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Indian epics get a feminist makeover

Modern retellings of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana show a different side

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's book "The Palace of Illusions" examines famous Indian epic the Mahabharata through a feminist lens. (Nikkei montage/Source photos from the author and Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- In Indian American writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's book "The Palace of Illusions," the central female character of Draupadi says, "I would no longer waste time on regret. I would turn my face to the future and carve it into the shape I wanted." It is not surprising that Divakaruni would give Draupadi such a strong voice; she is one of the small but growing group of writers who are sharing their own version of popular Indian epics through the feminist lens.

Draupadi is a unique figure in Indian mythology. According to the Mahabharata epic, she is married to the five Pandava brothers who have blindly followed their mother's dictum that sharing is caring. The turning point in the story comes at a point where she is humiliated in the royal court of her husbands' fierce rivals, the Kauravas, who have her disrobed in front of a large audience. Her husbands vow to take revenge, and a long bloody war follows.

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