If you like reading the history of Indian aristocracy and royalty and their multi-faceted personalities then look no further. Indira Ananthakrishnan in her book The Queen Who Ruled the Waves and Other Amazing Tales of Royalty from Indian History (Hachette India) has written a collection of 15 captivating historical short stories. Targeted at middle graders, the book is a must for lovers of historical tales.
These historical tales are about kings, queens, tribal chieftains, and administrators. Each is a story in itself. A trait, a personality, a like and dislike, anecdotes, gripping incidents while they were in power. Showing daring courage and bravery in the time of attacks, protecting their kingdom and their people from internal and external strife. But let’s not forget they also were patrons of art and culture and literature taking their dynasties to great heights.
History is a vast cauldron of events and happenings. The author has it in her to invoke a feeling of amazement and curiosity that makes us want to delve into our past. While there are many Indian dynastic empires that we have read and studied about there are countless unheard of. Be ready to be regaled by nobility and fifteen gripping stories. Let’s travel to different parts of our motherland, reading stories from time immemorial of the known and unknown.
The Queen Who Ruled the Waves – Rani Abbakka was the queen of the Chowta dynasty in Karnataka during the 16th century. Followers of the matrilineal society Rani Abbakka was valiant and trained in warfare and military strategy. The Portuguese did trade with them in spices. But the wily Portuguese wanted more and took over her ships at sea. However, the Rani was not ready to bow down to the foreigners. She fought a fierce battle on the seas and won them back but also lost a lot. If you go to notice many a time, the enemy is closer to home than you think. External strife indeed but it is the internal strife to be wary of.
Kings and Animals – We all know that King Akbar of the Mughal dynasty was a just and noble king. But did you know he had a love for animals wild? Elephants, zebras, stags, and cheetahs were pets at his palace. One day a zebra from Ethiopia was gifted to King Jehangir by the visiting Turks. Akbar’s grandchildren were amazed and curious to know more about the unique creature. Hence one evening Nurjahan took her children to visit King Akbar. They came back happy and satisfied knowing another side of Akbar. An evening filled with anecdotes and stories of his love for all animals wild.
The King of Forts – If you are traveling to Maharashtra for your next vacation don’t forget to add Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s forts to your itinerary. During Shivaji Maharaj’s reign, he had mastery over capturing forts and his methods were awe-worthy. Right from Shivneri Fort to Raigad, to Pratapgadh. He became master of all. We get to read many amazing stories and how can we forget the story of Tanaji and his daring monitor lizards climbing up the Sinhagad fort in the dead of the night?
The Queen Who Dared – Princess Velu Nachiyar of Ramanathapuram and Sivagangai in Tamil Nadu was a pro in martial arts. Her love for languages Indian and foreign was inspiring. Her people were happy under her tutelage. But happy times were not to last. The arrival of the British India Company brought trouble which cost her husband’s life. But she was not one to bow down. She trained a team of women in the art of warfare putting a fierce plan in motion. In 2008 the government of India released a postage stamp in Velu Nachiyar’s name.
A poetess and the power of her words stopped two chieftains from continuous warring. Rani Durgavati a Rajput princess who became the queen of the Gondwana tribe is known for her fierce battles. Dara Shikoh loved poetry and Sanskrit, was scholarly and spiritual but could not be king because of his conniving brother, An old Sultan of Awadh, and his penchant for soft melt-in-your-mouth Kebabs and Biryani and many more absorbing stories.
While growing up and studying History from our school textbooks the common complaint was and which very much still is that it is boring to remember endless pages filled with names and dates. So, when riveting and engrossing fiction and non-fiction books on history come by, you want to dig deep. My daughter was studying for her history exam, while on a study break, she picked up Indira’s book and got reading ‘The In-Between King’. With a smile, she said that “I did not know Bindusara’s mother and Chandragupta Maurya’s wife was a Greek. This is a nice book which I will read,”. With an attractive cover page and illustrations by Priyanka Pachpande, Indira’s book calls out to middle graders and us to open the pages of the book and get reading the treasure trove of historical tales.