Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maratha role in Indian history

If there is one book of Indian history of be written, then it is the story of the role of Marathas in Indian history. Most of it would actually trace back to one man and the inspirational leadership he left behind that practically resurrected India for a period of about 200 years after him.

The man, of course, was Shivaji, but apart from the fact that he led a resurrection of a Hindu kingdom at a time when the most brutal of Mughals was ruling - Aurangzeb - a little known and even lesser celebrated is the lineage of rulers and warriors he left behind.

The two books I have read in the recent past seem to reinforce what my friend has been saying for a while now.

In one of the final chapters of Aavarna, SL Bhyrappa details out the role of Marathas in reclaiming Kashi from its ravaged state. How they tried to get back Kashi and re-build the Kashi Vishwanath temple many a time through wars and pacts and other means - but never got around to rebuilding the temple to its original glory. The original structure was razed to the ground and a mosque built over it - by Aurangzeb. It was news to me that the present structure at Kashi Vishwanath temple - a smallish structure was built by Ahilyabai Holkar. Indeed much of the ghats at Varanasi by the Ganga were also built by various Maratha kings and queens over the years - and all this was because they were practically rebuilding the place from the time it was ravaged by the Islamic invasions.

And they played a stellar role in recapturing much of the coastline from Diu to Goa from the Portuguese - most of it in present day Maharashtra.

And then course, their role from Tamil Nadu to the Mysore kingdom to Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan...a great story to be told indeed...

The Maratha empire

So, why is this story not being told to us or why does our history not glorify it. One version of course is that this resurrection of Hindu kingdoms kind of came in the way of the British reinforcing their dominion over India - they used to justify it saying that they were just one in a series of invasions of India - starting from the Aryans (now discredited) to the Mongols to Turks to whatever and then the British/French/Dutch/Portuguese. The later version is of course is a left wing driven academic agenda that prevents glorification of anything India and one version of the justification I have heard is, Yes, there was a Maratha empire, but it was never an empire, but a loose confederacy and they never really were in control - which can almost be applied to all earlier invasions as well.

But whatever the reason, it is a story worth telling...

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