18 Recommended Reads on Indian History from Indian Literature Through the Decades: The 1960s!

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Amritesh Mukherjee curates a list of recommended reads on Indian History as he navigates the lanes of Indian Literature through the decades.

The 1960s in an Indian context was a time of turbulence and uncertainty. Economic development was stagnant, India saw two major wars with Pakistan and China, and scarcity was the order of the day. All this reflects in the literature of that time: the social tensions, the prohibitions in various degrees, and much more.

As we look at Indian History through its literature through each decade, trying to find the most influential books in each decade, we’ve come to our third stop. These books on Indian History not only describe what was, but they also show how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go to fulfill the dream of the nation that was once envisioned.

You can read the other lists on Indian Literature here: 1940s | 1950s

While we’ve tried to be as comprehensive as possible, in case you see a title published in the 1960s that should make the list, comment below and we’ll consider adding it to our list! That said, let’s look at the best of Indian literature reflecting Indian History through the 1960s.

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18 Recommended Reads on Indian History Through the Decades

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The Serpent and the Rope

Title: The Serpent and the Rope

Author: Raja Rao

Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics

Price: 418

Pages: 455


The novel on Indian History follows the journey of Rama, a young scholar, who crosses paths with Madeleine at a university in France. Despite their initial compatibility in temperament and character, the story highlights the divide that occasionally separates them.

As Rama returns to India due to his father’s illness, he is confronted with the stark contrasts between the Eastern and Western worlds which, in turn, forces him to confront not only the external disparities but also an internal conflict that arises from his dual identity. Upon his return to France, both Rama and Madeleine are faced with the challenging task of navigating the intricacies of their marriage.
The novel deftly explores whether they can maintain their individual identities or if compromise and sacrifice are necessary for their relationship’s success. This dilemma forms the crux of the story, touching upon the question of whether one must relinquish their heritage to forge a happy partnership.

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A House for Mr Biswas

Title: A House for Mr Biswas

Author: V. S. Naipaul

Publisher: Picador

Price: 391

Pages: 640


A list of books on Indian History would be incomplete without this book.

A House for Mr. Biswas is like a woven story quilt, blending feelings about society as Naipaul paints a detailed picture of Mr. Biswas’ struggles, dreams, and successes. It’s a book about identity, family relations, and the search for independence connected with human life.

Naipaul’s focus on the small things makes you feel the place he’s writing about, placing you right in the vibrant scenes and cultural details of Trinidad. It’s beautiful how the book mixes personal stories with what’s happening in society.
Naipaul talks about things like wanting to achieve things, keeping traditions, and the struggle between what one wants and what society expects. In the end, the search for a real home is like Mr. Biswas’ search for finding out who he really is and having control over his own life.

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Jungle and Backyard

Title: Jungle and Backyard

Author: M. Krishnan

Publisher: Oxford India Paperbacks

Price: 1995

Pages: 146


Third on our list of books on Indian History is Jungle and Backyard, a collection of nature stories that bring together the qualities of a naturalist, an artist, and a writer.

There are thirty-four different stories about animals, pets, plants, and trees with Krishnan’s writing and drawings full of life and beauty, and they make you feel the simplicity and grace of nature.

Krishnan really loves what he writes about. He’s curious and happy when he learns new things about animals and plants and is so incredible at describing things that when you read his words, you can feel his excitement and happiness too.

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સધરા જેસંગનો સાળો (Sadhara Jesang No Salo)

Title: સધરા જેસંગનો સાળો (Sadhara Jesang No Salo)

Author: Chunilal Madia

Publisher: Navbharat Sahitya Mandir

Price: 450

Pages: 296


Sadhara Jesang No Salo is a novel talking about important political things taking place in an imaginary place called Suvarnadvip. It shows how leaders work and how democracy has been working since India became free. It captures Indian History exceptionally well.

The main character is Sadharo Jesang, a vegetable seller, who’s chosen to be the candidate for the role of the prime minister by The Prajamandal Party and their leader Sevakram. Eventually, Sadharo becomes the Prime Minister.

The story shows Indian History through different scams and corruption happening with the government trying to control the judges of the Supreme Court and promising to give gold to everyone. It’s a brilliant satire on the workings of Indian democracy in those days.

