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Book Review: 300 Brave Men by Gautam Pradhan

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is one of the most revered and celebrated kings to have ruled India. Tales of his valour have become part of the folklore. So much so, that it often becomes difficult to separate history from fiction.

Gautam Pradhan’s book explores the period of history when the Indian sub-continent was ruled by the Mughals in the north and Shia rulers in the south. Sandwiched between the two regimes, the Maratha province was silently bearing the tyrannical rule of injustice, until the sixteen-year-old son of an Adilshahi jagirdar stood up against the empire.

‘300 Brave Men’ is an intriguing retelling of the legend of Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosale, the warrior-king, guerrilla fighter, brilliant tactician and clever diplomat. Expectedly, we are taken through the reign of torture and servitude under the Mughals – high-handedness of the army, wars that ravage terrains, crops that are burned, villagers bearing the brunt of tyranny, women raped and tortured.

The book gives us an insight into the various facets of Shivaji’s character – how he won his first ‘battle’ at the tender age of 15, with diplomacy. We are also taken through how he tastes victory against the Sultanate, despite having military strength, which is no match to that of Delhi. The book speaks of length of the humanitarian nature of the Maratha king.

However, the book fails to make an impact because the drudgery of reading through such a long volume of work feels tiresome. It also seems the author is trying to offer an alternative view of history in his work. In this age of hyper-nationalism and post-truth, the exercise is fraught with dangers. On a personal level, having grown up listening to the tales of how Bengal was plundered by Maratha Borgis, the narrative of Maratha suffering often appeared a bit misplaced.

However, the author deserves credit for bringing to life a glorious icon of Indian history. Surely, even in fiction, his actions will inspire generations to come.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Leadstart Publishing

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Book Review: The Peshwa – The Lion and the Stallion by Ram Sivasankaran

peshwaHistory was one of my favourite subjects in school. The stories from the past always excited me. Sadly, when we were in school internet was unheard of and the only source of information was the text book. Thanks to the rat race and focus on syllabus and exams, the charm of the subject was lost. But even now historical fiction as a genre excites me the most. There is no pleasure more gratifying than reading about the bygone eras as stories.

The Maratha empire finds little mention in the History syllabus which I studied. However, thanks to Sanjay Khan’s ‘The Great Maratha’ the concept of Chhatrapati, Peshwa and Balaji Bajirao was not alien to me. Ram Sivasankaran humanises the Peshwa for us.

The novel is set in the 18th century; Mughal empire is on its decline and the Maratha Confederacy has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Indian Subcontinent. Nizam Ul Mulk of the Mughal Empire, whose ambitions know no bound, wants to end the Maratha Confederacy by eliminating their biggest warrior – the Peshwa Balaji Vishvanath Bhat. There are enemies within the Maratha fold who would go to any lengths to fulfill their desires – even attack the Chhatrapati.

After the demise of Balaji Vishvanath Bhat, the Peshwa’s son, Bajirao Bhat, ascends the position of Peshwa and must utilise his scant military and administrative experience to deal with the enemies facing the empire.

True to the title of the book, the whole narrative shows us the heroic side of Bajirao. We see him mature from an adolescent son who is learning politics and warfare from his father, to a responsible leader who is ready to embrace death to protect his flock. We also see the humane side of him, a loving husband and a devoted father.

The writing is nothing short of a thriller and will keep you hooked till the last page. The descriptions are so vivid you can actually picture the scenes before your eyes. Every character has been etched flawlessly, highlighting the grey shades. The dialogues are crisp and every chapter well thought out.

If only history textbooks (or teaching methods in schools) were half as interesting as books like ‘The Peshwa’, people would not associate dull, soporific tenor with the subject. Thank you Ram Sivasankaran for a prized collection on an important chapter of Indian history (albeit forgotten).

P.S.  Thank you Writers Melon for the review copy.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

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