Akbar the Great is a very familiar figure to most Indians. Hailed as a brilliant warrior, a great administrator, and a visionary ruler whose ideas of pluralism and tolerance sought to unify India with all its diversity of peoples and religions, he is also an increasingly contested figure in the national discourse. And familiar though he might be, Akbar is a mystery too, locked in his own legend: a man to admire but difficult to know.
What was Akbar really like—as a child, a father, a friend, a foe? What were his moods like – his anger, his melancholy, his passions and his laughter? How did a thirteen-year-old fatherless boy, surrounded by ambitious advisors and warlords, become one of the world’s most powerful monarchs; and how did he deal with his dizzying rise? Was Akbar a sceptic or did he believe he had divine, miraculous powers?
With revealing psychological insights into Akbar’s complex and magnetic personality, this biography is also the story of how Akbar’s ideas and ideals of kingship evolved through his reign; of how he came to concentrate in himself both political and religious authority; of his instances of megalomania, his doubts, and his yearning for justice. Rich in detail, and with a cast of unforgettable characters, it sparkles with humor and drama too, as it vividly evokes the world he lived in.
Deeply researched and beautifully written, Parvati Sharma’s portrait of Akbar the Great brings alive as never before a man imperfect and extraordinary, who ruled for fifty years and has lived in the Indian imagination for close to half a millennium.
Parvati Sharma’s debut The Dead Camel and Other Stories of Love earned her a cult following for its depictions of love and sexuality in urban India, and its ‘lightness [and] lucidity’. She has also written a novella, Close to Home, and two books for children, The Story of Babur and Rattu & Poorie's Adventures in History: 1857. Her first biography, Jahangir: An Intimate Portrait of the Great Mughal (2018), was acclaimed as an "audacious, conversational history... [that] stands out", and for its “psychologically penetrating portrayal”.
"Parvati Sharma’s A Lamp for the Dark World is an exercise in delight. The author writes with great charm and wit, rarely letting the narrative flag, and produces an attractive, well-researched biography of one of the best-known figures in Indian history. By shining a light on the many sides of this emperor — and in a book just the right length — Sharma has produced a winner. Read Akbar; you won’t be disappointed."
This book gives you a rich view of life during Akbar’s time; his triumphs and tribulations; his rage and his glory. And it will sweep you up in its raw detail and leave you breathless in its sweep of history. Sharma has managed to become both the Badauni and Abul Fazl of an age that transformed India forever.
Sharma unearths unusual, fascinating nuggets from Mughal chronicles and weaves them into an exquisitely told story of Akbar's remarkable life and vibrant court. A most enjoyable read.