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Book Review: The Last Queen of Kashmir

One of the most controversial land in the world has its own deep history, which we are led to believe started with Hari Singh and is now tied up with chains of militancy. In between that controversy lies a chapter of history which many of us are unaware of, and that’s the chapter of The Last Queen of Kashmir, Kota. Beautiful, regal and fearful, she was the answer to the prayers of citizens who were witnessing their beloved Kashmir change day by day. But they believed that there’s only one who could maintain the sanctity and soul of their motherland, and that was Kota.

The Last Queen of Kashmir begins with a heartfelt prologue from the author, who also gives us the glimpse of exodus of Kashmiri Hindus. While staying in a Jammu refugee camp, Rakesh Kaul’s grandmother shares the story of Kota with him. The story then takes us back to the year 1313 in Kashmir, when Kota was a student who was just like us, nervous about clearing exams of her Gurukul, so that she can finish her education. She clears all the hurdles with flying colors, except one which is destiny, something that nobody has a control over.

General Ramchandra, Kota’s father, is informed by Devaswami, the head Guru that Kota has Angraka, a dosh in the celestial chart that may lead to the death of a spouse. Disheartened, Ramchandra decides not to share this secret with Kota. He then takes her away to the cold mountains, where she can start learning what Kashmir is, what will be her future role as a royal lady of the court.

Kota immerses herself in well being of her citizens and keeps on following her father’s instructions. Until one day, when Rinchan, the exiled Ladakhi Prince arrives at her doorstep. What follows is massacre, confusions, power plays and marriages formed for right and powerful alliances.

In between, we get to the know The Last Queen of Kashmir, who faced deceit at every point of her rule. This deceit killed her father, Ramchandra in a power play vacuum created by the absence of King Sahadeva. She married Rinchan Shah who ultimately, murdered her father. And when he died, she married King Sahadev’s brother, only to keep the soul of Kashmir alive.

I’ve read a good number of books on Kashmir, but never historical. And The Last Queen of Kashmir was absolutely brilliant. For the first time, I can say I know more than just troubles of Kashmir. I know the rich history and great people like Kota Rani who ruled the Kashmir, its rich tradition and fierceness with which they followed Kota until her end. I can only imagine the amount of research Rakesh Kaul must have done to bring alive the character of Kota Rani!

The Last Queen of Kashmir is written in a simple and engaging tone. However, the only flaw I could come up with was the length of the book. Also, the book becomes slow and eventually stagnant at some places, a thing which may not go down well with readers who like to read smartly written books rather than detailed ones. But these are just some minor flaws which are shadowed by the character of Kota Rani.

When you read about the Last Queen of Kashmir, you will travel to a different Kashmir, one which was rich with culture and heritage and had fierce protectors like Kota Rani. All in all, I really loved the Last Queen of Kashmir and I am sure you will love it too, so make sure you grab your copy soon.

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