Aag Ka Darya (Urdu: آگ کا دریا; River of Fire) is a novel written by Qurratulain Hyder in the context of an Indian subcontinent partition. It has been described as “one of the Indian Subcontinent’s best-known novels”. The novel timelines spanned over two thousand years starting from the time of Chandargupt Maurya to the partition of 1947. It was published in Urdu in 1959 and translated by the author into English in 1998.
An amazing, sui generis book, Aag Ka Darya spans two and a half millennia. Set during four Indian epochs (the classical, the medieval, the colonial, and the modern post-national), the novel is a meditation on history and human nature, tracing four souls through time. Each section is linked by characters who bear, in every period, the same names: Gautam, Champa, Kamal, and Cyril. Gautam (appearing first as a student of mysticism at the Forest University of Shravasti in the 4th century B.C.E.) and Champa (throughout embodying the enigmatic experience of Indian women) begin and end the novel; Muslim Kamal appears mid-way through, as the Muslims did, and loses himself in the Indian landscape; and Cyril, the Englishman, appears later still. In different eras, different relations from among the four, romance and war, possession and dispossession. Yet together the characters reflect the oneness of human nature: amidst the nationalist and religious upheavals of Indian history, Hyder argues for a culture that is inclusive.