G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Friday, January 15, 2010

One Madrasi Dalit's Death at Panipat in the Afternoon of Makar Sankranti 1761

The most salient fact about the 18th century is that people were in pain 50 per cent of the time.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (भीमराव रामजी आंबेडकर):

"When the whole of India was enveloped by the advancing foreign horde and its people being subjugated piece by piece, here in this little corner of Maharashtra lived a sturdy race who knew what liberty was, who had fought for it inch by inch and established it over miles and miles."


George Orwell:

"One of the essential experiences of war is never being able to escape from disgusting smells of human origin. Latrines are an overworked subject in war literature, and I would not mention them if it were not that the latrine in our barracks did its necessary bit towards puncturing my own illusions about the Spanish civil war."




Lord Curzon, speaking at the annual dinner of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1908:
"If the Central Asian Society exists and is meeting in fifty or a hundred years hence, Afghanistan will be as vital and important a question as it is now."


Today is the beginning of 250th anniversary year of the third battle of Panipat that was fought on January 14, 1761.

The battle was the most significant event of the year in the world. Even ahead of a transit of Venus across the Sun which according to ANDREA WULF helped "launch global scientific teamwork, science's first international collaboration—despite war, storms, typhus and frozen brandy" in 1761 (WSJ, April 20 2012)

The battle marks the end of the Mughal empire, once the most powerful empire in the world, and the rise of British power in India.

I have attempted to draw attention to a few aspects of the battle in the posts that have appeared before.

On a personal note, forefathers (and a few mothers too) of many of today's middle-class Marathi speakers like me were slaughtered (and violated) on that Makar Sankranti day, either on the battlefield during the day or in the bright moonlight of the evening that followed.

Marathas tried to rally all Indians against the foreign intruders.

When I told my son that the greatest valour in the battle, from the side of Marathas, was shown by Ibrahim Khan Gardi's eight to ten thousand strong division and that his statue should be standing next to that of Baji Rao I in front of Shaniwar Wada, he said: "Mussalman?".

For José Ortega y Gasset, 'Don Quixote' was the last hero of the Middle Ages. For me, it's I K Gardi, not any fictional character.

T S Shejwalkar: "...Ibrahim Khan Gardi's division had dark and stubby South Indian Muslims and many Hindu Deccan soldiers. They probably belonged to very low castes...Because of his guns and soldiers maximum Muslims had died...but Ibrahim Khan succumbed to the wounds which were aggravated by rubbing salt into it. His son and brother-in-law had died earlier in the battle... "

(त्र्यं शं शेजवलकर: "...इब्राहिमखानाच्या गाडद्यात काळे व ठेंगणे दक्षिणी मुसलमान व बरेच हिंदु तेलंगे शिपाईही होते. ते बहुधा अगदी खालच्या जातीचे असत......त्याच्या तोफखान्यामुळे व गाडद्यांमुळे सर्वात जास्त मुसलमान ठार झाले होते... पण इब्राहिमखानाच्या जखमास मीठ चोळृन त्या चिघळवून त्यास मारण्यात आले. त्याचा मुलगा व मेहुणा पूर्वीच युद्धात मेले होते... ")

Is there a greater example of personal sacrifice in the entire history of Marathas (1630-1818)?

Next year when some people of Maharashtra erect large posters of slaying of Afzal Khan by Shivaji, I hope they will also create images of Ibrahim Khan Gardi blasting Maratha's enemies.

Sadashiv Rao Bhau with Ibrahim Gardi (extreme left) courtesy: Raja Kelkar Museum, Pune

Let us remember that on the morning of January 14 1761, prayers had gone out to Gajanan, Khandoba, Tulja Bhavani, Vithoba, Mahalakshmi, Balaji, Muruga, Kashi Vishweshwara, Dwarkadhish, Basava...and the Allah- in Sanskrit, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Rajasthani, Gujarati...- pleading for Maratha victory.

Yes, Marathas were NOT fighting in the name of any religion or language while their enemies like Najib-ul-Daula were doing so by invoking Jihad.

Make no mistake. Marathas were deeply faithful. After all they had spent (wasted?) so much of their precious time at the Hindu pilgrimage centres before reaching Panipat. But they were ready to sacrifice themselves to protect secular ethos of India.

They were fighting an army, commandeered by a brilliant general: Ahmad Shah Abdali, that contained a large number of Afghans whose successors, 250 years later, aren't being defeated by US and NATO forces.

An idea of India, for which Marathas were fighting, was given to them, most recently, by Chattrapati Shahu (1682–1749).

In today's Maharashtra, most people praise Shivaji (1630-1680) and Shahu IV (1874-1922) for their vision, leadership and administration. I feel Chattrapati Shahu too, in many respects, belongs up there with them.

