Three decades into Emperor Shah Jahan's reign, while the monarch indulges in the pleasures of the flesh to divert himself from the travails of his ageing body, the country is bracing itself for the brutal-and inevitable-war of succession to the Peacock Throne. At this time of tumult, European travellers Niccolao Manucci and Francois Bernier arrive in India, and find their way into the innermost circles of the royals. While Manucci revels in his new-found fame as miracle healer to princesses and concubines, and Bernier records his cerebral interactions with the Omrah in the imperial court, they conjure up an enthralling panorama of an empire in crisis. Little escapes their discerning eye-fabled cities now spinning into decay; harems rife with gossip, lust and venereal afflictions; wily courtiers whose hearts breed malice even as they enjoy the luxuries of privilege; the tenuous ties that bind Hindu subjects to their Muslim rulers. And, most of all, the chief contenders to the throne of Hindustan: Dara Shikoh, the charismatic heir apparent with a predilection for diverse spiritual beliefs, and his younger brother, the austere Aurangzeb, self-proclaimed defender of the true Faith. Set amid the grandeur and intrigue of seventeenth-century India, The Crimson Throne masterfully probes the continuities of imperial expansion and a splintered Islam. Eloquent, richly imagined, riveting, it reaffirms Sudhir Kakar's acclaimed craftsmanship.