When it came to hunting, she was a master shot. As a dress designer, few could compare. An ingenious architect, she innovated the use of marble in her parents’ mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna River that inspired her stepson’s Taj Mahal. And she was both celebrated and reviled for her political acumen and diplomatic skill, which rivaled those of her female counterparts in Europe and beyond.
In 1611, thirty-four-year-old Nur Jahan, daughter of a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, became the twentieth and most cherished wife of the Emperor Jahangir. While other wives were secluded behind walls, Nur ruled the vast Mughal Empire alongside her husband, and governed in his stead as his health failed and his attentions wandered from matters of state. An astute politician and devoted partner, Nur led troops into battle to free Jahangir when he was imprisoned by one of his own officers. She signed and issued imperial orders, and coins of the realm bore her name.
Acclaimed historian Ruby Lal uncovers the rich life and world of Nur Jahan, rescuing this dazzling figure from patriarchal and Orientalist clichés of romance and intrigue, and giving new insight into the lives of women and girls in the Mughal Empire, even where scholars claim there are no sources. Nur’s confident assertion of authority and talent is revelatory. In Empress, she finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens us to a fascinating history.
For all India’s myths, its sea of stories and moral epics, Indian history remains a curiously unpeopled place. In Incarnations, Sunil Khilnani fills that space, bringing to life fifty extraordinary men and women who changed both India and the world. Journeying across India in pursuit of their stories—visiting slum temples, ayurvedic call centers, Bollywood studios, textile mills, and Mughal fortresses—Khilnani offers trenchant portraits of emperors, warriors, philosophers, artists, iconoclasts, and entrepreneurs. Some of these historical figures are famous. Some are unjustly forgotten. And all, Khilnani convinces us, are deeply relevant today. As their rich and surprising lives take the reader through twenty-five hundred winding years of Indian and world history, Khilnani brings wit, feeling, historical rigor, and uncommon insight to dilemmas that extend from ancient times to our own.
We encounter the Buddha not as the usual beatific icon but as a radical young social critic. We meet the ancient Sanskrit linguist who inspires computer programmers today. We hear the medieval poets, ribald and profound, who mocked rituals and caste and whose voices resonate in contemporary poetry. And we see giants of the twentieth-century Independence movement—among them Mohandas Gandhi; Ambedkar, the Untouchable lawyer turned constitution maker; and the legendary singer M. S. Subbulakshmi—not as cardboard cutouts but as complex and striving human beings. At once a provocative and sophisticated reinterpretation of India’s history and an incisive commentary on its present-day conflicts and struggles, Incarnations is an authoritative, sweeping, and often moving account of a nation coming into its own.
This book published by Advaita Ashrama, a publication branch of Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math, is a compilation of the great Swami’s ideas on education. It is our earnest hope that this book will serve as a handbook for students, teachers, parents and educationists, and inspire them to imbibe and impart real education in our society.