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The Far Pavilions is an epic novel of British-Indianmarker history by M. M. Kaye, first published in 1978, which tells the story of an English officer during the Great Game. The novel, though rooted deeply in the romantic epics of the 19th century, has been hailed as a masterpiece of storytelling. It is based partly on biographical writings of the author's grandfather as well as her knowledge of and childhood experiences in India. It sold millions of copies, caused travel agents to create tours that visited the locations in the book, and inspired a television adaptation and a musical play.

Plot summary

The novel tells the story of Ashton Pelham-Martyn, son of a British botanical scientist, who is born on the road shortly before the Sepoy uprising of 1857. His mother dies from childbed fever shortly after his birth; and as his father dies of cholera a few years later, he is entrusted to his nanny Sita to be brought to his uncle in the Queen’s own Corps of Guides in Mardanmarker, the commander of which would see him brought to England. The return to England is delayed by the mutiny - Sita fears that the boy might be recognized as English by the mutineers and killed, and she decides to hide him as her own child. As they seek refuge and work in the (fictional) kingdom of Gulkote, time passes, and Ashton, going under the name Ashok, forgets that he is English. Working as a boy for the young yuveraj, Ashton befriends neglected princess Anjuli and master of stables Koda Dad as well as his son Zarin. Aged 11, Ashton uncovers a conspiracy against the yuveraj and learns of a plot to kill him as a witness. His friends help him and his foster mother escape the palace and flee across the country, at which time Sita dies, after telling Ashton of his true parentage and his destination. Reaching Mardan, Ashton is sent to England for a formal education. Feeling split loyalties due to his upbringing and the condescending attitude of his classmates and foster parents, Ashton returns to India as soon as he can to join the guides, where he carves out a career for himself through his bravery, inventiveness, and an intuitive connection to the "natives". His fierce sense of justice and fairness often makes him go loggerheads with his superiors, who eventually gladly send Ashton on a long away mission to escort a wedding procession through India. It is there that he unexpectedly meets his long forgotten friend Anjuli, who is one of the brides...

Characters in "The Far Pavilions"

  • Ashton Hillary Akbar Pelham-Martyn
  • Anjuli-Bai
  • Koda Dad Khan
  • Biju Ram
  • Shushila-Bai
  • Belinda Harlowe
  • Kaka-ji Rao
  • Walter Hamilton
  • Zarin Khan
  • Sita
  • Lalji
  • Captain Stiggins
  • Jhoti

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

  • In 1984 Peter Duffell directed a Goldcrest-produced epic three-part mini series based on the novel starring Ben Cross as Ashton, Amy Irving as Anjuli, Omar Sharif as Koda Dad and Christopher Lee as Kaka-ji Rao. It was HBO's first mini series. The mini series ran 316 minutes, a theatrical edit of which ran 140 minutes (Titled "Blade Of Steel"), cutting out half the story. Although conventional in storytelling and photography, the mini series has ample production value (at a budget of $12 million it was the most expensive made-for-cable movie at the time) and is faithful to the book, cutting short only the youth of Ashton before his return to India. The epic score by Carl Davis has become a much sought-after collector's item.

There was a stage musical adaptation, produced by Michael E. Ward. The music was composed by Philip Henderson. It was premiered at The Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End on 14 April 2005 and closed in September of the same year. This was because of the sudden drop in audience numbers, due to the London Bombings. Budgeted at 7 million pounds, the show's cast featured Hadley Fraser as Ashton, Gayatri Iyer as Anjuli, Kulvinder Ghir as the Rana of Bhithor and Kabir Bedi as Kahn Sahib.

A new feature film adaptation freely adapted from the novel is underway. Budgeted at $18 million, the film will be co-produced by Michael E. Ward and a major Indian film banner. The film will be released with the Hindi title of Yeh Chaar Hawaaein ["These Four Winds"] and in English as "The Far Pavilions".

DVD Release

The Far Pavilions 1984 Television Mini-Series is available on DVD in the UK and US[140354], distributed by Acorn Media UK.


  1. Tom Shales, 'TV Previews Plodding "Pavilions"', The Washington Post (21 April 1984).

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