The tale of a magnificent 11th century king, who united different Indians against the onslaught of invaders, is the first in a stream of stories from Amish’s Writers’ Centre. An exclusive first excerpt from the foreword to the book
This journey of life, with its patent twists, and then turns, has many unknowables for us all; also, some knowables. My life has one constant knowledge: my stories emerge from the blessings of Lord Shiva. I do not know how they come to me, develop in my imagination and find expression through my fingers. I see what He enables. I write. It is His blessing. But His abundance overwhelms and outruns my capacity to bring to form. I can write one book every one-and-half to two years. Not any faster. And at this pace, I will die before I write down all the story ideas that He has already filled me with. I know one more thing: I cannot carry these stories to my cremation pyre.
Hence, the idea of a Writers’ Centre for a stream of stand-alone stories that differ from my main line of storytelling of the Shiva Trilogy & Ram Chandra Series. It was a suggestion from my team, and it made eminent sense to me. So, I work with a team of writers, to whom I relate the complete story, and the research material to be read. They write the first draft, which I then work upon. Therefore, the genesis of the story and the final writing is mine, while a team drives the first draft. We have tried our best to ensure that the books from the Writers’ Centre read like any other book of mine. But we honestly state, upfront, that this line of books is the result of team effort, and not my sole work.
Now, the first book from the Writers Centre… what is it about?
A giant tide of history in the last 2,000 years was defined by horrific violence. It wiped out the ancient cultures of the world: Pagan Rome, mystical Egypt and mythical Greece; Zoroastrian Persia, idol-worshipping Central America, and even martial Norse… and too many others. Some might say some still exist; heartbreakingly though, in wilted forms that fuel, at best, the tourist industry and some museums. No, they no longer are a living, breathing entity. But one ancient civilisation stubbornly refused to die. One proud culture refused to be overwritten. It retreated at times, even withdrew permanently from some lands, became silent, but is one of the rare few still left standing. And breathing. It is India.
Heroes and heroines arose, magnificently, whenever invaders came to our land. They led us. Defended us. There were many -- Harihara and Bukka Raya, Maharana Pratap, Lachit Borphukan, Rani Abbakka, Raja Marthanda Varma, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose - and countless other courageous men and women with a steely determination to fight. But, a careful reading of our history tells us that the biggest challenge for these heroes and heroines was to somehow unite our fissiparous society, to fight those foreigners. We had a national consciousness, as the millennia old Vishnu Purana evidences, but the default tendency in us Indians is to fight each other; tragically, to this day. Infighting is our favourite pastime, which ceases only briefly when the enemy is at our doorstep. The challenge, always, was how to stop our constant infighting.
These leaders succeeded where others failed. They united us, albeit briefly. And, we prevailed.
Sadly, many of these heroes and heroines have been airbrushed out of our history books. I believe these great men and women demand from us, their descendants, that we remember their tales. That we share their stories. That we celebrate them. And learn from them.
Today, more than ever, we need to hear the chronicles of these great people who united us and saved our land by making us confront brutal foreign invaders, beat many of them back, and most importantly, survive.
This book is of one such hero, a fictional story inspired by real events. It is the story of the magnificent King Suheldev of the 11th century.
It depresses me that most people across modern India have not even heard the name of this great warrior hero, let alone know his story.
But worse, and heartbreakingly, at present, too, we are a divided India. And therefore, there is dispute over which caste or community he belonged to. Many communities claim him as their own. British gazettes, written many centuries after the life of this remarkable warrior, are used to support competing claims. I don’t know what the truth is. So, I have not taken a stand on these competing claims. I do not state which caste he belonged to.
Amish ( Courtesy Westland )
All I say in this book is that King Suheldev was a proud Indian, who protected Mother India at a time when she was threatened by the most vicious of foreign invaders. He united all — Hindus of all castes, Buddhists and Indian Muslims — under his leadership. They fought for their motherland. And won us a glorious victory. Heady, the thought, but there also is a learning from this great son of India: when we unite, as Indians, we are unbeatable.
My patriotism and love for Mother India compels me to narrate this story. But there is one other reason.
Regardless of multiple contradictory claims, there is almost complete agreement on one count: King Suheldev was a devout Shiva bhakt — a devotee of Lord Shiva. And, as stated earlier, I believe my storytelling skill is a blessing from the Mahadev too. One day I will leave this mortal body, and before I enter my next life, I might get an opportunity to stand before Lord Shiva. And then, the Lord might demand an answer from me. He had given me a talent: I could tell stories; then why did I not tell the story of one of His greatest devotees, King Suheldev? I will not hang my head in shame before my God. Therefore, I will tell you the story of the time when, led by this great hero, India stood up, united, and defeated an army of the fiercest and most brutal warrior-race that the world has ever seen: the Turkic hordes from Central Asia. We had not invited them. We had not picked a fight. They came. They plundered. We fought. We won. We saved our culture. When we Indians stand together, shoulder to shoulder, we are undefeatable.
If only we can be united.
I dream of the day when we will all say in one voice:
Jai Suheldev! Jai Maa Bhaarati!
Glory to King Suheldev. Glory to Mother India.
Excerpted with permission from Legend of Suheldev – The King Who Saved India by Amish, published by Westland. The book releases today