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চৌরঙ্গী (Chowringhee)

Title: চৌরঙ্গী (Chowringhee)

Author: Sankar

Publisher: Dey's Publishing

Price: 400

Pages: 479


Chowringhee is set in 1950s Calcutta’s vibrant Chowringhee neighborhood. This book captures Indian History as it follows Shankar, a former secretary, who loses his job after his employer’s sudden death. Selling wastepaper baskets for a living, his life takes an unexpected turn when his friend Byron helps him secure a job at the respected Shahjahan Hotel.

There, he becomes close to Sata Bose, the front desk chief, and gains the manager’s favor. The novel revolves around the hotel’s guests, performers, and staff.

Through Shankar’s perspective, the novel exposes the darker side of Calcutta’s elite society—greed and dishonesty.

The book also highlights the struggles of the working class and unemployed in Calcutta, in many ways capturing Indian History,

Love weaves through the lives of guests and workers, often leading to tragic outcomes.

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The Agrarian System Of Mughal India, 1556-1707

Title: The Agrarian System Of Mughal India, 1556-1707

Author: Irfan Habib

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Price: 681

Pages: 584


The Agrarian System of Mughal India talks about farming in the time of the Mughal Empire and explains how farming affected the economy of that time. It depicts a lot about how society was structured back then and reflects Indian History brilliantly.

The book is full of information and details about things like how money was collected from the land or how the government was run and how farming was connected to the economy. It also talks about things like the tools and methods that farmers used to grow crops, how the things farmers grew were sold, and how the people who worked on the farms lived.

Irfan Habib’s research is apparent as he talks about things like how the land was measured, what kinds of money were used, and how prices changed over time.

The book has helpful things like lists of topics, maps, and pictures, which makes it good for students, researchers, and people who want to learn about ancient India. It talks about Indian History like none other.

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Title: Kosala

Author: Bhalchandra Nemade

Publisher: Popular Prakashan

Price: 290

Pages: 334


Kosala tells the story of Pandurang Sangavikar, a young man who grows up in a village and then goes to Pune for his studies. The story is told in his own words as if he’s talking to us. He feels like he doesn’t belong in Pune and decides to go back home. But even there, things don’t go well.

His journey tells us a never-before-seen side of Indian History. His sister dies, his father is strict, and he’s dependent on others for money.
The book tries to show how different parts of society look from the perspective of Pandurang when he was a young boy. It tells us about his struggles and how he sees the world around him. The story makes us think about life and how people can feel isolated and lost even when they are around others.

This book started a new kind of storytelling in Marathi literature and makes you think about big questions and how people feel in different situations.

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ਮੜ੍ਹੀ ਦਾ ਦੀਵਾ (Marhi Da Deewa)

Title: ਮੜ੍ਹੀ ਦਾ ਦੀਵਾ (Marhi Da Deewa)

Author: Gurdial Singh

Publisher: Lokgeet Prakashan

Price: 99

Pages: 116


This is the story of a lower caste man named Jagseer and his mother Nandi and how their lives are affected by the actions of others, especially Bhanta Singh, the son of their father’s friend Dharam Singh.

Jagseer’s dad and Dharam Singh get along well, but not Bhanta Singh and Jagseer. Bhanta’s actions make things worse, and the death of Jagseer’s mother Nandi affects Jagseer, hurting him both physically and emotionally. Jagseer also falls in love with his friend Nikka’s newly-wedded bride but can’t make their secret love into something accepted by society. These conflicts and emotional complexities drive the story forward.

The book revolves around Jagseer and how his life is affected by the people around him. It shows how the actions of others can have a big impact on someone’s life, leading to a tragic ending for Jagseer.

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અમૃતા (Amrita)

Title: અમૃતા (Amrita)

Author: Raghuveer Chaudhari

Publisher: Rangdwar Prakashan

Price: 250

Pages: 320


Amruta is a remarkable piece of work in Gujarati literature and through its pages, we embark on a journey that paints a picture of the exquisite landscape of northern Gujarat, right from the seashore. The journey is parallel to the journey of Indian History tin many ways.

The story follows three main characters – Amruta, Udayan, and Aniket – bringing their lives together, displaying the interplay between their aspirations and desires.

Amruta’s longing for independence and self-expression, Udayan’s search for unity within the chaos of society, and Aniket’s endeavor to turn secret affection into a legitimate relationship present a multifaceted view of human emotions.

The book goes beyond just highlighting individualism; it looks into the intricacies of human connections and how we’re all interwoven with each other. It’s a reminder that freedom, human bonds, and empathy are all essential ingredients of a meaningful life.

