Indian Historical Fiction Books for Independent Readers

Looking for Indian fiction books with historical setting then this article is for you. Here, you will read about seven books that are based on a variety of historical themes. The books will take the readers on an exciting journey to the past. Anybody from grade 4 and beyond can read these books.

What is historical fiction?

Historical fiction is a literary genre. How will you identify a historical fiction? This genre of fiction has stories from the past and olden times. The setting could be anytime from 20 years ago to hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Events, conflict and plot of the story seem natural to the era the story comes from. Historical fiction is partly real and partly imaginary. Which means, the story has a mix of real and imaginary characters. The dialogues of the characters sync with the period portrayed in the story. 

Historical fiction books are based on a variety of themes like,

  • Grief
  • Mystery
  • Deceit
  • War
  • Family relationships
  • Social history
  • Adventure
  • Religion

The title of this article says these Indian historical fiction books are for independent readers but what exactly do we mean by independent readers?

Who are independent readers?

Independent readers can read books, magazines and newspapers without any help or prompts from adults. Such readers can independently read out of curiosity and beyond the formal curriculum. Independent readers understand most of the word meanings.

If they encounter any new words, independent readers are able to search resources to find the word meanings. Support reading comprehension of middle-grade independent readers with strategic best practices.

Why independent readers should read Indian historical fiction books?

Middle-grade independent readers read about the rich Indian history in their history textbooks. As fiction authors use references of the time period in their books, co-relating history with fiction improves creative thinking.

Kids can get to know how people lived in historical times through the fictional characters in the books. Reading historical fiction aids in developing a trans-disciplinary approach, which means readers get to know various aspects of the olden days.

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Authors of Indian historical fiction books

Before we begin, let’s read about authors of books featured here.

Veera Hiranandani

In the historical fiction story “The Night Diary”, author Veera Hiranandani writes about a girl named Nisha from Mirpur, in present-day Pakistan. Nisha’s mother is a Muslim and her father a Hindu. During the partition, confused Nisha does not know if she belongs to Pakistan or India.

The author Veera Hiranandani’s family lived in Mirpur (in Pakistan) and her father’s experience of the partition helped the author in her extensive research for the book “The Nights Diary”. Her father lived in Jodhpur after leaving Mirpur.

Veera Hiranandani lives in the USA. Her mother’s a Jew and her father a Hindu, like her character Nisha. The author’s other books include,

The Whole Story Of Half A Girl

Phoebe G Green” chapter book series

America Street: A Multicultural Anthology Of Stories

Supriya Kelkar

Author of historical fiction books “Ahimsa” and “Strong as Fire and Fierce as Flame”. Author Supriya Kelkar is an illustrator and screenwriter too. Supriya Kelkar is based in the USA. She has helped in writing scripts for Hindi films like “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” and other movies. 

Her other books include,

American as Paneer Pie

That Thing about Bollywood

Bindu’s Bindi

The Many Colours of Harpreet Singh

Sunila Gupte

Author Sunila Gupte has written Indian historical fiction “A Harappan Adventure” and “The Adventure Of The Missing Dancing Girl”. Her other books are, 

  • From Pumpkins To Pickles
  • Quest For The Quetzal Feather

Her short stories and articles appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Subhadra Sen Gupta

Author Subhadra Sen Gupta has written several books on historical facts and Indian historical fiction books for children. Her books for children include, 

Children’s History of India

The Constitution of India for Children

Let’s go time travelling: Life in India through the ages

and several other books.

Also read: Environmental and wildlife conservation books for kids and adults.

Anu Kumar

Author Anu Kumar has written 31 books for young and adult readers. She writes articles and short stories in newspapers and journals. She grew up in Orissa and now lives in the USA. Anu Kumar’s books include,

Coming Back to the City: Mumbai Stories

How Did The Harappans Say Hello? And 16 Other Mysteries of History

Atisa and the time machine in search of Kalidasa

and others. She has written few titles under the pseudonym “Adity Kay”.

Indian Historical Fiction Books

Indian historical fiction books ahimsa strong as fire fierce as flame the nights diary
Indian historical fiction books – Strong as Fire Fierce as Flame, Ahimsa, The Night Diary

Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame

Written by Supriya Kelkar.

The story is from 1857. The protagonist of the story is thirteen years old Meera. She has a arranged marriage at that young age. Her family elders fix her marriage based on traditions and customs of the times they live in. Very soon, Meera becomes a widow. Her husband is killed by the British in 1857 mutiny. Young Meera does not fully understand why others grieve for her.

Meera has to practise Sati by jumping to death in her husband’s pyre. There is oppression and discrimination around her in society. She has no right to live after her husband’s death but Meera escapes death.

Meera manages to get work as a helper at a British official’s household. The official is a high ranking officer at the East India Company. With time Meera gets to know some inside information about the East India company’s plans.

How does Meera respond to this secret information? Read about Meera’s life and whether she makes her own decisions.


By Supriya Kelkar

The story is from 1942 before India became an independent nation. The British were ruling India despite raging revolt in different parts of the country. The story is about ten years old Anjali from a Brahmin family. 

Everything’s fine until Anjali’s mother quits her job at a Britisher’s office after she adopts the non-violent approach of the freedom struggle. Anjali supports her mother and takes a stand too. 

Joining the freedom struggle involves quitting old ways to adapt to a new way of thinking and living. There’s an internal struggle in Anjali’s mind. The family has to make tough choices. The British put Anjali’s mother in jail. As a protest, in the jail, her mother starts a fast untill death.

