Sunday, 3 June 2012

Kim's Review: Shadow Princess

Another brilliant book by Indu Sundaresan, following in the footsteps of  The Twentieth Wife and A Feast of Roses.

This book tells the tale of Shahjahan's daughters Jahanara and Roshanara and their brothers fights for their fathers throne. The British & Portuguese fight also gets more violent and it seems to reflect in the violence between the princes too.

Shahjahan who loses his wife Mumtaz Mahal within 4 years of being crowned emperor, begins to depend on his elder daughter Jahanara completely. Since his mother Jagat Gosini is long dead and he has exiled his fathers favourite wife Nur Jehan and his refusal to marry anyone else either when Mumtaz was alive or dead leaves a huge vaccum in the role of Padshah Begum of the zenana. Jahanara is forced to step up into this role too, which makes her sister Roshanara resent her all the more.

Given his complete depedence on his daughter and her resemblence to her mother whom he loved passionately, he refuses to let her marry out of fear of losing her too. And thus both the princesses are forced to remain spinsters inspite of being daughters of the most powerful man in India.

Thrust into these responsibilities at the age of 17, Jahanara is forced to sacrifice her love, ambitions, wants and desires for the sake of her father and be there for him at all times. This gave rise to a lot of gossip in that age which has been recorded by travellers to the Mughal darbar.

However, Indu Sundaresan as usual humanises her characters and you can't help feeling for the plight of these 2 princesses who should have had the world at their feet but couldn't. It just brings home the fact that being born a princess isn't the start or end of a fairytale, it could very well be an unending nightmare.

I heavily recommend this trilogy for anyone visiting the Mughal Monuments of Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. It just helps set an atmosphere that you can then use to let your imagination run wild while taking in the beauty of these monuments.

Also read my reviews of The Twentieth Wife and A Feast of Roses.

Rating: 4 / 5

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