The last Mughal emperor, Zafar, came to the throne when the political power of the Mughals was already in steep decline. Nonetheless, Zafar—a mystic, poet, and calligrapher of great accomplishment—created a court of unparalleled brilliance, and gave rise to perhaps the greatest literary renaissance in modern Indian history. All the while, the British were progressively taking over the Emperor's power. When, in May 1857, Zafar was declared the leader of an uprising against the British, he was powerless to resist though he strongly suspected that the action was doomed. Four months later, the British took Delhi, the capital, with catastrophic results. With an unsurpassed understanding of British and Indian history, Dalrymple crafts a provocative, revelatory account of one the bloodiest upheavals in history.
From the author of the Samuel Johnson Prize-shortlisted ‘The Return of a King’, this is William Dalrymple’s captivating memoir of a year spent in Delhi, a city watched over and protected by the mischievous invisible djinns. Lodging with the beady-eyed Mrs Puri and encountering an extraordinary array of characters – from elusive eunuchs to the last remnants of the Raj – William Dalrymple comes to know the bewildering city intimately.
He pursues Delhi’s interlacing layers of history along narrow alleys and broad boulevards, brilliantly conveying its intoxicating mix of mysticism and mayhem.
‘City of Djinns’ is an astonishing and sensitive portrait of a city, and confirms William Dalrymple as one of the most compelling explorers of India’s past and present.
James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British Resident at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad when in 1798 he glimpsed Kahir un-Nissa—'Most excellent among Women'—the great-niece of the Nizam's Prime Minister and a descendant of the Prophet. Kirkpatrick had gone out to India as an ambitious soldier in the army of the East India Company, eager to make his name in the conquest and subjection of the subcontinent. Instead, he fell in love with Khair and overcame many obstacles to marry her—not least of which was the fact that she was locked away in purdah and engaged to a local nobleman. Eventually, while remaining Resident, Kirkpatrick converted to Islam, and according to Indian sources even became a double-agent working for the Hyderabadis against the East India Company.
It is a remarkable story, involving secret assignations, court intrigue, harem politics, religious and family disputes. But such things were not unknown; from the early sixteenth century, when the Inquisition banned the Portuguese in Goa from wearing the dhoti, to the eve of the Indian mutiny, the 'white Mughals' who wore local dress and adopted Indian ways were a source of embarrassments to successive colonial administrations. William Dalrymple unearths such colourful figures as 'Hindoo Stuart', who travelled with his own team of Brahmins to maintain his temple of idols, and who spent many years trying to persuade the memsahibs of Calcutta to adopt the sari; and Sir David Ochterlony, Kirkpatrick's counterpart in Delhi, who took all thirteen of his wives out for evening promenades, each on the back of their own elephant.
In White Mughals, William Dalrymple discovers a world almost entirely unexplored by history, and places at its centre a compelling tale of love, seduction and betrayal. It possesses all the sweep and resonance of a great nineteenth-century novel, set against a background of shifting alliances and the manoeuvring of the great powers, the mercantile ambitions of the British and the imperial dreams of Napoleon. White Mughals, the product of five years' writing and research, triumphantly confirms Dalrymple's reputation as one of the finest writers at work today.
Older, richer and more distinctive than almost any other, India’s culture furnishes all that the historian could wish for in the way of continuity and diversity. The peoples of the Indian subcontinent, while sharing a common history and culture, are not now, and never have been, a single unitary state; the book accommodates Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as other embryonic nation states like the Sikh Punjab, Muslim Kashmir and Assam.
Above all, the colonial era is seen in the overall context of Indian history, and the legacy of the 1947 partition is examined from the standpoint of today.
The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator.
This defining moment of world history had been brought about by a handful of people. Among them were Jawaharlal Nehru, the fiery Indian prime minister; Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Mohandas Gandhi, the mystical figure who enthralled a nation; and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, the glamorous but unlikely couple who had been dispatched to get Britain out of India. Within hours of the midnight chimes, their dreams of freedom and democracy would turn to chaos, bloodshed, and war.
Behind the scenes, a secret personal drama was also unfolding, as Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru began a passionate love affair. Their romance developed alongside Cold War conspiracies, the beginning of a terrible conflict in Kashmir, and an epic sweep of events that saw one million people killed and ten million dispossessed.
Steeped in the private papers and reflections of the participants, Alex von Tunzelmann's Indian Summer reveals, in vivid, exhilarating detail, how the actions of a few extraordinary people changed the lives of millions and determined the fate of nations.