Venketesh Ramakrishann, a prolific bi-lingual writer, is the author of Gods, Kings and Slaves, a historical fiction set during the most tumultuous period of Tamil Nadu. Chronicling the amazing career of a young boy called Ram Chand who lives in Gujarat and a base-born prince in Tamil Nadu, Venketesh weaves a wonderful story that is as engrossing as it is poignant.
Check out his interview here –
How much research was involved in bringing about this book and how long did it take?
Lots of research had to be done because the story scape was very wide. I had to cover two widespread empires that were as different as chalk and cheese. It took me five years to research and write the story.
Was Veera Pandyan really an illegitimate heir?
Historians are not able to agree which prince was the actual ‘illegitimate heir’. But there is no doubt about the fact that there was a clash between two princes over the issue of legitimacy.
How much of this story is fiction and history?
I would say about 50 -50. The main story of Malik Kafur’s raids and war are very much true. Many characters are also true while some were fictionalized.
Did Malik Kafur really take away Meenakshi idol (from Meenakshi Temple in Madurai) along with him?
This was purely fiction. It was a take off on the legend that said that King Tughlaq took the Ranganathar statue from Srirangam.
How did Mallik Kafur die according to history?
He was killed when he tried to eliminate the khilji dynasty soon after Allaudin died.
The castration scene of Mallik Kafur was a very painful episode in the whole book. What were your thoughts when you wrote that scene? Did you ever think that you could have avoided it?
I was nervous about two things. Gods, Kings and Slaves had a eunuch as a hero and the castration scene. It was one of the most poignant scenes in the novel and I was glad that it finally they came out very well. I couldn’t have avoided this scene at all. The book would have lost its depth.
Did you do any special research on eunuchs and their characteristics before you wrote this book?
A lot of research went into it but sadly much of it was edited. I had to read through many arab and ottoman books that have chapters on eunuchs. Eunuchs were very important clogs in the wheels of the muslim world. It was quite easy when you knew where to look.
Did Prince Veera Pandyan really steal the Budha relic in Sri Lanka? If so what happened to it in the end and where is it now?
The Pandyas stole it, possibly during Veera’s period. But they gave it. The Sinhalese created decoy teeth to deter future invaders and one of these was stolen by the Portugese and ransomed from Goa in 16th century. The original tooth is in Kandy. I recently saw a replica of it in Swegadon Pagoda in Myanmar
What happens to the Pandya kingdom in the end with their only heir dead?
The Pandyas survived as feudatories of the naiks and then slowly faded out. Though there is some speculation that the Polygars may have been Pandya descendants.
What prompted you to write this novel? How did you transition from writing in Tamil to English? Did you find it challenging?
A novel is always the ultimate aspiration of a writer. However my first piece of published fiction was a three volume novel- a sequel to the greatest bestseller of tamil fiction. I can write equally at ease in both languages. Truthfully, I am so happy that computers can support spellings in tamil. Took a lot of load off my head!