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NINETY SEVEN

There are many who would not remember a fancy tag that went around on FB, where you were to name favorite 10 books you have read. I did this tag too, and it resulted in a blog post. From that blog post came several others where I took the liberty to discuss my favorite books. I cannot say I have reviewed these master pieces because I am inadequately trained to do so, what I have been trying to do is to capture their personal connection with me, the reason for which they are my favorite. In this post let me talk about Rajkahini by Abanindranath Thalur.

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I read this collection of stories from Rajasthan when I was in primary school and I am thankful to my parents for introducing me to this literature. In fact my love for history and travel has possible been mostly inculcated in me because of reading books like Rajkahini, Feluda stories by Satyajit Ray and at a later stage Rommani Bikkho series by Subodh Kumar Chakraborty.

A little bit about the Author from Wikipedia,

Abanindranath Tagore (7 August 1871 – 5 December 1951) was the principal artist and creator of “Indian Society of Oriental Art”. He was also the first major exponent of Swadeshi values in Indian art, thereby founding the influential Bengal school of art, which led to the development of modern Indian painting[1][2] He was also a noted writer, particularly for children. Popularly known as ‘Aban Thakur’, his books Rajkahini, Budo Angla, Nalak, and Khirer Putul are landmarks in Bengali language children’s literature.

Tagore sought to modernise Mughal and Rajput styles to counter the influence of Western models of art, as taught in Art Schools under the British Raj and developed the Indian style of painting, later known as Bengal school of art. Such was the success of Tagore’s work that it was eventually accepted and promoted as a national Indian style within British art institutions under the epithet of Indian Society of Oriental Art.

What attracted me to the book were the stories that told of bygone era and folks and their courage and valor. It was like old legends and folklores had come to life. The stories talked about Kings, Queens, Princes, Forts, Camels, Desert and it was nothing short of the western fairy tales that had been also part of my reading. I came across this book in my childhood and it was obvious that many still consider it children’s literature but one of the reasons it is my favorite is I can continue to read it in bits and pieces any time I fancy. I do not get bored of going back to it in fact, I remember so much of it. My travels to Rajasthan have been primarily the result of fascination for the desert and the richness of the culture the book depicted. There are 8 stories in the book and all of them are titled with the name of their main protagonist. Out of these 2 stories are closest to my heart.

The first story about Shiladitya and the one about Padmini. On my visit to Chittorgarh I felt an emotion unlike anything I can describe. The words of the story had painted images in my mind and standing in front of the fort and seeing the places in which the story of Padmini was based, in real life had the most astonishing effect on me. It left me speechless. Due to the recent event where certain people were up in arms against Sanjay Leela Bansali because his film Padamavati is about Padmini and may show the character in an unflattering light, there was speculation about the truth behind the folklore of Padmini. It left me feeling a bit low, so I went back to reading the story and whether the scholars agree or disagree on the legend of Padmini and the rest, the stories of Rajkahini have certainly enriched my life.

THE END.

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