In 1603, a peasant girl travels to Agra to learn how to become a concubine. She has in her possession a strange, beautiful jewel, and a document. After dancing at a public house one night, she is set upon by a mysterious assailant who tries to kill her, apparently without motive.
In the palace, there is a crisis. The Emperor Akbar is taken violently ill. The heir-apparent is the alcoholic Jahangir, who inspires little confidence with the all-powerful nobles. To avoid a bloody war of succession, Akbar’s ministers engineer an unprecedented meeting: a Choosing, in which the nobles are permitted to choose a successor from one of Akbar’s direct descendents. Jahangir has to endure the humiliation of competing against his own son.
To everyone’s surprise, the nobles elect a Third Prince, a forgotten child fathered by Akbar on a long-ago battlefield.
The race is on. Paru survives a second attempt to kill her by propositioning the captain of the palace guard. A third, with the help of a king cobra. Meanwhile, among the crowds in the bazaar, the popularity of the mystery Third Prince grows....
The Third Prince - A Novel
A sexy action-adventure set in seventeenth century India... in the romance of the great Mughal Empire.
...extremely interesting and well-written adventure story.
-Afternoon Dispatch & Courier
...As all the threads come together towards the end, an intriguing mystery unravels.
If history intrigues you, this fiction is a must read.
- New Woman
Start Reading the Third Prince...
The wooden wheels of the bullock cart turn as it clatters along the road. The iron rims of the huge wheels bump over the irregularities in the path. It is a bruising ride. The bull, a dirty white beast with huge horns, is comfortable, settled in its pace, which it has kept up all night. The driver holds a little stick with which he incongruously controls the huge animal. He has difficulty staying awake.
The cart is silhouetted against the dawn sky. It is a big north Indian sky, loud and splashy like the people themselves. Extravagant swaths of pink and orange streak halfway across the sky to mingle in passionate swirls above the rising sun.
Inside the covered cart are two passengers. Parvati Devi, called Paru by all who know her, is already too old to begin her career. She is fifteen. Her head is covered with her odhni, which is a combined veil and a shawl. She is asleep. The other occupant is a turbaned uncle. They are already bone-tired. It is hot.
The cart is caught up in the morning rush to get goods to the bazaar. In front of them is a milk-cart drawn by two bulls, the milk frothing in the narrow necks of the earthenware pots. A heavily-laden camel plods along, looking sour and resigned as camels do. A noble lady, with two guards, rides by in the opposite direction. She is covered from head to foot in an orange burkha. She looks out at the world through a small rectangle of gold netting. The guards are dressed as warriors, sporting turbans, long colourfully patterned skirts, and well-used swords that hang casually from their waists.
The Mughal Empire
It is hard, today, to appreciate the large space that the Mughal Empire occupied in the world of the 1600s. In land mass, it was relatively modest. Akbar’s Hindustan bordered Iran in the northwest, included present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, swept across the lion’s share of India, and went as far east as Bengal, including present-day Bangladesh. In the northeast it braved the Himalayas, to push up against Tibet. In the south, it had a contentious border with three hold-out kingdoms, Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. All told, the Mughal Empire was smaller in land-mass than its two rivals at the time: the Persian Empire and Ottoman Empire. But what it lacked in area, it made up for with its people. The historian John Keay reports that the population of Akbar’s Hindustan is estimated at about a 100 million people. By contrast, all of Europe at the time was 40 million, and the population of Great Britain could not have been more than 5 million.
Paradoxically, this large population was the source of Hindustan’s wealth. An ancient, unbroken tradition of village handicrafts reached its zenith during the Mughal era. Villagers produced not only food from the abundant, fertile land but village factories, born of family-run local enterprises, produced fabrics, dyes, metalwork, jewelry, weapons — anything imaginable, with a level of artistry and innovation that are still admired today.
Akbar’s genius was to create structures and liberties for his subjects that turned this industry into the most explosive, longest-sustained economic boom the world had known. Artisans flourished. A bustling middle-class grew up. Stone-cutters and architects reached a level of sophistication that permitted them to create the joyful facades of the Agra Fort and of Fatehpur Sikri.