Aditya Iyengar explores the history of the Chola Empire through a prisoner’s eyes.
For history aficionado Aditya Iyengar, there is one common thread that binds all his stories. They are based on either history or mythology. If his previous books A Broken Sun, The Thirteenth Day: A story of the Kurukshetra War and Palace of Assassins: The Rise of Ashwatthama have the Kurukshetra War as the backdrop, his latest The Conqueror: The Thrilling Tale of the King who Mastered the Seas Rajendra Chola I is set in the Chola Empire.
“I’m a huge fan of mythological and historical fiction which probably explains why I chose these genres,” he confesses, adding, “The past explored in the realms of mythology and history is such an uncharted territory that every page you read is fresh and exciting, at least to me.”
For him, to build a story that is set in a different era is not a Herculean task. All one has to do is proper research. “People have fundamentally been the same since the beginning of recorded time. The main differences between historical novels and current ones are the artifacts. Instead of a revolver, you have a bow. And in some cases, the customs change. But as long as your research can account for these, it is like writing any other novel,” says the author, who spent one-and-a-half years to complete The Conqueror.
He chose the Chola Empire as it made an interesting plot. “The Cholas took India overseas by conquering lands outside the greater mainland, from Sri Lanka to Indonesia. My book deals with the Chola conquest of Indonesia. Not much is known of this campaign, but the cultural and social effects of the invasion can still be seen,” he says. Besides reading books and researching, Aditya spoke to historians and professors to move in the right direction.
And, he chose to narrate the story through the eyes of a prisoner. “Most stories are told through the eyes of victors. I thought it would be interesting to tell this one through the eyes of the vanquished. The Cholas, occasionally, took back kings of foreign territories and imprisoned them. I thought it would be interesting to see how a foreigner viewed India in those times,” he says. There was not a dull moment while writing it. “The subject itself was so rich that it never bored me. I would love to do more novels on Southern empires,” he adds. A person who has been drawn to writing since childhood, Aditya says the craft helped him widen his knowledge. But, he does not stick to a particular writing style. “My style adapts itself to the subject I write,” says Aditya, who has a book out this year based on the life of Sita.