September 24, 2015

Gods, Kings & Slaves: The Siege of Madurai - R. Venkatesh - Book Review

Gods, Kings & Slaves: The Siege of Madurai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The key reason for me to touch upon this book was 'Madurai'. Historically Madurai has been associated with Sangam Literature, Meenakshi Amman Temple and the Pandian Dynasty. And this book is about the downfall of the Pandyan dynasty which once had its wings spread across the entire Southern India and Sri Lanka.

The timeline of the story is late 13th and early 14th century. There are two parallel story lines. One revolves around Veera who is the illegitimate son of the ruling Pandian king Kulasekharan Pandian. The story deals with Veera's fight for power with his brother Sundar who is the legitimate son of the king. On the other side, we are taken through the Gujarat Region where an young boy Chand Ram is born with the prediction that he would become the ruler of Hindustan. Chand Ram is castrated when he tries to elope with a slave girl from the king's Harem and later he becomes slave to a Arab tradesman, where he is named Malik. Further he becomes the slave of Allaudin Khilji and later the general of the great ruler.

Malik becomes a great strategist and becomes the key for Khilji to acquire the wealth of temples from South India. Veera becomes king and doesn't expect the sudden strike from Malik along with his brother Sundar. Madurai has been left unprotected as no one expects a strike. Thus ends the mighty Pandyan dynasty.

What impressed me in the book was the vivid writing. Right from the childhood of the princes, the childhood fights, politics of crowning the princes, the strategies of Veera's war in Lanka or Malik's war in Warangal, the deception all make it a great reading. The Human emotions and psychology have been captured wonderfully. When Veera is afraid in the last war, the author portrays how the administrative nature of King's work has depleted the warrior in him. Even at the end when the entire city is destroyed, the brothers would be fighting for the rule which reflects the ego and rivalry they had in them. Similarly in Delhi, Khilji would have become a very timid person afraid of the great strategist Malik and would suffer a very bad end.

A great book to read if you are interested in History and wish to know about what happened in India in the 1300s.

Happy Reading!