Book Review: ‘Heroines of History’ by Nikita Puri

Rediscovering India's Unsung Heroines: A Journey Through Time, Courage, and Resilience


Book Title: Heroines of History: Stories of India’s Princesses
Author: Nikita Puri
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 978-9357024815
Date Published: Sept. 11, 2023
Price: INR 249

Heroines of History by Nikita Puri Book Cover

Book Review

In India, gender roles have been shaped by centuries of intricate beliefs, myths, and rituals. Surprisingly, even within the royalty, these traditional norms held sway. Patriarchal customs and social traditions relegated women to non-administrative roles. The inheritance of power typically followed a father-to-son lineage, resulting in predominantly male courts. Daughters primarily served as instruments to forge marital alliances between kingdoms or to grace the court as ornamental figures alongside the men who defined their identity, be it their fathers or husbands. The only scenario where a woman could ascend to the throne was acting as a regent after her husband’s passing until her eldest son reached the age of succession.

Although this was the prevailing norm, as expected, there were a few remarkable exceptions. Notably, figures like Jhansi Ki Rani, Maharani Gayatri Devi, and Rani Lakshmibhai gained widespread respect through their heroic deeds and etched their names into the annals of history.

However, many royal women have gone unnoticed, their contributions unacknowledged by history. Fortunately, for those willing to delve deeper, several princesses and female warriors left their mark on India’s history and played a significant role in shaping it. This book is a tribute to these women, the unfortunate few who didn’t find a place in the official timeline of Indian history.

Heroines of History: Stories of India’s Princesses” is a book by Nikita Puri that celebrates the lives and achievements of 8 remarkable women who shaped the history of India. The book is a collection of biographical sketches that span different eras and regions, from ancient Kashmir to modern Bengal. The book introduces the reader to some of India’s most fascinating and inspiring princesses, who were not just passive spectators but active participants and leaders in their own right.

The book is a well-researched and engaging read that brings to light the stories of women who have often been overlooked or forgotten by mainstream history. The author has done a commendable job of presenting each case’s facts and context while highlighting the challenges and struggles these women face in a patriarchal society. The book also explores the themes of love, loyalty, courage, rebellion, and resilience that define these heroines of history.

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The book is divided into 8 chapters, each focusing on one princess. Some of the princesses featured in the book are:

Didda, the queen regent of Kashmir, ruled for five decades and expanded her kingdom through diplomacy and warfare.

Gulbadan Begum, Babur’s daughter, and Humayun’s sister, wrote a memoir of her life and times in the Mughal court.

Noor Inayat Khan, the great-great-granddaughter of Tipu Sultan, became a spy for the British during World War II and was executed by the Nazis.

Sophia Duleep Singh, the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, became a suffragette and fought for women’s rights in Britain.

The book is written in simple, lucid language that makes it accessible to many readers. The book also includes some photographs and illustrations that enhance the visual appeal of the book. The book is a valuable addition to the genre of biographical literature in India and deserves a wide readership.

Overall, “Heroines of History: Stories of India’s Princesses” is an informative and inspiring book that pays tribute to the women who have impacted India’s history and culture. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about the hidden gems of India’s past.

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