MUMBAI: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s fictional Bollywood epic Bajirao Mastani might have generated curiosity about the great prime minister of the Maratha kingdom, but the Peshwa’s real history is not known to many, thanks to the government’s apathy in showcasing his full glory and true history.
According to Pune historian Mandar Lawate, nearly four crore manuscripts, letters and other ancient documents written in Modi Lipi (ancient cursive form of Marathi script) dating back to the reign of Bajirao Peshwa are languishing in his seat of power Shanivarwada in the heart of Pune.
“During their reign, the British had preserved these documents at Shanivarwada. Only Maratha history between 1630 and 1680 AD (reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) is known to the outside world. The rest has been treated as less important by the government,” Lawate said.
The Modi Lipi documents describe the history of the Peshwas, their conquests and narrate how Bajirao won all the 40 battles he fought. They also explain how his marriage to his second wife Mastani was a part of a political alignment between Marathas and Mastani’s father, King Chhatrasal.
“As there are very few people who can decode Modi Lipi, the true history of the expansion of the Maratha empire is largely unknown,” Lawate said.
Vishwas Patil, the national award-winning author of books Panipat and Mahanayak, said that the government’s apathy has deprived the new generation of knowing real Maratha history. “Mastani’s mother was believed to be Iranian. Traces of her roots can be found in the letters she wrote to Nanaji Peshwa after the latter coroneted her nephew to the throne of Banda in Madhya Pradesh. These letters should be made public,” Patil said.
He adds that Mastani’s dignity and character can be known from the letters. “Mastani and Kashibai (Bajirao’s first wife) never came face to face. I am sure Mastani would have bowed and touched Kashibai’s feet, she was that dignified in her upbringing,” he said.
About the movie Bajirao Mastani, he said: “The problem with our producers and directors is that they do not do thorough research, are not aware of history and lack confidence. Sir Richard Attenborough made Gandhi, but he did not twist historical facts.”