I remember seeing Raja Rao’s book The Serpent and the Rope ever since I remember seeing the world. A book lying prominently in my father’s library. And I would often wonder why this “children book” — about serpents and some rope tricks — had no cartoons. My father would laugh and say nothing. Maybe he wanted me to find out on my own. And when I did, it turned out to be one extraordinary book by the philosopher writer who, according to Prof Makarand Paranjape, “lived in a different world, in a different time too”, exploring the idea of India, which defies the simplistic black-and-white binary in circulation in today’s polarised ideological extremes. No wonder, a central figure in The Serpent and the Rope reminds how “India is not a country like France is, or like England; India is an idea, a metaphysic.”
Raja Rao’s books were constantly in search of the idea of India. So, when Prof Paranjape reintroduced Raja Rao’s 1996 book The Meaning of India with his own scholarly “Introduction”, it was bound to get attention, especially at a time when there’s a renewed interest in the idea of India. The Daily Guardian talks to the learned professor, who is currently the Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Excerpts:
Q. You have written a brilliant forward of the book The Meaning of India. Please tell us about your interpretation of the book and your association with the one and only Raja Rao.
A. I first met Raja Rao when I was doing an MA in English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was invited to address the students of Professor Braj B. Kachru’s graduate seminar. I still remember how he kept dozing off. I, being somewhat younger, certainly more tactless than the rest of our small group asked, “Sir, did you not sleep well last night? You look very tired.” He said, “No, I sleep very well, thank you.” We looked at him curiously, expecting more. “You see, I am still on India time,” he smiled, showing his gold-capped tooth. “Did you just return from India?” I asked, taking the issue forward logically. He paused for a while and said, “Oh no. It was a few months ago.” I suddenly realised that Raja Rao lived in a different world, in a different time too.
Later that evening, after socialising for a few minutes, he sat alone in a large mahogany chair at the Kachru’s residence, where select members of the Indian community had been invited to meet him. I sat next to him. We were quiet for a while. Then he asked, “What do you want?” I felt baffled by the question. I stammered, “Right now? Well, right now, I want to finish my masters, then perhaps… go on to do a PhD?” He looked me straight in the eye. “No, no you, not now. What do we want? What do we all want?”
My mind became very still. I intuited that he was referring to something beyond the mundane. What do we all want? Do I know that answer to that question today, after nearly forty years after that encounter? I am not sure. But Raja Rao was clear. We all want the peace that can only come from non-duality. Advaita.
That to him was India’s truth. That was the meaning of India. But how to get it? It is only through the Guru. Someone who embodies that truth of non-duality. And that is what I have tried to explain in my long Introduction to his book too.
Q. One of the central characters of Raja Rao’s book The Serpent and The Rope said, “India is not a country like France is, or like England; India is an idea, a metaphysic.” In fact, Raja Rao himself had once told a UNESCO official, who wanted him to write a book on India, that India didn’t exist! What did he mean by that?
A: That line also occurs in The Meaning of India. It means that India is not just a desa, a geography. It is a darsana, a way of looking at the world. Or a way of looking at oneself in and beyond the world. It is in that sense that India is much more than a nation; it is a state of mind. Yet, Raja Rao was deeply engaged, throughout his life, in India’s political, economic, and cultural status in the world. He actively participated in India’s freedom struggle. And all his life, he was conscious of India’s special role in the world. He was deeply spiritual, but also intensely practical, even political.
Q. The book was first published in 1996. The world has changed quite dramatically in these two-and-a-half decades. How relevant is the book for us so many years after it was originally published?
A: This is the sort of book whose relevance is not tied to immediately newsy or trendy fad. It is a book about India’s deeper meaning and purpose, what India really stands for. I believe it will be relevant for a long time to come. Yes, it is also grounded in its time, with real-life characters such as Gandhi, Nehru, and Malraux. To that extent it is not so much dated as fascinating in documenting those specific instances and people in a manner such as only Raja Rao can do. For instance, he wants Nehru to be a Bodhisattva and is rather disappointed to find India’s future Prime Minister so very Westernised and modern.
Q. Raja Rao writes about Gandhi and Nehru with a lot of respect and fascination. How did he see the contributions of the two in shaping the destiny of India?
