17 January, 2014

The Twentieth Wife - [Book Review]

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Did you watch the movie Jodha Akbar? Liked it? Do you like historic stories? Do you like to learn about Mughal empire and a woman's life at that time?

If so, you might enjoy reading this book 'The Twentieth wife' by 'Indu Sundaresan'.

Book Details:
Title: The Twentieth Wife
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Publisher: Harpercollins 

Brief: This is the story of Meharunnisa, a women whose family shifted from Persia to India as refugees to the court of Akbar. Her father Ghais Baig carried important posts in Akbar's court and his son Jahangir's rein including the role of treasurer and Diwan. Unlike other women at those times, Mehrunnisa who was later called as 'Nurjahan' was well educated. She always dreamed to become an Empress by marrying Salim (Jahangir - Akbar's son). 

Jahangir sees her in her step mother and empress Ruqaya's home and falls in love at first sight. He was already married twice by that time and couldn't talk to Meharunnisa because of his wife's presence.

Meharunnisa's fate changes when Akbar suggests Ghais Baig to marry her to a Persian soldier 'Ali Quli' for political reasons. Even though she tries to raise her voice, keeps calm as his father cannot disobey King's order and get into trouble. Jahangir asks his father to talk to Ghais Baig about their marriage, but Akbar is adamant on changing his order. Thus, Meharunnisa marries Ali Quli who is as old as his father. She passes many years in bad marriage and also suffers a lot due to her inability to bear a child of him. At last, she conceives and delivers a baby girl. She starts leading life happily seeing her daughter grow, whereas Jahangir becomes King after Akbar's death. She always keeps herself abreast of Jahangir's political moves and decisions from her husband.

Jahangir gets to see Meharunnisa again on his son's engagement to her niece and his love blossoms. Meanwhile, Ali Quli participates in a betrayal plan against Jahangir and dies due to that. Meharunnisa is rescued and transferred to Ruqaya's palace safely with Jahangir's order and she spends her time by stitching and doing embroidery for women at harem. 

The remaining story is about how Jahangir approaches Meharunnisa and convinces her to marry him. When Jahangir asks her to be a concubine in his palace, she refuses and accepts only when he offers to marry her. Thus, she becomes an empress - 20th wife to Jahangir and also his best friend and guide later.

Purchase link:


My Take: 

More than the story, it is the detailing that attracts me in the book. The mindset of Kings, the role of women in politics, political moves and ruthless strategies to get the crown are covered well. 

There was a mention about Salim - Anarkali, but just 3 lines which says Anarkali was a concubine in Akbar's court and she was buried to death when she smiled at Jahangir while massaging Akbar. Not sure how far this is true. 

This story is a combination of facts and fiction. Author also explains the facts at the end of the book, which is good.

 I didn't feel the title is very apt. Meharunnisa at last marries Jahangir as 20th wife, but this book doesn't cover anything about what she does after that. Of course, i know it is first book of trilogy. But, if the book is only about Meharunnisa's life before marriage, wouldn't it be good to have a different title?

Overall: A fantastic read to understand the richness of Mughal empire, their rule, their harem, their mentality and the political environment in those days.

Rating: 4.5/5

Until next time,

05 January, 2014

Mysore - The city of Palaces

A very happy new year to all :)

This chronicle is from our recent tour to Coorg through Mysore.. Mysore, known as city of palaces has many places to offer for tourists who are interested in history. It is famous for Mysore mallige (jasmine flowers), sandalwood artifacts and silks. City got its name from 'Mahishasura' an evil king who ruled the place. It was known as 'Mahishasur', which got changed to 'Mysore' by British. Mysore was ruled by Vijaya nagara empire followed by Tippu Sultan before handed over to 'Wodeyar' family.

Some of the tourist places and their importance:

Chamundi hills: This hill has 'chamudeswari' temple and you can see a big Nandi statue on the way to the temple. This Nandi statue is made of single rock. Chamundi hill is also known as 'Ashtamukhi hill' as it used to look same from all the eight sides of the hill.
Chamundi hills

Mysore Palace: It is a three storied palace with gold coated cover on the top. It has 5 entrances. This is the official residence of royal family and it has durbar known as 'Amba vilas'. The construction and architecture is excellent and it is also famous for light show. When all lights are on, we cannot explain it's beauty in words.
Mysore Palace - side view

Lalitha mahal palace: This is second largest palace in Mysore which is on the way to Chamundi hills. We might have seen this white palace in many south Indian films so far.. It's very famous and looks regal.

St. Philomena's church
Jagan Mohan Palace: This was first used for the marriage of king 'Krishna raja Wodeyar'. When Mysore palace was undergoing repairs, royal family used this palace as residence.

St. Philomena's church: This church was built in the honour of St.Philomena. Architecture is unique in Neo -gothic style. One of the must see places in Mysore.

Brindavan Gardens: One cannot say their trip to Mysore complete until they visit these beautiful gardens. These gardens were planned and built in connection with construction of Krishnaraja sagar dam. It has beautiful botanical parks, many fountains and also boat ride. To reach the gardens, we have to cross the dam. It will be wonderful in the evenings with cool breeze from dam. Musical fountain and Laser shows are other important attractions in the gardens.
Brindavan Gardens in the night

Mysore is famous for Dasara celebrations and processions by King.  Usually, lakhs of people from different places of India come to participate in these Dasara celebrations. As you might have known, the last king of Wodeyar family, Narasimharaja Wodeyar died recently. I hope this tradition of Dasara celebrations continues in future.

So this is about Mysore.. but there are many other places near by Mysore like Srirangapattana which has Sriranganathaswamy temple and Tippu Sultan's summer palace. Places like Belumuri falls and Bannerghatta national park are also nearer to Mysore, on the way to Bangalore. Hope you enjoyed the virtual trip :)

Until next time,

Image courtesy: All images are from wikipedia.com except Mysore palace photo

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