Book Review : The Peshwa - The Lion and the Stallion
About the Book
Title: The Peshwa - The lion and the Stallion
Author: Ram Sivasankaran
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
No. of Pages: 338
Price: 350 INR
Genre: Historical Fiction
About the Author
Ram Sivasankaran was born in Madras, India, but has spent most of his life abroad, largely in the Middle East and the USA. He was brought up on stories from Hindu legend and the great epics and classics of both India and the West. In addition to being a passionate student of history in school, Ram has built a keen interest in stories of valour, heroism, chivalry, beauty and romance.
A day-dreamer of all sorts, Ram believes deeply in the power of imagination- the mind being the canvas on which even the seemingly talentless can create new universes, resurrect eras long gone, bring the gods to life and even revive heroes and damsels of yore. Ram makes his debut with a historical novel on one of the greatest and yet, to an extent, a less-known figure from Indian history - Bajirao Bhat, Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy, mighty warrior, hopeless romantic and one of the most dazzling examples of wartime courage, military leadership and battle strategy.
The Cover Speaks
The cover of the book portraying the Peshwa with his all time companion horse Surya does justice with the title and the plot. 'The Peshwa - The Lion and the Stallion' is quite a thought provoking title. At first I thought, the Lion refers to the Peshwa and Stallion to his horse Surya. But after gorging on the pages, I found that the Mughal Vazir, Nizam Ul Mulk when battled against Peshwa Bajirao, he bragged himself as the lion engraved on the Mughal flag and Peshwa as the Stallion. But what became a history befits as the title of the book. Peshwa Bajirao, the real Lion had beaten the stallion Nizam and became the invincible.
It is the 18th century and despite the dominant Mughal rule, the Maratha Confederacy has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Indian subcontinent. The fragile peace between the two powers is threatened when Balaji Vishvanath Bhat, Peshwa of the Confederacy, foils the plans of Nizam Ul Mulk of the Mughal Empire, and asserts the power of the Marathas. However, little does the Peshwa know that he has dealt the Nizam an unintended wound - one with roots in his mysterious past and one that he would seek to avenge till his last breath.
When the Peshwa surrenders his life to a terminal illness dark clouds gather over the Confederacy as it is threatened by a Mughal invasion as well as an internal rebellion.
All the while a passive spectator, the Peshwa's son, Bajirao Bhat, now needs to rise beyond the grief of his father's passing, his scant military and administrative experience, and his intense love for his wife and newborn son to rescue everything he holds dear. Will the young man be able to protect the Confederacy from internal strife and crush the armies of the Empire all while battling inner demons?
Will he live up to his title of Peshwa?
If you have watched the Bollywood historical film -Bajirao Mastani and were quite enthralled by the plot then you are sure to be fallen for this novel. It can be considered more of as a Part - I of the movie. The novel puts life to the valiant Maratha Peshwa - Bajirao Bhat and the pages are smeared into the events right from his childhood when he used to play with the toy sword while his father Peshwa Balaji Vishvanath Bhat showered him with the brave stories from the Maratha war to his becoming a Peshwa and doing justice to his title.
The father of Bajirao while being incumbent Peshwa got the Chhathrapathi Shahu's mother released from the Mughal captivity and became more worthy, respectful and dear to Shahu and the subjects alike.
The conversations between the Peshwa and his young to-be Peshwa son rallies the words of wisdom pouring out right from the mouth of the very wise Peshwa which are both enlightening as well as heart warming.
Bajirao's struggle to restrain his father from leaving him to cancer is quite well woven. The young Peshwa and his encounter with the senapati -turned-traitor Dabhade is quite gripping where he puts his honor at stake before the Empire and does away with the enemy by breaking the rules of parlay. While at the other end, Kashibai, Peshwa's consort justifies his act in the Maratha court putting silence to all the wagging fingers showing the love of that era.
One question that intrigues me is that was Dabhade punished for what we are fighting today, reservation? He fought against the hereditary incumbency of Maratha positions and favored meritocracy till his death,on seeing his equally capable friend and a spirited fighter, Uttam being given the position of a common soldier while he being offered the position of senapati.
The events unfold at a good pace paving way for the story to flow at a pace.
Nizam Ul Mulk's revenge for his lost son from the Peshwa causes the war between the Marathas and Mughals where young Peshwa Bajirao was so novice to see a battle for the first time. How does he protect the Maratha prestige? How his love for his family saves him from the hands of the beast Bangash? How does he deal with the defeated Nizam? is all woven so immaculately that the reader feels the whole scene playing live in front of him.
Kudos Ram!for penning down a historical story with such great details and profusely loaded with all emotions.
The Epilogue of the book introduces the Princess of Bundelkhand- Mastani giving a clear indication of a sequel. Many like me who have read this piece are awaiting the next. I wish Ram all the success and want him to hear that his work has been endorsed by many and are awaiting for the next to praise him more.