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Archive for March, 2011

It is the October of 1605, and Akbar having miraculously gained absolute dominion over a lion’s share of intractable India, lies dying of dysentery in his palace at imperial Agra [1]. Two of his sons, Murad and Daniyal are dying due to drink. The only other heir, the ambitious Prince Salim (or Emperor Jehangir – the World Grasper) can barely wait for his sick father to die. He is suspected of having poisoned his father and bursts into sulky rebellions (on the advice of counselors) to become emperor. Grief-stricken, Emperor Akbar implores him:

“There is no one left but you. Why do you vex me so? You are bound to inherit the kingdom.”

Salim’s revolt against his father would be repeated time and again in this gripping story of the Mogul rule in India. Here, power hungry queens control ambitious princes who murder numerous young brothers on their way to the throne while emperors addicted to opium and alcohol miraculously live for sixty long years.

The book ‘The Peacock Throne – The Drama of Mogul India’ was written by Waldemar Hansen in 1970, and the cover of this 700 pages long hardbound copy reads 120 Rs (perhaps quite expensive for the 70s?). It is a treat even for fiction readers, since the events of the Mogul era are sometimes so bizarre and far from our reality.

It is interesting to see, how the historian-writer makes distinctions between facts and fiction, besides suggesting his own interpretations of events. Of course his opinion is reverberant throughout the work. I have had some troubles finishing books in the past, but this one was truly a page turner, as they say.

[1] Notice the stark reality of an all powerful emperor dying of dysentery? The writer brilliantly captures such facts and moments throughout the book.

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