Sunday, December 15, 2013

69. The Tainted Throne: Empire of the Moghul - Alex Rutherford

This book, if my calculations are not wrong, marks my 500th read since I started logging my reads in the year 2005.

Book 4 in the Empire of the Moghul series -  a lot of Jahangir (son of Akbar), his wife Mehrunissa ( quite a fascinating character in itself) and the young and an energetic prince turned king, Khurram (aka Shahjahan). As fascinating as the author seemed to have found the shadow rule of the Empress Mehrunissa, I found the details trivial, petty and lack of any novelty. Indian mythology and literature is full of examples of instance of such shadow queen rulers, who have made or influence historic decisions on behalf of or through the king. For me, the book still was a source of much information and enjoyment, as the lives of the last two Mughal rulers, who are looked upon benignly in India, is outlined, even if the focus is mostly on the battles, rebellions, family bickering and less on governance and other associated issues.

This book, also follows, among other sources, the writings of Sir Thomas Roe, who spent some time in the court of Jahangir, and we can trace the origin of the East India Company's advent into India, though this point has not been covered in much detail in the book.

One can see the mellowing down of the rulers, the settling down in the country they conquered. There is a lot less bloodshed (apart from the family feuds) and a lot more construction. The situation reminded me of a quote a from one of my favourite reads this year, Day Watch, "The third generation, that was what the analysts said. You had to wait until the third generation. The grandson of this bandit who had got rich and somehow managed to stay alive would be a thoroughly decent man." Now, the Moghuls weren't exactly bandits, but they did originate as a consortium of barbarous tribal armies - where the fighting was done with the sole intention of booty and the tribes had a habit of slinking away back to their native land when the land grew too peaceful or if they backed the weaker guy as the ruler.

The moghuls, also have been portrayed as largely liberal and tolerant when it came to religion, curious as to the other religions and customs of the world, if only to revel in their own superiority and devoted to architecture and astronomy (part astrology, part astronomy actually), the latter science being enjoyed in the company of wine, marijuana and other potent drugs.

So far we haven't witnessed any instances of cruelty towards the populace in general, no exorbitant taxations, no cracking down on rival religions, it will all change in the next book, perhaps, as Shahjahan makes way for Aurangzeb.


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