The Maratha army- manned by people of all castes, both Hindus and Muslims, and speaking multiple languages- sure lost the battle quite spectacularly but they, and NOT the British, laid the foundation of modern Indian army that today prides on its strict secular credentials.

The roots of the unity of Hindus and Muslims against the British in 1857 can also be traced to this battle.

In the end, Marathas, fighting for their principles, sacrificed a lot more than what Nehru, Patel and Jinnah were ever ready to. They also achieved a lot, for India, even in defeat, because the foreign invader's back was broken in the process.

And finally heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.

I hope people of India, and not just Maharashtra, will also remember T S Shejwalkar, the best historian of the battle and one of the foremost essayist of 20th century India. (He wrote such beautiful Marathi prose!)

Acharya Atre writes about Shejwalkar: "Alienated from the masses, such a giant has not been produced in our Maharashtra...The tragedy of Maharashtra is that it doesn't even remember the knowledgeable ones..." ('Hundake')

(आचार्य अत्रे: "जनतेपासून अलिप्त झालेला एवढा मोठा माणूस या आमच्या महाराष्ट्रात झालेला नाही...आमच्या महाराष्ट्राची शोककथा ही आहे, की त्याला विद्वान माणसांची आठवणही होत नाही...", 'हुंदके')

Vilasrao Deshmukh (विलासराव देशमुख) has been around in my public life for a long time now. I never took any interest in what he said.

But I was impressed when he referred to Panipat 1761 in a speech on December 27, 2009:

"...Mr Deshmukh said he grows emotional whenever he remembers the historic 1761 battle. "Panipat ke yaad aati hai to ankhon mein aansu aate hain (I get tears in my eyes when I think about that battle)," the Union minister for heavy industries and public enterprises said after paying tribute to the martyrs of 1761 at the memorial on the battle ground.

Speaking at the Panipat Mahotsav function organised by the Panipat Foundation, Mr Deshmukh felt history should be studied holistically, in the right perspective, and that its positive side should also be brought before the people.

"Maratha yahan aaey desh ke liye... kuirbani ki (The Marathas came here to save the country and sacrificed themselves)," he said. He added that the fact that the Marathas lost the third battle of Panipat should not take away from the sacrifice made by those who fought Ahmad Shah Abdali’s army..."

The battle lurks in my mind all the time.

I have started watching on National Geographic Channel "Generals At War". The very first episode was on the battle of El Alamein.

It demonstrated the importance of the design of field toilets and how better designed toilets helped the British beat the Germans.

I had never read until recently what an unbathed army, even if your own, meant.

Will Irwin, a war correspondent for Collier's magazine, reporting on the progress of the German army in World War I: "Over it all lay a smell of which I have never heard mentioned in any book on war—the smell of a half-million unbathed men, the stench of a menagerie raised to the nth power. That smell lay for days over every town through which the Germans passed."

Now read this.

For a period of approximately two and half months leading upto January 14 1761, Maratha army- approximate 200,000 people strong- was forced to stay put in an area of about 15 miles long near Panipat.

It could never change its location even once unlike their enemy army of Ahmad Shah Abdali which changed its own location three times.

Unfortunately today there are few letters available that were sent from the Maratha army camp during this period because most of the sent ones were captured and destroyed by the enemy.

Shejwalkar has described the kind of difficulties Maratha army might have faced- foul smell (emanating from excreta of its own and, thanks to the wind direction, that of the enemy), polluted and inadequate water (princely Rs. 1 per pot!), famine like food supply, lack of clothing to protect from severe and unusually wet North Indian winter, undisposed rotting corpses of soldiers who died in skirmishes etc.

One of the important reasons Marathas lost was because they were fighting looking into the Sun. It tired them out quickly. Wish transit of Venus happened on January 14!

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amiable post and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you for your information.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree, you write with a very biased view. I know your maratha, but if you choose to write about "India" on a whole, you cant be so baised.

Where was this nationalistic fervor when sided with the Brits against arguably one of the few rulers who foresaw what the british were upto, playing one side against another,...Tippu?.... Maratha's fought him off, siding with the british, in between two disastrous Anglo-Maratha wars.....the wars which eventually resultedin the final nail, the 3rd anglo maratha.

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Thanks Anons.

You are right. Figting Tipu was their biggest mistake. Especially because Marathas knew as much Tipu what Brits were upto.

But this happened many years after Panipat.

And perhaps the defeat at Panipat made them behave the way they did!

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...

