In conversation with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: The bestselling author on new book The Last Queen, and her craft
In Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's latest book, the forgotten story of Rani Jindan Kaur comes to life.
In her latest novel, The Last Queen, award-winning author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni digs deep into Indian history to unearth the story of a forgotten heroine. She writes about the life of Rani Jindan Kaur, the youngest and favourite queen of Maharaj Ranjit Singh.
The Lion of Punjab and the leader of the Sikh Empire, Ranjit Singh was considered to be one of the bravest rulers of the early 19th century, who brought together various warring misls or confederacies in the region to form a unified kingdom. His young favourite wife, on the other hand, earned the ire of the emerging British forces and of her own Khalsa army upon the death of the king, and was thrust into a dusty corner of history, vilified and ignored.
Divakaruni's narrative foregrounds this queen's predicaments, her rule, imprisonment and exile. After tremendous bloodshed and betrayal, Jindan's five-year-old son Dalip Singh inherits his father's throne, thrusting her into the position of queen regent. The queen finds herself surrounded by more enemies than allies in their capital city of Lahore and protecting her child and the kingdom become of utmost importance. She casts away her veil, circumvents the politics of the zenana to become a true ruler and govern a fragile kingdom.
Divakaruni's earlier works of mythological fiction, Palace of Illusions and Forest of Enchantments, centered on Draupadi and Sita respectively. Their characters are built as much upon the tales that have trickled down through the ages as upon the writer's imagination of their innermost thoughts. Her Rani Jindan is much the same, and through this novel the author invokes the feelings and passions, courage and wisdom, mistakes and recklessness of this historical figure.
In a conversation with Firstpost, Divakaruni discusses Rani Jindan's story, how she added a mystical layer to the historical fiction and recreating powerful heroines in her books.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Last Queen has been published by HarperCollins India.
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