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Rare manuscripts of Peshwa history lie wrapped in government apathy

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
By Prashant Hamine

Thanks to the government's apathy, rare manuscripts of golden era of Maratha history and Peshwa dynasty lie wrapped in the portals of Shanivarwada, the seat of the then Peshwa dynasty. Nearly four crore manuscripts, letters and other ancient documents written in ancient “Modi Lipi” (ancient cursive form of Marathi script) dating back to the reign of Bajirao Peshwa (I) is languishing in Shanivarwada in the heart of Pune city. Disclosing this to ADC, noted historian Mandar Lawate from Pune lamented over the government's apathy in bringing to light the full glory and true history of the Peshwa empire before the people.

The Peshwas were responsible for expanding the footprint of the Maratha empire beyond the boundaries of Maharashtra. “The British during their reign had kept and preserved these documents at Shanivarwada, the seat of the Peshwa power”, disclosed Lawate.

Lawate, noted historian, author and former bureaucrat Dr Vishwas Patil and Ashutosh Patankar, a descendant of Kashibai, wife of Bajirao Peshwa (I)  have debunked Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bollywood biopic “Bajirao Mastani”, more for its songs, historical references, costumes and incorrect depiction of customs and traditions followed then. Dr. Vishwas Patil, besides being a career bureaucrat has penned the famous novel “Panipat” on the conquest of the Peshwas, earning him the nickname of “Panipatkar”.

“Only Maratha history between 1630 to 1680 CE (reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) is known to the outside world. The rest of the history has been treated as less important by the government. We are still to become liberal in the true sense of the word”, remarked Lawate. He argues that it is because, there are very few experts left today who can devote time and energy to decipher Modi Lipi, the history of the Peshwas, their conquests and expansion of the Maratha empire which is still largely unknown. The present day descendants Udaysingh Peshwa are more cultured and have refrained themselves from falling into any controversy, preferring to maintain a low profile, says Lawate.

On the issue of picturisation of the songs on Bajirao, Kashibai and Mastani a livid Lawate questions “have you ever seen a chief minister dance in public? It was not the etiquette in those days for men and women to dance in public. In the olden days, women used to remain in “Gosha” (a veil, sort of purdah system) never to be seen in public in front of men. There are no portraits available of women of royal families then, as male artists were never allowed to draw portraits of women . Only D G Godse has written a book on Mastani which is purely his inferences. The songs are utter hopeless”.

According to Dr Vishwas Patil, Mastani was the daughter of the Chatrasal king. Her mother was believed to be an Iranian. However, historians differ over whether she was their unwanted child. But all agree that she was well versed in art of martial combat. Dr. Vishwas Patil adds that traces of her roots can be found in the letters she wrote to Nanaji Peshwa after the latter coronated her nephew to the throne of the then princely state of Bonda in Madhya Pradesh.

Patil admits that the relationship of Bajirao Peshwa (I) and Mastani had caused considerable clashes within the royal family. So much so, that Bajirao Peshwa's uncle Chimajiappa had Mastani put under detention when Bajirao Peshwa was out on one of his expeditions. Matters reached to such levels that once Shahu Maharaj had to threaten to take away the royal title and robes of Peshwas if Bajirao Peshwa (I) did not end his affair with Mastani.

He adds that the dignity and character of Mastani could be known from the letters she wrote to Nanasaheb Peshwa. “Though both the royal ladies never came face to face with each other. I am sure Mastani would have bowed and touched the feet of Kashibai, that much she was dignified in her upbringing”, remarked Patil.

Ashutosh Patankar, a descendant of Kashibai argues that Kashibai suffered for a debilitating kind of arthritis at a very young age. Hence it was out of question for her to be dancing with Mastani. Patankar adds that Kashibai was a learned lady and had her own library of books.  A fact that Dr. Vishwas Patil too agrees to, “Kashibai was not only suffering, but was also plump. Moreover, both Kashibai and Mastani maintained distance in public. They never came together. Patil alleged that the song “Pinga” has been copied from three Marathi flims produced by Anant Mane between 1967 and 1980.

Moreover, the song “Vatt Lavli” picturised on Bajirao Peshwa (I) on the“Lavni” form of dance actually came to be known in the reign of Bajirao Peshwa (II), 70 years later after the demise of Bajirao Peshwa (I).

Commenting upon the song “Pinga”, he said that there was no need for Bhansali to copy that song. “There is so much of drama and passion in the love story between the two that there was no need for Bhansali to resort to such kind of gimmicks. The royal women then never exposed their belly or back in public. The costume shown in the movie is absurd and out of context”, remarked Patil. Moreover, Peshwas were the worshippers of Lord Ganesha and in the movie shows him worshipping Malhari incarnation of lord Shiva, says Dr. Vishwas Patil.

He adds further “the problem with our producers and directors is that they do not do thorough research, lack awareness of history and lack confidence. Sir Richard Attenborough made Gandhi but they did not twist historical facts”.

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