The characters’ journeys, their struggles, and their growth inspire you to reflect on your own lives and relationships.

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മതിലുകൾ (Mathilukal)

Title: മതിലുകൾ (Mathilukal)

Author: Vaikom Muhammad Basheer

Publisher: DC Books

Price: 90

Pages: 72


Even though Basheer and Narayani are in different prisons separated by a wall, they deeply love each other. They’ve never met, but their love is strong. The story revolves around Basheer, who’s in jail for writing against the British rulers.

He becomes friends with other inmates and a kind jailor. One day, he hears a woman’s voice from the other side of the wall – that’s Narayani from the women’s prison. Despite never seeing each other, they fall in love and exchange gifts and feelings, all while being apart.

Mathilukal captures the love that can bloom even in the most difficult circumstances. The story is about how two people connect and care deeply for each other, despite never physically meeting. It’s a story that goes beyond walls and boundaries.

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मित्रो मरजाxनी (Mitro Marajani)

Title: मित्रो मरजाxनी (Mitro Marajani)

Author: Krishna Sobti

Publisher: Rajkamal Prakashan

Price: 120

Pages: 98


Mitro Marajani is a classic in Hindi literature, known for its storytelling style. It takes place within an ordinary middle-class family. Through Mitro, she provides a tool for women to live, struggle, and fight for their desires. She’s a character who loves herself and doesn’t hesitate to fulfill her desires. She speaks up for her rights, and she argues too. She wants to live for herself, but her desires often get suppressed. 

The novel asks some crucial questions: what should a woman do with her desire for sex? Why should a woman’s body be repressed in the name of morality? Mitro’s needs and the physical, family, and societal realities she faces are painted by Krishna Sobti’s style in a way that is rarely seen elsewhere in Hindi literature.

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Light on Yoga

Title: Light on Yoga

Author: B. K. S. Iyengar

Publisher: Thorsons

Price: 368

Pages: 544


This is an essential book for those searching for reliable and accurate insights into the world of Yoga. The book is designed so it makes it easy for everyone to grasp the techniques and steps of Yoga without any difficulty. The detailed descriptions of various Yoga forms provided in the book enable readers to practice on their own with confidence.

This book not only guides readers through the physical aspects of Yoga but also emphasizes its impact on mental clarity and stress relief, which is crucial for overall health. Divided into three sections, the book provides a structured approach to learning Yoga. The first section introduces the concept and nature of Yoga, followed by a comprehensive explanation of various Yoga asanas and kriyas in the second part. The third segment delves into Pranayama, covering techniques and effects.

If you’re seeking a comprehensive guide directly from the expert, B.K.S. Iyengar, this book is your gateway to understanding the essence of Yoga.

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அம்மா வந்தாள் (Amma Vanthaal)

Title: அம்மா வந்தாள் (Amma Vanthaal)

Author: Thi. Janakiraman

Publisher: Kalachuvadu Publications

Price: 229

Pages: 184


Amma Vanthaal portrays the often-unseen struggle of society to protect its traditional values. This book isn’t merely about human relationships; it’s a reflection of beliefs and emotions. These emotions aren’t tied to predetermined rules, but rather sentiments that lie deep within.
This novel encapsulates two different perspectives of life, where human existence flourishes in both. It emphasizes that life exists in both states and articulates the importance of this duality. The characters at the center of this narrative represent the prime movers who shape these phases.
T. Janakiraman’s discernment demonstrates how transcending conventions and rules is an inherent part of human nature. The book goes into the heart of societal norms and values, presenting the interplay of these two facets of human existence.

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വേരുകൾ (Verukal)

Title: വേരുകൾ (Verukal)

Author: Malayattoor Ramakrishnan

Publisher: DC Books

Price: 199

Pages: 152


Raghavan grows up in a challenging environment and achieves success through hard work and despite the riches, his life takes a new direction after his daughter Geetha’s marriage. The novel opens with a simple truth: the start of Raghavan’s downfall.

As the story unfolds, we go deeper into Raghavan’s memories and experiences. From the bustling city life to the serene village atmosphere, the clash between Geetha’s desires and her father’s traditional values leads Raghavan to make a difficult decision. This decision isn’t just a simple journey but an exploration of values and traditions.
The novel presents the tension between modernity and tradition, exploring the conflict between personal desires and societal norms. It captures the essence of a changing world while embracing the core values that bind generations together.

