From mythological to historical fiction, author Amish Tripathi has come a long way. With ‘Legend Of Suheldev – The King Who Saved India,’ Tripathi attempts historical fiction through unconventional storytelling. A story about a king who not only defends his kingdom but thinks about unifying India in order to protect his country from foreign invaders. The book does have elements of nationalism, but from a non – conformist modern perspective. The narrative has taken a few artistic liberties as it’s not possible to interpret exactly what and how things would have happened in the eleventh century. But Legend Of Suheldev is significant and relevant to the present times from both social and youth point of view.
Suheldev is the younger son of King Mangaldhwaj of Shravasti, an ancient city in Uttar Pradesh. Suheldev pledges to live the life of a bandit in order to conduct guerilla strikes on Mahmud of Ghazni’s army. In order to avenge the massacre of innocent Indian citizens and the vandalism at Somnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the bandit prince heads on a deadly quest towards uniting Indians against the common enemy, Turks. Tripathi has amicably depicted the follies of Indians that resulted in the victory of Turkish invaders over mighty Indian empires led by brave kings and commanders. The author stresses on adapting with the changing times as far as leadership, governance and warfare is concerned.
One of the major aspects that make the book a delightful read is the dialogue on caste and class division and communal harmony. King Suheldev preaches to his subjects and allies the need to rise above caste, creed and religion in order to emerge as a strong and progressive nation. Several instances in the story have only portrayed the nationalistic and patriotic emotions through multiculturalism and unity in diversity. Though it’s obscure to debate on or claim women warriors prior to Queen Lakshmibai and Queen Abaka, the representation of female warrior Toshani has been aesthetically done by Tripathi.
In one of the instances the King and Queen willing to sacrifice their sons for defending the nation is much more than nationalism. It’s not limited to soldiers defending our borders, but indicative of an ideal leadership. The author tries to convey that for a leader countrymen and national security must come first before themselves and their family. A great nation doesn’t just needs sacrifices by the army but leaders who can think beyond personal and political ambitions. Numerous times the protagonist says in the book, “Anyone who fights for the country is an Indian.” There is an open dialogue on Indian Muslims, upper caste Kashtriyas, Brahmins, etc. The crux of the story remains, it doesn’t matter where we are born and who our ancestors were as far as we consider ourselves and our fellow countrymen as Indians. In order to be a warrior or a king one doesn’t need to be a Kshatriya but the ability to govern and defend their kingdom. The example of Chandragupta Maurya has been very well cited in the story to justify ancient India didn’t give much importance to a person’s caste or birth. A leader needs to be devoid of personal interest has been subtly explained through Chanakya’s example.
Tripathi has also dealt with homosexuality in the most subtle and non – explicit way. However, for the below 18 age group parental guidance is required. There’s also a touch and go situation of sensuality described aesthetically by the author. The book does push the envelope to the Indian readers but doesn’t go overboard. The way serious moments have been handled gives a glimpse of the writer’s craftsmanship.
Legend Of Suheldev is a fictional narrative based on the Battle of Bahraich. But the uniqueness lies in its relevance to the modern times. Tripathi through his engaging craft and storytelling gives a convincing depiction of India’s cultural traditions with regard to unity in diversity and communal harmony. The author takes a tough stand against caste and class divisions that led to invasions and plundering of India’s ancient heritage. The story of the protagonist is relatable to every Indian as it reflects upon the idea of staying united against oppressors and invaders. Whether you’re a politician, doctor, teacher, student, activist or a soldier, it’s important to rise above ideological differences during a national crisis or emergency.
The book also takes a millennial perspective on spirituality as King Suheldev stresses on not to get carried away by our faith and beliefs. He strongly emphasizes that God is not to be found in temples but within ourselves. Although there’s a feeling of patriotism that’s key to the central characters, Tripathi has demolished superstitions and orthodox dogmas without deviating from the plot. A story that conveys it’s possible to remain a nationalist and retain our religious beliefs without demeaning or discriminating among communities. Irrespective of the historical accuracy or the current socio – political narrative, Legend of Suheldev is a must on quarantine read list for the students of literature.