How would it feel to be transported back in time? How amazing would it be to witness the Mughal kings, the grandeur of their courts and the solitude of their lives through the pages of a book ?
Shyamal Gangopadhyay’s fascinating novel ‘Shahjada Darashuko’ offers us this golden opportunity, by being a portal to the Mughal world . It was originally written in Bengali, and published in 1991. It received the Academy Award in 1993. The book begins with the reign of Emperor Jahangir, and eventually follows the trails of Prince Khurram as he soon becomes Emperor Shah Jahan. But of course, as the title of the book suggests, the central character of the novel is someone else- the eldest and favourite son of Shah Jahan- Prince Darashuko.
We read of famous kings in our history books, and tend to think how rich and affluent their lifestyle had been, how happy a life they led, isn’t it! However, we do not think much of their sorrows, their battles against their own sons and often themselves, and the incomparable loneliness of their otherwise rich lives. While reading about Jahangir’s rebellion against his father Emperor Akbar in a history textbook, one cannot think of the feeling of grief in the aged Emperor on seeing his own son going against him. Nor can one imagine the minute details of the lives of the laymen of the seventeenth century, the effects of the incessant war and matters of the court on them. The engrossing novel sows these seeds of thought in its readers.
It portrays the extremely colorful personality of the lesser known Mughal prince, Darashuko. It would be incorrect to call him prince, as he was more of a poet than a prince. Right from his childhood days, Dara was different from his other brothers and sisters, other children of the royal blood. As he slowly grew up, he enjoyed writing ‘rubaiyats’ more than practising his skills in fighting, and spent more time in Sufi practices than in the royal court. Dara wanted to know the common people of his father’s empire, listen to their stories, and found their company more comfortable than the hypocritical courtiers.
The novel, rich with plenty of Arabic and Urdu words, brings out a distinct flavor of historical fiction. It brings to life the entire time frame on which it is based. In addition to the real-life characters, it also comprises many fictional characters. Together, they put up an absorbing tale of love, conflict and solitude. Once the reader immerses herself in the book, it would not be possible to put it down until one reaches the last page!