The Period Drama

I love period dramas. And I watched a lot of it. It’s all started with “Ramayan” and “Mahabharat” tele-series in the 80s and 90s Doordarshan days. Later I was hooked to “Bharat Ek Khoj” based on JL Nehru’s book The Discovery of India, directed by none other than our favourite Mr Shyam Benegal. Mythological drama is good but I love drama’s based on Historical legends and facts. “Chanakya” was another great piece of period drama created in old Doordarshan days. We don’t create such magnificent period drama’s for our audience. Instead, we create hagiography with very little research to serve our nationalistic palate. These are programs with loads of melodrama and very little shelf life. A couple of more Indian period dramas with great value – production and artistic value. “Mirza Ghalib” by Gulzar and “The sword of Tipu Sultan” by Sanjay Khan.

Bharat ek Khoj – https://youtu.be/4f6vdW91hLA – The complete history of India
Chanakya – https://youtu.be/aog-gBESnsI – Maurya dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya
Mirza Ghalib – https://youtu.be/NfNOXyPVjxk – Late 19th century Old Delhi, Post 1857 Mutiny
The Sword of Tipu Sultan – https://youtu.be/kxsb8qVMc4U – Mid 18th century Southern India
Bahadur Shah Zafar – https://youtu.be/BMPqIUwCq6w – The last Mughal during 1857 Mutiny India
Tamas – https://youtu.be/dmC8q5NnNuM – 1947 India before and after partition
Please note that above URL’s are available in Youtube. I am not responsible for its completeness, quality and / or copyright. I shared here because its available in youtube for free viewing

Due to Streaming platform revolution, we can watch various International shows. In Period / Costume drama, British shows are the best. Most recently if you are a fan of Netflix show “The Crown“, here I can give you list of TV shows, mini-series and movies to watch to understand bit of English History. Lets start with The Crown and go downwards.

The Crown – the life of reigning Queen Elizabeth II – from 1947 till now
Other references are…
The Iron Lady (movie) – a Biopic on Margaret Thatcher, Political history of 1980s UK
The King’s Speech – Biopic on George IV’s life (Elizabeth II’s father)
Darkest Hour – on Churchil during 2nd world war

Victoria – iTV drama on 19th century Monarch, great Queen Victoria (3 seasons)

The Favorite – tragi-comedy on Queen Anne (late 18th and early 19th century England)

Gunpowder plot – during 1st Stuart rule in combined kingdom of England and Scotland, 1600 England
Gunpowder – 3 parts mini-series in BBC
Mary Queen of scots (Movie) – depicts tumultuous relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of scots
Elizabeth – Early reign of Queen Elizabeth I, directed by Shekhar Kapoor
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (movie) – last part of Queen Elizabeth
The Tudors – Henry VIII and his 6 wives
The Other Boleyn Girl (movie) – Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary Boleyn story
Wolf Hall – the story revolves around Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII
A man for all season (1966 movie, won Oscar) – once again movie on Henry VIII, Thomas Moore and Thomas Cromwell
The Spanish Queen – the story of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII first wife
The White Princess– The War of Roses series on Queen Elizabeth of York (married to Henry VII, the first Tudor)
The White Queen – The War of Roses series, the last Yorkist Queen Elizabeth Woodville

That’s it for now…. more to come on Period drama series.

नदी से यक्ष प्रश्न


कँहा है ब्रम्ह नदी का छोर
सुदूर पूर्व क्षितिज के पार
ब्रम्ह नदी जो मेखलाओ
से निकलता
तराई में दनदनाता
भीषण उतपात करता हुआ
सागर में समाता
अपने अस्तित्व को करता नेस्तनाबूद

जो मिलना था सागर में
तो इतना उन्माद क्यों
लोगों के जीवन में इतना विषाद क्यों

शांत चित्त बहते हुए
क्या किया किसी डूबते को पार
क्या मिला मिट्टी गारा में
बनाया किसी का घर संसार

जो सागर ही होना था
तो क्यों ना कूदा सीधे मेखलाओ से
मानवता को रखता दूर अपने आपदाओं से

The Egyptian Civilization – a gift of the River Nile

Cleopatra

Cleopatra was the end of Ancient Egyptian civilization i.e. 30 BCE. Technically, Egyptian civilization had ended (500 years ago) with Psamtek III at 525 BCE. The Persian Empire led by Cambyses II conquered Egypt, ended one of the longest-running Civilization for continuously for over 2500 years. Remaining 500 years until 30 BCE, It was ruled by Persian for over 100 years, then ruled Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty for 300 years.

