➱ Rebel Sultans Read ➹ Author Manu S. Pillai – Thisbookse.co

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10 thoughts on “Rebel Sultans

  1. says:

    I had the great pleasure of listening to Manu Pillai live earlier this year at the 2018 Jaipur Literature Festival It was at a session where he was talking about his book called the Ivory Throne and came across as someone who was extremely knowledgeable, insightful and with that carefree sense of humor that inevitably seems to creep in when you ve read and seen so much of the past that almost everything in hindsight seems like a bit of a joke.Those characteristics then have creeped right into this second book of his haven t read Ivory Throne yet though The book is a certified page turner, with a sum total of zero pages that are close to remotely boring History was always my favorite subject, even back in school when the content was drab NCERT books Rebel Sultans is nowhere remotely like that, and I believe someone even with a minor penchant for reading would be able to make through this book without any effort.And while it is most certainly a pop history book, made for a generation of people like me who rely on condensed versions of history, simplified if not over simplified, the author throws in enough notes and bibliography for anyone seriously interested in the topic to be able to research further And as an honest assessment, the leaps of faith, that any author of a history book must make, appear grounded in reality, and the book itself is a v2.0 of a pop history book, i.e definitely not your routine oh everything just fits in a perfect mould and is funny too.To his great credit, Manu Pillai brings alive the sordid, funny and glamorous world of medieval Deccan, populated by a remarkable cast of characters I for one had always heard of the Bahmani Sultans, and the Qutb Shahi and the Adil Shahi dynasties But in my mind and this is after hours spent reading Wikipedia articles they were always a jumbled up whole never distinct from one another What I take away from this book then is this clear distinction of their individual histories, an understanding of the key players of these dynasties, and how each of them contributed to the story of the Deccan before Marathas overpowered every story emanating from that region.So all in all, I walked away an extremely happy history lover, gladly consuming every interesting tidbit lying around in these pages and there s no dearth of them serious and funny alike The author needs to be lauded for his impeccable research and writing style there is a lot of information packed within this book But almost at no point do you really feel overburdened with information.The only thing in the vicinity of a complaint is the author s almost persistent drumbeat that a religious divide in the medieval ages is a modern myth Its true that politics and power always were and always have been the real reasons for bloodshed, with those in upper echelons only happy to use religion as a frontal motive He props up several evidences with regards to this, which all make sense, but he ends up overdoing that a little And while there are compelling evidences to indicate that religious divisions were comfortably forgotten when questions of power were concerned, the plethora of evidences that indicate clear persecution along religious lines is conveniently ignored in framing this story.While not all Muslims are were bad, and not all Hindus are were good as some would conveniently have you believe , unnecessary mongering for India being the paragon of communal harmony in the medieval ages and that religious persecution was only a means to power is an almost equally naive view Which unfortunately for some reason is one of the foundation pillars of this book among many others ofcourse And so if Mr Pillai was a little accepting of the truth, I believe a spectacular book would have become even better.Having said that, it deserves no less credit for lighting up my weekend mornings and a couple of late nights too with two of my favorite things in life Books and History PS the cover art is DOPE.


  2. says:

    BORING Writing style wasn t good and unnecessary use of dry humor 501 years of history cant be justify in 226 pages It could have been longer and detailed Author seems to be whitewashing history, He is trying to pushing the narrative of Hindu and Muslim conflict was just politics court conspiracy and not religious one The author emphasizes this multiple times He even whitewashed violent part of Deccan history There is no reference to Malik Kafur s destruction of Hindu temples, no objective mention of forceful conversions during the sultanate era, or such Even the analysis of motivations behind the Muslim alliance during the Battle of Talikota was hilarious No mentioned of over 5 million Hindus were killed by Muslim Sultans in war with Vijayanagara Remnants of these destruction could be visible in places like Hampi Author didn t mentioned Gulbarga the capital of the Bahamani Sultanate is still littered with hundreds of destroyed Hindu temples and a Hindu temple in Bijapur Vijaypura pulled down to create a Mosque Many historical characters were skipped.A Historian must be impartial, he should not twist facts and evidences to suit his own political agenda Book is written from left historian perspective Such a sad attempt to whitewashed Indian history Even i have read his other book The Courtesan, the Mahatma and the Italian Brahmin Tales from Indian History It wasn t good either Deccan still awaits a comprehensive history which caters to general audience.


