Genre: Indian History
This is the second book on history by author Amit Agarwal which I have read. His first book, 'Swift horses Sharp Swords' had an entirely new perspective on history with a new format. The new one carries forward the design and engrosses the readers.
His latest book is a compilation of five nearly-forgotten historical stories. This collection presents a multifaceted narrative of Bharat's history from 326 BCE, beginning with Alexander and finishing in the present, leaving several lessons to ponder. The delightful feature is that he has written it from an Indian perspective, quite a refreshing change from the usual invader's stance. Another story is about the Vijayanagar empire, which was a bulwark against the Deccan Sultanates. The next chapter belongs to Lachit Barphukon, who successfully repelled Aurangzeb's mighty army, no less. One story is about the Kohinoor diamond and how it ruined the kingdoms across Asia. The author could build an engrossing story around how the stone proved to be a curse to everyone, especially males, who possessed it. Even today, Queen Elizabeth is scared to wear it.
Interesting anecdotes have been built in Lachit's story, where the presiding goddess of Assam, Kamakhya, features twice in the story wherein the readers have been informed about her menstruating period, quite a uniqueness of Hindu dharma. It is said that even the waters of Brahmaputra become red during those times. Alexander's interaction with sadhus projects our spiritual prowess and goes on to tell us that the invader was no great person. There is a short story about the Eram massacre, a replica of Jallianwala Bagh, which happened in Orissa in the 1940s. The peculiar thing was that there was no General Dyer here and our own brother ordered the shooting, killing scores of people.
However, the Khilafat story takes the cake, and it is this story in which the author comes into his element. Hindu-Muslim conflict is his forte and he had come out all his guns blaring. He showed how conditions in the early 20th century still exist today with no chance of ending the never-ending conflict any time soon.
Unlike previous history books, this one is not focused on Delhi and instead covers the whole area of Bharatvarsha. From north to south, and from the far west to Assam, every region is taken care of. Even current global events have been included in two of the stories. Kohinoor visited Afghanistan, Persia, and Britain. How these countries attempted to take and loot the Indian treasure reveals much about our ancient splendour, medieval atrophy, and current decline. Khilafat's chapter transports the reader to distant Turkey, which was on the verge of becoming a democratic republic, an unprecedented development in the Islamic world. The reader will also learn about Russia's uneasiness due to its unusual topography, which continues to restrict its access to warm waters.
The author appears to like battlefield structure, strategy, and tactics as he enthusiastically discusses them. He goes on to demonstrate that any opponent, no matter how powerful or savage, can be defeated with the right tactics. Mughals were forced to battle on marshy areas and rivers where they could not deploy their legendary cavalry.
Overall, the novel is a narrative of the Hindu-Muslim battle, with the latter usually winning. The Hindus, however, never gave up their fight, which is why we are the only polytheistic ancient culture to have survived the attack. Many glorious civilizations, including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Inca, and Mayan, to mention a few, perished. According to the author, 46 powerful cultures have been annihilated during the last two millennia. Another thing that I appreciated was the critical examination of the current environment. Even while criticising Hindu flaws, the author does not mince words. It is crucial to learn from past errors; only then can one avoid repeating them.
The author, an IIT graduate, creates realistic, trustworthy historical narratives that keep readers hooked till the end. They can connect to, understand, and absorb the book's vital history lessons, which must be implemented if we are to save our beloved civilisation. The author is part of a new generation of writers eager to change the way history is written in the past. Along with correcting the path of history, they wish to guide India back to its past splendour with modern outlook.
The book uses simple language to appeal to a young readership, and I believe he will be successful in engaging them in his book. It has the ability to make Generation X proud of its heritage. In several instances, stories took an unexpectedly ugly turn in the book, and I had to check sources to see whether they were right. As it turned out, the facts were indeed correct. The references stretch for around 20 pages and demonstrate the accuracy of the history presented in the book.
There are some flaws in the book as well. The first is the book's thickness, which should be no more than 200-250 pages. The author must recognise that, since the emergence of social media, people's attention spans have become relatively short. The editing might have been tighter because the tale lags in quite a few places. Lachit's account may have been condensed to a few key battles, as there was no need to recount every combat.
A reputable publisher, Garuda Prakashan, launched it, and if properly advertised, it has the potential to do well in the market. In the end, history must be absorbed before any positive effect can be felt in the future.
Review by -
October 21, 2022