Cleopatra VII ruled Egypt 51 BCE until her death in 30 BCE for 19 years. She died at the young age of 39 years. Her death or suicide enshrined in the Shakespearean saga of Antony and Cleopatra. In pop culture, we know her as a seductress, beautiful empress, wife of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, took her own life by Asp snake bite (Asp – a venomous Egyptian cobra) and so on. What we don’t know, is – she adopted Egyptian culture and language like no other Ptolemy monarch. She knew as many as 7 languages, she used to converse with foreign delegates without an interpreter. She was a very effective administrator. She ruled Egypt at the time of food crisis, natural calamities when the Egyptian kingdom was on the decline. And there was a continuous threat from increasing power of Romans across the Mediterranean waters and Parthians from the east.

I will narrate Cleopatra’s life in Roman perspective in 2 Act’s

Act 1 – Julius Caesar – Marauding 13th Legion, Caesar’s army trounced Gaul. Roman republic declared Caesar as an enemy of the state, to curb his power and influence. Caesar decided to go back to Rome to take charge as head of the Roman senate. Caesar crossed the rivulet Rubicon (which is the Roman border) that means declared war against his Roman republic. Republic fled to the south led by the great commander Pompey Magnus, camped near Mediterranean coast. Caesar reached Rome and found the city deserted by the republic. He took charge for a few days, then decided to go south after deserters. Pompey Magnus crossed the sea and reached his friendly state Egypt. Caesar reached Alexandria and summon boy king Ptolemy XIII (brother husband and co-regent of Cleopatra). Caesar was here to get Roman money back, which Rome gave as a loan to elder Ptolemy XII. To appease Caesar, Ptolemy gave him a gift box with Pompey Magnus head. Pompey was not only a great commander but also Caesar’s son in law (married to Caesar’s daughter Julia). Caesar was extremely upset with Ptolemy and decided to stay longer in Alexandria, plan his next steps. Brutus and other Republic deserters moved to Judaea and Canaan. Cleopatra had already relinquished her throne, moved to Thebes (south Egypt) with her younger sister Arsinoe. Alexandria was not safe as Ptolemy had a habit of killing each other for power. With Caesar and the Roman army camped at Alexandria, Cleopatra was contemplating to see Julius Caesar, but how? As the legend goes, she wrapped herself in rug or carpet and smuggled to Caesar’s camp at night. By the daybreak, Caesar was on her side and now Ptolemy XIII should run for this life. Ptolemy’s loyal general Achillas attacked Caesar. Caesar’s Roman army defeated the Egyptian army. In this process, the famous library of Alexandria burned down to ashes. Ptolemy’s escape had gone wrong and he drowned in the Nile. Now Cleopatra’s younger sister declared herself Queen of Egypt with the help of remaining royal army. She is easily captured and sent to Roman. Before that Caesar survived her attacked when he was surrounded by her army near Lighthouse of Alexandria. He jumped from the top of the lighthouse to the sea to save himself. Arsinoe spent her remaining life in Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (modern-day Turkey). Later Cleopatra’s ordered her assassination. Caesar remained in Alexandria for 2 years. The couple had one male child Caesarian. Cleopatra became the queen of Egypt and Rome. When everything was going according to the plan, Gaius Julius Caesar assassinated on Ides of March (15th March 44 BCE) in the temple of Pompey, under the mighty statue of Pompey Magnus. Civil war erupted in the streets of Rome. Cleopatra fled with her son and small entourage back to Alexandria.

