Last updateSat, 16 Jun 2018 7am


Ahalyabai Holkar - The Saint Queen of Malwa

Scarce does one come across a comparable character in history as Rani Ahalyabai of the Holkars, in whom a deep spirituality and profound worldly wisdom found perfect coincidence. This illustrious kulvadhu of the Holkars was the epitome of purity, sagacity, charity and compassion, combined with sharp intellect, foresight, astute statesmanship and a remarkably insightful mind. Her catholicity famed her in faraway lands to which her renown was carried in the chronicles and eulogies of contemporary Europeans, an ideal of the grace and fortitude of Indian womanhood. In terms of contributions to the unified consciousness of Hindus she would be second only to Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire.
Originating from the humble dhangars, a pastoral community or gadariyas, the Holkar State became one of the most powerful arms of the Maratha confederacy, founded by Malhar Rao Holkar, a superior military commander who served the Maratha army for over four decades and one of its most distinguished chiefs. He built his fabulous fortunes from revenues yielded by his possessions, among them, large domains of the Deccan, considerable areas of Khandesh, and portions ceded and tributes yielded by subordinated Rajput states. Known for his extravagant generosity and for being a considerate overlord[1] , he was afflicted by a series of tragic events which threw the affairs of his domain into jeopardy.

ahilya 1Contemporary painting of
Subhedar Malhar Rao Holkar
(Source: The Great Holkars)

Malhar Rao’s only son and successor Khanderao Holkar had perished in the siege of Kumher in Bharatpur, in 1754. At Malhar Rao’s death in 1766, Khanderao’s only son through his wife Ahalyabai Holkar, Male Rao, was anointed as the ruler. But soon after, he developed signs of mental illness and would frequently go into paroxysms and died after barely nine months of being put on the throne. Left without an heir, there were efforts by the minister of the Holkars, Gangadhar Jaswant, along with Raghoba, the brother of Peshwa Balaji Bajirao, to place a distantly-related adopted child on the throne for securing the continuance of his own power, but to their surprise, Ahalyabai moved with swiftness to prevent the state authority from descending into this compromised situation.


Remembering Savarkar - Incrimination of the Idea of Hindu Nationhood

One of the earliest conceptualisations of Hindu nationhood, or Hindutva, was put forth by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a freedom fighter, social reformer and activist, and above all a devotee of the Motherland, the Hindu idea of nation as mother, that in time came to be associated singularly with his personality alone. Today, May 28, the anniversary of Savarkar’s birth, is an apt time to take a look at how this most ennobling and elevating articulation of the self-concept of a people came to be regarded as pernicious to the nation it was meant to serve.

A painting of Savarkar- Coutesy

The origins of this colossal falsification can be traced back to the forming in 1907 of the Garam Dal (‘Fiery Group’) faction of the Indian National Congress, of which the greater part of members advocated a conciliatory or ‘constitutional’ approach to British rule. Indeed it had been founded with this very intent to be an extension of colonial control through marginal share of power with natives, certainly not that of complete freedom of self-determination or swarajya, the central idea with which the Garam Dal had been founded by the trio of Bal Gangadhar Tilak – Bipin Chandra Pal – Lala Lajpat Rai, apparently having seen through this dissimulation of the colonialists to minimise obstruction to their single point aim of milking their colonies for as long as they could. To put it plainly, the Congress from its very inception was a political entity comprised of Indian natives who were accomplices of British rule, not in the smallest measure the deliverers of India’s native multitudes. The mainspring of the conflict therefore between Hindu nationalists and the Congress lay right there, which was not so much an ideological divergence as much as a case of diametrically opposing interests, the first being that of undiluted commitment to India as a sovereign unit and the latter, which would compromise this for fulfilling self-goals through any means, which at that point had been to rule over the masses of India under the aegis of the Raj.


Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Creating India, State By State

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Today, India celebrates the 141st jayanti of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It is argued with some justification that the contribution of Sardar Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and other stalwarts of India’s struggle for freedom were undermined by mainstream historians.

It is only in the past few years that the nation is recalling the great deeds of Patel and Bose.

We would do well to recall some of the great deeds of Sardar Patel on this day:

1. The erstwhile princely state of Junagadh with 85 per cent Hindu population and 15 per cent Muslims and others was ruled by a Muslim nawab. On 15 August 1947, the nawab acceded his state to Pakistan. The people responded with protests. Patel asked Pakistan to reverse its acceptance of the accession and to hold a plebiscite.

Samaldas Gandhi, a popular leader of the erstwhile princely state of Junagadh, formed a government-in-exile. Then, Junagadh was surrounded on all of its land borders by India, and the complex conditions led to a suspension of all trade with India with the state government facing financial collapse.


A TRIBUTE TO THE ‘SHIVBHUSHAN’ The Life and Works of Late Historian Ninad Bedekar

Today (May 10) is the third anniversary of death of one of the most outstanding historians of our times, Ninad Bedekar. Few people outside Maharashtra are familiar with this giant among historians whose enthralling historical writings and orations from a rigorously fact-based and scholarly approach, make up one of the most valuable body of works in historical research. We try to look back at the life and works of Late Ninad Bedekar whom the veteran historian and biographer of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Babasaheb Purandare, referred to as the ‘Moving Encyclopaedia of History’.

Ninad Bedekar with Babasaheb Purandare during their younger days at Fort Rajgad
(Source: Shivam Karlekar)

History as an instrument in the hands of dominant powers to exercise greater influence by controlling the narrative and thereby the minds of the people, is well known and has been used throughout the ages by those who held political authority. This holds true for Indian history as well and at the turn of the century, concomitant to India’s struggle for freedom from British rule there arose the movement of great Indian historians, pioneered by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, R C Majumdar, Surendranath Sen, G S Sardesai, among others, who challenged established colonial versions of Indian history and endeavoured to evolve an authentic Indic account, to wrest the prerogative for Indians to tell their own story unmarred by Eurocentric biases.

In the same period, ‘Itihasacharya’ Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade, led the movement of Indic historiography in Maharashtra, augmented by noted historians like Datto Waman Potdar, T S Shejwalkar, Vasudeo Sitaram Bendrey, G H Khare, and others. In the year 1910, V K Rajwade founded the Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal (BISM)भारतइतिहाससंशोधकमंडळ, in Pune, an association of scholars committed to rectification of the Indian historical narration. BISM grew to be a premier institution for historical research in Maharashtra and possesses today a veritable treasure of historical documents and artefacts, some of which date back to the pre-Christian era. One of the most important personalities associated with this institution as a lifetime member was Ninad Bedekar who utilised the phenomenal resources of BISM to bring alive the past before us, enriching history lovers across generations.


भारतीय जनता अनेकता में एकता की मिसाल

भरतय जनत अनकत म एकत क मसल

हिंदू संस्कृति जिस धरती पर समृद्ध हुई, उसकी आबादी के बारे में हम जान चुके हैं कि वह मूलतः चार जातियों का मिश्रण रही है. इन्हीं जातियों के बीच के वैवाहिक संबंधों ने हमारी संस्कृति को बहुरंगा स्वरूप प्रदान किया. विविधता में एकता हमारी सांस्कृतिक पहचान रही है. न स़िर्फ जातीय, बल्कि भाषाई आधार पर भी भारत की विविधता ग़ौर के क़ाबिल है. अलग-अलग क्षेत्रों में अलग भाषाएं बोली जाती हैं. उत्पत्ति के लिहाज़ से उन्हें  अलग-अलग भाषाई समूहों में वर्गीकृत किया जाता है. इन भाषाओं की अपनी लिपियां हैं,