“Durgesh Nandini” is the first Bengali novel written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Having heard about it first time during school days, I had a perpetual fascination to it. Over a period of time, I read Bankim’s “Anandmath” first and then, his first novel and the only one in English – “Rajmohan’s wife” next. I kept hearing about Durgesh Nandini through online sources periodically. Finally, got a chance to read it now! Thanks to the friend who lent me this book.
I prefer to classify it as a Historical Thriller, if there exists such a genre. It has all the requirements of a thriller novel, full of several twists and turns. Its a tale of the relations and wars between the Mughals, Rajputs and Pathans. Maharaja Mansingh of Amber is assigned the duty of checking the advent of Pathans in to Bengal area by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Pathans already occupied the Orissa area. Jagat Singh, young son of Mansingh is sent on this mission. In this process, he meets Tilottama, the daughter of Virendra Singh, ruler of Ghar Mandaran. Its love at first sight for both of them, though owing to a flash back, its impossible for the marriage to happen, due to a rivalry between Virendra Singh and Man Singh. There are Bimala, the maid of Virendra Singh and Abhiram Swami, his spiritual advisor. In a sudden twist in tale, when Jagat is on a secret meeting with Tilottama in her palace, Pathans attack Virendra singh for not siding with them in the war with Mughals. Jagat is taken captive, despite putting up a valiant fight. Virendra Singh is beheaded by Katlu Khan, the Pathan Ruler. The rest of the story is on how Bimala takes revenge on Katlu Khan. Who is Bimala? Why should a servant maid avenge Virendra Singh’s death? What is the fate of Tilottama? What happens to Jagat – all this form rest of the story.
It appeared to be 200+ pages, but, perhaps the font size was bigger. I read it quicker than expected. The narration style was gripping enough. It was racy and I had the feeling of “what happens next?” all the time, throughout. It had a good dose of History in it too, nevertheless, told in a very interesting way. I don’t know how much of this book is fact and how much of it is fiction, though. One thing that still baffles me is the name – Durgesh Nandini. I don’t know why the book is named so. Further, I expected something else from the novel. Hence, for no mistake of its, I was dissappointed with the novel. But, then, Bankim and “Durgesh Nandini” are enough to drive you in to reading this. The theme and narration will keep you glued to it.
Verdict: Its a very good novel for the first read. Further, it makes you more curious about Bankim and encourages to read more of him.
Name: Durgesh Nandini
Author: Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
English Translation: B.M.Bhalla
Publishers: India Log (www.indialog.co.in)