. But women? Especially women who might bring change, the way a storm brings the destruction of lightning? All my life, they would shun me. But the next time, I promised myself as I wiped my angry tears, I would be prepared. The other group consisted of those rare persons who were themselves harbingers of change and death.
Or those who could laugh at such things. So far, I knew only three such people: Dhri and Krishna—and Dhai Ma, transformed by her 33 affection for me. But surely there were others. I wondered how long I would have to wait before destiny brought them into my life, and I hoped that when it did so, one of them would become my husband.
I was driven to this ignoble practice because people seldom told me anything worth knowing. King Drupad only met with me in settings designed to discourage uncomfortable questions. Dhri never lied, but he often kept things from me, believing it his brotherly duty to shield me from unpleasant facts. Though Dhai Ma had no such qualms, she had the unfortunate habit of mixing up what actually happened with things that, in her opinion, should have occurred.
Krishna was the only one who told me the truth. So I took to eavesdropping and found it a most useful practice. It worked best when I appeared engrossed in some mindless activity, such as embroidery, or pretended to sleep. I was amazed at all the things I learned in this manner. It was how I discovered the sage. And as you know, Nandaram, who works in the stables, has been courting me!
Now set out that blue silk sari carefully! The year my mother died and what her last words were. Ask him if that good-for-nothing Kallu will ever change his ways, and if not, what I must do to be rid of him. Truth to tell, he scared me, with a beard that covered his whole face and glittery red eyes.
He looked like he could put a curse on you if you made him angry. Does it please you? I could smell the fragrance of the amaranths woven into it. What use was all this dressing-up when there was no one to admire me? I felt as though I were drowning in a backwater pond while everything important in the world was happening elsewhere. What if the prophecy at my birth was wrong? Do you want your poor old nurse to starve by the roadside in her old age?
That no-good drunkard? Walk on the common road where every man can look into your face! My entire body ached. It taught me a new respect for the hardiness of commoners. I was startled by a rumble like a thundercloud. The sage was laughing. In his lined, cracked face, his eyes shone mischievously. But enough of that. Eager to learn your future, are you? Did you ever think how monotonous your life would be if you could see all that was coming to you?
Believe me, I know! Inside the circle, the earth felt hot against my blistered soles. It keeps the mosquitoes away. You may ask them your questions. Coldness passed over my skin like ghost breath. Why, then, did a strange reluctance silence me now? Later I would wonder, was it because of this lack of faith that the spirits answered me so obliquely, in riddles that were more hindrance than help?
I want to leave a mark on history, as was promised to me at my birth. But there are other things—perhaps unknown to you—that you crave more. No matter. The spirits will see into your heart and answer accordingly.
Yellow whispers came to me through the smoke. You will be queen of queens, envied even by goddesses. You will be a servant maid. You will be mistress of the most magical of palaces and then lose it. You will be remembered for causing the greatest war of your time. A million women will become widows because of you. Yes, indeed, you will leave a mark on history. You will be loved, though you will not always recognize who loves you.
After the voices fell silent, I sat stunned. Or become queen of queens? And all those deaths! But in your case, your own nature is going to speed its process. Your temper. Your vengefulness. Women will chant your name to bring them blessing and luck. Besides, your destiny is born of lifetimes of karma, too powerful for me to change. Three dangerous moments will come to you. The second will be when your husbands are at the height of their power: Maybe it will mitigate the catastrophes to come.
He ran a hand through his thick mane, exasperated. And of the great and terrible war of Kurukshetra that will end the Third Age of Man. Go now! I climbed onto the cart, too preoccupied to feel its jolts. I peered through the shadows of the banyan one last time. The gloomy light played tricks on me: One of them was the sage.
The cart lurched away before I could point him out to my nurse. You look so solemn. I knew this heat would be too much for you! Remind me to get you some green-coconut water when we go through the bazaar.
Though no one seems to have a problem when men sleep with a different wife each day of the week! Can you see your royal father, proper as he is, ever allowing something scandalous like that? Dhai Ma heaved a sigh. What a waste of time this was! Oh, my aching back! Wait till we get back to the palace. Each night I thought of my name.
A name strong like the land, a name that knew how to endure. No matter what else came to pass, I would always thank the sage for giving it to me. I thought also of the palace the spirits had promised me. I wondered how I would ever gain such a palace. I understood, suddenly, the unspoken questions the spirits had answered: Who would I marry? Would I ever be mistress of my own home? Were these the kinds of desires hidden in my heart?
How puerile they were, things my maids might have wanted! It was a mortifying thought. Other nights I considered the mystery of the book the sage showed me, the story of my life. Did this mean that I had no control over what was to happen? Otherwise, why did he take the trouble to warn me? I learned his name: On those nights, my rough bark-bed seemed softer. But no matter how much I called for them—for by now I had other, wiser questions—the spirits did not return to me again.
