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My book was inspired by my travels around India: Alex Rutherford


Updated: July 12, 2013, 5:12 PM IST
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My book was inspired by my travels around India: Alex Rutherford
Author Alex Rutherford joined IBNLive readers on her book 'Empire of the Moghul: The Serpent's Tooth'.

This is the fifth in a series of novels about the ruthless warrior emperors who ruled much of central Asia through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Moghul emperors are still bloodthirsty and entirely ruthless; they control a quarter of the world's population and have wealth beyond imagining. But this is the final flowering of a doomed empire and, while Shah Jahan mourns his dead wife and obsesses over the Taj Mahal, her monument, his son Aurangzeb is planning to take his father's throne, by any means necessary. Author Alex Rutherford joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on her book 'Empire of the Moghul: The Serpent's Tooth'.

Q. Who was your archives source 'your Indian guide' who wrote on you mind which you xeroxed in printing press Alex Rutherford? Asked by: ajay lohar

A. My archive sources wherever possible were the chronicles of the Moghul emperors themselves - either written by themselves like the amazing Baburnama or by their court chroniclers or members of their families like Humayun's sister Gulbadan.

Q. Who and what inspired you to write this book? Asked by: Anu

A. The inspiration came from my travels around India - of coming across the monuments left behind by the Moghuls - their palaces and fortresses, tombs and mosques - and wanting to understand more about them. As I started to read about the dynasty and this pivotal period in history I got hooked.

Q. Your novel is a historical record or a mix of fiction and history? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The Serpent's Tooth is an historical novel, based on extensive research into the period. The main characters are real and so are the main events. Where I've 'invented', I've tried to stay true to the spirit of the time and what actually happened. My note at the back of the book tells the reader where I have interpreted and filled gaps where the sources are silent.

Q. Was the Arabian horses power to be swift in a battle main reason for the invading moguls to win battle against the local kings of various states in the sub continent? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The mobility of the Moghuls came from their famous horses which 'sweated blood' and which you can still see in central Asia (I rode one for five minutes, scary but fun) But what really made the difference when Babur invaded into Hindustan was that he brought with him cannon, muskets and gunpowder (acquired from the Turks) which the northern Indian rulers didn't yet have.

Q. Earlier to Moghul rule the sub continent did not have democracy. Was people's participation encouraged by mogul emperor's in framing policies for the state? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The Moghuls were autocrats - they would not have understood our concept of democracy. But I was very struck by the great Akbar's 'inclusiveness', involving in the government of his empire many people of talent regardless of religion, background etc.

Q. Was Humayun the most Humane of the Moghul emperors? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Humayun was very humane towards his family - too humane some might say - but as an emperor his reign was so disjointed I'm not sure he was really tested. On humanity my vote goes to Akbar for his acts in the mature stages of his reign

Q. The conquerors from across to the indian sub continent had come for wealth and ruling over territories. Did the King have a direct role in spreading of the Islamic religion? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. You're right, the Moghuls came looking for wealth - and found it. As far as spreading religion was concerned, Akbar was very interested in exploring the common ground between religions - hence founding the Din Alahi - but none of the first five emperors in my view actively proselytised though of course they had their 'ulama' - their council of clerics.

Q. What are your plans about the next book on Aurangzeb? Asked by: Mrigank

A. I am currently researching the sixth book in the series which will indeed be about Aurangzeb and will focus both on the dynamics within the immediate Moghul family and the great story of Shivaji and his impact on the Moghul empire

Q. Akbar is credited to have been 'secular' in out look and even founded teen Ilahi. did this help in better administration of the state? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I think Akbar was quite secular - he was very interested in the common ground between religion hence as you say the Din Ilahi - without being especially religious himself. He was certainly prepared to defy his clerics to marry into royal Rajput houses in the interests of binding the disparate people and religions of his empire together.

Q. Jealousy, deceit, revenge and such acts were common in Moghul Dynasty to get or stay in power. Why was the throne always under threat? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The great conundrum is why despite their power and wealth every generation suffered from that vicious circle of in-fighting. Part of the problem in my view was that the Moghuls brought from Central Asia the code of 'Throne or Coffin', They had no tradition of the eldest son inheriting and hence princes expected to have fight their brothers. Many were only half-brothers of course. The sad thing is that in The Serpent's Tooth the warring princes were full brothers but that counted for nothing.

First Published: July 12, 2013, 5:12 PM IST
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