  3. says:

    Severally disappointed.On the face of it, the subject matter of the book was deeply fascinating Our view of history is so overwhelmingly Delhi centric, that I looked forward to a well written, concise, and readable history of the Deccan Unfortunately, I was disappointed.One reason for my disappointment is that the subject matter is extremely complex From Khilji to Shivaji Maharaj is a period of about 7 odd centuries Justice cannot be done to such a vast period in a span of 200 odd pages the author ought to have either expanded on his length, or ought to have focused on a specific period in this entire epoch.While this period saw quite a few era defining individuals, it also had its fair share of court intrigue and toppling of titular heads with regular frequency Which is true of almost any period in history However, this book rarely rises above being a series of court conspiracies There are perfunctory references to cultural or social history, but these references hardly added much to my understanding.I also did not enjoy the writing style The use of dry humor seemed a little forced and did not come naturally I believe that it is an instrument that should be resorted to only if one is a master of the subject, and carries that critical gravitas All in all, a book that promised much, and to which I had looked forward to with much enthusiasm but ultimately, unsatisfying It started off well, but nose dived by the middle.


  4. says:

    At first i thought Yayyy finally i get to read book on south India because we were always force to read Delhi centric history but this book was a huge disappointment There was so many dry humor This book doesn t justify history of 700 years in just 200 pages Even proper references were lacking The problem with this book is it is too biased And it felt like author was trying to push the narrative of Hindu Muslim conflict was just political one not religious one It seems author attempt to whitewash the violent episodes of issues between Islamic and Non Muslim He keep on repeating this issue This later spoil the reading experience Book felt like collection of articles from internet There was no deep research and at times it felt book was rushed in many places without any proper explanation There was no reference of Malik Kafur s destruction of religious sites He came from Delhi to Madurai No mentioned of it No mentioned of forceful conversions Most of temples in Deccan area destroyed and mosque were made over it I expected about Shivaji and there isn t much about Elichpur.Book is entirely written from leftist point of view Extremely disappointed We expect historian to be unbiased, rationalist and write true story, how harsh truth maybe We are not in nursery class to get goody goody feeling after reading such book We read such books to educate ourself He has done a great disservice to history of India through this book This book has limited depth, no new research and offers nothing new but an opportunity for the author and the publishers to milk the growing interest in the genre.Even author previous books Ivory throne felt like book was commissioned by royal family and another book The Courtesan, the Mahatma and the Italian Brahmin was really bad The hype is not worth it at all.


  5. says:

