The Dawn At Dusk by Sandeep Nayyar-A Review

Sandeep Nayyar/Fiction Historical

Publisher-Ocean Paperbacks

My rating:★★★★☆

[★-lost me ★★-average ★★★-worth a read ★★★★-excellent ★★★★★-amazing]


A gripping tale of love, betrayal, and vengeance, steeped in the magical realism of post-Vedic India.
Shatvari is a beautiful young Brahmin girl, practitioner of classical music and firm believer in the holy Vedas and its spiritual philosophies. The king of the Yaduvanshis and his scheming priests twist that faith to turn her into a bloodthirsty Chandaal warrior.
Exploited and shattered, Shatvari hunts a magical Yantra and the spiritual powers it contains. But in her single-minded pursuit of revenge, she falls victim to the curse lurking within the very same miraculous powers.
Elsewhere, the young Nishaad King Neel, courtesans Amodini and Vaishali, and the Yaduvanshis’ nemeses the Raghuvanshis, gear up to enter the fray as well.
What heavenly powers lie within the Yantra, and what curse stays the hands of those who would unleash them? Can Shatvari survive that curse and harness those powers? Will the Yaduvanshis’ other enemies help Shatvari seek her vengeance? Or will the story end in all-out war?

Set in 8th century in post-Vedic India, a powerful story mainly themed around the caste system, The Dawn at Dusk was originally published in Hindi as Samarsiddha. Shatvari is young Brahmin upper caste girl who is indignant about the caste system and doesn’t think it fair. She tries very hard to give a proper social status to Gunjan, a Shudra(lower caste) but is unsuccessful and Gunjan is killed. To avenge his death, Shatvari decides to live like a lower caste in a cemetery, along with her son, when she left her husband Damodar after he indulged in extra-marital affair. She hunts for an elusive Yantra which is said to contain spiritual powers. In pursuit of abolishing the caste system, Shatvari employs extremist measures and decides to go for an all-out war with all the upper-castes.

Meanwhile, Nishaad King Neel and his friend Dhanajay are busy trying to extend friendly relations to neighboring kingdoms and help them out. So when King Rudrasen’s daughter and son are kidnapped by Shatvari for a sacrifice, Neel and Dhananjay are also drawn into it and Shatvari’s now grown-up son Shatrugan’s true loyalties are exposed to be, not on his mother’s blood-thirsty ways, but on a more peace-loving side. This leads to a battle of loyalties between mother and son.  This incident also uncovers King Rudrasen’s single-minded pursuit of expanding his kingdom rather than well-being of his citizens, which is soon going to culminate into an uprising if not checked.

Shatvari’s army has a powerful chemical weapon which can kill anyone in its way and King Rudrasen has a huge army of dedicated soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. So when Shatvari attacks, though they are taken by surprise, the fighting is fierce and had it not been for the chemical weapon, the Chandaal warriors headed by Shatvari would be wiped out. Shatrugan goes to Neel and Rudrasen and says that he is going to test a mother’s love. He gets hit by the chemical and Shatvari and Neel and a few soldiers take him to a secret spot where the chemical antidote is kept, and a soldiers from her army prevent her from taking unknown people to the hiding spot. Will Shatrugan get the antidote? Will he succeed in showing his mother the folly of her ways? Will the fight stop? Or will it blow out into an all out war? Will the Chandaal warriors succeed in abolishing the caste system?

This book is beautifully written, and the author knows a lot about the Aryan civilization and the post-Vedic period. This book’s relevance is spot-on for our times, when there are multiple clashes of races and sexes. Martin Luther Jr once said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The author reiterates this in the form of this book. Worth a read.


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