Reviewed for Author Ruchir Gupta
Title: Mistress of the Throne : The Mughal Intrigues
Author: Ruchir Gupta (His Debut Book)
Publisher: Srishti Publishers
Category: Historical Fiction
Review for the Book by other Book Reviewers: Indian Shringar
The Mughal Empire comes alive again!
I am astonished why throughout my school history texts, the name Jahanara didn’t get a mention at all. Unless you are too good at Indian history, you wouldn’t have heard this name either. The daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal and the elder sister of Aurangazeb – Jahanara – had played a significant role both within her family and in the country matters. Ironically, her name had remained silent for the most part. Author Ruchir Gupta has rightly brought her out of her veil through his debut book.
If it were the love story of the couple, I know there would be some interesting content. But what could be so much about their daughter that a whole book is written on her? This was my first thought when I read the blurb. However, today as I keep the book down, I wonder how the author managed to pack her life within 300 pages! After Mumtaz’s death, Shah Jahan chose his daughter who was just seventeen then, to become the next Queen of India. While, in general, wives of the kings took that role and Shah Jahan having been married to several other wives, he did not make any of them the Queen. Rather, he created history in bringing his daughter to the throne. And she had justly proved as the Mistress of the Throne!
The Story in short
Jahanara and her family are back from an exile when her father becomes the Mughal King. It’s also a reunion time for their family as her brothers Dara and Aurangazeb join them after being in the hands of their grandfather, Jahangir for long. Mother Mumtaz is an embodiment of goodness. Justice in kingdom, noble charities, space for other religions, support to the King and care for the children – everything was in place under her rulership. Unfortunately, she loses her life while giving birth to her seventh child. Her death devastates the whole family turning each of them to different directions. That’s when Jahanara steps onto her royal throne, bringing in significant changes around the family and the kingdom.
The author could not have done anything a little more or a little less anywhere. Absolutely well-balanced in all aspects. The plot, language, writing style, character portrayal – honestly, I did not notice any of these throughout, as the book took me so deep. And I feel, probably, that is what a real good book should do to a reader. It’s definitely not a quick read. It took me several days to turn the last page. The story moves neither too fast nor too slow. However, at some places, it feels a little disconnected, especially at places where a few years pass on within a paragraph. For instance, Dara and Aurangazeb take much lead roles in the beginning, but at later stages, even their marriages and children are barely given a mention. However, given the prominence of the character Jahanara, I assume the author could give only that much justice to others.
Apart from the main plot, the life in a Mughal palace is vividly written. Their luxury is unbeatable. The family’s travel to Kashmir and the royal meal on the occasion of the proclamation will say it all. The night-life in the zenana (the part of house for women) was indeed interesting. The making of the Taj Mahal and other buildings in Delhi form a few pages.
There’s an Afterword where the author speaks about ‘Why Jahanara for his debut book’. Beyond that, is A Conversation with Ruchir Gupta where the author answers a few relevant questions:
- What made you write this book?
- What part of Mistress of the Throne is fact and what part is fiction?
- How did you go about researching about the main protagonist, Jahanara?
- You show Jahanara having mystical powers that allow her to see what is happening in other places. Why did you do that?
- Tell us about your writing process for a book such as this.
If there was one person in history, I disliked all time, it was Aurangazeb. His intolerance and arrogance, leading to the fall of the Mughal dynasty made him a horrible personality in my mind. Believe me, this book has changed that altogether that I had to give a sub-heading for him. Not that he is portrayed as a genuine character, but the reality behind how his life situations turn him is said, just wonderfully, that he has become one of my favorite personalities. His life is a perfect example of how an inherent good-natured and pious child can be directed against righteous ways.
An immense depth in the narration!
At the end of the book, it left me with an unexplainable sadness. The underlying melancholy with the life of Jahanara is touching. Her mother’s deteriorating health was apparent, but she only had to watch her die and could do nothing. She knew that her brothers Dara and Aurangazeb are individually nice beings, but there wasn’t much she could do to prevent their feuds. She came very close to the love of her life, but it all had to be sacrificed. And several other things which went wrong in front of her, but she remained helpless. This feeling of her is etched realistically.
It is difficult to predict who would find the book interesting. It is solely up to an individual’s perspective.
Mistress of the Throne
is a beautiful excavation of the Mughal history
only to get dis-heartened with the helpless state of the then India!
This review is also posted at my book reviews blog, Nandhini’s Book Reviews Blog
About the Author
Ruchir Gupta is a graduate of Upstate Medical University and currently practicing medicine in Long Island, NY, where he lives with his wife and daughter. He has authored several books on anesthesiology. His interests include reading, blogging, traveling, and learning history. Mistress of the Throne is his debut novel.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
My thanks to the author and Srishti Publishers for the review copy.
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