    Manu S Pillai narrates the Deccan s story from the end of the 13th century to the dawn of the 18th We travel from the age of Alauddin Khilji to Shivaji s ascent and witness Vijayanagar s rise and fall intrigues at the Bahmani kings courts and the scheming of the Rebel Sultans who overthrew them.Three years ago, Manu Pillai wrote one of India s quirkiest and most charming contemporary history books The Ivory Throne Chronicles of the House of Travancore is an absorbing deep dive into court intrigues of what is now Kerala from the era of Martanda Varma, the masterful warrior king, down to India s liberation from colonial rule two centuries after his passing It is the story of those intervening years when the region became a smoldering cauldron of social, political and cultural contestations, which would leave in their wake a new land so different from its incredible ancestor in the era of the Zamorins and the Portuguese Driven compulsively over nearly 700 exhaustive pages by the author s evidently limitless passion and commitment, there is an intriguing wrinkle Pillai started his research when still a teenager, and was only just 25 when his book was published it deservedly won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puruskar.Still conspicuously short of his 29th birthday, this rather remarkable young author is back with Rebel Sultans The Deccan from Khilji to Shivaji, which promises as per the prominent front cover blurb by Sunil Khilnani to reposition the Deccan to the center of our attention where it belongs.Pillai s second book is not as weighty, literally and figuratively, as his first, a sweeping, multiple narrative telling of Kerala s engagement with the first colonial invaders It does not have much new insight or analysis and presents no original framework of understanding It is a manifestly less ambitious project that dances around the complex questions of historical scholarship that would conceivably weigh down his style and purpose But that does not make Rebel Sultansany less hardworking 58 pages of notes and 13 pages of bibliography attached to 220 pages of main text are impressive by any standard And it is dazzling storytelling Pillai has employed an extraordinarily powerful imagination and a prodigious talent with words to write a genuine thriller that is near impossible to shut before reaching the end Finally and this must be said unlike some joke historians who have of late inflicted insufferable, and at times dangerous, bilge on us, Pillai s style, in addition to its gloriously evident flamboyance, is also both honest and intelligent, and entirely devoid of any pompous pretense.But when one reads both the literary works of Pillai together, one gets a sense of commonality and even difference, while the first book was flamboyant, rich and well researched, the second book feels sometimes dry and textbookish type but still it is better than one That would be the only critic I would give about the book But the flow of facts and its well interpretation overcomes the dryness.The history is the present in India today Everyday life is replete with references, shouted down from pulpits or by six talking heads boxed inside a television screen, of the glory of past civilizations of one faith that were ravaged by marauding invaders of an opposing faith all stories with neat edges, reasons, and justifications for what happens in India today The history of the Deccan, for example, is often foddered to push the idea of a crusade fuelled by religious passion, and the popular narrative often rests on the shoulder of Shivaji, the 17th century Maratha king recast as a Hindu conqueror, whose ancestry is sensitive enough for a large public library to be ransacked at the faintest possibility of a slight.But in Rebel Sultans, Manu Pillai takes great pains to paint a picture of this fascinating region that is far messier one that doesn t give itself to easy generalizations, or narrative building Through engaging prose and extensive footnoting the annotation and bibliography take up almost 100 pages , Pillai takes the reader through kings who sailed from alien lands and rose to great power in the Deccan, sultans who painted their nails red and wrote paeans in praise of the goddess Saraswati, and rulers who had skin the colour of coal in the process establishing Deccan as a riveting place where the potential of upward social mobility was possibly far than today, albeit through gruesome bloodshed and fratricide.This book is about the sultans and not about the inhabitants of the sultanates It speaks about the fabulously rich per sons and the treasures they posses sed, but not about the teeming millions who lived in the Deccan It doesn t speak about the produce or the food of the region The horror of wars, even at this distance, is chilling and the author gives us but a glimpse of it This was what Adil Shah did to his own domain to slow the advance of the Mughal army The emb ankment of the tanks were dem olished, poison and carrion were thr own into the wells, trees and loft bui lding near the fortress were destro yed Similar out rages were committed by the warring emperors, sultans, and kings year after year The author also mentions in passing of the terrible famine of 1630 Life was offered for a loaf, but none would buy rank was to be sold for a cake, but none cared for it and the flesh of a son was preferred to his love.What makes me love the book is the prose of the author I have been struggling hard for over 50 years to write non execrable stuff and here is an unassuming young person, effortlessly writing elegant, illuminating prose I do envy him.


  6. says:

    3.5 stars because I am not much into history but this book was good I haven t read Manu S Pillai s The Ivory Throne and read this book because I basically have little to no knowledge about history So when I started reading the book, I had expected it to be boring text that just went on and on but instead, I got stories of individual characters told in a good narrative I am sure I would have enjoyed it if I had already known a little background about them, but what I did read astonished me There were some clever kings, some fools and some kickass crazy ones.It talks about Deccan s History but not as a collective whole but broken down and shown like a story in parts I really enjoyed some of the stories like Kiss my Foot and certain elements like the king who put a Quran next to his throne so the Muslims could bow without abandoning their customs That just added such a human touch to the story Because usually when we read about history, it is presented in an emotionless way Even the blood of thousands, pillage, ransack, slavery, everything is written in a way to just present facts and not evoke any emotions.But the author doesn t do that with this book The King who knowingly that his death would ruin the kingdom, still gave the reigns of it to a twelve year old boy, showed me such a humane facet of history that I might forget the names but I ll carry those stories with me Moreover, the illustrations and paintings just made the book interesting as it broke the monotony of the text The book in itself is simplified for easy understanding and even a history novice like me could understand what the hell was going on But I was also flipping the pages every once in a while to read the notes for a deeper insight, or just to look at the pictures again It is easy to get bored after a couple of pages with a book like this, but if you keep going with it, in the end, it is just worth dragging yourself to flip that next page One thing is clear and that is that the author has really done his research with this book If you already enjoy reading history books, this will be a gem in your collection and if you are like me, and aren t much into it, you can still read and understand it for a better understanding of the history of Deccan I personally would not have picked this book, but now after I have read it, I am wondering if I should read the Ivory Throne as well P.S The hardcover is so beautiful When I took that dust jacket off, I was so happy with its look This will probably be my most photographed book on my Instagram stories.


