A Princely Impostor?: The Strange and Universal History of the Kumar of Bhawal

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Princeton University Press, 2002 - History - 429 pages
3 Reviews

In 1921 a traveling religious man appeared in eastern British Bengal. Soon residents began to identify this half-naked and ash-smeared sannyasi as none other than the Second Kumar of Bhawal--a man believed to have died twelve years earlier, at the age of twenty-six. So began one of the most extraordinary legal cases in Indian history. The case would rivet popular attention for several decades as it unwound in courts from Dhaka and Calcutta to London.

This narrative history tells an incredible story replete with courtroom drama, sexual debauchery, family intrigue, and squandered wealth. With a novelist's eye for interesting detail, Partha Chatterjee sifts through evidence found in official archives, popular songs, and backstreet Bangladeshi bookshops. He evaluates the case of the man claiming, with the support of legions of tenants and relatives, to be the long-lost Kumar. And he considers the position of the sannyasi's detractors, including the colonial government and the Kumar's young widow, who resolutely refused to meet the man she denounced as an impostor.

Along the way, Chatterjee introduces us to a fascinating range of human character, gleans insights into the nature of human identity, and examines the relation between scientific evidence, legal truth, and cultural practice. The story he tells unfolds alongside decades of Indian history. Its plot is shaped by changing gender and class relations and punctuated by critical historical events, including the onset of World War II, the Bengal famine of 1943, and the Great Calcutta Killings. And by identifying the earliest erosion of colonialism and the growth of nationalist thinking within the organs of colonial power, Chatterjee also gives us a secret history of Indian nationalism.

  

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Review: A Princely Imposter? The Kumar Of Bhawal And The Secret History Of Indian Nationalism

User Review  - Sharad Jain - Goodreads

Well... I had always been into fiction and this was my first real life story. Too much of similar stuff repeated across the chapters... becomes redundant at times. Though you have to give it to the ... Read full review

Review: A Princely Imposter? The Kumar Of Bhawal And The Secret History Of Indian Nationalism

User Review  - Sravanthi - Goodreads

Loved the way the narrative moves. As a friend said, its like a racy detective novel. But what was totally addictive was the way Chatterjee laid out the context in detail (the lifestyles of the kumars ... Read full review

Contents

The Facts of the Matter
1
An Estate Called Bhawal
15
On Hunting and Other Sports
32
What Happened in Darjeeling?
46
First Brush with the Law
72
The House on Lansdowne Road
81
A Fondness for Miracles
97
The Identity Puzzle
115
The Climax
223
Reasonings
237
The Judgment
258
The Appeal
277
Razors Edge
307
The Decision
342
To London And Back
367
Notes
389

The Trial Begins
138
Darjeeling The Plaintiffs Case
172
Experts on Recognition
186
For the Defense
207

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About the author (2002)

Partha Chatterjee is professor of anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University; and honorary professor at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. His books include "The Politics of the Governed.

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