A: Raja Rao believe that an ideal state, whether call it Ram Rajya or the Holy Roman empire, ought to be the marriage of wisdom and power. The two are separate, but must be “married”. The “male” being wisdom, the “female” being power. To him that was the deeper meaning of the Gandhi-Nehru partnership. But did it actually come off like that? No. We had the horrors of Partition and Gandhi himself was assassinated. I call it in my book, The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi, the twin traumas that shaped the birth of our nation.
Q. Today, in this post-Nehruvian order, Pandit Nehru is being seen as someone responsible for some of the long-lasting problems of India, from China to Kashmir. How would Raja Rao have reacted to that?
A: I think he would have agreed to a great extent. Raja Rao told me that even Gandhi, the much greater of the two, had also failed. But, perhaps, the time was not right, nor the Indian people really ready.
Q. Raja Rao has held Mahatma Gandhi in very high esteem. You have also written extensively on him. How do you analyse Gandhi. We seem to be either making a God out of him, or a complete villain. Your take.
A: A complete reconsidering of Gandhi is needed. We must steer clear of both deification and demonisation. Today, the pendulum is swinging from the former to the latter. Gandhi mobilised and united us like no one else. He also taught us to protest and participate peacefully in our governmentality. Yet, he was so idealistically, if not obviously, wrong in fetishising non-violence, especially against those who did not accept the rule or law. His methods might have worked against the British but not against Fascists or Communists or Islamists.
Q. I still remember the lines from Raja Rao’s milestone book Kanthapura where he writes, “English is not really an alien language to us. It is the language of our intellectual make-up — like Sanskrit or Persian was before — but not of our emotional make-up. What does he mean by that?
A: Raja Rao was a pioneer in inventing and shaping a new idiom of writing. He created a style that would suit the Indian experience. That is what makes his contribution so unique. In another book which is forthcoming, Mahatma Gandhi: The Great Indian Way, he offers a pauranic retelling of Gandhi’s life. He says, ‘Facts of course are there, but facts are shrill.’
What else do we have other than facts? Rao calls it the ‘rasa, flavour, to makes facts melt into life’. Complex and multi-layered, requiring a special style to express it, even in modern times, ‘the Indian experience is such a palimpsest, layer behind layer of tradition and myth and custom go to make such an existence: gesture is ritual, and each act a statement in terms of philosophy, superstition, historical or linguistic provincialism, caste originality, or merely a personal one, and yet it’s all a whole, it’s India.’
Q. Raja Rao famously said there is no India without the Vedas — as there’s no India without the Ganges or the Himalayas. How do you explain this? He would have aroused a lot of ‘secular’ heartburn in India. Here, I mean the Indian version of secularism.
A: Yes, Raja Rao was an ‘ultra-traditionalist’ from one point of view. But he also understood the contemporary world, with all its sorrows and challenges better than most. He felt that India was an ahistorical and abhuman civilisation. ‘Abhuman’—not non-human, inhuman, anti-human, mind you. Abhuman meant that we went for the Absolute, the vertical, not the horizontal or chronological in our quest for perfection. India would, whenever possible, recreate that moment of our own self-realisation both individually and socially through an abolition of duality. That was India’s way, India’s purpose, and India’s mission. To him, everything else was secondary.
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HarperCollins presents the second edition of Hyderabad, The Partition Trilogy
Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, is the Nizam of Hyderabad, the largest Princely State of the Crown. It sits in the belly of newly independent India, to which Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel want Hyderabad to accede.
The Communists have concurrently mounted a state-wide rebellion. But the Nizam’s family has ruled Hyderabad for 200 years. As the wealthiest man in the world, whom the British consider numero uno amongst India’s princes, he will not deal with two-penny Indian politicians! An ancient prophecy, however, hangs over the Nizam.
The Asaf Jahi dynasty will last only seven generations. So, he keeps his jewel-laden trucks ready for flight even as he schemes with his army of militant Razakars.
Meanwhile, in the palace thick with intrigue, the maid Uzma must decide where her loyalties lie: with the peasantry or the Nizam. Among the Communist recruits, Jaabili finds love in unexpected quarters. Violence escalates and lawlessness mounts. Caught between a volatile Nizam and a resolute India, what price will Hyderabad pay?
