Tanaji & The Treasure Trail by Shraddha Sahi is a historical fiction set in the 17th century. This book is a delightful and imaginative read steeped in Maratha history, combining both fact and fiction. The narrative features the exploits of the legendary Shivaji Maharaj and his brave general Tanaji Malusare through the eyes of a group of children.
The main protagonist is ten-year-old Prajakta, a brave and assertive girl who lives in a village called Naikwadi. Her gang includes her younger brother Sarjya, and her friends Ganya and Sopan. The book begins with Prajakta warning the villagers of an impending attack by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s men.
The Mughal soldiers plunder villages, destroy crops, burn houses, kidnap women and children, and unleash a reign of terror. Added to the list of their atrocities is the desecration of temples and destruction of idols. When the family heirloom necklace gets stolen in a Mughal raid, Prajakta and her friends accidentally reclaim it from a hiding spot. This sets into motion a series of events that eventually lead to Sarjya’s kidnapping, and his subsequent rescue. Lending the children, a helping hand in this journey is the valiant and kind-hearted warrior, Tanaji.
The language is simple and has some colloquial expressions and words, making it an authentic read. The style of writing is very visual, and the author’s research into this period stands out. The reader can conjure images of the hidden tunnels, the grand forts, the caves, and the cascading waterfall. The banter of the children, their innocence, and the humor adds layers to the narrative.
Prajakta has been well-etched; she is an inspiration to many a little girl. She challenges the status quo and rises to the challenge on every occasion. Her resolve to encourage the other girls of her village to pick up weapons and train is a shining example of this. She uses a combination of wisdom and resourcefulness to solve every mystery. On some occasions, Shivaji Maharaj expresses his admiration for her too.
Tanaji and the Treasure Trail, is a story of valor, courage, sacrifice, and resourcefulness. It celebrates many unsung and unlikely heroes, like a monitor lizard that helps scale the impenetrable walls of a fortress. The reclaiming of the Kondana fort by the Marathas is described in detail. In the fierce battle, Tanaji is martyred. His unrelenting courage and spirit of sacrifice gives the reader goosebumps, underlining the lament, ‘The fort was reclaimed, but the lion lost.’
This story is a great way to teach children history; young readers will love this! While this book is written for young readers, it can be enjoyed by adults as well.