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Updated: September 13, 2010 19:11 IST

Tale of mystery and intrigue

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A peek into the life and times of a great prince, warrior and statesman.

There's something about history that holds you in thrall. Mughul history has all the ingredients of a masala movie, but what makes it absolutely intriguing is that its true.

Puffin's Akbar begins with the 15-year-old bride of Humayun travelling through unkind deserts. What makes this particularly pathetic is she is nine months pregnant. Humayun was in the midst of battle – fighting for his crown.

According to legend, it looked like the baby would be born in an inauspicious time. But then the midwife who came in to help with the process was “so fierce and threatening that the young queen recoiled in fright”. The jolt set her back the whole process by a few hours, so the baby Akbar managed to enter this world at the astrologically perfect time.

We have always heard and read about Akbar as a great king, a warrior, a statesman, a thinker…but did you know he hated going to study! When it was time for him to sit with his tutor he would disappear. When the guards went searching for him they would find him either creating mischief in the palace or riding some horse bareback or wrestling with boys much older than him. The only class he did not bunk was painting. He was the despair of his father. Finally, one tutor discovered that Akbar had a problem with the written word. He began reciting sufi poems to him. And Akbar loved them all.

The book recounts tales of bravery and fighting, love and loss.

What makes this book more appealing are sub sections. The story of ‘The Golden Hind' which talks about the birth of a boy ‘who had not a drop of royal blood' who would change history. Also details about how the Mughals dressed for battle, the Department of Translations and more.

AKBAR by Kavitha Mandana, Puffin, Rs. 150


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