The Quit India movement, non-violent freedom struggle, caste system, religion, untouchability, and taking a stand for national wellbeing are the themes of this book. The insightful Indian historical narrative of those times makes the authors fiction books very engaging and unusual.

The Night Diary

By Veera Hiranandani

The story is from 1947 during the India-Pakistan partition. During the partition between the two neighbouring countries, a massive number of people had to abandon their homes.

Hindus from Pakistan came to India and Muslims from India went to Pakistan. They walked, climbed trains and somehow managed to reach alive in their new country with their family, without any other belongings.

Nisha is a twelve-year-old girl who is half Hindu and half Muslim. She grew as a motherless child after losing her mother when she was a baby and now she has to lose her home too.

Nisha’s father feels it is highly unsafe to stay back in Pakistan due to the tensions between communities. So they manage to leave by train and later by foot. They become refugees in a new country, India.

But Nisha is a hopeful young girl. She misses her dead mother and writes letters to her. The narrative is through Nisha’s letters to her mother. Read this poignant historical fiction about a young girl’s journey and quest to find security.

A Mauryan Adventure (Girls of India – Historical Fiction Books Series)

Girls of India series in Indian historical fiction books
“Girls of India” book series

By Subhadra Sen Gupta

 The story is from 3rd Century BC. Twelve-year-old girl Madhura lives in the city of Patliputra in North India during the rule of Emperor Ashoka. Madhura does not wish to work as a maid to the Mauryan princess Sangamithra. As a maid, she has to be with the princes as a companion all the time and follow her wishes. Madhura dreams of travelling to different places, discovering new things, and meeting new people. 

Her brother is a trader and training to be a soldier. His life is exciting as he travels to several places for trading. One day Madhura gets an opportunity to accompany him on his caravan of bullock carts.

She is awestruck by the new places they visit and happy to see her brother interacting with a variety of new people. Read the book to get a view of Mauryan times through the perspective of Madhura.

A Harappan Adventure

By Sunila Gupte

The story is from 2570 BCE. In the Bagasra village of the Indus valley era in Harappa, lives a twelve-year-old girl named Avani who is happy and adventurous. She has a bunch of friends with whom she plays. Together they are smart, curious and a brave bunch of adolescent kids. The wedding of Ketika, the village elders daughter, brings in visitors to the village. Among these are some suspicious looking Chinese men. 

Avani inadvertently listens to a conversation between the Chinese and she can’t let go of the information lightly. So she and her friends have to be alert and think about what they can do. Moreover, a series of events take place that builds suspicion.

Read this unusual story to find whether Avani and her friends can unfold the mystery and save their village. An Intriguing read from the Indian historical fiction books series “Girls of India” for middle-grade readers.

A Chola Adventure

By Anu Kumar

The story is from 990 CE. In Tanjore, South India, a twelve-year-old girl named Raji lives in the empire of Rajaraja Chola. Raji is a talented and spirited young girl. She sculpts beautifully on stone for the kingdom’s structures.

She likes dancing and martial arts too. Despite all her talents, Raji is not happy because her mother is in exile. Her deeply hurt father leaves home grieving for his wife.

One night, a Chinese sailor needs help during the storm. Raji and her friends along with prince Rajendra Chola attempt to help the sailor. While helping the sailor, they get to know new useful information. Will Raji unite with her parents? Will the Chola kingdom return to safety?

The Teenage Diary of Jahanara

By Subhadra Sen Gupta

The story is from 1626. The narrative unfolds through the voice of Jahanara, the daughter of Prince Khurram. The story unfolds in central India. Father Emperor Jehangir has differences with his third son Prince Khurram.

Jahanara feels the differences are because of the stepmother, Empress Nur Jahan. Emperor Jehangir upset with Prince Khurram, sends him away in exile. With six children and a wife Arjamand Bano, Prince Khurram lives in Deccan. Daughter Jahanara records the happenings around her during these times. 

There is a conspiracy in the Mughal kingdom as Emperor Jehangir’s health deteriorates. Prince Khurram decides to take control of the royal Mughal throne and gallops away to Agra.

How will Prince Khurram get close to the royal throne? Read this story in the form of diary notes of Jahanara. There is mystery, suspicion, strategy, and ambition combined with emotions. 

More Indian historical fiction books for teenagers

Puffin Books have published Indian historical fiction books for teenagers and young adults in “The Girls of India” series. Three titles from this series about the Mauryan, Chola and the Harappan times are in this article.

Talking Cub, an imprint of Speaking Tiger has published books of this genre in their series “The Teenage Diary of”. These include stories based on Jodh Bai, Nur Jahan, Razia Sultan, and Rani Laxmibai. “The Teenage Diary of Jahanara” is in the above list.

These two series are mainly for teenage readers yet reading enthusiasts of any age group will relish reading them. Author Adity Kay (Anu Kumar) has written hi-fi books for adults, like “Emperor Vikramaditya”, and “Emperor Harsha”.

Other hi-fi books for young adults include Amish Tripathi’s “Suheldev”, Rajat Pillai’s “Yoddha: The Dynasty of Samudragupta”, and Komal Bhanver’s “The Mauryan”. Factual chronicles of real yet old events do not fall under the historical fiction genre.

Autobiographies and biographies are about real lives and past events, they too are not fiction.

Concluding thoughts:

Indian historical fiction books give clarity to its readers about how people lived in their daily lives in historical times. Middle-grade readers and young adults are great fans of fantasy like Harry Potter and other fantasy-based novels. Historical fiction is appealing and imaginative. It’s wonderful to imagine what it was like to live in those times.

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