Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor Of Hearts

Written by Anuja Chandramouli.
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1166, a son named Prithviraj Chauhan is born to Karpuradevi and Someshvara. Soon after, Someshvara accedes to rule a powerful aryavarta kingdom from the city of Ajmer. The jyotishis who reads Prithviraj’s horoscope proclaims him to have god-like powers and that as a great king, he is destined to drive the mlecchas [foreigners] out of India. But additional predictions about Prithviraj suffering defeat and loss aggravate his family.

Prithviraj has a happy childhood; he receives outstanding tutelage and martial arts training. He grows into a skilled warrior and longs to go into battle in the frequent wars with neighboring kingdoms. He rescues a young maiden in distress and becomes smitten with her, to his parents’ displeasure. But when another of King Someshvara’s wives gets pregnant, Prithviraj’s succession is put into jeopardy. Prithviraj must use his skills to deal with mysterious attacks on his life, and wage wars not only to expand his kingdom but also to protect it from the invading Turks, led by Shihabuddin of Ghur.

Prithviraj III is fondly called “the last Hindu Emperor of India.” Although there were several who followed him, the end of Prithviraj’s reign permitted the establishment of Muslim monarchies in India. Chandramouli has brought to life that critical period in India’s history, both accurately and fictionally. While readers will find themselves transported to this era, the novel is often told to readers, and the lack of dialogue, likely to control the novel’s length, can be arduous to read in places. The known characteristics about Prithviraj – as an unyielding ruler, combatant, and lover, and some obscure facts like his kindness towards minorities (he meets the Sufi, Moinuddin Chisti) – are aptly presented. The reasons for Prithviraj’s failure to impede the Turkish incursions, his family squabbles, and the hostilities between the neighboring Hindu kingdoms are explored in depth. The vivid battle scenes and historical details make this an informative novel.