Book Review: Didda by Ashish Kaul

Book Name: Didda The Warrior Queen of Kashmir

Author: Ashish Kaul

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Rupa

Rating: 4/5

Book Blurb: A girl abandoned by her parents. A disabled princess who fights all odds to become the most feared warrior queen. A woman almost forced into Sati by her trusted prime Minister. A mother whose son brands her as a witch. This is the story of Rani Didda, the forgotten Hindu queen of undivided Kashmir. History is often unkind and cruel to women, especially women who wield power. Trampled by Wars and religious crusades, lies hidden the story of a glorious woman who was considered a harbinger of bad times when she was born but went on to become a legendary warriors saviour of Srinagar, the capital city of Kashmir. Didda: the warrior queen of Kashmir is the untold story of a woman’s rise to power during the tenth century. The legend of Didda is entwined with a life of solitary struggles against prejudice and patriarchy. She eventually went on to rule the unified Kashmir encompassing the lohar kingdom and Kashmir for a period of forty-four years, taking it to glorious heights and making it the most powerful kingdom in mediaeval Asia. The foundation laid by Didda helped Kashmir defeat the dreaded warlord Mahmud of ghaznavi twice.

Review: Very few people in India have heard about Didda. I had to do a google search just to check if the claims made by the author in the forward and note were real or not. So full marks to the author for selecting a topic about which practically nothing is known about in her own land.

The story is about Didda who has not been awarded the courtesy of even a footnote in the history of India. The author has therefore done a good job of writing about a ruler who has long been forgotten.

Didda ruled over Kashmir and managed to defeat all odds. The author tells the story from the start and how she helped in defending her land from invaders which would have been a mammoth task given the fact that she ruled over the land in ancient times when women rulers were a rarity.

“It was now Didda’s turn to perform Sati. As she started approaching the pyre, the crowd shouted to stop her. Narvahan also implored her to stop.”

The language skills of the author are pretty decent but the subject matter could have been researched in more detail. Nevertheless, this is one story that deserved to be told.

It was largely due to her efforts that Ghaznavi was repelled and Kashmir managed to hold its own against invaders.

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