My maids gathered in corners and corridors, whispering fervently, but they scattered like sparrows when I approached them. Dhri was shut up in council with our father, so I had no way of asking him. And why is everyone so afraid of her? What else, I would wonder later, had they been keeping from me? This afternoon, in fact. Dhai Ma had a lengthy compendium of rules as to how women should behave.
Already I felt sympathy for the unknown Sikhandi. She paused only to inform me that Dhri, who usually ate with me, would not be here because Sikhandi had expressed a desire to speak with me alone.
I waited with some excitement to view my sudden-found sister. I wondered what she looked like. Was her body hard and muscular, her arms scarred from weapons?
Or was it her heart that had changed so that it no longer shook at the thought of killing? How had she survived in the forest—for she must have been just a girl when she left? What terrible crime could she have committed for our father to banish her at that tender age?
And why did she want to speak with me, alone? Sikhandi walked with a panther grace, light and assured on the balls of his feet. Yes, his. Sikhandi, who was born a woman, was now a man! Clearly, he wished there to be no misunderstanding about this: He carried a bow, which he leaned against the wall before approaching me. His cheekbones were like knives.
His almond-shaped eyes gave him a foreignness that was not unattractive. Around his neck hung a garland of white lotuses. Silently he put out his hands to touch my cheeks. I hesitated— he was a stranger, after all—but then I allowed it. A shiver went through me as they grazed my face. I noticed that we were the same height, and somehow this consoled me for the loss of the sister he was supposed to be. He smiled past the shadows in his almond eyes. He stood on tiptoe to kiss my forehead.
Sikhandi stayed with me for a day and a night, and in that time he told me his story. He said: Or of the wolf that hid under sheepskin so he could mingle undetected with his prey?
I feel like both sometimes. A fake—or a hidden menace. This time I invoked a yaksha. He appeared in the sky with his burning demon sword.
When he heard what I wanted, he laughed and plunged it into me. The pain was unbearable. I fainted. When I awoke, I was a man. And yet not completely so, for though my form was changed, inside me I remembered how women thought and what they longed for.
Yes, someone greater even than Drona. His name is Bheeshma the terrible. Tangled indeed is the web of this world! This garland? I was six when I found it hanging on the palace gate and placed it around my neck.
Our father cried, What have you done, you foolish, unlucky girl! Oh, he and I are father and child indeed! We both live for vengeance. First I remembered my death upon a pyre: And through it all: Because without death there is no rebirth, and without rebirth I could not kill Bheeshma.
The god Shiva himself had promised me that in my next life I would kill him whom no man had defeated before. My name? In that body I was Amba, the princess of Kasi, the rejected one. Very well, the story from the beginning, then. We three sisters, princesses of Kasi, were to marry.
My father arranged a swayamvar, inviting all the kings of the land, so that we could choose our husbands. I already knew the man I wanted: King Salva, who had wooed me for a year. The brother said, A woman who has embraced another in her heart is not chaste. I do not wish to marry her.
Bheeshma said, Very well, I will send you back to Salva. But when I went to him, Salva said, Bheeshma has taken you by the hand. You belong to him now. I said, If someone grasps my hand against my will, how does that make me his? For Salva forced me to return to Bheeshma, and still I lived. I told Bheeshma, My happiness has crumbled into dust because of you. Marry me so that at least my honor can be saved. Bheeshma said, Forgive me.
In youth I promised my father I would never marry. I cannot go back on my word. Abandoned and shamed, I went from court to court, seeking a champion who would battle Bheeshma, but all were afraid of him.
I went to the Himalayas in my despair and performed austerities so that the gods would help me. Years passed; my youth fell away.
The gods were reluctant to interfere because Bheeshma was the son of 49 Ganga, goddess of the sacred river. Finally, the child-god Kartikeya took pity and appeared before me with this garland. My hopes rekindled, I went back to the kings with the everlasting garland. But the cowards!
Even King Drupad, known in that time as a champion of the weak, dared not accept it. The humor of the gods is cruel; or perhaps they see more than we do. The moment I set eyes on the garland-that-never-fades, my past returned to me, and with it my rage. I took the garland for myself, determined to do on my own what no man dared do for me.
Remember that, little sister: I lifted Earth out of the primordial waters with my tusks. I read about them in the Puranas. I never could tell when he was joking. In meditation, you invoked Shiva. He came and stood in front of you, silent and blue as moonlight.
You asked for a wish to be granted. You asked for it again—and again. Five times you made your wish before he had the chance to say yes. His eyes, bright with amusement, were like black bees. King Drupad had invited Sikhandi to stay with him, but Sikhandi politely excused himself.
