Retired horticulturist, Santhe Narayanaswamy recently published Kannada translation of ‘Jahanara’ from Andrea Butenschol’s English version which was published in 1931. A story which touches many topics and has the best of romanticism, the author feels the book should be read by everyone, young and old.
He says, “The story is about an empress who couldn’t marry. She lived a life of spinsterhood and faced many problems. Her brothers forever quarrelled, and she was imprisoned for years. In those years of turmoil, she wrote her story and hid the manuscript in the Jassamen tower of Agra Fortress.”
Narayanaswamy read the English version of the book and was fascinated by the knowledge of Jahanara on various topics including Buddhism, Hinduism, humanities and nature.
“I have been a history buff since years. The book has a lot of details which many people would love to know about like about Birbal, Ashoka etc.” He further adds that the book also mentions a lot about plants including about the flower Narcissus. “I wasn’t even aware of this plant which she compares to Aurangzeb,” he details.
He took almost a year and translated the book into Kannada in 1996.
“Considering the historical importance of the document, the book was published by my friend A R Vinayaka of Sampada Publications in 2018.”
He adds that ‘Jahanara’, was an inspiring person who spoke of things which are relevant even today.
“She opposed prohibition of liquor, spoke about how there should be no wars against Hindus etc. She spoke about common people, birds and animals. At a point in the book, she mentions how a big part of her is Hindu,” he says.
Her romance with Raja Rao Chattarsal has been described as one of the most magical ones in the book, he says. “Jahanara dreamt of becoming Maharani of the Bundi by marrying Raja Chattarsal, but fate had other plans. The book has a lot of emotional scenes in it,” says the author.
Narayanaswamy faced many challenges while translating the book. “I read the book several times and took inspiration from ‘The Peacock Throne’ by Waldemar Hansen. I also travelled to different locations mentioned in the book to understand the text better.”