Ashoka and the Muddled Messages by Natasha Sharma is another book in the History Mystery series. After reviewing Raja Raja and the swapped sacks by the same author, I was only curious to read another in the same series.
Emperor Ashoka (304-232 BCE) was the third king of the Maurya Dynasty. He ruled a truly massive kingdom that stretched from the Hindu Kush to the Bay of Bengal. It was India’s first great empire. It is not just that Ashoka ably ruled this huge empire but the quality of social justice that he brought to his already strong administration.
Remorseful after his bloody campaign and conquest of Kalinga, Ashoka embraced Buddhism. Thereafter reverence for life, tolerance, compassion and peaceful co-existence were the cornerstones of his administration. Under him the earliest know bans on slavery and capital punishment as well as environmental regulations came into place.
Extract from the NCERT Text Book “Our Pasts – I”, Chapter 8: Ashoka, The Emperor Who Gave Up War
This is a typical history text version of teaching history.
Look at how Natasha goes about doing it by introducing some imagination and adding a fun element.
Ashoka has a problem. He sends scribes across his kingdom to inscribe his edicts on rocks. But before they are inscribed, the messages get muddled and the exact opposite of what he wants to say gets inscribed. First it is Ujjaini where the wrong message is inscribed, then Toshali and Suvarnagiri, followed by Taxila, Uttarapatha and Dakshinapatha and finally Bodh Gaya.
The furious king entrusts his ten women bodyguards to find who does this. Meanwhile he has to face the wrath of his youngest queen, Tishyarakshita for instructing the palace cook to prepare vegetarian food. How does he eventually find out who muddles his messages? Do read this engaging book to find out.
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- Subtle history lessons in a funny tale of coloured beards and tantrum-throwing queens. I gathered so many facts that never registered in my mind through history lessons imparted as in NCERT textbooks (see excerpt above) from this book. The edicts tell us about the ideas he wanted to spread. The range of his kingdom is known by the places to which his scribes go to inscribe his messages.
- Ashoka had only women as personal bodyguards!!! Women power during the Mauryan Age!
- Tanvi Bhat’s illustrations are perfect accompaniments which contribute to the humour in the story. I liked the Goddess of Iron picture and the tantrum-throwing queen sketch, in particular.
- So many character titles and roles for people employed in the palace, that I did not know of before. Did you know that the king had a bath attendant, the snapaka and a shampooer, the samvahaka? What a luxurious life!
- I like the “Fact or Fiction” section at the end of the book, where the author clarifies the facts in the book and the fiction.
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- I am gradually becoming a Natasha fan, if I am not one already. Wonder why! Though this book did not move me to giggles as the Raja Raja book did, it did engage me completely.
Ashoka, the Great!
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Duckbill in return for an honest review. Thanks Duckbill.