The Lord and Master of Gujarat – An Excerpt

The Lord and Master of Gujarat is set four years after The Glory of Patan, and unfolds at dizzying speed, abounding in conspiracies, heroism and romance. In the book, the kingdom of Patan is under attack from the army of Avanti. People have fled their villages to seek refuge in the city. Amidst the mounting panic, the arrival of Kaak, a young warrior from Laat, sets in motion a frantic chain of events.

Arguably K.M. Munshi’s best-known work, The Lord and Master of Gujarat deftly weaves state politics and battles with personal trials and tribulations into one glorious tapestry.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

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It was a freezing night in the winter of Samvat, 1154. The solemnly flowing waters of the Saraswati resounded fearfully in the stillness of the night. The moist breeze rising from the river made the atmosphere closer to the monsoon than to winter. It was a night when one would prefer to curl up at home next to one’s beloved. Yet, the bank across the city of Patan was occupied by about 400 to 500 people. Some tried to ward off the cold with bonfires; others slept or tried to sleep around the scattered fires. A few, not planning to sleep, sat curled up anxiously. In the darkness, the flickering of the flames cast eerie shadows and filled the night with dread. The whole scene appeared to evoke a gathering of ghouls.

Beside one of the bonfires, a young man sat half-reclined. His head rested on his shield, which lay on the ground. The style of his turban indicated that he belonged to Sorath. His sword lay near his face, covered with his sash. There was no sleep in his eyes. He sat staring at the fire, aiming an occasional woodchip and feeding the fire. He was alone. At a distance sat two men huddled against the tree. They were not talking to each other.

The young man appeared to be about twenty-five years old. His face was dark yet attractive. His eyes were large and forbidding. They sparkled with mischief every now and then.

His physique was strong and shapely. His attire, the ornaments on his wrists and arms, his earrings and the gold chain around his neck suggested that he was a man of means. He had the nonchalant air of an aristocratic warrior.

In a little while, the sound of a fast-approaching camel was heard, followed by the thud of a camel sitting down. Silence fell once again. The young man by the fire sat unperturbed. It appeared that there was nothing more important to him than throwing woodchips into the fire.

A man appeared from the direction of the sound. He was in a hurry and, seeing the young man, turned to him.

The new arrival appeared to be in his early twenties. He was well-armed—sword and dagger at his waist, a shield on his back and a large staff in his hand. He turned towards the young man and for a moment both looked at each other. With the exception of their turbans, their attires were similar, although the newcomer had hardly any ornaments. Both were tall, wellbuilt and attractive. Their eyes shone with a similar sparkle; their broad foreheads were adorned with similar sandalwood marks. Both appeared to be Gujarati warriors who had fought under the glorious Solankis in their conquest of Gujarat. Yet there was a lot that distinguished the two. Their personalities were clearly different. The newcomer was slightly taller, his eyes smaller and sharper, his body firm and lithe. On the other hand, the man who sat there had a rounder face. The flare of his nostrils and large eyes gave him a leonine appearance. He exuded courage and power. The newcomer’s sharp eyes, chiselled jawline and aquiline nose lent him the countenance of a bird of prey. He exuded concentration and caution. If the former looked fearless and calm, the latter looked farsighted and composed. Both were exemplars of characteristics associated only with men of character—one leonine, the other aquiline—one the king of the jungle, and the other the king of the sky.

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