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প্রজাপতি (Prajapati)

Title: প্রজাপতি (Prajapati)

Author: Samaresh Basu

Publisher: Ananda Publishers

Price: 350

Pages: 188


Prajapati is a book that displays the varied experiences of humanity through its protagonist. We delve into Sukhen’s life, a restless soul, as he attempts to capture a butterfly. Conversing with his lover in the morning, he reflects on his loveless upbringing and troubled family dynamics. His elder brothers, manipulative politicians, exploit others for personal gain. Through this environment, Sukhen’s reckless behavior and complex relationships emerge. 

In all this, meeting Shikha from a poor family alters his course, kindling his humanity amid chaos. With anger and desperation, he battles hypocrisy and societal injustices. In all this turmoil, Sukhen finds solace in Shulada, an old servant, while resisting his brothers’ political manipulation. His struggles mirror his inner conflicts and his journey for a simpler life encounters many challenges. 

The butterfly is a metaphor for his brokenness and guides his quest for peace. Basu fleshes out the layers of Sukhen’s character while displaying the many emotions and experiences that the character goes through, using his as a tool to comment on society at large. The book was banned for several years by political powers for depicting “obscenity”.

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राग दरबारी (Raag Darbari)

Title: राग दरबारी (Raag Darbari)

Author: Shrilal Shukla

Publisher: Rajkamal Prakashan

Price: 287

Pages: 334


Raag Darbari is a story that takes place in the heart of rural India through the eyes of its protagonist, Ranganath. It’s set in a village where Ranganath visits his uncle, the village head. As he spends time there, he witnesses the existing web of power, politics, and corruption. Shrilal Shukla uses humor and satire to expose the realities of rural life.

Using Ranganath’s interactions with various villagers, including his uncle, politicians, and local thugs, Shukla author highlights the challenges faced by rural communities, such as poverty, exploitation, lack of development, and how even trivial matters are affected by politics. The book’s title refers to the musical term “raag,” which symbolizes the harmonious (and discordant) tones of society.

This a thought-provoking glimpse into the dynamics of rural life to explore the underlying issues that shape our society and country at large.

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ફેરો (Fero)

Title: ફેરો (Fero)

Author: Radheshyam Sharma

Publisher: Rekha Prakashan

Price: 75

Pages: 130


Fero stands out among modern Gujarati literature for its unconventional nature and daring approach. We look at a couple, who, blessed with an only-child who’s mute, set out on a voyage to the Sun temple.

Their only hope is that this pilgrimage will bestow the gift of speech upon their beloved child. The purpose of this journey is twofold: a pilgrimage to the divine, and a pilgrimage to the realm of spoken words.

However, the journey takes an unexpected turn as the child is inadvertently left behind when the train departs from the station. The novel’s uniqueness is heightened by the fact that it’s narrated solely from the father’s viewpoint. We are enveloped in his thoughts, his observations, and his reactions. This limited perspective adds layers of nuance, offering us a close portrayal of his emotional journey.
The novel captures the very essence of the human condition, marked by moments of ennui and boredom that mirror the shades of our existence. The way Radheshyam Sharma intertwines the emotional, the existential, and the experimental is nothing short of remarkable.

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ഖസാക്കിന്റെ ഇതിഹാസം (Khasakkinte Itihasam)

Title: ഖസാക്കിന്റെ ഇതിഹാസം (Khasakkinte Itihasam)

Author: O. V. Vijayan

Publisher: DC Books

Price: 199

Pages: 140


The novel revolves around Ravi, an astrophysics student and a visionary with a unique perspective on life. But despite his academic prowess, he chooses to become a teacher at an informal education center.

From thereon, Ravi’s journey is not just his own but a reflection of the quest for self-discovery undertaken by countless young men and women. Through this journey, Ravi finds answers to the myriad questions that have plagued his adolescent mind.

The impact of this book has been profound, evident in its repeated readings and reprintings, and its unparalleled popularity and sales across South Asia. It’s a literary triumph transcending time and cultural boundaries. O. V. Vijayan’s writing paints a dynamic portrait of human introspection and growth, asking you to accompany and witness Ravi’s odyssey.

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Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh doesn't know what to do with his life, so he writes. He also doesn't know what to write, so he reads. Gift him a book if you chance upon him and he'll love you forever.

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