Author Aruna Chakravarti explores the Bhawal case in her latest historical novel
on Aug 08, 2022
Inspired by the legendary case of Bhawal Sannyasi and its striking recreation of pre-partition Bengal, The Mendicant Prince: A Novel presents a fascinating tale of dual identity and the inexplicable peculiarities of fate.
Published by Pan Macmillan India, this historical novel, was written by award-winning author Aruna Chakravarti. It is a fictionalized account of the Bhawal Sannyasi case, one of the longest cases ever fought during the British Raj.
The Bhawal court case was a pre-Independence era case about the identity of a sannyasi (or Hindu religious ascetic) who was said to be the heir to one of the last major zamindari estates in Dhaka (now Bangladesh).
“I first heard the story of Bhawal when I was only ten years old. But even at that tender age, it had a huge impact and stayed with me for decades... Some distant friends of the Bhawal family urged me to write a book on the famous legal case," Chakravarti told PTI.
“It seemed like too difficult a project, too complex. But in the utter silence and isolation I was encapsulated in during COVID, I was able to find the discipline and focus needed to complete the project. When I decided to write the book, it literally took over my life. I couldn't think of anything else."
In 1921, a half-naked, ash-stained sannyasi appeared in eastern British Bengal. Residents soon identified him as the second Kumar of Bhawal, a man believed to have died twelve years earlier. Thus, one of the most extraordinary and perplexing legal cases had begun in the history of India and the Raj era.
Having previously written fictional stories, including the critically acclaimed and best-selling The Inheritors, Jorasanko, and Daughters of Jorasanko, Chakravarti said that “blending of history and fiction has to be seamless” while writing a historical novel.
“Intensive research is a must, since data on well-known people are in the public domain. There's no way liberties can be taken with them. The fictional component is complicated. The ethos, characters and situations of this period are first conceived within a factual framework and then allowed to grow and develop with the flow of the novel.”
“The process is not planned. There is no strategy involved. The world the author recreates, is from a partially known past and gains depth and richness as the work progresses,” explained the Sahitya Akademi Award-winning author.
The Mendicant Prince is currently available for sale across online and offline bookstores.