  7. says:

    Im still confused whether to rate it two or three Probably I will wait for a week to re rate this I picked this book up almost blindly seeing Manu Pillai as the author and because I have read Ivory Throne But this one came off as a disappointment Deccan History is massive, compressing it into 200 pages does not do justice The book feels quite rushed in several places without adequate references Also at several places, there is a back and forth jumping between timelines, which makes it difficult to keep track of incidents.There is an overdose of anecdotes which is slightly distracting I loved it in Ivory Throne, but in Rebel Sultans, it feels as though there wasn t much data that was gathered, hence OD d on anecdotes I felt there is an excessive use of dry humour At certain places it makes it enjoyable to read but in other places, it simply looks forced Lastly, whether it was intended or not, the books felt like a massive justification He tries to point out in several places that the conflict between the Muslim rulers and Hindu kings were merely political and not religious But because he repeats it several times, it ruins the reading experience.The best chapter I liked was The Ethiopian Kingmaker.


  8. says:

    Manu Pillai repeats the same magic of his previous book in the first half of the book but loses the grip halfway through the book giving way to a clumsy narrative The reader gets all confused with the titles amidst the congested narrative It s something to be cherished as Indians as we all have gone through the history of Mughals and Kings of northern India but of the kings of the south India we know only a little This book serves that purpose.


  9. says:

