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Bahadur Shah of Gujarat

A King in Search of a Kingdom

About The Book

Time has forgotten Bahadur Khan. History has condemned him as a drunken wastrel and overlooked his military genius.

Part man, part horse; part Hindu, part Muslim; part Rajput, part Gujarati; what was he like, really, this rebellious young man?

A warrior born, why did he refuse the most vital battle in history?

Why did he surrender the islands of Bombay to two centuries of Portuguese rule?

This is the story of that renegade prince, Bahadur, Shah of Gujarat.

When Vasco da Gama lands near Kozhikode on 20 May 1498, he seems scant more than a visiting trader, just another discourteous barbarian, hardly a threat. But the aughts of the new century bring seismic change. Portuguese violence on the coast escalates and piracy menaces the Spice Route. Gujarat, richest among Indian kingdoms, nourished by her eighty-seven ports, feels the tremors.

It is a time of shifting loyalties. Sultans wage war on land and forge uneasy entente at sea. Borders are redrawn, new kingdoms and principalities take shape. In Dilli, the throne of Hindustan is up for auction, and everybody is bidding. Alliances form and dissolve between Rajput, Lodhi, and Sharqi, while from across the mountains glares the Chagtai, Zahiruddin Babar. Into this tense arena strolls a teenager, Bahadur, Prince of Gujarat, exiled for his wildness; at nineteen, famous already for his prowess in battle. As battle lines are drawn at Panipat, veterans hold their breath. They know the fortunes of Hindustan depend on this untried youngster.

In this powerfully imagined narrative, Kalpish Ratna recreates the obscure signposts of Bahadur's life drawing facts from Indian histories. The language sparkles, filigreed with lapidary skill. In various narrative styles, myth and legend blend metamagically with the tragic events of medieval history. Bahadur, masterfully delineated in chiaroscuro, reflects the confused loyalties of young Indians today. The story of this medieval prince belongs in our own times.

About The Author

Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Syed are surgeons who write together as Kalpish Ratna, an almost anagram of their first names. Melding Farsi and Sanskrit, it means the pleasures of imagination.


Kalpish Ratna have written novels, short stories, nonfiction and essays over the last three decades. Their acclaimed writings include The Quarantine Papers, shortlisted for the Crossword Fiction Award in 2010; The Nalanda Chronicles; the short story collection Synapse. Uncertain Life & Sure Death, Once Upon A Hill and Room 000 look at Bombay with new eyes. Fat, The Secret Life of Zika Virus,A Crown of Thorns, and Gastronama examine the entanglements between our bodies, disease and the environment.  Kalpish Ratna have also written stories for children: Doctor Wrasse of Crystal Rock, Nyagrodha, and A Pandemonium in Pakshila.


For more about their work, visit

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S India (December 12, 2023)
  • Length: 409 pages
  • ISBN13: 9789392099953
  • Ages: 18 - 80

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