The Feast of Roses by Indu Sundaresan


About the Author

Indu Sundaresan was born in India and grew up on Air Force bases all over the country. Her father, a fighter pilot, was also a storyteller—managing to keep his audiences captive and rapt with his flair for drama and timing. He got this from his father, Indu’s grandfather, whose visits were always eagerly awaited. Indu’s love of stories comes from both of them, from hearing their stories based on imagination and rich Hindu mythology, and from her father’s writings.After an undergraduate degree in economics from India, Indu came to the U.S. for graduate school at the University of Delaware. But all too soon, the storytelling gene beckoned.


Review

The Feast of Roses is the second book in the Taj Trilogy and sequel to the book – The Twentieth Wife. Mehrunissa is the first woman that Jahangir marries for love and is now Empress Nur Jahan. As a mark of his devotion, he transfers his powers of sovereignty to her. But she has a formidable rival in the imperial harem, Empress Jagat Gosini, who has plotted against her from the moment she entered the emperor’s life. Beyond the harem walls, she battles powerful ministers who won’t allow a mere woman to have a say in the outside world. 

Defying all established norms of womanhood in seventeenth century India, Mehrunissa combats her rivals by forming a junta of sorts with the three men she can rely on – her father, her brother and jahangir’s son, Prince Khurram. She demonstrates great strength of character and cunning to get what she wants, sometimes at great personal cost, even almost losing her daughter’s love. But she never loses the love of the man who bestows this power upon her – Emperor Jahangir.

This book is a pleasure – I’ve read it many times and it is a gem in my collection. The descriptive prose, the dynasty, the numerous descriptions of the various cultural ceremonies that distinguish court life in India has been bought to life in this book. What is beautiful is that it’s from the perspective of Mehrunissa and other women in the Mughal Emperor’s lives, another huge shortcoming and miss in our educational history. Our history books put a huge emphasis on the Taj Mahal and Mumtaz but nothing about Nur Jahan who was far more powerful and influential as a woman and ruler of Mughal India. 

This book is languid and broadly set in historical facts. Indu Sundaresan has woven a beautiful story with Mehrunissa – front and centre – a woman who defied norms and ruled in a man’s world.