Manu Pillai on False Allies: India’s Maharajahs in the Age of Ravi Varma

It is often believed that Indian maharajahs were petty despots who only cared about lust and luxury. Author Manu S. Pillai disputes this view. Tracking the travels of the painter Ravi Varma, he uncovers a world that is not of dancing girls, but of sedition, legal battles, the defiance of imperial dictates, and resistance. We meet maharajahs obsessed with industrialization, and rulers who funded nationalists, these men anything but pushovers for the Raj to manipulate.