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The Saas-Bahu Saga from Time Immemorial

May 6, 2011

I am half way through reading The Pallace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. This is my first book by the author and judging by what I have read so far, it won’t be my last. Chitra’s writing is fluid and lucid to hold my attention.

The story is “narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the five Pandava brothers”. The book “finally gives a woman’s take on the timeless tale that is Mahabharat. Tracing Panchaali’s life – from fiery birth and lonely childhood, where her beloved brother is her only true companion; through her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna; to marriage, motherhood and her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands’ most dangerous enemy – it’s a deeply human story about a woman born into a man’s world.” (quoted from the back cover of the book).

My exposure to Mahabharat has been limited to what I read in Amar Chitra Katha comics in my childhood. Somehow I also seem to have missed the Mahabharat serial that my peers so fondly remember in their memories of Sunday mornings of the years gone by. I do remember a copy of Bhagwad Geeta in my house but don’t ever remember anyone reading it. So this book actually is my first exposure to any serious interpertation of Mahabharat.

As I read through the book, I recognize the stories that form the epic, stories within stories within stories. I now understand why it is an epic and how it can hold one’s attention. One thing struck me as I read about Panchaali’s marriage and her relationship with Kunti, mother of the Pandav brothers and Panchaali’s mother-in-law. It seems the saas-bahu saga has been going on since time immemorial. Even in the era of the Mahabharat, there was friction between the saas and the bahu, the morher’s hold on her sons, the reluctance to let go and the wife’s attempts to create a place for herself, prove herself to the ever demanding mother-in-law. It was funny read about this in this version of Mahabharat. So next time you come across a saas-bahu issue, just remember, it’s something even the greatest of legends faced :-).

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2011 11:46 am

    I simply loved the book!

  2. May 24, 2011 11:49 am

    btw it should be saas bahu no? not saaa bahu 🙂

  3. May 25, 2011 12:01 pm

    Thanks Reema. Have made the correction.

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