THE WHITE MUGHALS By Willam Dalrymple

The White Mughals is considered to be one of the best modern historical classics on the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent.  The book contains 509 pages and it is  an interesting read for those interested in history. The White Mughals focuses on the time period, that not only the British but the Indians (Hindu and Muslims) also not wanted to forget. This book narrates the tale of the bygone obscure era when Gottlieb Cohen could take the pen name ‘Farasu’ and do loads of poetic work in Urdu and Persian. Furthermore, back in the day, khair-Un-Nissa could marry James Achilles Kirkpatrick. This book looks back at the time when cultural differences were understood, acknowledged, embraced and cherished rather than being frowned upon in hate and bigotry.

William Dalrymple was a history student and a renowned historical scholar who travelled to India in order to build his narrative. The author after delving into research got a rare understanding of the accounts of both eastern and western historians regarding this very delicate, vibrant but often misunderstood time period.  Dalrymple, by separating facts from fiction, truth from tradition penned a true love story of a socially accepting and politically ambivalent time in the history of the Subcontinent.  Major James Achilles Kirkpatrick is the protagonist of this historic romantic novel and is the East India Company’s resident of the Court of Nizam of Hyderabad Deccan in 1798. James works through a maze of court and political intricacies while reducing the French resident’s influence on Nizam in order to bring it back to the British fold. The novel is set in a time when Hyderabad had formed a hesitant alliance with Marathas and the British. However James political understanding and foresight shines in the backdrop of Mysore wars. Despite having a precarious position professionally James succeeded as a seasoned diplomat during all upheavals of the court and the company.  While juggling with politics and society, James falls in love with the younger daughter of the Diwan (Prime Minister). Their courtship and eventual marriage is not only poetic, alluring and attractive but is also tragic. James had to go through an inquiry initiated by his superiors in Calcutta. Resultantly James and his young wife go through a lot of pressure but he however continues to be a loving presence in Khair-Un-Nissa’s life.   They have two children and live a happy life until James dies in 1805 and his two children are sent off to England forever.

The reader is amazed to witness the level of intermixing of the early British with the Indians. While researching for this book, the author discovered that he himself was a product of this interracial union, as his great grandmother was an Indian. It may seem surprising, but it is true that the British in that time period had fondness for the local culture, cuisine, clothing and women. After learning Urdu and Persian, some British men ended up becoming acclaimed poets. The British worked for the better interest of the East India Company and no doubt, they became a beautiful part of the society.  They did not initially openly subjugate the society ,which later became a norm of the British Raj during the mid-nineteenth century and onwards.  The entire book is extremely well researched and well written.  The author’s simple yet engaging style of writing makes the reader rather glued to this interesting book.   The modern society for the most part, only knows about the clash of civilizations. Most of us are not even aware of the fact that our own history is a testament to the peaceful co-existence between people from different cultures and religions.  This book therefore does an excellent work in promoting and projecting harmony between the Eastern and the Western societies which surely lacks in today’s world.


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