Agnyatha by Krishnamurthy Hanuru: The memoir of Tipu’s Unknown Commander

Translated from Kanada by L.S.Shankar Swamy, and written by Krishnamurthy Hanuru, this novel traces the life of a commander under Tipu Sultan’s reign.  This book also won the prestigious Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award.

The unknown commander was very close to the Sultan, and was responsible for maintaining law and order in the kingdom. The novel starts off with Tipu Sultan offering his commander to bring real tigers to be kept in the palace. Afraid of letting him down, the soldier sets off with his troop into the interiors of the forest and spends days on the lookout for one. Finally, the commander emerged victorious and took back a ferocious tiger, caged, and hungry. This is just one of the many instances where the commander showed utmost courage. However, the commander’s life was a series of brutal killings, merciless acts carried on the innocent villagers, and animal-like behaviour with the women. He would loot the poor, treat the women with scorn, and show no remorse. It was when the commander was faced with the same fate, he realized his deeds.

In politics, trust or being trustworthy is similar to a cat lovingly licking its newly born young one to death.

We also get to read about the commander’s family life, his relationship with his father that was always volatile, and how he didn’t care about his wife or having a family.  His rash nature, fueled by the desire to win and please his kind overruled any emotion for him.

The novel has a blend of history, folklore, and myth giving the readers wonderful insights about India’s rich heritage.  The cover illustration has been beautifully described inside the book by the author with each and every detail mentioned with precision.

However, despite the rich context, I was finding it difficult to concentrate on the book. That’s the downside of translated books. It loses its essence. There were a few chapters that seemed confusing.

If you’re into historical fiction and keen on learning about India’s folklore, myths, and traditions during Tipu Sultan’s time, this would be a good pick.

Author: Krishnamurthy Hanuru

Publisher: Bee.books

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 177

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3/5

Source: Review copy


“There is nothing like this novel in Kannada literature. Starting as a chronicle of a soldier’s life in the times of Tipu Sultan, the narrative moves with astonishing vitality across time and space. Its supple structure, its shifting locations and perspectives, the freedom with which the narrative roams over different and seemingly irreconcilable genres—such as myth, history and folklore—create a world which is at once mesmerizing, baffling and yet deeply ‘real’. Hanuru’s scholarship and imagination enable him to place each episode in a precise time and place. Yet these worlds, which seem so apart and autonomous, morph into each other and open up a vast canvas, rich and vibrant, leavened by the writer’s sensitivity to human foibles.


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