A Slice of History
Vijayalakshmi Nagaraj
HARSHA VARDHANA by Devika Rangachari Scholastic India, 2009, 97 pp., 100
November 2009, volume 33, No 11

Historical fiction usually makes history more interesting and leads the reader into the social fabric of that period. The reader can visualize through the descriptive passages how history unfolds and highlights the prosperity and intrigues of a kingdom and its rulers. To this extent Devika has vividly described the events leading to the coronation and reign of the young king HarshaVardhana of the kingdom of Thanesar and Kanauj. The story opens to ‘the sound of hooves thundering on the dry road’ and the young princess Rajyasri’s curiosity to know who the riders were and what brought them to her father’s kingdom. Her close companion Patralata tries to stop her so also her mother’s faithful nurse Vela, who sarcastically asks her whether she would like to help her father rule the kingdom. She resents this and typical of a fourteen–year-old , tells Vela with defiance that someday she may. Rajyasri’s confidence that she would one day rule the Kingdom seemed very natural.

Yet, it is interesting to note that when Rajyasri snaps at Vela for telling her that she was not behaving like a princess she immediately realizes that she has hurt her. She does not hesitate to apologize. It highlights the respect for the elders even though she was royalty. Many such instances in the book highlight numerous values, some steeped in traditions and some more contemporary in their outlook. The growing up of the siblings in the palace is described in detail by the author. There is friendship, love and arguments—all a natural part of growing up.

Life in the kingdom of King Prabhakaravardhana, the role of the queen Yashovati who was a formidable figure in the court of Thanesar are explained for young readers of today.

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