THE COURTESAN, THE MAHATMA & THE ITALIAN BRAHMIN
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TALES FROM INDIAN HISTORY
MANU S. PILLAI
‘One of India’s finest young historians’
‘Should be made mandatory reading: Pillai wears his learning lightly and his prose style is exquisite.’
– Deccan Chronicle
‘Each essay is a nugget of well-written history, easily absorbable (with) some extraordinary stories and characters.’
– Business Standard
‘A collection of eclectic, wide-ranging essays, bound by this central theme: That India is large, it contains multitudes.’
– The Hindu Business Line
From a Maratha prince who parodied caste to a Muslim deity in a Hindu temple; from a courtesan who became a warrior princess to another who sang for the gramophone; from a woman with no breasts to a goddess with three; and from an Englishman who venerated sacred Sanskrit to imperious Victoria Maharani—the essays in this collection open a window into India’s past, and to a world of such astonishing richness that it is surprising how much of it has been forgotten or expunged.
To dip into these essays is to be absorbed in India’s story and reflect on the experiences of men and women whose lives were full of drama and action. We discover the advent of the railways, just as we learn about the history of Indian football; we hear of the hated Lord Curzon’s love of India’s monuments, even as we unravel the story of the photographer who was Jaipur’s maharajah. In the hands of a consummate historian and storyteller, these men and women speak also of the concerns and perspectives of the present, showing us what was, and what might have been.