Free Press Journal

Women Warriors in Indian History: Review

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Title: Women Warriors in Indian History

Author: Yugal Joshi

Publisher: Rupa Publications


Pages: 177; Price: Rs 195

As soon as I closed the book after reading Rani Lakshmi Bai’s story (also the last one in the book), I looked around. I was in a ladies’ compartment of a Mumbai Local, on my way back home at a little over 9.45 pm. All around, I could see women – some engrossed in their mobile phones, some having dinner, some looking out of the windows, some laughing with their friends and yet some others worried about being late than usual to get back home. I wondered how these women managed to get there and that too at an hour when women were expected to be at home with cooked meals ready, serving their family members and propping their kids up to sleep.

And then a smile formed on my lips. I silently thanked the many women I had just read about, over the past few days – the valiant warriors, the brave ones, who stood up against a patriarchal society and fought their enemies even when they knew that death and darkness was looming large upon their lives and dreams of saving their kingdoms.

The author has explored the lives of ten such warriors including Razia Sultan, Rudramba, Durgavati, Chand Bibi, Abbakka, Chennamma of Keladi, Tara Bai, Chennamma of Kittur, Avantibai and Lakshmi Bai. Some remain famous even today while some names have stayed subdued in the pages of our history. It was good to revive those names from the annals of history. Nevertheless, they continue to inspire the women of today.

There is a story within a story in each of the chapters. There’s Marco Polo recounting the story of his contemporary Queen Rudramba, Emperor Jahangir narrating the tale of Durgavati to his future consort Nur Jahan and legendary Tatya Tope unfolding Avantibai’s heroics to young Manu (Lakshmi Bai).

It thus brings to life the different eras to the reader. Also, the chronological setting of events from the slave dynasty to the first war of Indian independence (famously known as the war that led to Mangal Pandey’s death i.e. the revolt of 1857) is a challenging one which has been ably presented. It is well-researched and describes well the qualities of the women warriors as they fought against gender, social, religious and political odds.

However, the reader might be baffled by the sheer number of characters whose names appear in the book. It can, at times, divert the reader from an intense plot. This could have been reduced while sticking to the names of the absolutely important characters only. The rest could have been avoided.

Also, the problems faced by the warriors and their fights begin to feel monotonous, trying to derail the storytelling. The horse riding and the warfare can lose the initial intensity it yielded towards the beginning. In a bid to present a well-researched book, the author has in certain places deviated from the plot to be factually correct.

To those who take a keen interest in Indian history and those who would like to get a glimpse into the lives of the warriors mentioned above, this book could be a helpful tool. To general readers, the sheer number and names of characters in this book could prove to be a dampener. Those who are not too fond of history can give this book a skip as the minute details could get taxing. Lovers of history have an opportunity to appreciate the gentle weaving of different time periods into the pages of the book in the form of different women warriors who existed in each of the different periods.

Readers can live through different time periods of Indian history through its women warriors. However, there was much scope in this book to delve into the kingdoms and the ‘praja’ of those eras. Even though the book is historically sound, it lacks in being a page-turner.