An enchanting experience by the Tungabhadra - The New Indian Express

An enchanting experience by the Tungabhadra

Published: 15th November 2010 10:07 AM

Last Updated: 16th May 2012 04:52 PM

Review of 'By the Tungabhadra'

Author/Translated by: Saradindu Bandopadhyay/ Arunava Sinha

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 255; Price: Rs 299

History, particularly, the era of empires with its luxurious palaces, betrayals, love and wars, can be an enchanting experience. Bengali writer Saradindu Bandopadhyay probably was so awed by the same that he decided to write Tungabhadrar Teere, a romantic historical novel in 1965. Set in 1430 AD, it’s a simple tale of two empires — one victorious (Vijayanagar) and the other seeking revenge (Kalinga). By the Tungabhadra, the beautiful translation by Arunava Sinha, is flawless.

For starters, the book’s introduction is a scintillating account on the importance of the Tungabhadra River — the daughter of the mighty Sahayadri Range. The story begins with Kalinga’s princess Bidyunmala setting out on a sea voyage to meet her groom or rather captor King Devaraya II, the ruler of Vijayanagar. This was preceded by a war between the kingdoms in which Kalinga was defeated and Devaraya claimed Bidyunmala.

A storm separated the bridal party and only the princess, her step-sister Manikankana and Kshatriya Arjun reached the king’s palace safely. What follows is a story of jealousy, treachery, love and valiance and a struggle for independence. It was an age when the Muslim rule was slowly spreading its tentacles in India and kingdoms like Vijayanagar were resisting the invasion. The book instils a sense of patriotism.

The story is multi-layered with the juxtaposition of various male and strong female characters. For instance, Bidyunmala is a free-thinking woman who cannot accept others making her decisions. She questions a society that denies freedom to women. She is upset about becoming Devaraya’s fourth wife as she believes that a woman should have a man all to herself. She fancies the warrior Arjun, who rescued her from the storm. The other main female character, Manikankana, differs from her step-sister. She is bowled over by the king’s stature and does not mind being one of his many wives.

King Devaraya plays a major role in the story. He’s depicted as an able administrator, a kind-hearted ruler, a valiant warrior and a family man. He identifies Arjun’s strengths and appoints him as his messenger and then as bodyguard. The Kshatriya though, is an innocent man who is torn between Bidyunmala’s affections and his dedication to the king. There is also the selfish Prince Kampana, Devaraya’s brother, who wants the throne. He secretly plots to assassinate Devaraya but fails.

The story moves in a controlled pace without a dull moment. Sinha aptly captures and portrays the various human emotions. If you enjoy reading romantic tales spiced up with historical interludes of fact and fictitious events, then By the Tungabhadra will not let you down.

—janani@expressbuzz.com

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