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A Slice of History


Vijayalakshmi Nagaraj

HARSHA VARDHANA
By Devika Rangachari
Scholastic India, 2009, pp. 97, Rs. 100.00

VOLUME XXXIII NUMBER 11 November 2009

Historical fiction usually makes history more interesting and leads the reader into the social fabric of that period. The reader can visualize through the descriptive passages how history unfolds and highlights the prosperity and intrigues of a kingdom and its rulers. To this extent Devika has vividly described the events leading to the coronation and reign of the young king HarshaVardhana of the kingdom of Thanesar and Kanauj.   The story opens to ‘the sound of hooves thundering on the dry road’ and the young princess Rajyasri’s curiosity to know who the riders were and what brought them to her father’s kingdom. Her close companion Patralata tries to stop her so also her mother’s faithful nurse Vela, who sarcastically asks her whether she would like to help her father rule the kingdom. She resents this and typical of a fourteen–year-old , tells Vela with defiance that someday she may. Rajyasri’s confidence that she would one day rule the Kingdom seemed very natural.   Yet, it is interesting to note that when Rajyasri snaps at Vela for telling her that she was not behaving like a princess she immediately realizes that she has hurt her. She does not hesitate to apologize. It highlights the respect for the elders even though she was royalty. Many such instances in the book highlight numerous values, some steeped in traditions and some more contemporary in their outlook. The growing up of the siblings in the palace is described in detail by the author. There is friendship, love and arguments—all a natural part of growing up.   Life in the kingdom of King Prabhakaravardhana, the role of the queen Yashovati who was a formidable figure in the court of Thanesar are explained for young readers of today.   As the story goes along it unfolds the relationship between cousins Madhava, Kumara, Bhandi and Harsha and his brother Rajya. The rivalry, the love and a sense of responsibility shown when Rajya and Harsha take Kumaragupta and Madhavagupta under their wings.   The role of the astrologer in predicting the future is significant in the story. All this and more make the book a page turner. The twists and turns in the book begin after princess Rajyasri’s wedding. The princess realizes that she is being used as an instrument in a political game and yet, she abides by her parents’ decision. This is true even today in ...


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