Book Review: Song of Draupadi by Ira Mukhoty

  • ISBN ‏ : ‎ 978-9390652242 
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Aleph Book Company
  • Price: INR 699/-
  • Genre: Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction

About the Book

The Mahabharat is renowned for its great battles, heroic men, and gods walking the pathways of mortals. However, the beating heart of the epic is often forgotten—the stories of its women. Many of these exceptional women appear in Song of Draupadi—the indomitable Satyavati, the otherworldly Ganga, the indestructible Kunti, and the tenacious Gandhari—but the passionate and fiery Draupadi rises above them all to grip the imagination of the reader. Born of a dangerous sacrifice, Draupadi and her brother Drishtadumna are called forth to avenge Drona’s insult to their father. 

While Drishtadumna is expected to kill Drona on the battlefield, Draupadi’s role is not set out, but she dreams of fire and blood. From beloved daughter and princess of Panchala to wife of the brave Pandavas and queen of Indraprastha, Draupadi finds herself exiled to the forest, humiliated and determined on vengeance. The novel is a symphony, in several keys, of her voice and those of the other women around her—arguing, pleading, reasoning, and often raised in righteous anger. 

About the Author 

Ira Mukhoty is the author of Akbar: The Great Mughal, Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire and Heroines: Powerful Indian Women in Myth and History. Living in one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, she developed an interest in the evolution of mythology and history, the erasure of women from these histories, and the continuing relevance this has on the status of women in India. 

She writes rigorously researched narrative histories that are accessible to the lay reader. She lives in Gurgaon with her husband and two daughters. Song of Draupadi is her first novel.


If someone were to ask me to tell them about the essence of this book, it would be in its dedication.

For all the unrecorded voices
For the furious, the untamed, the dispossessed,
and the voiceless
For the women of India
Song of Draupadi by Ira Mukhoty is not just about Draupadi, it is about all the women around here in Mahabharata who have not been spoken about before (at least with this depth and back story). As it is very clear from the dedication, it is for the women, by a woman, and about women. 

When it comes to mythology, the entire version told to us since childhood is one where women have almost no role to play. Authors like Mukhoty, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Koral Dasgupta, Anuja Chandramouli to name a few are bringing the voices of these women to us through their writings.

In writing the Song of Draupadi, Mukhoty gives us an inner glimpse into the lives of women in Mahabharata. Be it Draupadi, other queens or the caretakers, nautch girls, and the flower girls - their lives, thoughts, and desires are beautifully laid bare in this novel. Mukhoty still keeps men at the center, just like the original Mahabharata. However, the narrators being women, their voices add a different layer to what is a known story otherwise. 

Standing tall as the backbone of this story is the humane element, Mukhoty brings in through her narrative. All the characters are human and flawed to an extent that you seem to question their popularly known divinity. 

Song of Draupadi is like a huge anciety banyan tree which is spread out across a large area. On the onset you can only see its thick trunk and dangling roots. As you move closer you see the various birds who call if home, the tiny crevices through which you can see the sky, the leaves in various shapes and sizes that seem to be sprouting from every where and anywhere and a lot of other minute things. That is exactly how this book unveils itself to the reader. Like a mammoth in the beginning and slowly opens its arms to engulf you completely in the narration.

The only drawback I felt in it was the way some extremely important scenes of Mahabharata were missing. Well, the idea must have been to give voice newer and unknown scenes but for the sake of familiarity, continuity and ofcourse reliability, some of the scenes could have been retained in the narrative to add weight to the whole discussion.

Apart from that, it is an excellent read with a lot of journeys within the journey for a reader to experience. It is not A book, it is a book within a book with multiple stories and layers that a reader is bound to love getting lost into.

Recommended for all fiction and history lovers - it has a brilliant combination of both to be devoured.

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  1. Loved the review. Wanted to try to read some Indian mythology for a long time now. I might pick this book for my next read.


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