The story is a retelling but as gripping and entertaining as the original.
Guess what? You are going to read one of the favourite stories of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, taken from the Mughal manuscript, “Hamzanama.”. When the Emperor was 13 years old, he commissioned the paintings. It took 100 artists about 15 years to complete 1400 illustrations. But today only around 200 illustrations remain.
The Kidnapping of Amir Hamza is narrated by the court storyteller, Darbar Khan whom Akbar took with him on his expeditions, to Akbar and his courtiers. He is a master story teller who according to Akbar “When he describes a rainstorm, you will shiver and feel the cold wind in your face. If he portrays a battle scene, the very ground trembles with the sound of horses and elephants in full charge.”
Story in pictures
Now the story is retold by Mamta Dalal Mangaldas and Saker Mistri with the reproduction of the original paintings that delighted the Emperor himself. The story teller, to the accompaniment by dancing and music, reaches into a large box of paintings to pull out an appropriate painting as he narrates the tale.
We meet the main characters in the paintings through a content page of illustrations, so that when the story unfolds we recognise them. “Akbar’s Painting Workshop” gives us an insight to who the painters were and the materials they used and how they were made as most were derived from plants, metals, stones and even from insects. This is further expanded in the section “Mughal Colour Palette.” Check out “Ways of seeing; Be an Art Detective”. This guides you to observe the Mughal painting minutely and take in the finer nuances.
Coming to the story, it is about a young Persian Prince who has to fight against evil, face dangerous journeys and overcome enemies who want him dead. Will he be successful in his quest to see that justice is done, forms the rest of the story. The narration ends only when the moon begins to rise and the stars shine. The storyteller is suitably rewarded. So are we as we are transported back in time to enjoy the story as Akbar did hundreds of years ago.
THE KIDNAPPING OF AMIR HAMZA, Retold by Mamta Dalal Mangaldas and Saker Mistri, HarperCollins Children’s Books
One day, as Hamza sat in the shade of a cherry tree in his garden, watching the fountains and enjoying the cool breeze, he saw a blue rock-pigeon circling above him the cloudless sky. His heart missed a beat: the rock pigeon lived near the shores of the Caspian Sea and Hamza wondered why the bird had flown so far from its home. Was it carrying a message for him? The bird slowly descended and landed at the edge of a fountain very close to where Hamza sat. it looked very tired after its flight. The Amir cupped some water in his palms for the bird to drink and saw a message strapped to its legs.
The letter was from the starving farmers of Sabayil, a coastal town along the calm waters of the Caspian Sea. “Oh, Courageous Amir,” it said, “we are in trouble. The heartless landlords have stolen all the crops, leaving our children hungry and crying. Please help us to fight the landlords and rescue our families from starvation.” Hamza’s eyes narrowed and he clenched his fist in anger at the cruel landowners. That afternoon he left for Sabayil with Ashqar, his three-eyed magical horse.