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Friday, 17 June 2016

Battles and Warriors - Book Review

Battles and Warriors is another gem from Rupa Books in the Exploring India series. It documents five major battles which took place in India – Alexander v. Porus, Ashoka v. the Kingdom of Kalinga, Rajendra Chola v. the Kingdom of Srivijaya, Babur v. Ibrahim Lodhi and Siraj-ud-Daula v. The East India Company.

The first question which cropped in my mind was that why should my child learn about battles. Fortunately the very talented author Subhadra Sen Gupta answered my question in the introduction. She says that soldiers, horses, elephants and even people who get caught in the middle of a conflict, all pay with their lives so that he men in power can gain even more power and wealth. Whatever the reasons for a battle, there is always someone who pays a price and that is the way it has been since ancient times.

The author starts by telling us that India was the only country which used just a horse to conquer a kingdom. Here she is speaking about the Ashwamedha yagya. Most of us know about this yagya. But what we don’t know is that once the land grabbing job was over the poor horse was sacrificed in another yagya. With many such interesting nuggets of the past the author adds to our knowledge and at the same time entertains us too.

I feel that the battle between Rajendra Chola and the Kingdom of Srivijaya is the highlight of the book. Hardly anyone knows about it. I had heard of the Chola kings but not about their battle with Srivijaya which is in present day Indonesia. While narrating the stories of other battles she gives details like rules of the war, weaponry used in the war and the personality traits of the warriors which includes their weaknesses and idiosyncrasies as well. The colourful illustrations by Tapas Guha enhance the reading experience. This is a book which you cannot miss.

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