She rose from a common woman to rule the Mughal Empire. Such was Mehrunnisa aka Nur Jahan, who held Mughal empire in her long locks and her twist of the waist was carved since teenage to deal with crooked politics of Zenana.
The Feast of Roses by Indu Sundaresan is a sequel to the book “The Twentieth Wife”. The first book told us about the story of Mehrunnisa, who fell in love with Mughal Emperor Akbar’s son, Jahangir when she was eight years old. But fate and hardships always played cruel with her and she ended up marrying someone else, a traitor to the empire out of all. But Ruqaiyya Begum, the Dowager Empress helped in brewing their romance. And finally, Mehrunnisa was married to Jahangir and given a new title, Nur Jahan.
The Feast of Roses tells a story about Empress Nur Jahan, who wants to rule the empire now. Initially, her desire was only Jahangir’s love and affection. But now, she wants more. She wants the empire and equality between the emperor and his wife. As a mark of his devotion, Jahangir hands over the powers of the state to her to a huge extent. But love has many enemies, including Empress Jagat Gosini, who is Jahangir’s first wife and hates Nur Jahan to the core since she first laid her eyes on her. And not just Jagat Gosini, Nur Jahan needs to battle ministers of the court who are not used to tolerate a woman ruler in their kingdom. She defies all the norms of Mughal empire which have been established for the women. A point comes when she is all alone, battling fate, but only one thing keeps her strong, her love for Emperor Jahangir.
Nur Jahan’s character in the Feast of Roses is completely mesmerizing. The book has been written about a time when women were supposed to be veiled all the time and had no voice, only a mere presence. But Nur Jahan defied all such norms. She went to Jharoka’s meetings with Jahangir to hear commoners, she stamped royal farmans of the empire, she established a committee with her father,brother and Prince Khurram for the benefit of empire and also to get her wishes fulfilled which can lead to her secure future once Jahangir dies. She shows tremendous courage in battlefields leaving soldiers and Prime Ministers to shame. One such instance is when Mahabat Khan, a minister kidnaps Jahangir. Nur Jahan leads an army on an elephant, hassled and hurt, but never giving up.
Overall, the book is an amazing read. One of the most pleasant thing that author has done is explaining things at the right moment for people who have not read the first part. It helped me as well because I read the second part after a month almost. The language in The Feast of Roses is pretty easy and the story line is strong. You will hardly come across places where you might feel that your interest is faltering. This is one book that you should read because the character of Mehrunnisa aka Nur Jahan will stay in your heart forever.