The Last Queen ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

There are many characters and incidents in history that get buried under the sands of time. One such largely forgotten character from history was Maharani Jindan, the last Queen of Punjab, wife of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the Lion Of Punjab.

The story moves from a village in Punjab to the courts of Lahore, to uncertainty in Jammu to exile in Nepal and finally to cold Britain. “The Last Queen” traces the journey of young Jindan who grew up poor in a village in Punjab. Her father, the royal kennel keeper of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, decided to use her beauty to his advantage and brought her to Lahore. He made sure she caught the Maharajah’s eye. Her subsequent marriage alleviated her to Queen, making her navigate the treacherous court politics. After the death of Ranjit Singh, she tried to save her son, young Dalip Singh but fails. Betrayal by Gulab Singh leads to the defeat of the Sikhs against the British. Young Dalip Singh is forced to handover the Kohinoor to the British. Rani Jindan is separated from her son and spends years of exile in Nepal. Mother and son are united, once Jindan agree to all the conditions set by the British. She travels with a now anglicised Dalip Singh to England, where she finally dies in a foreign land.

History has always been written by the victor and is never kind to the ones who lost. Maharani Jindan was one such character. “The Lost Queen” attempts to shed a sympathetic light on a person vilified by the Britishers and largely forgotten by the Indians. Maharani Jindan was an inspiration in trying to quell the British threat. Even though she failed to defeat the British, she did make them uncomfortable.

Chitra Banerjee has tried to show the real Maharani Jindan Kaur. Her missteps, her affairs, her weakness for her brother have all been portrayed, along with her courage, patriotism. Her longing for news of Dalip Singh in the long years of exile is poignant. While she does accept the terms of the British to meet Dalip Singh, she refuses to bow down or give up her Indianness. The scenes between elderly Jindan and Dalip Singh were particularly poignant. Jindan’s helplessness in seeing Dalip Singh under the influence of Queen Victoria makes the reader’s heart pain. The writing flows as the reader becomes one with Jindan. The focus is firmly on Jindan. The reader can feel her passion for Ranjit Singh, her love for Dalip Singh, and the agony of exile and separation. As always, Chitra Banerjee’s prose engrosses the reader, the words flowing fluidly.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has been one of my favourite authors ever since I picked up “Mistress Of Spices”. If “The Last Queen” is compared with her previous works, then there is feeling that something is amiss. The reason for this might be because, in this book, the author needs to stick to the facts and not give a free rein to her creativity. However, if “The Last Queen” is judged only on its merit and the quality of its prose, then it is a book worthy of being read. It stands head and shoulders above the books of historical fiction currently flooding the literary scene in India. Author Chitra Banerjee has succeeded in resurrecting a forgotten chapter of Indian History and giving proper due to the last Queen, Maharani Jindan Kaur.

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon for August,2021.

8 thoughts on “The Last Queen ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    1. You didn’t like “Mistress Of Spices”? Or Vine Of desire? I do believe her earlier novels were better. But even then if u compare with the current crop I think her writing skills are far superior

      Liked by 1 person

    1. “feast of roses” and “the twentieth wife” are both excellent. The importance of Last Queen is because it picks a character whom the history almost forgot


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