Author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar says, “In the riverine border town where I grew up, Lahore had been left behind on the other side of the Sutlej in 1947. But it remained in my town’s countless tales with the same denouement: Partition. All my writing has been an attempt to bring to paper stories I grew up with, stories that spoke of an undivided land and time, stories that I didn’t find in books I read. The Partition Trilogy is the culmination of a two-decade quest to research and write about a cataclysm at the margins of our collective memory, yet wholly resonant with our times.”
She further shared, “Whilst Lahore, Book 1 of The Partition Trilogy, is set in the months leading up to independence, in Hyderabad, Book 2, I uncover the forgotten story of how the largest Princely State became a part of India – not on 15 August 1947, but a year later, through annexation via a ‘Police Operation’! It’s a pulse-pounding story in which the Nizam of Hyderabad, beset by a terrible prophecy, manoeuvres for freedom amidst mounting violence, palace intrigue, weapons smuggling, and a raging Communist rebellion that threatens a newly-independent India and the princely state alike.
“I’m excited that this is my fifth book with HarperCollins India, who continue to be great partners in my writing journey,” she added.
Prema Govindan, Senior Commissioning Editor – Literary, HarperCollins Publishers India, says, “Hyderabad brings to life the tense negotiations to bring one of the wealthiest Indian kingdoms into the fold of the Indian state during the rearrangement of states that followed India’s independence and partition.
From jewel-leaden trucks to reckless aviators on stealth missions, to Communists clashing with the Razakars, Manreet’s book is a breathless glimpse into an epochal era.
On the 75th anniversary of the transfer of power from the Nizam to the Indian government, Harper Collins Publishers India presented Manreet’s second book of The Partition Trilogy to their readers.
‘The 3I Effect’ unveils the tried-and-tested ‘formula’ to lead a well-rounded life
Abhishek Agarwal, President, Judge India and Global Delivery, launched his first book, titled “The 3I Effect”. The launch was graced by Dr Ravindra Shukla, former Education Minister of Uttar Pradesh, International President of Hindi Sahitya Bharati, national poet, and litterateur.
Introducing his first-ever book, Abhishek Agarwal said, “The 3I Effect is written with a motive to solve a staggering problem in the modern era—the lack of a well-rounded and happy life.’
The author has discussed his tried-and-tested 3I method in this book, which can be used at any stage of life and regardless of the direction one is headed. “From one’s younger years to professional endeavours and marriage, this book can act as a guide. The formula is simple — intent, intelligence, and integrity. This 3I formula can assist the masses in channelling their inner motivation, finding balance, and living a well-rounded life,” added Agarwal.
Individual chapters have been dedicated to high school graduates, college students, job seekers, employees, leaders, and men and women in marriages in the book.
Intent is described as the intention of performing a particular act. It is deliberate, requires consciousness, and is pertinent to leading a successful life. Without intent, there is no goal or vision. If someone has ambition but doesn’t focus on making their actions intentional, s/he is just a dreamer with no plan. The first of the 3Is is necessary because it communicates the importance of one’s actions towards a goal.
The second of the 3Is, Intelligence, is a way to display intent correctly and efficiently. Intelligence is defined as the ability to learn and consistently improve oneself to deal with complex situations or as an ability to apply knowledge. Constant and consistent learning is the only way to ‘be’ intelligent as one can attain this trait. Another important aspect of intelligence is emotional intelligence, which helps to build relationships, navigate the tumultuous waters of the professional and personal world, and handle one’s behavior.
The last of the 3Is is Integrity. It is described as consistency in words, actions, thoughts, and beliefs. A person who is intentional and intelligent also needs to develop trust in his or her environment and reflect on the beliefs that s/he abides by. Integrity is made of traits like honesty, reliability, and consistency. People with integrity are highly valued in all circles of life.
The book establishes that success and wholesome existence are the results of simple actions practiced on an everyday basis because success is, after all, the by-product of intentional efforts made with intelligence and integrity.
Abhishek Agarwal is a Wharton alumnus who has worked with globally recognised names such as The Judge Group, L&T Infotech, Capgemini Invent, Birlasoft, and Genpact for more than 20 years. He is not only a pioneering industry leader but also a mentor, a people person, and an adventurer. He has taken lessons from his extensive career and condensed them into a book to assist others in leading successful and fulfilling lives. This book is the culmination of his dedication and diligence.
The book launch event was hosted on 17 September 2022 and was attended by eminent leaders and dignitaries from various sectors, as well as Judge India Solutions, clients and partners. A fascinating Q& A session with the author and a sumptuous wine and dine with the guests were held after the book launch.
