About the Book
Legendary courtesan Amrapali's life story is as enigmatic and extraordinary as her beauty and grace. Found abandoned under a mango tree as an infant, the twists and turns of fate led her to become the Nagarvadhu, the most sought-after yet morally reviled courtesan of the kingdom of Vaishali. In Birth of the Bastard Prince, the sequel to the riveting The Legend of Amrapali, Anurag Anand explores Amrapali's eventful life as the Nagarvadhu. He describes in thrilling detail the war between Vaishali and Magadha, in which Amrapali played a crucial role; traces her love affair with Bimbisara, the emperor of Magadha, and the birth of their son Vimala Kondanna; reveals the palace intrigues and conspiracies that led to Amrapali's tribulations; and finally explains how Amrapali found the solace and happiness she so desired. Weaving together facts with fiction, written with a contemporary flavour, Birth of the Bastard Prince is an enchanting exploration of Amrapali's life as a courtesan and a mother, and her spiritual awakening in the Buddhist order.
About the Author
Anurag Anand is a bestselling author-cum-corporate professional presently residing in the millennium city, Gurgaon. He has authored books panning across genres such as self-help, contemporary fiction and historical fiction. Some of his better known titles include The Legend of Amrapali, The Quest for Nothing, Where the Rainbow Ends and Of Tattoos and Taboos.
With the passage of time, history, plagued by the erosion of collective memories and polluted by unrestrained human imagination, tends to lose its sheen and lustre. It is in these fading alleys that some of the most intriguing and enigmatic characters of the past can be found dwelling. The absence of accurate records from their time is usually made up for by the layers of fiction and fantasy their stories accumulate as they are passed down from generation to generation.
Amrapali, the legendary courtesan from the ancient kingdom of Vaishali, is one such name that stands tall in the labyrinth of our fast-fading past. Stories of this divine beauty's valour, her charisma, her benevolence and generosity can still be heard echoing within the households of the Indo-Genetic plains. The echoes, though, are now waning.
Therefore I embarked upon this journey to recreate her legend, armed only with the little available information about her and my effervescent imagination. My endeavour was to tell a story :hat was real, devoid of the exaggeration which is responsible for 'slurring the divide between ancient history and mythology, and vet paint Amrapali in the same strokes and shades as her widely envisioned persona.
In the first book, The Legend of Amrapali, I have dwelt upon :or early life, the challenges she had to face and the atrocities she :ad to endure by sheer virtue of being raised in a poor family at a time when women were mere slaves to the wishes of the men folk. I have traced her forced ascension to the coveted yet morally deplorable title of the Nagarvadhu, the astuteness which enabled her to avenge her inflictions and the strength of her character that enabled her, a mere danseuse, to indelibly record her name in the glorious chapters of Aryavart's history. And this, bearing in mind that she shared her living years with men like Gautam Buddha and Lord Mahavira, men of towering stature and deeds, was no mean feat.
While this book carries on from where The Legend of Amrapali ends, I have attempted to make it a stand-alone read. The references to the prequel have been deliberately kept at a minimum and where unavoidable, they have been duly supplemented with details to avoid breaking the rhythm. And for those who are keen on getting a flavour of The Legend ofAmrapali before embarking upon this journey the summary below should prove useful.
The kingdom of Vaishali was a confederacy of 7,707 small khandas, each ruled by a family belonging to one of the eight prominent Kshatriya clans of the region. The patriarchs of these families, or the Rajas, comprised the Vajji Assembly, which convened once every year to elect the Vajji Gana Parishad or the People's Council of Vaishali. This Governing Council, helmed by a democratically elected King, was responsible for the overall governance of the kingdom. While the respective Rajas maintained their own fleet of soldiers and were accountable for their own Khanda and its residents, all matters of common interest such as delivery of justice, promotion of trade with other kingdoms and defence against external aggressors fell within the purview of the Governing Council, making it the supreme authority of Vaishali. Resultantly, the elected members of the council wielded considerable influence and power over the populace, the King being the ultimate symbol of absoluteness.
The city of Vaishali was the seat of the Lichchavi clan, the most powerful among the eight Kshatriya clans, and also that of the People's Council of Vaishali. Vaishali, with its proximity to the coalescence of the Ganga and Gandaki rivers, was a not only a major centre of inland trade, but its rich tracts of agricultural lands and mines, brimming with precious stones and gems, had made it one of the most prosperous kingdoms of Aryavart.
The opulence of Vaishali was brazenly on display as the city prepared for the coronation of its newly elected king, Manudeva. The young Lichchavi icon was taking over from his father and brought with him the promise of youthful innovation and further prosperity. The ceremony took place at the Abhishek Pushkarini, the coronation tank in the centre of the city, where, after the ceremonial dip in the waters of the tank, Manudeva was crowned. Hordes of cheering citizens had gathered to witness the momentous event and their celebrations continued well into the evening, shifting to chaupals and the toddy shops lining the back alleys of the main marketplace once the King had addressed the gathering and retired to his palace.
When the sun had completely receded from the horizon, a young farmer, Somdutt, bid farewell to his companions and tottered out of one of the toddy shops to head home. The trees in his mango orchard were laden with small green fruits and he intended to check on them before retiring for the night. Little did he know that his visit to the orchard was going to forever alter the course of his life. No sooner had he stepped into the periphery of the orchard than he was startled by a high-pitched and fervent wail. Instinctively he followed the sound, only to find an infant, a baby girl, wrapped in an old blanket, placed under one of his mango trees. After several unsuccessful calls to summon a claimant, Somdutt was left with no option but to carry the girl home with him.
The next morning he and his wife Saudamini once again set out to locate the baby's parents, but despite several hours of asking around, they remained as far away from finding them as when they had left home. Crestfallen, they headed towards their neighbourhood temple to seek guidance from Swamiji, the temple priest. Their dilemma was palpable. On the one hand, the baby was the answer to many years of prayer and on the other, they knew that they could not deprive her biological parents of their child.
`This girl is a gift of the gods and is destined to be raised by the two of you,' Swamiji pronounced after carefully scrutinizing the lines on the baby's palms and her forehead. Saudamini was overwhelmed. Somdutt was overcome with emotions too. Their prayers and the innumerable fasts that Saudamini had kept had failed to rescue them from the curse of leading a childless life. And just when their hopes had begun to dwindle, this little bundle of joy had fallen into their laps unexpectedly. However, in the flow of their ecstasy, they failed to take note of Swamiji's words of caution. 'Beware, 0 Somdutt, as for every ounce of happiness that the gods shower upon you, they take away something of equal value. Such is the natural law of balance,' the old priest had said. It was Swamiji who gave the baby the name that would leave its mark on the pages of Aryavart's history. Amrapali—the one raised by a mango tree.
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