This is a story that happened 450 years ago. But the messages that it conveys are relevant even today. To know why, read my story of a courageous tribal Princess Darshana Kamya Kathodi who was raped and killed because she refused to yield to forcible religious conversion. The brave 18-year-old princess returned to avenge the crime against her and the forcible conversions of her people after she died. How can a raped and murdered Princess Darshana ever succeed in avenging the murder and mayhem committed in the name of conversion by the military brass and aided by the religious hierarchy? Revenge of the Naked Princess is an incredible story made credible by the vigorous narrative, the fascinating characters, the breathtaking descriptions and the powerful but easy flow of language. Fast-paced and full of twists and turns, the author uses his skills of language and story-telling to make the unreal, surreal and paranormal appear real.
The story begins on a hot, humid morning on May 28, 1560, when hundreds of beefy Portuguese soldiers armed with a monstrous six-horse driven cannon and scores of mean muskets raid the palace of the beautiful tribal Princess Darshana Kamya Kathodi at Yehoorwada in Tana. The raid is not meant to capture the princess or the palace, but to cow her down, her soldiers and subjects into conversion. Based on the success of the small Yehoorwada kingdom raid, the Portuguese King John III, dubbed ‘Grocer King’, hopes to convert into Catholics thousands of natives in mainline kingdoms in the rest of the country.
By multiplying the flock of faithful native Christians, the insomniac ‘Grocer’ King who spends the night tallying countless bags of spices stocked in royal storehouses in Portugal, aspires to build a captive market for spices. Rome’s avowed objective of conversion is to open the gates of heaven to the natives by bringing them into the fold of the Lord of love, mercy and compassion. But the real attraction is the employment opportunities for blue-eyed priests and the lucrative market for gold and silver crosses and sacred holy water that the land of the converts offers.
Though the fat but ferocious commander Brigadier Antonio de Braganca conducts the raid, the real leader of the conversion brigade is Govind Laxman Prabhu, recently christened Joseph Lawrence Pereira Prabhu. New-born Catholic Joseph, exclusive wholesale supplier of agricultural produce to the palace – whose family and well-bred pigs have grown fat from the ‘royal income’ – is the only person in the raiding party familiar with the palace’s location. Soon after conversion, he swaps his red-flowered langoti, white dhoti and banyan for a pair of tailored underwear, white starched ‘full pants’ and a matching white shirt. Braving the red blisters hurting in his feet because of the closed leather shoes that he has worn for the first time in his life, Govind ‘Joseph’ guides the marauding Portuguese army into Princess Darshana’s palace tucked away at the foot of Yehoor Hills.
When Princess Darshana resists King John III’s conversion order, a dozen army officers led by Brigadier Braganca rape and kill her. Enter the zealous but frail Franciscan missionary Reverend Father Pascal Francisco, Brigadier Braganca’s partner in conversion. Father Francisco can’t control his tears that come streaming down his light-blue eyes when he sees the dead princess – naked, disgraced and humiliated – now covered in a blood-stained white sheet. The priest has been the commander’s ally in conversion for a few years. But the paradox of the alliance is that Father Francisco and Brigadier Braganca seem to be working with different objectives. Father Francisco has a single goal of attaining a higher place in the kingdom of God by bringing more people into Christ’s fold. Braganca’s aim is to gain favour of his temporal king, get richer and rise in the hierarchy.
Revenge of the Naked Princess will keep you hooked from start to finish.
Indeed, the theme of forced conversions that the novel addresses is real and relevant even today, as conversions still take place, through more ‘civilised’ means of monetary and social inducements.
Revenge of the Naked Princess may seem like historical fantasy to the casual reader but it is one book that succeeds in highlighting the brutality of forced conversions through a riveting story that seems so real and topical – like it happened only yesterday.