BOOKS TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEK
Saundarya Lahari: Wave of Beauty
HarperCollins India, Rs 359
Saundarya Lahari is a popular Sanskrit hymn celebrating the power and beauty of sakti, the primordial goddess. In one hundred verses, it underlines the centrality of the feminine principle in Indian thought.
Attributed to adi sankaracarya, Saundarya Lahari is a valuable source for understanding tantric ideas. Every verse is associated with yantras and encoded mantras for tantric rituals, and specific verses in the hymn are considered potent for acquiring good health, lovers, and even poetic skills.
Mani Rao’s Saundarya Lahari is an inspired, lyrical translation that renders the esoteric immediate and the distant near.
Arundhathi Subramaniam, author of When God Is a Traveller, said, “‘Mani Rao’s translations have a hard-won simplicity and ripeness. This joyful rendition of an iconic text will offer its share of literary delight, as well as a key to a deeper alchemy. These translations, with their ease and lightness of touch, will resonate with lovers of poetry as well as travellers on the path of the Divine Feminine.”
The Progressive Maharaja
HarperCollins Publisher, Rs 2994
Hints on the Art and Science of Government was the first treatise on statecraft produced in modern India. It consists of lectures that Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao delivered in 1881 to Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III, the young Maharaja of Baroda. Universally considered the foremost Indian statesman of the nineteenth century, Madhava Rao had served as dewan (or prime minister) in the native states of Travancore, Indore and Baroda. Under his command, Travancore and Baroda came to be seen as ‘model states’, whose progress demonstrated that Indians were capable of governing well.
Rao’s lectures summarise the fundamental principles underlying his unprecedented success. He explains how and why a Maharaja ought to marry the classical Indian ideal of raj dharma, which enjoins rulers to govern dutifully, with the modern English ideal of limited sovereignty. This makes Hints an exceptionally important text: it shows how, outside the confines of British India, Indians consciously and creatively sought to revise and adapt ideals in the interests of progress.
This edition contains newly rediscovered, original lecture manuscripts and an authoritative introduction.
COVIDiaries of SIGAR
Xlibris Publishing, Rs 1433
In the last few months of 2020, lives across the globe have been disrupted in an unprecedented fashion since the outbreak of the Coronavirus. Lives and livelihood have been lost in an extraordinary turn of events, never seen before in the history of peacetime for humanity. Since the lockdown was first announced in India on 24th March 2020, the author has been maintaining this COVID blog diary. Inspiring all and sundry, especially an estimated quarter of the world population operating under lockdown, that this is not the end of the world, and there will be another new world AC (After Corona), COVIDiaries seeks to be a friendly digestive pill end of the day for the global readers. The book is further a treasure hunt for those seeking lifestyle and dietary twirl for holistic and mental wellbeing. Besides on a personal front, being technically single, looking to explore Euphemism in a mild manner to probably attract some intrigued like-minded potential partners. An exotic mating call of sorts.
The second part of the book explores the intriguing version of the game of Darts, which goes by the name of 301, a barroom’s delight. Via a slight twist in the 2 nd part of COVIDiariesof SIGAR, the author seeks to explore how to achieve holistic Authentic Intelligence rather than the trend towards Artificial Intelligence based solutions.
India, Bharat and Pakistan
J. Sai Deepak
Bloomsbury Publishing, Rs 574
India, Bharat and Pakistan, the second book of the Bharat Trilogy, takes the discussion forward from its bestselling predecessor, India That Is Bharat. It explores the combined influence of European and Middle Eastern colonialities on Bharat as the successor state to the Indic civilisation, and on the origins of the Indian Constitution. To this end, the book traces the thought continuum of Middle Eastern coloniality from the rise of Islamic Revivalism in the 1740s following the decline of the Mughal Empire, which presaged the idea of Pakistan, until the end of the Khilafat Movement in 1924, which cemented the road to Pakistan. The book also describes the collaboration of convenience that was forged between the proponents of Middle Eastern coloniality and the British colonial establishment to the detriment of the Indic civilisation.
One of the objectives of this book is to help the reader draw parallels between the challenges faced by the Indic civilisation in the tumultuous period from 1740 to 1924, and the present day. Its larger goal remains the same as that of the first, which is to enthuse Bharatiyas to undertake a critical decolonial study of Bharat’s history.
