Title: Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography
Author: Sanjeev Sanyal
Publisher: Viking India, Penguin India
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
It is not easy to write a book which is solely based on geography or for that matter history. What is most difficult is when the two get combined in a book. More so when the country in question is India, with its diversity and centuries of culture and history, which can still be seen in most places, if only you would look at it closely enough. I have always been intrigued by our country’s cultural subtext and how we came to be as a nation. The thought would be there and I wanted to read more on it, till something else caught my attention and this thought would then be on the back burner. Till I heard of “Land of the Seven Rivers” by Sanjeev Sanyal and decided to give it a shot.
There is a danger when you want to read a non-fiction title. The danger of boredom that is. It is very easy to lose interest in a book based on facts and numbers. However, this did not happen while I was reading this book, maybe also because I took my time with this one. I had to let the history and geography of our land sink in and that helped me savour the book – page by page. “Land of the Seven Rivers” by Sanjeev Sanyal is a fantastic attempt to talk to us simply about our heritage (well so to say) and of the times gone by.
The book uncovers thousands of years of history and also manages to link it to the dramatic and quite sudden changes taking place in the country. He speaks of the architectural design of the country and how with the many rulers, the landscape changed and with some of that, our culture and history as well. I love the parts when Sanyal tries to uncover questions we may not even think of, for instance, why is India named Bharat? What happened to the Saraswati River? He speaks of the Great Flood and ties it back in with the structure of the country. What I liked is that he doesn’t trace kingdoms, instead he traces civilization during those kingdoms – he speaks of lives and then connects it all to the geographical nature of the country.
My favourite parts in the book have to be how he explains the archaeological sites and how they came to be. The maps only add to the beauty of language and wit as displayed and they are needed to guide the reader at every turn of the page. I can only say that as a student I loathed history and as an adult I am loving it even more and I am only thankful to books like these that have opened my mind and world to what once was. I would recommend it very strongly if you want to know the roots of our nation.