By Salman Rushdie
May 16, 2023
In the wake of an insignificant battle between two long forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for the goddess Parvati, who begins to speak out of the girl’s mouth. Granting her power beyond Pampa Kampana’s comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga – literally ‘victory city’ – the wonder of the world.
Over the next two hundred and fifty years, Pampa Kampana’s life becomes deeply interwoven with Bisnaga’s, from its literal sowing out of a bag of magic seeds to its tragic ruination in the most human of ways the hubris of those in power. Whispering Bisnaga and citizens into existence, Pampa Kampana attempts to make good on the task that Parvati set for her: to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world. But all stories have a way of getting away from their creator, and Bisnaga is no exception. As years pass, rulers come and go, battles are won and lost, and allegiances shift, the very fabric of Bisnaga becomes an ever more complex tapestry – with Pampa Kampana at its centre.