We meet Donna Juliana, a devout Catholic of Portuguese descent, whose influence in the court of the Mughal prince Shah Alam—later Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar I—was so strong, that the Dutch, Portuguese and the British frequently sought her help to get an audience with the ruler.
Similarly, the poetry of the beautiful court poet, singer, song writer and warrior Mahlaqa Bai Chanda was largely ignored by critics for nearly two centuries after her death. At a time when few women could read and write, Mahlaqa received an elaborate education, compiling her first collection of poetry when legendary Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib was just a year old.
The author also draws vivid portraits of Chand Sultana, the Ismaili Muslim warrior-princess who defended Ahmadnagar against the Mughal forces of Emperor Akbar, and of two queens of the Deccan, Rudramma Devi and Hayat Bakshi Begum, who exemplified the ability of women rulers to govern well. The author also remembers Radha Bai, a courageous Brahmin child-widow whose lifelong search to call someone her own touched all those she encountered.