Book Review: Women Who Ruled India – Leaders, Warriors, Icons by Archana Garodia Gupta

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The history of India, more often than not, is a history of the men who were in charge. Largely forgotten are the women who, even centuries earlier, shaped the fates of entire kingdoms

With a lifelong passion for books, languages, travel, and history, Archana Garodia Gupta has a knack for weaving delightful nuggets of information into engaging tales. A leading national quizzer, she has won the ‘Champion of Champions’ title from BBC’s Mastermind India. She regularly writes articles on history and business for magazines and was seen as a member of the expert panel on Kaun Banega Crorepati. She was the national president of the FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO) in 2015–16, where she set up many programs for the empowerment of Indian women.  

The book by Archana Garodia Gupta time-travels to the history of India and revisits chapters of women who ruled India. The status of women in India has evolved since ancient times. We find the importance of women in the Vedas. Women have been regarded as a symbol of spirituality in our scriptures. She revives 20 such powerful figures from the archives, offering us a glimpse of their fascinating lives. Among them are Begum Samru, a courtesan who went on to become the head of a mercenary army and the ruler of Sardhana; Didda of Kashmir, known for her keen political instinct and ruthlessness that spared no one; Rani Abbakka of Ullal, the fearless queen who took on Portuguese colonizers in their heyday; and Rani Mangammal of Madurai, the famed administrator who built alliances at a time when going to war was the order of the day.

The events are depicted in a way to give the feel as if they have happened in the recent past, and not centuries ago. The revealing pieces of information, which Gupta has unearthed, make one wonder, where did these strong feminists get their strength at a time and age when feminism, as a concept, was far from existence. Simultaneously, one realizes that they were feminists in their own right.

The story about the iconic warrior women who ruled India is so much more than just facts about twenty brave women. It is inspirational and iconoclastic. The language is simple, lucid and the flowy narration makes the book all the more interesting. The book is informative yet the descriptions are so to the point and precise in nature that it does not make the readers feel bored. It’s a great compilation of the history of some of the lesser-known women who made a mark in India. I really enjoyed reading this book.

This beautiful non-fiction has a feminist approach and is absolutely an informative yet delightful read. I totally recommend this book. If you love reading about history and like to know more about the iconic and powerful women who ruled India, this book is for you.

Pranali Mahindrakar 
Student , Pune

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