Friday, January 29, 2016

Alex Rutherford - The Serpent's tooth

+Amazon India
@headline publishing
+Hachette India

At long last, after a hard struggle, Shah Jahan had the throne of Hindustan.  He had to kill all his half brothers to reach this stage. He was happy with his beloved wife Arjamand Banu Begam and his children Jahan Ara, Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, Roshan Ara, Murad and Aurangzeb..

He had to spend a long time quelling rebellion in Hyderabad.  As usual, his wife accompanied him, despite being pregnant.  There he had to see his beloved wife dying while giving birth to a daughter, later named Gauhar Ara.  For a very long time he was saddened by this. All his energy was spent on building a fabulous white monument for her.

Watching his sons growing up, Shah Jahan felt that the succession after him will not be as bloody as the previous ones were.  His children were not half siblings like most Moghul Princes were.  They were born of the same mother.  He meant to announced Dara Shukoh as his heir.  He had bestowed important Governerships on his sons.  He expected his reign to be peaceful and succession to be undisputed as well.

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is 
To have a thankless child!
Shah Jahan did not reckon with ambition which could override filial affection. Shah Jahan's third son, Aurangzeb, was a complex man.  He was an extremely conservative Muslim unlike his oldest brother, Dara Shukoh.  He was a devout Muslim and ruthlessly ambitious.  His ambition wrecked havoc with Shah Jahan's family.  He had to see all his sons die due to the machinations of Aurangzeb.  He was imprisoned in his old age and died with only Jahan Ara to attend to him.  He was denied even a state funeral.

In this fifth book by Alex Rutherford we are introduced to the reign of Shah Jahan.  There are some beautifully described battle scenes.  At the outset there is a guerrilla type fighting going on with the Deccan rebels.  Towards the end, there is a beautifully described battle that happened between Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb.  It gives us a good idea about warfare in Moghul times.

As usual, there is a list of characters and events that were invented by the authors.  Any change in the sequence of events is also listed.  This helps the reader to sift fact from fiction.  

Initially the authors had planned only three books in this series.  But later they went on to write three more to cover the reign of Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb as well.  After this the Moghul empire fast lost ground due to kings who could not match the charisma and ability of their predecessors.

Reading the books of Alex Rutherford is a very entertaining and informative way of acquainting ourselves of this very colorful period in the history of India.


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