17 April, 2021

Gauls And Romans In Agra

Piety and prurience, medicine and court intrigue crowd Kakar’s richly-felt tapestry set in Shah Jahan’s India

Gauls And Romans In Agra

High up on my must-read list of a handful of Indian authors is Sudhir Kakar. He is India’s best-known psychoanalyst. His prose is lucid and his range of topics very wide. He makes one think. His latest novel, The Crimson Throne, though ostensibly about the battles for succession between Emperor Shah Jahan’s four sons, tells you about India in the 17th century as portrayed by two European adventurers, an Italian, Niccolai Manucci, in his Storia Do Mogor, and a Frenchman, Francois Bernier, in his Travels in the Mughal Empire AD 1656-1665. Manucci worked his way as a deck-hand and made his way to Goa. He was hospitably accomodated by Jesuit priests and found lodgings on top of a hill with a Hindu vaidraj practicing ayurveda. He found a mistress to cater to his other needs. Soon after, Bernier landed in Surat; he also enjoyed the hospitality of the Jesuits. Both men travelled in bullock cart caravans to Delhi, staying in serais and noting conditions prevailing in the countryside. They arrived in the capital...

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