After reading and enjoying A Chola Adventure by Anu Kumar in the Girls of India series of Puffin, I promptly bought the other two books in the series – A Mauryan Adventure by Subhadra Sen Gupta and A Harappan Adventure by Sunila Gupte. A reader’s block (yes, I had one) made me postpone reading them for several months and finally, I overcame my reader’s block by reading this book.
Set in the 3rd Century BCE, Pataliputra, the capital of the Mauryan empire, this adventure is that of Madhura, a twelve-year old girl. Madhura lives in Pataliputra during the reign of King Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty. This is the period after Ashoka’s Kalinga War that transformed him into a Buddhist.
Madhura’s father, who was a solidier in the King’s army, dies in the Kalinga war. Kartik, her brother, travels frequently, because of which she spends most of her time with her mother, who works in the palace. While her mother works in the chambers of Queen Mahadevi, she is the maid and companion of Princess Sanghamitra.
Madhura finds life boring. She dreams of travelling across the country like her brother Kartik, who is a trader. She wants to grow up to become a soldier, fight with swords and ride horses. She is daring and even dares to take the princess out of the palace to eat street-food from road-side shops. They are caught and the chief maid, Kani is very angry. The incident gets reported to Queen Mahadevi as well, who takes a more understanding stand towards it.
When Queen Mahadevi decides to go on a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya, Madhura and her mother finally get a chance to travel with her brother. They set out on a caravan to Vidisha, along with some companions. On the way, mysterious things happen. Tilaka, a fat man who secretively gave a bundle of cloth containing some writing and some gold and silver coins to Kartik when they were in Pataliputra, joins them midway in the trip. Madhura hears some allusions about Kartik working for the king.
Madhura is determined to find the truth and starts questioning her brother. Kartik reveals that he works as a spy for the king and he is now going on a mission to deliver some letters to the Prior of the monastery at Vidisha.
When they reach Vidisha, things take a tumultuous turn. The Prior visits him secretively with an armed guard and feels that his life is in danger. He urges Kartik to go to Ujjaini where the governor Prince Kunala resides and check the accounts.
Kartik, accompanied by his family, goes to Ujjaini, whereas Tilaka goes back to report the turn of events to the King. What does Kartik encounter at Ujjaini? Danger is in the air. Madhura has the opportunity to experience some of the everyday encounters of her brother – a suspicious-looking chamberlain, a trader who is a regular customer, a traitor in close quarters and a singer who doubles up as an informant.
When Kartik goes missing one night, excitement unfolds followed by drama.
Find out if all gets well in the end. Go ahead and read the book.
+ + +
- I liked the historical backdrop of the story. Characters that remain as just historical data without characterization in my mind suddenly acquire a face, get dressed up in finery and start exhibiting their traits. For instance, Sanghamitra, the princess is bored of being restrained in the palace. Though she has all that she can ask for, she has little freedom to step out of the palace, or do anything as she wished. Isn’t that natural of a young girl?
- Some logical questions get answered in passing: Ashoka transformed into a Buddhist after the Kalinga War. But what happened to his subjects? Did he force them to transform too?
- The language flows smoothly; the descriptions are vivid.
– – –
- Though the story is good as an adventure, as part of the Girls of India series, I would have preferred Madhura to be an integral part of the adventure than be a mere onlooker. My expectations were high, probably because of Raji’s character in A Chola Adventure. Raji was not the sole heroine of the story, but still had a role to play, whereas Madhura’s role is almost insignificant.
Adventure, but not that of a girl.