A rare blend of history and fiction

Tungabhadra is the name of the river flowing nearby Vijayanagar in Andhra Pradesh. In fact, this river is a combination of two small rivers – Tunga and Bhadra. The novel, I am reviewing, is a detailed account of the Vijayanagar empire during the reign of monarch Krishnadevaraya some five centuries ago and the developments that took place after his death in 1529. This book has been written by Dr. Prabhat Tyagi who has earned a name during the past 30 years or so for writing history-based fiction and several such stories penned by him have been published. However this is a full-fledged novel which had been published first serially in the popular Hindi magazine ‘Sarita’ and now available in book form. Vishwa Vijay Prakashan (of Delhi Press) has published it.tungabhadra-ke-aansooTungabhadra Ke Aansoo (the tears of the Tungabhadra) has been written from the perspective of queen Nangal who, after undergoing a miserable childhood due to her father’s plight due to the then cruel Vijayanagar king, narrowly escapes becoming a prostitute under the disguise of Devdasi (girl given to a temple in the name of serving God but actually forced to live a prostitute-like life). Her fate changes when a handsome and sensible young man falls in love with her and later on he turns out to be the heir to the Vijayanagar throne. The story starts with Nangal’s entry in the royal palace through abduction and thereafter her meeting with her heartthrob.

Nangal does not allow herself to be lost in the luxuries of her new life or the false pride of becoming the queen. She also digests this fact that she is not the queen consort and her son won’t be the heir to the throne. She, immediately after becoming the beloved queen of the newly throned king, takes stock of the intrigues taking place in the kingdom and the immoral as well as inhuman activities of some high-profile people including the head-minister. the royal priest and the city prostitute. She, with her wit, wisdom and vigilance, gets rid of most of these wolves in the skin of sheep and ensures that the king is out of any possible in-house danger.

Since the king acknowledges the wisdom of the queen, he develops a separate town for her, called Nangalpur and seeks her advice in not only his royal and administrative but also war-related matters. The trust and mutual respect between this royal pair lead to more and more deepening of their love. But after the demise of Krishnadevaraya, Nangal finds herself totally alone. Then she has to witness several conspiracies and diplomatic moves for the throne and the invasions of the Muslim kingdom of Ahmednagar. She lives to see even the painful destruction of her beloved Nangalpur. She tries her level best to save Vijayanagar kingdom from the destined ruins but the greedy players of politics prevalent in the state, fail all her noble attempts. She has even to flee and live in hiding to save her life. Finally she dies at the age of 76 years amidst poverty while revisiting the ruined Vijayanagar whose queen she once was.

The novel is totally authentic with the historical facts used being genuine. And the fiction is just a marvel from the pen of the seasoned historical fiction writer. The narrating style and the beautiful language make the novel a highly interesting reading, gripping from beginning to end. After the demise of Nangal in the ending scene, the reader, hitherto engrossed in the novel, gets a feeling of emptiness.

The author has, by his imagination, underscored many facts. Though the royal power and allied issues have always been the monopoly of males, wise females have also contributed immensely in development and administration of royal states. If a male in high position gets a wise female as his life-partner and he himself is mature enough to acknowledge and respect her wisdom, she can make invaluable contribution to his life and related affairs. The author has shown that Krishnadevaraya had to revise his opinion regarding several social, cultural and state-related issues due to the impact of the wise queen.

Nangal has been shown as a lady much ahead of her time. She is an ocean of love, kindness and virtues but she ruthlessly eliminates the conspirators at the same time. She knows that every good thing in her life is because of her beloved husband only who loves her too much. So she is always deferent and submissive to him. However she is never scared of speaking her heart out before him and expressing her opposition for wrong and outdated customs and practices. She is mature enough to send him to attend the other queens too so that they remain satisfied and no undue intrigues emerge against her from their side because of womanly jealousy. However she is sorry to see that her husband despite being a powerful and popular king, always throws his weapons before the corrupt priesthood and their wrong activities in the name of religion. It shows the prevalence of clergy in that time and the helplessness of even the people at the helm of state affairs before it. Krishnadevaraya himself feels that there are several illogical as well as inhuman things being done in the name of religion but he is scared to offend the clergy or being called an enemy of the religion. The scene in which Nangal’s friend Vatsala is forced to become a Sati (burnt alive in the pyre of her deceased husband) and she cannot save her life because the king himself is helpless to prevent the plight of a widow, is a glaring example of this fact.

The author has very intelligently spelled out the ill-effects of religious fundamentalism. Breaking and spoiling the places of worship of the people of other religions in the conquered states by the invaders in the past, ultimately led to retaliation by the conquered ones whenever they got the opportunity and in this chain of revenge, the art, the esthetic pleasure and the heritage suffered the most. Creation takes years but destruction does not take even minutes. Nangal had to see the painful destruction of the cultural heritage of first Nangalpur and then Vijayanagar by the invading Muslim kings of Ahmednagar. Since Ali Adilshah was just like her son (because of some earlier emotional and social bonds), she urges him not to destroy the cultural heritage and religious symbols of Hinduism and he gets ready for that too but he can’t stop his associate invader, Hussain Nizamshah from doing the same. Nangal feels very aggrieved but she remembers that her husband had also done the same thing when he had conquered the Muslim states.

The book is definitely a collector’s item for any lover of Hindi literature. The get-up and the printing is of highly superior quality. The words lying on the pages look like pearls. There is not a single error of proof in the book. It’s highly informative for anybody interested in the history of Vijayanagar during the sixteenth century A.D. At the same time, it is a thoroughly engrossing fictional reading too.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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