So, I have a long weekend coming up and so hoping to read much more. The most exciting thing to happen in the last bit I read was the appearance of Draupadi. Honestly, compared to Palace of Illusions which tells the story from Draupadi’s perspective, the whole thing is quite truncated here. If I hadn’t read Palace of Illusions first, the motivations in this bit would have been pretty fuzzy.
For example, King Drupada arranges a swayamvara but secretly wants Arjuna to win. In fact, this versions says that he specifically did a pooja (forgot what the ritual was called) asking for a son to avenge himself on Drona and a daughter to marry Arjuna. Considering Arjuna routed him in battle before, and is supposed to be dead, I find this hard to believe. It’s much more plausible that Arjuna won and then when he revealed who he was, the king realised that it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
I also thought CB Divakurni’s version of Draupadi’s birth was more convicing. It’s an image that remains with me – of the warrior brother stepping out of the fire, to everyone’s amazement, and then yanking, behind him, the unexpected daughter. It is also interesting that much is made of Draupadi’s beauty as also her dark skin. Her complexion is fetishised and seems to add to her beauty not detract from it.
The Other Dark One – Lord Krishna – also makes his appearance at that point and again, I am reminded of Divakurni’s telling which explores the link between Krishna and Draupadi. In this much more male version of the story, the bond between Krishna and the Pandavas – Yudhistira and Arjun in particular. Again, I wouldn’t have found it very convincing if I hadn’t read Palace of Illusions where the motivations are explored more. Though I guess this is not so much an interpretation of the Mahabharat as a telling of it, and therefore possibly these motivations were not there in the original text.