    A run of the mill narrative with rebellion only in its title. Well, that about sums up the book and also the disappointment in one neat sentence Deccan has been a major theatre of political drama right from the dawn of history A colourful chapter in that eventful run of history was played out between the years 1300 and 1700 CE in which the northern sultans took an active interest in subjugating it Two attempts were made in the Sultanate and Mughal periods each Both were doomed to eventually fail which in turn set in motion the rise of a powerful Hindu state in the form of Vijayanagar in the fourteenth and the Marathas under Shivaji in the seventeenth centuries In the latter instance, Aurangzeb s disastrous Deccan campaigns sapped the lifeblood of the empire and initiated the liquidation process of his bigoted government in particular and the crumbling of Mughal power in general This book covers the extraordinary events in the Deccan which is confined here to the modern Indian states of Maharashtra, Telengana and Northern Karnataka from the invasion of Ala ud Din Khilji to the years of Shivaji which extends to four centuries of intrigue, annexation, battles, wars of succession and in general, the flow of history Manu S Pillai is a talented young historian who had served in the literary team of Shashi Tharoor He earned wide acclaim for his maiden title on the royal House of Travancore and remains one of the most promising writers in the budding stage.While in the north the sultans tended to be hidebound within religion, the Deccani dynasties were somewhat cosmopolitan in outlook and accommodative of the Hindu natives Akbar was the only Mughal sovereign who maintained truly cheerful relationships with Hindu rulers In the case of Deccan, many such potentates are indicated by Pillai Hasan Gangu, also known as Ala ud Din Bahman Shah, who founded the Bahmani kingdom in Gulbarga, abolished jizya the hated poll tax forced on Hindus in his territories This happened a full 225 years before Akbar was to repeat the same thing in the north He visited Ellora caves with a Brahmin guide to marvel at the sculptural wonders Another ruler of the same dynasty, Taj ud Din Firuz Shah appointed Brahmins to high administrative positions as well as absorbing local Hindu chiefs as amirs of the aristocracy The forefathers of Marathas, including the father and grandfather of Shivaji, were in the service of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar sultans The most famous of them all is Madanna, the prime minister of the Qutb Shahis of Golconda.Some sultans went a step further and engaged his subjects at a spiritually higher level Ahmed Shah Bahmani is still venerated by the Lingayat community as a reincarnation of the mystic Allama Prabhu His death anniversary urs is celebrated with pomp and splendor Ibrahim Qutb Shah so favoured the Telugu language that he is known as Malikbrahma or Abhirama However, Pillai notes that occasional destruction of temples continued unabated even in the midst of such tolerance It is a mistake to conclude that the frequent wars and battles between Muslim sultans and Hindu rajas were of a religious nature Even though he lists out a long line of Muslims respected and revered by Hindus even now, it is striking that not a single case of the other way round, that is, Muslims venerating Hindu chiefs and nobles is reported Ibrahim Adil Shah II comes very close to enlightenment as he endowed temples, affirmed the rights of Hindu pilgrims and Portuguese Jesuits were allowed to establish missions in various parts of his kingdom In his copper coins, he assumes the epithet of ablabali friend of the weak, in Sanskrit A number of his firmans began with an invocation of Goddess Saraswati He took it as an honorific to call himself Saraswati s son He was closely identified with the goddess of vidya knowledge that at one point, he renamed his capital city Bijapur as Vidyapur Ibrahim II s eclecticism is amply evident in the Kitab i Nauras which he penned.Manu S Pillai repeatedly points our attention to the perpetual discord between kingdoms of Deccan When the region first experienced an Islamic onslaught by the end of the thirteenth century, the pre existing Hindu dynasties of Yadavas, Kakatiyas and Hoysalas were at each other s throats The same story repeated a century and a half later when the Bahmanis disintegrated into five branches Adil Shahis of Bijapur, Nizam Shahis of Ahmadnagar, Qutb Shahis of Golconda, Imad Shahis of Berar and Barid Shahis of Bidar who wasted no opportunity to fight among themselves The author has included dynasty trees of all the five, even though only the first three had had any real significance and impact on events When once they combined to defeat Vijayanagar in 1565, their glory was at its zenith But the spirit of union didn t last long and in a few decades, the Mughals snapped all of them up By the time of these sultans, Deccan was a place that attracted job seekers from many parts of the known world Persian nobles had a natural advantage as the court was Persian in style and language Even Ethiopian slaves such as Malik Ambar rose steadily in the ranks and attained lofty positions This led to the formation of two factions in court The local aristocrats were called Dakhnis and the Iranians and Central Asians were called Afaqis, loosely translated as locals and westerners This division again caused strife.As noted earlier, this book is dishearteningly short of any original observations Primary materials have not been gone into when the author researched for this work For a description of Vijayanagar, Robert Sewell s A Forgotten Empire is abundantly dipped into, but whose authority is built on shaky grounds The book includes several old photographs of monuments and tombs taken in the nineteenth century This offers a delightful review on the very good state of preservation they are now bestowed with Pillai claims that Hindu kings accepted the title of Suratrana which is a transliteration of the Muslim sultan This is contested in learned circles as the Sanskrit term also means protector of gods The author affirms that the term marked their place in a wider world and a changed geography where that term carried tremendous potency The episode of Shivaji and the rise of Marathas is relegated to the epilogue, but Pillai assures us that the sudden growth of Maratha power is quite another story Perhaps his next book may be on this topic The book hosts a sizeable section of Notes and a good bibliography Most of the very old books in the list of references can be downloaded freely from Archive.org In spite of all this, the readers can not quite shrug off the feeling that a golden opportunity was wasted by the author.The book is highly recommended.


  10. says:

    This history seems complete, and the writing is clear, but it s unfamiliar to me, an American reader with a limited background in Indian history which made it complicated to follow However, there are people, cities, and periods here in which I have an ongoing interest, so I expect to go back to reread portions of the book Perhaps I ll revise my opinion then.


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