‘3 Rays’ is one more testimony to Satyajit Ray’s genius
Satyajit Ray was a Bengali motion-picture director, writer, and illustrator who brought the Indian cinema to world recognition with Pather Panchali (1955; The Song of the Road) and its two sequels, known as the Apu Trilogy. As a director, Ray was known for his humanism, his versatility, and his detailed control over his films and their music.
There is unanimity among different sections of polemists who regard Satyajit Ray as the man who heralded realism in Indian cinema and whose contribution is strongly felt in India and the world, not only in the cinematic arena but in the overall movement of realistic art.
Ray was a thinker, a writer, and a gifted speaker, which made him distinctively creative and appealing to a different class of observers.
At a different point in time, Rabindranath Tagore induced Ray’s mother to send him to receive an art education at Shantiniketan, which Ray happily joined to live under the shadow of Tagore rather than earn formal recognition in art.
After Tagore’s death, he felt living on the campus was purposeless and thus left his art training in the final year in favour of travelling across India with meagre resources but the rich company of a few like-minded friends. Ray, like Tagore, was always drawn to the lovely aspects of life and work.
The motion-picture director also established a parallel career in Bengal as a writer and an illustrator, especially for young people. He revived the children’s magazine Sandesh (which his grandfather had started in 1913) and edited it until his death in 1992.
Ray was the author of numerous short stories and novellas. His stories have been translated and published in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere.
On his centenary birth anniversary, “3 Rays: Stories from Satyajit Ray”, the first book in The Penguin Ray Library series, opens a window to the brilliance of this Renaissance man. With more than forty stories and poems along with many unpublished works, autobiographical writings, and illustrations by Ray, this volume offers a unique glimpse into Ray’s creative genius.
The story-telling prowess of all three Rays is known to all Ray lovers; their spectrum was vast, enchanting on one hand, and thought-provoking on the other. Between them, the trio elevated Bangla literature to a level that is difficult to match, leaving a veritable treasure trove of poems, stories, plays, songs, and illustrations for future generations to grow up with, learn from, be fired by, and be horribly proud of The book 3 Rays: Stories from Satyajit Ray is a treasure trove. The book covers the works of three generations of the Ray family. Starting with Upendrakishore, moving on to Sukumar, and finally Satyajit.
As a filmmaker, he met the acclaim he deserved, though his contributions as a writer remained subdued under the deep canopy of the former.
The Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives, which had been formed in 1994 to preserve Ray’s works and disseminate them to a wider audience than what had been hitherto possible, is the chief driver of this compilation. Some of Ray’s writings on cinema are collected in Our Films, Their Films (1976). His other works include the memoir Jkhona Chhota Chilama (1982; Childhood Days).
According to Sandip Ray, Satyajit Ray’s son, Ray had translated his grandfather’s, his father’s, and his own works during his protracted film-making years.
The works translated by Satyajit Ray himself give a brilliant insight into the literary brilliance of the Ray family. The highlight of the book is the two original stories written by Ray in English. His short stories were published as collections of “Twelve Stories,” in which the overall title played with the word “Twelve.” Ray’s interest in puzzles and puns is reflected in his stories.
Ray’s short stories give full rein to his interest in the macabre, suspense, and other aspects that he avoided in film, making for an interesting psychological study.
The book 3 Rays: Stories from Satyajit Ray has Sukumar Ray’s illustrations of his Abol-Taabol poems. Only Satyajit Ray could have translated the very delightful Abol-Taabol, retaining their inimitable, endearing humour and unmatched language kaarigari.
The same is true for Upendrakishor’s stories. The book has the film treatment of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, replete with all its iconic illustrations.
Ray had translated to English his own stories for Sandesh, his grandfather’s children’s magazine that he restarted and edited from 1961 onward. As we know, his grandfather passed away six years before his birth.
A very young Satyajit was fascinated by his printing press, U. Ray & Sons, in their house and got acquainted with Upendrakishore through his books, drawings, and a few bound volumes of Sandesh, the magazine he went on to revive.
I absolutely loved revisiting them all as well as re-studying all his impeccable illustrations. A must-read for those who love Ray’s writings.
Satyajit Ray, through his life, philosophy, and works, offered a unique aesthetic sensibility that took Indian cinema, art, and literature to a new height. An ace designer, music composer, illustrator, and gifted writer, Ray gave us the awe-inspiring sleuth Feluda and the maverick scientist, Professor Shonku—two iconic characters loved and revered by millions of readers.
