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False Allies: India’s Maharajahs in the Age of Ravi Varma

India’s maharajahs have traditionally been cast as petty despots, consumed by lust and luxury. Bejewelled parasites, they cared more, we are told, for elephants and palaces than for schools and public works. The British cheerfully circulated the idea that brown royalty needed ‘enlightened’ white hands to guide it, and by the twentieth century many Indians too bought into the stereotype, viewing princely India as packed with imperial stooges.

In our LIVE discussion, we meet author Manu Pillai, as he breaks this stereotype in his latest book, False Allies: India’s Maharajahs in the Age of Ravi Varma. Tracking the travels of the iconic painter Ravi Varma through five princely states – from the 1860s to the early 1900s – he uncovers the tales of savvy maharajahs from five princely states – from the 1860s to the early 1900s.

Here’s the recording of our LIVE session with Manu Pillai.