Review: Operation Red Lotus by Parag Tope

Review by: Anurag Sharma

Tatya Tope's Operation Red Lotus

Author: Parag Tope
First published: 2010
Number of pages: 431
Genre: Non-fiction
Language: English
Publisher: Rupa & Co, New Delhi
ISBN: 9788129115621
Price, hard cover: ₹ 595.00
Price, Kindle: $ 12.99


The story of India's freedom is incomplete without a reference of India's Anglo-Indian war of 1857. And the story of 1857 is incomplete without a reference of Tatya Tope, the legendary commander of this war. Tatya Tope's Operation Red Lotus is the story of the war of 1857 from the point of view of Tatya Tope. This 431 page work has been divided into 18 chapters, Prologue, Epilogue, Conclusion, and an appendix. The book also has an insert with Tope family tree connecting the author to Tatya Tope, the hero of 1857 war and the book.

Born in Yeola in Maharashtra, he was the only son of Pandurang Rao Tope and his wife Rukhmabai. A notable general and leader of the 1857 war and one of its notable generals. The legal name of this notable leader and a commander of the 1857 war was Ramachandra Pandurang Yeolekar Tope.

Tatya Tope's Operation Red Lotus is authored by Parag Tope, a descendant of Tatya Tope. It is based on the research conducted by Parag and other members of Tope clan. This book is an effort to document and present the real story behind one of the most famous hero of India's first war of independence. It brings forward the hidden dimensions of the war. There has been a lot of mystery around the 1857 war, especially the relationship of mysterious events like the distribution of the lotus flower and the bread with this war. This book explains many such events for the first time. It also presents an alternative view of the war which is different from what was written by the British side and is generally accepted as the documented history.

The book provides complete background of the war and unfolds the sequence of events which ultimately culminated into the war by 1857. Of course, it narrates the true story of Tatya Tope, henceforth hidden from common reader. root causes of the as well. Throughout the book, Parag has provided all contextual information which is essential to understand the time and space of the war.

Tope family in traditional attire
Tatya Tope was the guide and mentor of the Maratha Peshwa Nana Saheb Phadnawis. In official capacity, he was Peshwa's Diwan, which can be translated as the minister, though he played the roles of the strategist, manager, minister of Nana's estate and the commander of the Maratha army. The legendary queen of Jhansi, Rani Laxmi Bai is another war heroine of 1857 who grew up under the mentorship of Tatya Tope.

While throwing a new light on many aspects of India's freedom struggle, this book shatters many myths around the 1857 war. 

Common legend is that Tatya Tope was arrested in 1859 by the British with help from a traitor and he was hanged twice in barrack # 4 of Shivpuri jail in Madhya Pradesh on April 18, 1859. According to 'Operation Red Lotus' Tatya was never caught. His false arrest was a plot by the British to end the war. In fact he died in a battle on January 1, 1859. The man hanged by the British was not Tatya Tope but a much older look alike, who was handed over to the British by Raja Mansingh, the king of Narwar.

The highest rank allowed to be headed by an Indian officer was Subedar, a junior commissioned officer. A Subedar headed a platoon of up to 30 soldiers called sepoys. (Mangal Pandey being the most famous sepoy, for firing the first bullet of the 1857 war.) The preparation of the 1857 war started in 1856 when red lotus flowers were sent to the platoons. Each soldier, who was willing to participate in the war against the tyranny of the British rule was supposed to keep one petal. The stems were collected back and counted to know the strength of the rebel forces.

The lotus seeds and the pieces of the bread were distributed among the village heads along the planned path of the contingents to help them plan for the food needed by the soldiers during operation.

An interesting read, this book doesn't allow you to put it aside without reading from cover to cover. Highly recommended.

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