For the book 3 Rays: Stories from Satyajit Ray, the effort put forth by Sandip Ray and the team to chronicle the journey and compile the writings of his father, original English prose, translations of his stories, plotlines, and a brief history of the family provides a masterpiece for those who hold on to them and the memories they represent.
If you want to fire up your imagination, see the squeal of delight at those clever stories and fantastic illustrations which you feel while reading the book and are captivated by the genius all-around storytelling skills.
A BOOK THAT GIVES TIPS TO GAIN AND RETAIN WEALTH
Rajmohan Krishnan’s book Wise Wealth is being noticed for the best of reasons: the world is in dire need of the excellent solutions it offers. Rajmohan has expertly weaved fabulous inputs given by 35 extraordinary Indians to create a narrative that infuses hope and injects ideas. Those of you who know me well know that employee welfare, entrepreneurship, scaling of solutions, giving back, and the health of the Indian economy are topics dear to my heart.
“Wise Wealth” checks all these boxes and more, but my review of the book will focus on these topics. Entrepreneurship many thought leaders featured in the book demonstrate how to proactively nurture tomorrow’s economic leaders. At one moment, you are reading about how Harsh Mariwala is using the Marico Foundation to lend holistic support to entrepreneurs. Flip a page and you get to know why Sunil Kant Munjal endorses the cluster effect on geographies and how stoking the aspirations of the rural billion is a necessary step in India’s growth story. And those are just a couple of examples among many.
Rajmohan brings sharp focus to the idea of scaling, not to entrepreneurship but to a domain that needs it even more: philanthropy. The average kind-hearted person will help somebody they come across in distress.
But how does the visionary kind-hearted person relieve distress on a large enough scale to make a difference to the ocean of people called India? Raj tackles this gargantuan problem by curating inputs from the greatest philanthropists of modern India. Reading the book, one gets the feeling that scale is not as unscalable a mountain as it seems at first sight.
The book also familiarises the new billionaire with the cutting-edge concept called impact investing. That wanting to be a positive force in society does not always necessitate emptying one’s pockets. A billionaire can do good while also expecting rich returns. Rajmohan navigates through the labyrinth of challenges and opportunities that are present in this still fledgling field of thought.
Many wisely wealthy people in Wise Wealth help us understand that it’s both humane and profitable to be empathetic towards employees. A couple of stories – those narrated by GV Prasad and Jairam Varadaraj – were particularly inspiring. As suspected, offering employees dignity and benefits transforms them into innovators and growth agents. I strongly recommend the book to the most ambitious youth – tomorrow’s billionaires. They will derive a deeper understanding of success and wealth. I also recommend it to those who dislike the wealthy.
Genghis Khan’s tomb bolsters mystery of his timeless legacy
Yesugei led the shaman to his baby son. The old man knelt on the grass and looked carefully at the babe. His lips moved as he read the signs that only he could perceive. His eyes fell on the baby’s right fist which was tightly curled inwards as if the baby was holding something. The shaman gently pried the fist open and onlookers gasped. A large blood clot lay in the tiny white palm. So filled it was with blood that the blob was nearly black the clot pulsating like a live thing.
‘This boy will grow to be a mighty warrior. He is the chosen one who will bring all Mongolia together. He will become the Khan, a great conqueror,’ pronounced the old man.
To commemorate Genghis Khan’s 795th death anniversary, the Times of India announced a must-read list of books on the conqueror that included my book, The Legend of Genghis Khan. To be counted among researchers and writers such as Dr John Man, Jack Weatherford was indeed gratifying. However, aside from claims that I am the only Indian author who has written about the conqueror and school plays staged on my Genghis Khan book, I strongly believe it is essential we know and honour this legendary Asian of the 11th century.
The little that the world knows about Genghis Khan is from an ancient chronicle, The Secret History of Mongols. However, even that only mentions his death in 1227 CE but nothing about how he died or where he is buried. As expected, this mysterious obscurity has led to many myths about him and his death.
MYTHS ABOUT GENGHIS KHAN
When I researched for my book, I realised his death had been kept a state secret probably on the orders of the Khan, himself, to prevent his enemies taking advantage of his demise. Apparently, The Great Khan said, ‘Bury me here when I pass away,’ referring to Burkhan Khaldun, the sacred mountain of Mongolia. But there was no mention of his tomb.
