Finally he mounted his lion throne

Friday, March 10th, 2023

William Dalrymple shares some stories from Indian history (in The Anarchy) that could come from a pulp sword-and-sorcery novel:

Sivaji entered the throne room with a sword and made blood sacrifices to the lokapalas, divinities who guard the worlds. The courtiers attending the ceremony were then asked to leave while auspicious mantras were installed on the king’s body to the accompaniment of music and the chanting of samans. Finally he mounted his lion throne, hailed by cries of ‘Victory’ from the audience. He empowered the throne with the mantras of the ten Vidyas. Through their power, a mighty splendour filled the throne-room. The Saktis held lamps in their hands and lustrated the king, who shone like Brahma.

Other stories are too brutal for fiction:

On 11 March 1689, the same year that the Emperor crushed the Company, Aurangzeb’s armies captured Sambhaji, the eldest son and successor of Shivaji. The unfortunate prince was first humiliated by being forced to wear an absurd hat and being led into durbar on a camel. Then he was brutally tortured for a week. His eyes were stabbed out with nails. His tongue was cut out and his skin flayed with tiger claws before he was savagely put to death. The body was then thrown to the dogs while his head was stuffed with straw and sent on tour around the cities of the Deccan before being hung on the Delhi Gate.


  1. Jim says:

    I like this account best:

    Other accounts state that Sambhaji challenged Aurangzeb in open court and refused to convert to Islam. Dennis Kincaid writes, “He (Sambhaji) was ordered by the Emperor to embrace Islam. He refused and was made to run the gauntlet of the whole Imperial army. Tattered and bleeding he was brought before the Emperor and repeated his refusal. His tongue was torn [out] and again the question was put. He called for writing material and wrote ‘Not even if the emperor bribed me with his daughter!’ So then he was put to death by torture”.

    Rest In Power.

  2. Wang Wei Lin says:

    Similar brutalities are recorded by Sima Qian’s history of the Qin.
    Li Si was a remarkable chancellor who fell out of favor of the emperor. His punishment was The Five Penalties and execution; face tattooed, nose cut off, ears cut off, fingers cut off, and feet cut off then execution by being cut in half. Sima also records beheadings of defeated armies by the 10s of thousands. The brutality of the East and Islam is incomprehensible to most Westerners.

  3. Jim says:

    But was Li Si’s will indomitable?

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