AF Trivandrum Alerts

Book launch: The Ivory Throne

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Date(s) - 29/01/2016
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Alliance Française de Trivandrum


ivory throne invite_trivandrum_final_revised31Book launch
The Ivory Throne : Chronicles of the House of Travancore 
Chronicles of the house of Travancore by Manu Pillai
Jaishree Misra and Khyrunnisa A. will be in conversation with the author
29 January, 6.00pm
@ Alliance Française de Trivandrum


In 1498, when Vasco da Gama set foot in Kerala looking for Christians and spices, he unleashed a wave of

political fury that would topple local powers like a house of cards. The cosmopolitan fabric of a vibrant

trading society—with its Jewish and Arab merchants, Chinese pirate heroes and masterful Hindu Zamorins—

was ripped apart, heralding an age of violence and bloodshed. One prince, however, emerged triumphant

from this descent into chaos. Shrewdly marrying Western arms to Eastern strategy, Martanda Varma

consecrated the dominion of Travancore, destined to become one of the most dutiful pillars of the British

Raj. What followed was two centuries of internecine conflict in one of India’s premier princely states,

culminating in a dynastic feud between two sisters battling to steer the fortunes of their house on the eve of


Manu S. Pillai’s retelling of this sprawling saga focuses on the remarkable life and work of Sethu Lakshmi

Bayi, the last, and forgotten, queen of the House of Travancore. The supporting cast includes the flamboyant

painter Raja Ravi Varma and his wrathful wife, scheming matriarchs of ‘violent, profligate and sordid’

character, wife swapping court favourites, vigilant English agents, quarrelling consorts and lustful kings.

Extensively researched and vividly rendered, The Ivory Throne conjures up a dramatic world of political

intrigues and factions, black magic and conspiracies, crafty ceremonies and splendorous temple treasures, all

harnessed in a tragic contest for power and authority in the age of empire.

Manu S. Pillai was born in Kerala in 1990 and educated at Fergusson College, Pune, and at King’s

College London. Following the completion of his master’s degree, where he presented his thesis on

the emergence of religious nationalism in nineteenth century India, in 2011–12, he managed the

parliamentary office of Dr Shashi Tharoor in New Delhi and was then aide to Lord Bilimoria CBE

DL, a crossbencher at the House of Lords in London in 2012–13. That same year he was

commissioned by the BBC as a researcher to work with Sunil Khilnani on the ‘Incarnations’ history

series, which tells the story of India through fifty great lives. The Ivory Throne is Manu’s first book.