Act 2 – Mark Antony – In 42 BCE, Octavian Augustus (new Roman empire, first emperor), Lepidus and Mark Antony formed 2nd Triumvirate to defeat the deserters of the Rome (the senators of Roman republic – Brutus, Cassius et al.). In October 42 BCE, at the Battle of Philippi, Triumvirate fought a battle against Roman republic forces. Victorious Octavian forced vanquish leaders to kill themselves as per Roman tradition. While Octavian became a new Roman Emperor, Mark Antony got charge of eastern Roman provinces. He was based out of Taurus, in todays Turkey. As per Plutarch and Shakespeare, Antony summoned Cleopatra to report her in Taurus. First Cleopatra defied, then delayed but after few months, she went to Taurus in magnificent boat with the entourage of musicians in a sensuous attire. She transformed herself to Greek goddess Aphrodite, the god of love. She was meeting Mark Antony (philanderer, the official bad boy of Rome), alike Greek god Dionysus, the god of wine and good times, . Antony fell in love immediately. Cleopatra’s love for Caesar was for her survival but with Anthony, it turned out to a natural affinity and strong bond. By this time, Antony was already married to Octavia Minor, Octavian Augustus sister. Anthony’s association with Cleopatra upset the new King. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra moved to Alexandria and lived like regular husband and wife. They got twins – Alexander Helios (Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (Moon). In 40 BCE, Octavian’s forces declared war against Anthony and Cleopatra. The Battle of Actium was short and fought in the waters of Mediterranean. As per Roman law, Antony stabbed himself. He bled until death in the arms of his eternal lover Cleopatra. The smart, intelligent Egyptian Queen was always a threat to Octavian Augustus. He tortured her mentally by Roman emperor. The death of Cesarean (son of Caesar and Cleopatra) was heart breaking (he was murdered by the Octavian’s men). Octavian promised to take care of Anthony and Cleopatra’s children. In 39 BCE, Cleopatra received a basket of plums, inside that basket there was a venomous Aps. This was the end of Cleopatra, the great Egyptian queen. She was buried along side of her eternal lover Mark Anthony. Their children sent to Octavia minor, Anthony’s earlier wife and Octavian’s sister. Cleopatra’s blood line survived but disappear in oblivion for ever. The end of Egyptian civilization was the beginning of another great Empire, the Romans.

The Egyptian Civilization – a gift of the River Nile

Alexander

First of all, I am completely smitten by the personality and legend called Alexander the Great. We all know his campaign to win the world. What we don’t know, is that he was out in his campaign, not just to expand his Empire but also win hearts and minds of the people. But why we are discussing Alexander in Egyptian civilization?

Alexander died suddenly in 323 BCE at Babylon. Historians still debate on various reason for his death. Before his death, he successfully campaigned against various satrapy’s of Ancient Persian empire. It stretches from todays Turkey, central Asia’s such as Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Parts of India till Jhelam (known for the famous Battle of Hydraspes against King Porus). Another way to imagine his vast empire which connected, Mediterranean, Black sea, Caspian sea, Red sea and Gulf of Persia. He begun in year 334 BCE from Macedonia to conquer the world. Before his campaign, he also united different warring Greek provinces – Athenian, Spartan, Corinth, Aegina, Rhodes, Ionian, Mycenean, Minoan, Peloponnesian and many others. He started the campaign against strongest Empire of the Ancient world – Persia. In 6th century BCE, Persian empire conquered whole Asia minor – ended many ancient civilizations – Mesopotamian (Babylonian, Sumerian), Assyrian, Mitanni, Phoenician, Hittites, Canaan and by 525 BCE Persian captured longest running civilization of Ancient Egypt. Persian waged war against Greeks – Battle of Marathon 490 BCE and Battle of Salamis 480 BCE. Greek army defeated invincible Persian army in both battles. After 150 years of Persian rule, Empires power was waning. Various Satrapy’s were unable to manage and there were several small uprising and revolutions in recorded history against Persian.

