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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Author Interview : Alex Rutherford, author of 'Empire of the Moghul : Traitors in the Shadows' (Part 1)

Diana and Michael Preston
Read up, the fact that the book 'Empire of the Moghul : Traitors in the Shadows' was a good read, but what makes it all the more interesting is this Interview. 

Not only are the book's questions explained wonderfully, but it gives the book a whole new touch. So, I will not say much, only that there is more to come, Folks...

How is ‘Traitors in the Shadows’ different from the rest?

In many ways this book is a darker than its forerunners. Let us explain, the focal point is Aurangzeb, the Moghul emperor who now occupies the Peacock Throne. Who better to rule, he asks himself? His subjects must learn to submit. So must his own family however close … however dear …

During the bloody civil war that brought him to power he didn’t hesitate to hunt down and kill his brothers. It was his duty. If his own children transgress he must crush them too.

But the exercise of great power is isolating. Who can he trust? Jahanara, his strong-minded eldest sister who chose to share their father’s imprisonment but whose love and approval he craves? Roshanara, his middle sister who has always been his ally but revels in worldliness ...? And what about his children? He has already imprisoned his eldest son for rebellion, but what of the others.

Charismatic Akbar is too susceptible to silvery-tongued flatterers. Taciturn
Muazzam is outwardly obedient but what is he thinking? Azam is too impatient, too impulsive. To what further betrayals might those defects not lead?

Enemies are everywhere from the charismatic Maratha leader Shivaji, to the scheming Persians fermenting trouble on his north-western borders. But dealing with such enemies, will not disturb him.

He is a fighter … He can see into men’s minds … divine and exploit their fears and insecurities. There are many more ways to intimidate and subdue a man than just on the battlefield … He will be the greatest of his line, Aurangzeb tells himself.

But as the long years of his reign pass and he struggles to control his empire memories begin to haunt him – memories of a father whose love he never won and of a mother who lies in the Taj Mahal and whose tenderness was beyond question … of brothers, long-dead at his behest … of hollow-eyed nephews, dying slowly through opium poison … of his own sons and daughters in sunless prisons. As his life fades he tells himself that everything he has done was surely necessary … moral even … But how will his God judge him …?

What kind of research did you put into writing it?

Reading as many original sources as we could on Aurangzeb’s life. Like many of his predecessors, he commissioned a chronicle on his reign - ‘Alamgir-nama’, written by Mohammed Kazim. However, Aurangzeb ordered him to cease it after ten years of his reign, because he thought chronicles a form of vanity.

Other contemporary chronicles include Mufazzal Khan’s ‘Tarikh-i-Mufazzali’ spanning from the beginning of the world to the 10th year of Aurangzeb’s rule; Rai Bhara Mal’s ‘Lubb al-Tawarikh-i-Hind’, a history of all India’s rulers by a courtier of Dara Shukoh and others, we detail in the book. A number of letters written or dictated by Aurangzeb in Persian have survived and been translated.

Also, in Aurangzeb’s time several European visitors to the sub-continent recorded their impressions of the Moghul Empire. They include Niccolao Manucci, whose ‘Storia do Mogor’ is a colourful, gossipy work and Frenchmen Francois Bernier who wrote ‘Travels in the Moghul Empire’ and Jean-Baptist Tavernier who wrote ‘Travels in India’.

Sir William Norris, the British envoy to the Moghul Empire at the end of the eighteenth century, left a series of unpublished journals, extracts from which appear in H. Das, ‘The Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb’.

Among modern historians, we consulted Abraham Eraly’s ‘The Mughal Throne’, Bamber Gascoigne’s ‘The Great Moghuls’, Waldemar Hansen’s ‘The Peacock Throne’ and the ‘Cambridge History of India’.

You can Read the Book Review here and Buy the Book here.

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