The Transcendental Self

Demystifying Pāñcālī in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions

  • Soumyajyoti Banerjee
  • Rajni Singh
  • Amrita Basu
Keywords: female identity, demystification, Orientalism, Pāñcālī, Kṣṇā


The study concentrates on the story of Pāñcālī, the female protagonist of the Indian epic Mahābhārata. One of the most provocative and mythical characters, Pāñcālī has been subject to numerous interpretations. Chitra Divakaruni demystifies her and renders an authentic female experience without the affliction of canonical tradition. The palaces Pāñcālī inhabits become embodiments of a nationalist culture vitiated with concerns of cognitive dominance. Her efforts to break the shackles of tradition require her to counter such discourse with an entirely new aesthetic of narration and experience, one that is intimately connected to her “self.” Her futile efforts to construct a palace as a retributive symbol and her inadequacy at understanding the strength of the female self finally lead her to a self-sufficient, self-engaged rhetoric of completion. We deviate from standardized models of feminist critiques and employ Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism for interrogating the female experience as a whole. The story of Pāñcālī is the story of the woman rising above her destiny; hers is the story of becoming  Kṣṇā.


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Author Biographies

Soumyajyoti Banerjee

SOUMYAJYOTI BANERJEE is an Assistant professor in English at Haldia Institute of Technology, West Bengal, India. He is a research scholar at Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. He has publications in the fields of Literary Theory, Cultural Studies, English Language Teaching and Pragmatics. His research interests include Indian Writing in English and Critical Theory.

Rajni Singh

RAJNI SINGH is an Associate Professor at Indian School of Mines, Jharkhand, India. She has published considerably in the domains of Indian English Literature, Feminist Criticism and Cultural Theory. She is engaged in major research guidance and her fields of inquiry include feminist writings.

Amrita Basu

AMRITA BASU is an Assistant Professor at Savitri Girl’s College, West Bengal, India. She has major publications in fields of Narratology and Literary Theory. She is engaged in research guidance and project work. Her research interests include Indian Writing in English, Critical Theory and Narratology.

How to Cite
Banerjee, S., Singh, R., & Basu, A. (2016). The Transcendental Self: Demystifying Pāñcālī in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions. Archiv orientální, 84(2), 269-290.
Research Article