On 15th December, 2023, the Renaissance Journal along with Auropublications launched a new initiative titled SAMVĀD – A Series on Books, Authors and Booklovers. This initiative takes its guidance from the Mother who had encouraged the reading of literature to cultivate our intelligence and taste and to enrich the Spirit.
The first instalment of the Samvād series was launched on December 15, with invited guest, Ms Nandini Sengupta, a Pondicherry based journalist and author. The session focused on her latest book Rani Durgawati – The Forgotten Life of a Warrior Queen.
In her introductory remarks, Dr Beloo Mehra, Editor, Renaissance Journal, spoke about the new initiative Samvād and what it envisages towards the promotion and dissemination of literary works of value and inspiration. She also highlighted that the May 2023 issue of the Renaissance journal had explored deeply the rightful place of literature in one’s spiritual quest.
Invoking Sri Aurobindo’s reminder on the significance of subjective elements and individual stories shaping the course of history, Dr. Mehra contextualised the need for revisiting the forgotten chapters of Indian history. In this regard, the present session with Nandini Sengupta was highly relevant for students of Indian history especially in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s view on how history needs to be understood in a multi-perspective manner.
Thereafter Ms Gayatri Majumder, Editor, Auropublications spelt out the mission statement of Auropublications, the publication wing of Sri Aurobindo Society. She then introduced the invites speaker highlighting her career in journalism and her other literary works and achievements.
The stage was handed over to Ms Nandini Sengupta and for the next one hour she had the audience spell bound as she recounted the extraordinary tale of a forgotten warrior queen – Rani Durgawati. The Gond queen who ruled about 450 years ago in the Jabalpur region died fighting against the mighty army of Emperor Akbar to protect her kingdom, honour and Dharma.
Nandini Sengupta narrated how this Rajput princess fell in love with a tribal Gond prince and eloped with him and got married. Princess Durgwati was deeply loved by Gond people. But their blissful marriage did not last long and her husband died of some illness and Durgawati was left alone with a small son. Thereafter, ousting the brother of her husband who had designs on the throne, she herself took the reins of the kingdom in her hands at the age of twenty-six. She repulsed every attack on her kingdom by the neighbouring kings who thought her kingdom is an easy prey since it was being ruled by a woman.
But eventually, Rani Durgawati sacrificed her life fighting the vastly superior and the most powerful fighting machine of its time – the Mughal army of Emperor Akbar. Ms. Sengupta shared some exciting details of the war strategy this warrior queen had employed, which actually led to some early victories for the Gond army. But eventually Rani’s generals ignored her final suggestion, and as a result the Gond army was defeated and Rani Durgawati had to give up her life while fighting valiantly till her last breath.
The unique thing about Rani Durgawati is that she has been deified by her people and they have been worshipping her as a Devi for the last four centuries! They have erected temples in her name and she lives even today in the folk songs and dances of her people who sing about the valour and bravery of their goddess Queen – Rani Durgawati.
Nandini Sengupta showed several pictures of the places connected with the story of Rani Durgawati and also the final battle with Akbar. She explained that her book is an attempt to reclaim the history and legacy of such forgotten heroes and heroines of India who have been deliberately reduced to being footnotes in the pages of history by some historians with an agenda. The entire audience agreed that Rani Durgawati’s tale is one of the most inspiring and elevating chapters of our history and thanked Ms Sengupta for bringing the Forgotten Warrior Queen Durgawati to life. The session ended with some interactions with the author over tea.
About the speaker:
Nandini Sengupta is a writer and journalist based in Pondicherry. She became fascinated with India’s glorious past after a
visit to Ajanta Ellora caves in 2007 which soon inspired her to write in the historical fiction genre. Her bestselling titles include The Blue Horse And Other Amazing Animals from Indian History published by Hatchette India which was shortlisted for both the Auther Awards 2022 and the Bal Sahitya Puraskar 2023, the Gupta Empire Trilogy comprising The King Within, The Poisoned Heart and The Ocean’s Own published by HarperCollins India and Kalidas: A Gem Among Poets published by Goodearth Publications. Rani Durgawati: The Forgotten Life of a Warrior Queen published by Penguin India is her first narrative non-fiction biography. It made it to the 2023 Auther Award shortlist in the non-fiction category.