Shreyas Bhave’s debut book, The Prince of Patliputra, the first in the Asoka Trilogy series takes the readers to the ancient world of the Mauryan Empire. Asoka, who has been described as “The King Without Sorrow” and “India’s founding father” by Charles Allen for “…being the first ruler to forge India into a single nation state” (Charles Allen, Ashoka, 2012) ruled over the Indian subcontinent from c.268 to 232 BCE. Despite being the first ruler to consolidate the Indian subcontinent into an empire, the Emperor was all but forgotten by history until he was once again resuscitated in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century by European Orientalists (Charles Allen, Ashoka, 2012). This long silence and erasure and rediscovery have added layers of “legends” to his persona (Romila Thapar, Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, 1963).
Although many historians have compiled the accounts of Asoka and the Mauryan Empire however; there are only a few who have attempted to pen down a fictional account of the life of Ashoka and rise of Mauryan Empire. With his new Asoka trilogy, Shreyas Bhave explores the ancient and much distanced world of the Mauryas, their culture, lifestyle, religion and the inevitable war of thrones that accompanies the rise and decline of almost every Empire.
Beginning with an intriguing prologue and a brief reference to the existence of a secret society, the book traces the last years of the reign of Samrat Bindusara, “the second Samrat Chakravartin of the whole of the Bharathvarsha” whose “realm spreads from…Taxila to the great city of Patliputra in the east and to the mountainous city of Suvarnagiri in the south.” Even though the events described in the narrative spans the timeline of fifty years, the author weaves a fascinating story by simultaneously mapping the ascent of a just ruler, Chandragupta to the throne fifty years ago after the “unquestionable authority” and “utmost tyrannical ways” of the Nandas and the present decadent rule of Bindusara, thus paving the way for the rise of Asoka to the throne.
Interspersing historical facts with fiction, The Prince of Patliputra traces not just an account of the life of Asoka but also of the rise and consolidation of the Mauryan Empire by Chandragupta Maurya and by constantly pitting the military achievements of Asoka against the achievements of Chandragupta Maurya, the author tries to demonstrate that only Asoka is the worthy successor of the Chandragupta Maurya. Though the figure of Asoka as a kind and benevolent ruler before the beginning of his reign as well as during the early years of his reign is contrary to the historical facts, Shreyas Bhave systemically generates sympathy for Asoka at least in the present narrative space and portrays him as a product of his times. By narrating Asoka’s trials and tribulations right from his birth, “I was condemned to be born to a Vaishya mother. All I am asking for is one chance, to prove to the world that it is your blood that too flows through my veins”, the author recounts how Asoka overcame the hindrance of his birth and rose amongst the ranks in Army by his resolve and mettle.
Throughout the book, Asoka has been portrayed as a man of action whose nonchalant attitude towards court politics and intrigue affixes more eminence and grace to his persona, thus making him the worthy successor of Chandragupta, “I am telling you that Asoka doesn’t want to be a Maharaja of anything…Like he would never want to be the captain. All he always wanted was to be the first one to attack… “I shall make him my General”…”The leader of the army. That is what he has always wanted. And I shall give him that. And like when we were kids, we would make a great team once again.””
Chronicled alongside is an account of Chanakya and Radhagupta who worked in the shadows; relentlessly plotted, schemed and engineered the ascension of Chandragupta and Asoka on the throne. The author records the feats and intrigues of Radhagupta concurrently with Chanakya to exhibit that like Asoka is worthwhile and a meritorious successor of Chandragupta, Radhagupta is a commendable successor of Chanakya. Not only a recital of the feats of the kings and the wars of thrones, the book gives an insight into the life, beliefs, traditions of the time and the rise of Buddhism that already exists at the periphery but treated with reproach and denigration by Hindus.
In the first part of the trilogy, The Prince of Patliputra, the author chronicles the military exploits and excursions of Asoka before he becomes the Samrat. The author weaves a tightly knit story with fast paced narrative and intriguing plot.
Bringing alive the figures of Asoka, Chandragupta, Chanakya, Radhagupta from the pages of history and intermeshing them in a fiction is no easy feat to achieve and Shreyas Bhave achieves it without much effort; thus making the book a pleasurable read.
Ending with the raising of “…army to march east and avenge the killing of his Ashwamedha stallion” by Sushem (Bindusara’s favourite son), the book closes with much anticipation, Will Ashoka proves himself to be a worthy successor of Chandragupta or “Will Sushem be able to do what his grandfather Chandragupta did?” As “The dark clouds of war loom high, waiting to burst into a rain of blood and gore. The thunder claps loud as everyone waits with beating hearts for THE SCOURGE FROM TAXILA to arrive.” I, for one, am definitely waiting for THE SCOURGE FROM TAXILA to arrive to further unravel the ancient world of Mauryas.
Title: The Prince of Patliputra
Author: Shreyas Bhave
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Buy it from: Amazon
About the Author
Shreyas is a 21 year old guy currently pursuing his B.Tech in Electrical Eng. from VNIT Nagpur. His love for history since his childhood prompted him to write his take on the story of Asoka who was one of the towering figures in the history of India. Apart from writing, his hobbies are songwriting, composing music, painting watercolors and sketching with pencils. He loves hiking in the hill forts of Maharashtra, is fond of blues & southern rock music, plays the guitar. He is currently working on a startup to provide quality services to the end users of Transformer and Switchgear products in the country. He is also presently working on the second part of this trilogy which shall be called The Scourge from Taxila. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://www.authorshreyas.wordpress.com.