Book Review : The Winds of Hastinapur

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

‘My hair is white and thin now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do not have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place when I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water… It is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen.’

The Winds of Hastinapur begins at the point when Ganga was cursed and sent to Earth. She lives among the mortals and bears Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur, seven children, all of whom she kills. With the eighth, she leaves. That boy, who returns to Earth, will prove to be the key to the future of Hastinapur. The story, as told through the lives of his mother Ganga and stepmother Satyavati, is violent, fraught with conflict and touched by magic. 

A lady of the river who has no virgin daughter to carry on her legacy, Celestials who partake of a mysterious lake they guard with their very lives, sages overcome by lust, a randy fisher-princess – these and other characters lend a startling new dimension to a familiar tale. Sharath Komarraju does not so much retell the epic as to rewrite it. 

Review:

Another Mythological fiction. Another Mahabharat. Although the epic seems to be the flavour of 2013-14 with a range of books on its characters, Mahabharat never gets tiring for some of us. We’ve had Arjun, Draupadi and other characters adorning our bookshelves these days, but Sharath Komarraju presents us with two very interesting and often neglected characters – Ganga and Satyavati.

The book begins with Ganga reminiscing about her life, her mother and the influence of Gods on her. Most of us have known Ganga only as a river and mentioned in Mahabharat, but her history and the course of her life is as interesting as other women in the epic. Ganga’s identity is primarily showcased as the mother of Bhishma who also bore other children to his father Shantanu. Satyavati is Bhsihma’s stepmother whom Shantanu married after he got besotted with her. Ganga and Stayavati make an interesting pair of women to be compared with each other.

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Book Review : Mistress of the Throne

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

1631, the Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India. Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title, but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will). Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another. Mistress of the Throne narrates the powerful story of one of Indias most opulent and turbulent times through the eyes of an unsuspecting character – a Muslim queen. It uses actual historical figures to illuminate the complexity of an era that has often been called India’s Golden Age.

Review: 

Historical fiction is one of the most difficult genre to delve into. You can’t have too much of history or too much of fiction. Any extreme will turn it into a drab history book or a complete fiction. Much kudos to Dr. Ruchir Gupta for choosing a very unusual subject – Jahanara Begum for his book. A quick recap into history and you’ll find that Jahanara was the daughter of Shah Jahanand Mumtaz Mahal, elder sister of Aurangzeb and the first crown princess of India.

The book covers Jahanara’s journey from teenage till her last days. It is a very comprehensive account, more intriguing as its written in first person. The reader feels like residing inside Jahanara’s heart and brain all the time. I must say I’m very impressed in the way Dr. Gupta has approached the subject. The fine line between fact and fiction is so well blurred at places that readers would doubt their own knowledge of history.

Jahanara Begum has been a fairly neglected character in history. Many of us might not have heard her name at all. But her importance in Indian and Mughal history is brought up beautifully in this book. Readers traverse through Jahanara’s life with each important incident beginning with her mother’s death. After Mumtaz Mahal’s death, Shah Jahan was devastated and became a loner. Jahanara held the family, her brothers and father together, and as a result was crowned the Princess of India, on the throne of the dynasty. Her life became important than anybody else in the kingdom, but at the same time, she was forbidden to marry any man according to Mughal rules.

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