Nov 12, 2013


One of the questions I get frequently asked these days is – ‘how historically accurate is the book?’ I find it a harder question to answer than I originally thought. If I were to break it up, here are some statements I am comfortable making.

I have tried hard not to be anachronistic – for example, there are obviously no cars  but there are no punkahs either because punkahs were very likely introduced post this period in the south. Uma travels in a palanquin, reads the newspapers of that time and eats food that is consistent with the time period. Language and attitude of the characters could arguably be ahead of the period though I have tried to make sure they are plausible if not probable.

Most of the places are real. The fort is based on the mahal in Madurai [that boasts of massive pillars as described in the book]. There is supposedly even a tunnel or two.  Madras during this time frame was very likely the way it is described in the book; ‘Madras rediscovered’ and ‘ Nabobs’ are two excellent books that I relied on for my descriptions along with paintings from that period and visits to actual sites.

I could safely say characters with speaking parts are imaginary. Even though the names Lindsay, Petrie, Trevelyan etc. are famous and commonly found in the accounts of the time period, the characters are not based on any actual person(s).   I chose those names mainly because they sounded authentic. Bits of information casually thrown about like Cornwallis’s arrival in India, India bill in the parliament, Edmund Burke etc. are based on real events.

Now the battles.. the initial siege of Madurai is fictional. There were many smaller battles but not in Madurai. I'd consider this to be the biggest deviation from accuracy. I wanted to give Uma an outsider perspective and so freely set her there. 

The siege of the fort atop the hill during the march towards Srirangapatna is set in a fictional fort – but it is based on the real siege of Nandidrug and Savandrug. The final battle is very much along the lines the events played out. The sepoys did actually cross Kaveri and approach Srirangapatna  very much similar to the way Ashton and his forces do. 

The royal artillery museum in London holds the war spoils that were received after this war.

November 12, 2013