In November 332 BCE (9 years before Alexander’s demise and 3rd year in his campaign to win the world), Alexander reached Memphis, Egypt via Asia minor. Egyptian under Persian rule, welcomed him wholeheartedly. Persian Satrap surrendered without any confrontation. Alexander became the ruler of the Egyptian empire. He established his new capital at Alexandria in Mediterranean cost around Nile delta. Alexander acquired Egyptian way of life, culture and custom. He was not only a great warrior but also a great statesman. He travelled long distance in western parts of Sahara desert to Siwa (in Libya) and consulted the Oracle of Siwa. After his meeting, Alexander declared himself a son of Amun and new Pharaoh. In his short reign (spent 6-9 months in Egypt), Alexander brought reforms, started building projects. He transferred power to Ptolemy (his cousin from Greek descent) and embark in his territorial expansion quest. He never lost a single battle, fought every battle with his army. His childhood hero was Achilles of Troy, from the epic Iliad by Homer.

Alexander died at the young age of 32. Although, he decentralized his control to various commander such as Seleucus, he did not nominate heir to his vast empire. For Ptolemy, this was a huge issue. As per Egyptian custom. One who burry the Pharaoh would become next Pharaoh. Since Alexander died in Babylon, this was a logistic issue for Ptolemy. Ptolemy secured Alexander’s body and gave burial according to Egyptian custom. Therefore, Alexander was mummified, his sarcophagus placed inside Egyptian styled, hieroglyphic decorated tomb somewhere in Memphis. Later it was shifted to Alexandria.

The tomb of Alexander is still a mystery and matter of research for Archeologist world over. In 1798 CE, when Napoleon invaded Egypt and French troop accidently found Rosetta Stone (in a town called Rashid), Napoleon visited Alexanders tomb (as per his hagiography or propaganda), because like Alexander, Napoleon also wanted to rule the world. Nevertheless, Alexanders tomb is missing and yet to be found. According to experts, its either buried under the sprawling metropolis Alexandria or somewhere in Egyptian desert near Siwa (from his connection with Oracle and Amun). In July 21, 365 CE, a great Tsunami struck Mediterranean from Crete to Alexandria. That nature fury levelled the whole city. The Quest for Alexanders tomb continues, until we find the greatest man, Alexander the Great. For us, He is Sikander Mahaan, the name given by Persian.

The Egyptian Civilization – a gift of the River Nile

Timeline

Early period2950-2575 BCE1st-3rd DynastyNarmer, Djer, Djet
Old Kingdom2575-2125 BCE4th-8th DynastyKhufu, Hetepherus, Khafra, Menkura
First Intermediate period2125-2010 BCE9th-11th DynastyCivil war and group fought for control
Middle Kingdom2010-1630 BCE12th-13th DynastyMentuhotep (peaceful era)
Second Intermediate period1630-1539 BCE14th-17th DynastyCivil War and unrest period
New Kingdom1539-1069 BCE18th-20th DynastyAmenhotep I & II, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Ramses the Great, Nefertiti, Tutankhamun
Third Intermediate period1069-664 BCE21st-25th DynastyKushite rulers from south Egypt
Late period664-525 BCE26th-31st DynastyPersian Rule – Darius I, Xerxes I, Darius II
Macedonian dynasty332-309 BCEAlexander the Great
Ptolemaic dynasty309-30 BCESeveral Ptolemy and Cleopatra

सुनो द्रोपदी शस्त्र उठालो

छोडो मेहँदी खडक संभालो

द्यूत बिछाये बैठे शकुनि,

खुद ही अपना चीर बचा लो

मस्तक सब बिक जायेंगे

सुनो द्रोपदी शस्त्र उठालो, अब गोविंद ना आयेंगे|

कब तक आस लगाओगी तुम,

बिक़े हुए अखबारों से,

कैसी रक्षा मांग रही हो

दुशासन दरबारों से|

स्वयं जो लज्जा हीन पड़े हैं

वे क्या लाज बचायेंगे

सुनो द्रोपदी शस्त्र उठालो अब गोविंद ना आयंगे|

कल तक केवल अँधा राजा,

अब गूंगा बहरा भी है

होठ सी दिए हैं जनता के,

कानों पर पहरा भी है|

तुम ही कहो ये अश्रु तुम्हारे,

किसको क्या समझायेंगे?

सुनो द्रोपदी शस्त्र उठालो, अब गोविंद ना आयंगे|

पुष्यमित्र उपाध्याय