Sunday, August 8, 2010

Strife, sex and succession

The court of this Mughal emperor was replete with compelling drama. Sudhir Kakar shows his grasp of it as a historian, not as a novelist

Very few writers comprehend the deep structure of the Indian mind, and the way it reveals itself in both public and private behaviour, as the psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar. Indeed, one of Kakar’s recent books, written in collaboration with his wife Katharina, was a striking wide-angle view of the tangled roots and branches of the Indian psyche called, simply, The Indians.

Kakar has also for around a decade been a practitioner of historical fiction, each book based on the life of a prominent historical personage: the sage Vatsyayana, author of the Kama Sutra, in The Ascetic of Desire; Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda in Ecstasy; Mahatma Gandhi in Mira and the Mahatma. On its new journey the Kakar Bus of Fiction, as it were, stops at yet another intriguing point in Indian history: the Mughal period.

Mughal India has been vividly documented not just by historians and poets, and indeed on occasion the great emperors themselves, but also by the accounts of visitors to the Mughal court. Two of these travellers were the Italian Niccolao Manucci and the Frenchman Francois Bernier. In Kakar’s book their respective memoirs of life in India under Mughal rule are mined to produce a double-sided view of a storied moment in Indian history.

Full report here Mint

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