Drupad tried, unsuccessfully, to disguise his relief at this. But I was delighted. Something about Sikhandi drew me to him. Was it his easy acceptance of me? His own unusual life? We whiled away his short visit in eating and storytelling and playing at dice for Dhri had taught me this most unladylike pastime.
We laughed a great deal, often at the littlest things. I composed poems and riddles to entertain my brothers and watched as they practiced with swords. Was it because one day if the prophecy about my husbands was true I, too, would cross the bounds of what was allowed to women?
Dhri offered to teach him the newest wrestling holds. Sikhandi shook his head, his eyes regretful. I gave him sweet laddus to eat on the way, and a yak-hair shawl against the approaching winter. In its folds I had secreted gold coins. But he would take nothing. It weakens the foundations of society. Share some of your wisdom with us. Know the particular properties of your power. In the world that I knew, men just happened to have more of it. I hoped to change this.
But I had something else to ask before he left. I grasped his hands one last time, feeling those calluses. It was a large and laborious book that set out the laws of the land, which my brother was currently studying.
Around me summer unfurled its drowsy petals in a conspiracy to distract me. Insects sang. Luscious purple jamuns dropped lazily onto thick grass. The paired cry of bright birds pulled at my chest, releasing a strange restlessness. Was this a feminine interest? My companions, daughters of courtiers, clustered themselves under canopies hoisted to protect our complexions. They murmured gossip, chewed betel leaf to redden their lips, exchanged recipes for love potions, pouted, giggled without reason, and emitted suitably feminine shrieks if a bee orbited too close.
From time to time they sent me beseeching glances. This pitiless sun—even with a canopy, it was so bad for the skin! The book, which described in diligent, morose detail complicated laws concerning household property—including servants and wives—caused my eyelids to droop. But I was determined to learn what a king was supposed to know. How else could I be powerful in myself?
For even as I turned the page Dhai Ma came from the palace, waddling as fast as her bulk would allow. Out of breath and wheezing, her face an alarming red, she shooed my companions away. Then she whispered the news in my ear but in her excitement she was so loud that everyone heard: But Dhai Ma informed me I was to have a swayamvar. Eligible rulers from every kingdom in Bharat would be invited to Panchaal. From among them, my father had announced, I would choose the man I was to marry.
He was too cautious. He should have been the girl, and I the boy! As a matter of fact, Dhri was quite taken with the neighboring princess to whom our father had betrothed him. But a question gnawed at me: Why would our father, who delighted in control, allow me so much freedom?
Truth, like a diamond, has many facets. Tell her, Dhristadyumna. Tell her about the test. Nor can they use their own weapons. Is he mad? Arjun, the third Pandava prince, my dearest friend. I think our Krishnaa will like him!
A warrior has the greatest respect for the man who defeats him in battle. They lived by strange rules. I wanted to ask Dhri why our father hated Drona so much, then, since Drona had been the mastermind behind that defeat.
But I allowed myself to drift to more pleasant thoughts. To be the beloved of the greatest archer of our time. To be the woman whose smile made his heart beat faster, whose frown wounded him almost to death, whose advice guided his most important decisions. Could this be the way I was meant to change history? Krishna smiled slyly, as though he knew what I thought.
Still, I was surprised at how much it rankled to articulate it. Krishna touched my shoulder. I was ashamed of my petty worries.
I wondered if it would break him or harden him, and which would be worse. He was trying to teach me something. Was it to be aware of the dark motivations that lay behind seemingly benign actions? Was it to not 59 let myself be carried away by emotion, to see myself instead as part of a larger political design that would affect the fate of Bharat? Was it to teach me how to wear the armor of caution so that no one could reach past it to break my heart?
Important lessons, no doubt. But I was a woman, and I had to practice them—as Sikhandi had suggested—in my own way. I would approach the problem aslant. Perhaps Time was the master player. But within the limits allowed to humans in this world the sages called unreal, I would be a player, too. But why do I call her that? She looked no different from the women who sold their wares in the marketplace, with the pleats of her blue sari tucked, peasant fashion, between her legs.
I expected her to shout for the sentry or berate the woman with her usual belligerence, but she did neither. Secretly, I agreed with her estimation of my lessons.
I was interested in seeing what she had to offer. I had a suspicion it was Vyasa the sage. She grinned. Her teeth were very white in her dark face, their edges sharp and serrated. You do it by ignoring them. She taught me how to wash it, oil it, comb the tangles out of it, and braid it into a hundred different designs. She had me practice on her and rebuked me sharply if I pulled too hard, or snagged a tress.
