Books About Indian Queens

5 Books About Indian Queens

- July 2, 2021

By Krithika Nair 

Most of our history talks about valiant kings and wise rulers, but very little is known of their other halves. The royal women lived highly guarded lives, always surrounded by maidens and living behind curtains, becoming voiceless in the larger narrative of Indian history. However, after years, curiosity got the best of our minds and many accounts, both fictional and factual, were written about these elusive yet powerful women. Here are some of our favourite books about Indian queens:

A Princess Remembers: The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur by Gayatri Devi and Santha Rama Rau

Gayatri Devi was the daughter of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, who went on to become the Rajmata of Jaipur. The memoir gives us a peek into the life of a royal who witnessed the change in status of royalty in India, as the autonomy was stripped away from them when India became a democracy. The autobiography takes us through the opulence and grandeur of the queen’s life as a princess, and then as the third queen of the Maharaja of Jaipur. The narration is interspersed with anecdotes, introspections and descriptions of the unspoken rules that India’s royalty lived by. 

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Taj Mahal Trilogy by Indu Sundaresan

The Taj Mahal Trilogy comprises three books – The Twentieth Wife, The Feast of Roses and Shadow Princess. The first book chronicles the life of Mehrunnisa, the daughter of a nobleman, who goes on to become the twentieth, yet most remembered, wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The second book deals with her life as an empress and the brewing romance between her husband’s son Khurram and her niece Arjumand Banu Begum, also known as Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. The third book delves into the life of Princess Jahanara Begum, who, at 16, is deemed empress by her father Shah Jahan after the death of his wife. The trilogy is full of details about the oft-unknown history of the Mughal queens and what went on behind the veil that hid them from the rest of the world.

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The Queen of Jhansi by Mahasweta Devi

As one of the most iconic leaders in the Indian War of Independence, and perhaps the most well-known queen in India, there are a lot of books about Rani Lakshmibai. Veteran writer Mahasweta Devi’s take on this brave queen’s life is deeply personal and multi-faceted. The book reveals many sides of Lakshmibai – the child, the wife, the queen, the warrior and the mother. Mahasweta Devi’s approach towards the same history from the eyes of the brave queen, gives it a unique perspective and makes it a must-read.

Queen of Ice by Devika Rangachari

Queen of Ice is a slightly fictional retelling of the story of Queen Didda of Kashmir. Born as the princess of Lohara, the Rajatarangini refers to her as ‘Charanahina’, meaning lacking a foot – lame. Both the author’s voice and the character are refreshing, for Didda is one of the rare Indian queens who are known for their ruthlessness and political acumen, rather than their beauty or grace. The book weaves through the personal and political seamlessly, to tell the story of the queen whose identity is often reduced to that of being a tyrant and nothing more.

The Ivory Throne by Manu S. Pillai

The Ivory Throne is a well-researched historical work by Manu S. Pillai. While it largely gives an overview of the Royal House of Travancore, starting from the arrival of the Portuguese in Kerala, the book mainly deals with the life of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, the senior Maharani of Travancore. The book meticulously records everything from the queen’s regency, political reforms and the conflicts between the Maharani and her sister Sethu Parvathi Bayi, the Junior Maharani, which eventually leads to the struggle for power between the two. The book is a riveting read, rich in historical detail as well as royal secrets.

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Comic of The Month

Babasaheb Ambedkar

He was from a respectable family, well-educated and a lawyer, yet many Indians thought of him as ‘untouchable’. It was up to BR Ambedkar to teach his ‘depressed’ community to fight the injustices that it faced each day. Hard working and wise, he became the icon of the underprivileged. History, however, will remember him as the architect of India’s Constitution.

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