Legends say that his men buried him in a nondescript grave but wanted to remember the grave to venerate their Lord. So they killed a baby camel still feeding on mother’s milk and buried it next to the Khan’s grave. Thereafter, every spring they would release the mother camel who would return to the spot where her baby was buried, and thus followers found his grave. Eventually, the mother camel died, and the location of the Khan’s grave disappeared from posterity.
Another myth says that the 1000 soldiers who carried the Khan’s body to the burial site were killed and those who killed them were also massacred to keep it hidden. And thousands of horses trampled the ground in which he was buried to remove all traces of the grave. Other stories tell of a forest planted there or a river diverted to hide the site.
SECRET TOMB DISCOVERED
In August 2022, after 800 years of exploration by archaeologists, scientists, adventurers, and also robbers, Genghis Khan’s burial site has been discovered.
Building a road near the Onon River in Khentii province of Mongolia, construction workers discovered a mass grave of human corpses lying on a stone structure. Forensic experts and archaeologists have confirmed it is a Mongolian royal tomb from the 13th century and concluded that the body under the stone slab belonged to a man aged between 60 and 75 years who had died between 1215 and 1235 CE. The age, date, location, and the opulence of the site confirms that the tomb did actually belong to Genghis Khan.
The 68 skeletons found on the stone structure were probably the slaves who had built the tomb and had been massacred to keep the site secret. Inside the tomb were a tall male and sixteen female skeletons. The women were possibly concubines and wives killed to go with the warlord into afterlife. Scattered across the tomb were gold and silver artifacts and thousands of coins.
The rock dome had been buried under the Onon River for centuries. Since the river had changed its course in the 18th century, the contents of the tomb were badly deteriorated.
Does this discovery diffuse the mystery built around Genghis Khan? Does he become more human and less legendary? I do not agree for his legacy holds a timeless, indisputable place in world history.
LEGACY OF GENGHIS KHAN
Founder of the Mongol Empire and truly the first world conqueror, Genghis Khan united the tribes of Mongolia under his banner launching series of military campaigns in China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. By the time of his death, the Mongolian Empire was four times the size of Alexander’s and twice the size of Rome’s. His descendants expanded the empire to one-sixth of the world’s land area by 1300 CE. But he was more than a world conqueror.
He connected the East and the West through the creation of the Silk Route transmitting trade and culture throughout Eurasia. He kept in touch with his vast empire through a postal service, the first in the world.
Unheard of in 11th and 12th centuries, Genghis Khan gave equal rights to men and women in his empire. Women were respected matriarchs of their families and even widows owned property. Genghis Khan encouraged women to train in warfare and gave them administrative roles during his campaigns.
Mongolia followed Shamanism. However, all religions were practised in the Great Khan’s empire. He was illiterate, but encouraged literacy in his empire,
His leadership skills were phenomenal. He commanded his men by demanding loyalty and rewarding loyalty. At a time when birth decided social status and advancement all over the world, Genghis Khan let his men climb the social and administrative ladder solely on merit.
BOOK ABOUT GENGHIS KHAN
I have been bewitched by Genghis Khan for a very long time. While reading and watching documentaries about him as well as scanning ancient literary chronicles, I just fell in love with the Great Khan. It is amazing that a man of such wisdom and stature had been dismissed as an uncivilized barbarian by most western historians of yore.
It is only in the recent past that research in Mongolia and the western world has generated profound interest in Genghis Khan also called Chinggis Quan. Writers such as Michal Biran, Ruth W. Dunnell, Peter Jackson, Conn Iggulden have written prolifically about him. When I wrote my book, The Legend of Genghis Khan, Untold Story Of The Conqueror, I was guided extensively by Dr John Man and my book is dedicated to this great mongolist.
YOU COULD BE A DESCENDANT OF GENGHIS KHAN
It is interesting to know that genetic studies prove one human out of every 200 in the world and every 5th Asian could have descended from Genghis Khan. In Mongolia alone as many as 200,000 of the country’s 2 million people could be Genghis Khan descendants.
The discovery of his tomb and the secrets it may reveal have great implications for all humanity not only because Genghis Khan was one of the most influential men in the history of mankind, but also because he could be your or my ancestor.
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