I took them with unaccustomed meekness. Dhai Ma puffed out her cheeks in disapproval. The sorceress taught me other unqueenly skills. She made me lie on the floor at night, with only my arm for a pillow, until I could sleep under those conditions. She made me wear the cheapest, most abrasive cotton saris that chafed my skin until I grew used to them. She made me eat what the lowest of my servants ate; she taught me to live on fruits, then water, and then to fast for days at a time.
The breath made my mind one-pointed, and I began to glimpse subtleties that had been invisible to me before. I noticed that her lessons went in opposites. She taught me adornments to enhance my beauty. She taught me how to make myself so ordinary that no one would spare me a sec- 62 ond glance.
She taught me to cook with the best of ingredients and the most meager. She taught me potions to cure illness and potions to cause them. She taught me to be unafraid of speaking out, and to be brave enough for silence.
She taught me when to lie and when to speak the truth. She taught me to close myself off from the sorrow of others so that I might survive. I understood that she was preparing me for the different situations that would appear in my life. I tried to guess what shape they might take, but here I failed. I failed also in this: She demonstrated how to send out a lightning-glance from the corner of the eye.
How to bite, slightly, the swollen lower lip. How to make bangles ring as I raised my arm to pull a transparent veil into place. How to walk, the back swaying just enough to hint at hidden pleasures.
Teach me how to love my husband, and how to make him love me. I advise you to forget about love, princess. Pleasure is simpler, and duty more important. Deep in my stubborn heart I was convinced I deserved more. The story was the tale of Kunti, mother of Arjun. Whenever she wanted, she could call upon a god, and he would gift her with a son.
Thus her eldest, Yudhisthir, was the son of the god of righteousness, her second, Bheem, the son of the god of wind, and Arjun, the son of Indra the king-god.
Thus, Nakul and Sahadev, sons of the twin healer-gods, were born. She gave me a look. But my believing is not important, nor yours. Almost immediately he took the beautiful Madri as his second wife and lavished his affection on her. Soon afterward, Pandu was cursed by a brahmin. He left his kingdom in the hands of his blind brother, Dhritarashtra, and went into the forest to do penance.
Years passed. The children appeared. But one day Pandu, no longer able to resist, embraced Madri. He died. The guilt-ridden Madri chose not to live on. She was determined that no one would cheat them out of their inheritance. Understand what drove a woman like her. What allowed her to survive when she was surrounded by enemies.
Understand what makes a queen—and beware! With the arrogance of youth I thought that the motives that drove Kunti were too simple to require careful study. And how much more dangerous. The Palace of Illusions , like the Mahabharat , is set in a half — magical world populated by gods and sages who have supernatural powers as well as by humans, some of whom manage to harness magical powers for their own gains though generally not without consequences. What is the place of magic in Indian culture?
In Western culture? My own view—influenced by my culture—is that the universe we live in is a magical one. It exists on many levels. The world that we perceive with our senses and understand with logic is only the most obvious level. The other levels are available to us—but we have to attune ourselves to them. Those are the levels I explore in many of my novels, which are peopled with characters who, for one reason or another, have gained access to them.
On its most subtle level, the world is spiritual in nature. That is what Panchaali comes to understand at the end of her life. A bloody civil war between brothers is central to the plot in The Palace of Illusions. Although the story is an ancient one, it will resonate with a great many American women today whose own husbands and children are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Was this part of the reason you chose to re — tell this section of the Mahabharat? Does the Mahabharat advocate peaceful resolution to conflicts or is it more complicated than that?
What about your own feelings about war? Yes, one of the reasons I was attracted to re—telling the story of the Mahabharat is that unfortunately we continue to live in a war-torn world. Americans today—men and women both—are certainly feeling the effects of war. So are people in many other countries. War is particularly hard on mothers—seeing the life that came out of your own body being maimed or destroyed is devastating.
Yudhisthir goes into a long—lasting depression when he considers what has happened to the earth and to society as a result of the carnage he has helped bring about. In this novel I wanted to focus on the immense and debilitating costs of war, and as we are re—learning to our sorrow in this country right now how easy it is to begin a war and how hard to end it. In the Mahabharat—as in most epics—the attitude to war is a complicated one.
Mine is more simple. Like Mahatma Gandhi, a man I greatly admire, I believe in non violence as the best method of resistance. What role does illusion play in the Mahabharat? In everyday life? I hope the readers will be as fascinated by it—and by the idea of needing to belong, the idea of home that haunts Panchaali throughout the novel—as I am. Yes, the novel is full of illusions just as it is full of palaces.
Panchaali has many illusions about who she is—and so do the other characters. Is what Panchaali believes about romantic love an illusion? I want readers to draw their own conclusions—and, I hope, examine some of their own illusions.
Ultimately the novel—and Indian spiritual philosophy—suggests that this entire world is an illusion, is Maya—and invites the reader to contemplate the true, unchanging, amazing essence of things.
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