Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mistress of the Throne - Review

1631, the Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India. Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title, but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will). Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another. Mistress of the Throne narrates the powerful story of one of India's most opulent and turbulent times through the eyes of an unsuspecting character - a Muslim queen. It uses actual historical figures to illuminate the complexity of an era that has often been called India's Golden Age.

About the Author
Ruchir Gupta is a graduate of Upstate Medical University and currently practicing medicine in Long Island, NY, where he lives with his wife and daughter. He has authored several books on anesthesiology. His interests include reading, blogging, traveling and learning history. This is his debut novel.

If you are a lover of history, ‘Mistress of the Throne’ is just the perfect book for you. If you do not like the subject, even then, this book would serve the purpose of satisfying the reader in you.

The tale of Mughal Empire, and their kings and the queens have always been a topic of intrigue and fascination. They have played a big part in shaping our country, India, influencing the social and cultural growth of the land and the people. Among the most famous Mughal Emperors, Shah Jahan would definitely find a place in one of the top positions. His love for Mumtaz Mahal, and the creation of the Taj Mahal in her memory surely needs no introduction. However, not much is known about their daughter, Jahanara. ‘Mistress of the Throne’ traces her journey, through the crests and troughs of the Mughal reign under her father Shah Jahan.

Ruchir Gupta’s extensive research flows in his words. What works wonder is the brilliant narration. The first person narrative, from the point of view of the protagonist Jahanara, takes you back to the golden era of Mughal architecture, when buildings and monuments flourished across separate parts of the country, especially in and around Delhi. Have you visited the Taj Mahal? If you have, great. If you haven’t do not worry. The creation of the Wonder is very elaborately described in the book, right from the planning to inception to execution, and even it's naming. The selection of the spot, the recruitment of laborers and the collection of raw materials, everything is well documented, making you witness the entire construction scene through the vibrant words.

The characterization is perfect. Jahanara is a sensitive lady, but sensible and strong, who torn between love and duty, sacrifices her happiness for the sake of her family and kingdom. The Mughal Princesses were not allowed to marry, and thus, she had to keep her love under wraps. Also, rumors were rife about her sexual relationship with her father, but she confronted them boldly. Truly, she was an epitome of virtue and indomitable determination and bravery.

Her elevation as the Queen of India results in a bitter jealousy in her sister Raushanara, who then tries various tricks and devises to pull her down. When she fails, she attempts to create a rift among the siblings, between Dara and Aurangzeb, and Aurangzeb and Jahanara. However, Jahanara is wise enough to identify her devious ploys, but then, not always could she prevent her from causing harm; and there lies the pain that she hides so deeply in her heart.

Jahanara also faces rough weather trying to bring her two brothers – Dara and Aurangzeb – close. While she is protective of Aurangzeb, she can’t leave the side of Dara, and that’s where the conflict in her mind takes the form of a turbulence. Yet, amidst all these, she is a picture of composure, living not for her own self, but for the rest, and performing her duties to the fullest. It wouldn't be wrong to say that she symbolizes thepower of a woman.

The chapters are very deeply woven with visual imagery, the progression smooth and delicate. You do not feel left out at any point of time. Instead, you read the pages slowly, sinking in the depths of its beauty and magnificence, and admiring the way the story has been brought forward. Unfortunately, after 300 odd pages, the book ends.

Ruchir, why not a sequel? This is one of the best reads of this year, enlightening and entertaining, and should be a part of your to-read list. If you have already read it, you will agree with my review. If you haven’t, time to visit your nearest bookstore.

But do not, at any cost, give this book a miss.

Title: Mistress of the Throne
Authors: Ruchir Gupta
Publisher: Srishti Publishers
Publication Year: 2014
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Historical, Fiction
No. of Pages: 324
Price: Rs 250
My Rating: 5/5


  1. I liked "the progression smooth and delicate". Delicate being a lovely word to be using.
    You recommend it and I may just pick it up. :)

  2. Your review does spark the light o reading in viewers mind.

  3. History for most part is very biased, what really happened is something we might never know... but any story with a historic and royal backdrop is always interesting :)

    1. That's what makes it all the more interesting :-)

  4. Read Indu Sunderesan....She is the best writer of the mughal era, she has written on Jahanara as well.