STORYTELLING: 4.5/5 ILLUSTRATIONS: 4.5/5 RELEVANCE AND VALUE: 5/5 OVERALL: 4.5/5
“The Hoysala style is known for architectural planning, detailed iconography, beautifully carved pillars and use of soapstone instead of sandstone. To replicate it will be no easy job.”– Professor Adam Hardy
For the uninitiated, Hoysala architecture is one of the best temple architecture you will ever see in India. Its carvings are exquisitely detailed and observant, and its temples are living poetry in stone.
The book begins in the year 1108 CE when King Ballala, burning with high fever, is lying on his deathbed in Dorasamudra, the glorious capital of the Hoysala kingdom (in present-day Karnataka).
As he bids his final farewell to his family, he reminisces about the glories of the past and frowns upon their current status, reduced to a much lesser condition by their enemies – the Chalukyas.
Dying without an heir, he urges his brother Prince Bittideva (later crowned King Vishnu Vardhan Hoysala) to once again restore the past glories of the kingdom.
As Vishnu Vardhan ascends the throne, his heart burns for his one true passion; a dream to unite and consolidate the kingdom from Kaveri to Tungabhadra, just as it once was. His wife is Queen Shantala, a peace-loving queen who knows the reality and the horrors of war and is steadfastly against any bloodshed.
As both the Queen and King follow separate ideologies and paths, the book shows the stark contrast in their lives, passions, and interests.
While the King succeeds in many subsequent battles, his hunger for power only grows more intense.
All the while, we see Shantala, mindful and benevolent even towards a deadly snake who comes to bite her.
As the King continues to wage war, the Queen decides to leave a permanent mark on history by undertaking the construction of several magnificent temple projects, the likes of which would never again be seen in India or for that matter, anywhere in the world.
The book is dedicated to the life and work of Queen Shantala, a kind, compassionate woman who was a visionary in her own right.
The book is a short read of under 35 pages, and just like any other classic Amar Chitra Katha edition, is full of vivid and beautiful illustrations. It not just celebrates the glory and magnificence of the Hoysala architecture but also pays a necessary tribute to the lady who made it possible for the world to witness its beauty.
The book is a must-read for children and adults alike so that they may reconnect to their Indian roots, and get to know about the rich ancient heritage of this great nation.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Amar Chitra Katha’s Shantala using the link below.