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Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review : 'The Mountain of Light' by Indu Sundaresan

Finally, have managed to get my hands on this book, which I have wanted to read, thanks mainly to the author Indu Sundaresan. I have enjoyed most of her books, including her Taj Trilogy.  

So, let us begin. ‘The Mountain of Light’ traces the story of the 186 carat Kohinoor diamond. The infamous diamond, which is said to have been given to a pious disciple by Lord Krishna himself, finds itself 'down to earth' with the memoirs of Emperor Babur, who received it from a defeated raja. It began its travels around India, finding itself under many kings, before finding itself in the hands of Shah Shuja, where begins our story.

In 1817, Shah Shuja finds himself in the Punjab, under Maharajah Ranjit Singh, who has been promised the Kohinoor in exchange for freeing him in Kashmir, by Wafa Begum, Shuja’s wife. She runs a fine game, wherein she keeps the diamond for quite some time before it is finally taken from her, by starving her family.  

Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab, held on to the diamond and wore it as an armlet, till he met and married Jindan Kaur, to whom he presented the stone.
Here begins the English eye with Lord Auckland who wants to possess the diamond, and send it off to his Queen. There is a love story here, with Lord Auckland’s sister, Emily and Avitabile, a Neapolitan, which does not take off. 

We are transported to 1846, with Henry Lawrence wherein there is another love story between him and Roshni. Roshni, who is lost in the pages of history, was originally betrothed to Dalip Singh, son of Ranjit Singh and Jindan. (There is a theory that Dalip was not the king’s son, but son to Lal Singh and Jindan. This theory was not exploited yet, it is an interesting part of this lost story.) Roshni is the one who places the Kohinoor in Henry Lawrence’s hands, because she believes him to be a ‘good man’.

So, we hear of Dalip passing from under kindly Henry’s guidance to that of Dr John and Lena Login. The story then moves towards Lord Dalhousie who takes it on himself to transfer the stone to England.

What happens to Dalip Singh who travels after it to England, meets Victoria Gouramma, the princess from Coorg, and falls in love with an English girl instead, but is denied her love by the aristocratic families of England. The story eventually runs towards its end, seeing the diamond on the arm of the Queen of England who well, receives it from Dalip Singh.

How Dalip meets his end, and ends with it, India’s claim to the diamond form the rest of Sundaresan’s take at history.

It was enjoyable, because most of us wanted to read it, mainly because we have heard of it, and always wondered about the Kohinoor. The love stories form the
odd linkage between the characters and India’s eternal love for the Kohinoor. 

The stories in between are thought-provoking, and keep us wondering about the what ifs and what not’s. The curse of Kohinoor remains a mystery and we are left wondering what the power, the precious stone beheld was like. 

Sundaresan’s take was stimulating, throwing us into the mystery and adventure, which surrounded the mountain of light.

Author: Indu Sundaresan
Cover Design: Mugdha Sadhawani 
Cover Illustration: Samaresh Chattejee, Ankur Singh Patar
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN : 9-78-93-5116-091-5
Price: Rs 299

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