I have Shejwalkar's Panipat sitting on my book rack, but I've never managed to read the part that describes the battle, it is too depressing, my grandmother was from Pune, and she was born in 1914, so though Panipat happened almost 150 years before she was born, there was somebody who heard a story that he told her, by some one who heard it from another who heard it when it happened. A story about houses full of widows with their shaved heads, how the Peshwa was take around by Raste (who was not called Raste then) to show the effect of the conflict. And how Raste gave some sound advice to the Peshwa and perhaps waived a lot of money that the Peshwa owed to him and that is why he came to be called Raste. I am not very sure heard it a long time ago myself, can you add to make it more coherent?

Another point I wish to raise is that the Maratha's perhaps were not prepared mentally prepared for such killing, after all Abdali's back was broken too and India never again saw a Muslim invasion. The only other major Hindu - Muslim conflict that happened since resulted in complete Muslim surrender on 16 December 1971, 210 years after Panipat.

You should also have mentioned that Shejwalkar writes in Panipat that India should have had a proactive defence policy, we sure have had decision makers with little sense of history or geography. 1/3 Kashmir is gone, the remaining J & K will for ever remain Muslim because of article 370, but the demographics of Assam, West Bengal, Tripura are changing, the N-E states long in the grips of Christian missionaries. We have the Indian leading party in the hands of a white catholic , and Hindus queuing in front of the statue of a Muslim holding artis. (look at his original photos and then you will agree with me)

I however wish you read a book about the Maori's during the period when European's first came in contact with them and how first the Europeans were employed on the side of one Maori tribe or the other, and eventually the how Europeans took charge of the country now called New Zealand.

Isn't India's story similar?

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Please read the book. It's cathartic.

I have never read the story you tell here. Sorry.

You say: "Maratha's perhaps were not prepared mentally prepared for such killing."

I wonder why. After all, although surely more humane than Abdali, they too used to slaughter and plunder without any mercy.

Read M V Dhond's foreword to his 'Lavani' book.

I do not see India-Pakistan 1971 war as Hindu Vs. Muslim conflict and hence don't agree with your 'Muslim surrender' nomenclature.

I also do not agree with your fears on religious conversions.

Christianity came to India before it went to Europe and even today Christians make only about 2% of our population.

I have lived in Assam and know first hand how poorly most of NE states are governed.

Infiltration across the international border, regardless of the religious identity of the crosser, is part of the that colossal problem.

I do not agree with your statements on Kashmir.

I do not think India's story is similar.

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...

When I write that Marathas were not prepared for killing I meant that they were not prepared for loosing lots of soldiers. Remember each combatant was allowed to take 5 "guests" along, for a pilgrimage of Aryavrata or Hindustan as it was called then. Panipat was one battle, which took place far away from the Peshwa capital, admitedly they lost heavily in terms of men and resources, but it was not a disaster, except that perhaps it broke the Maratha spirit, or they were already softened by all the chauth they extorted. During Shivaji's times, the Marathas faced worse situations, but bounced back stronger, one example is the Treaty of Purandar, the many forts ceded to Aurangazeb, the arrest of Shivaji, etc. Even later the Marathas fought the occupying army of Aurangazeb for 27 years, until he was buried on Maharashtra's soil.

IMO history gives great management lessons.

About Panipat I repeat you never had a Muslim invader ever after.

The story I have narrated is of course anecdotal, I just hope somebody repeats it some time and I can put the pieces together. It is the story how Raste became to be called Raste, I was told that it was because they gave रास्त sound advice (and action).

I had drawn an analogy between the Maori conflicts in the 19th century with the many Indian conflicts the British participated in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in India. I have come to feel that Marathas and other Indians were no better in terms of technology, science, state institutions than the Maoris.

I have taken your point about Muslims, I hope that this will be a long journey and that topic can be raised at some other time.

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...

Oh and I have read most of Panipat (Shejwalkar's), it is a remarkable book. I have written that I have not been able to read the chapters that deal with the actual battle in detail as he describes it. The fact that the Marathas were almost starving, and the last food many had on that fateful Sankrant day, was dry fruits. The names of the many Maratha sardars, The dash of the Hujarat that was caught between Ibrahim Khan's guns and the mortars of Abdali carried on camels, Ibrahim Khan's fight to the end it is too depressing, as Shejwalkar describes it.

I did not find the book cathartic, wonder how you did, far from it for that matter, it is a cold and clinical analysis of the events around 1761, a scholarly work.

V D Sawarkar has written Uttarkarya (I have read a short excerpt), I hope to read it.

It may be difficult for you to accept, and I may come across as a *&*%^ but G was perhaps a retribution for the thousands of civilians butchered by Abdali, not that I condone what happened, I would be much more comfortable if there was rule of the law, but as Rev. Wright remarked after WTC, the chickens have come home to roost.

I had not found it then but I stand corrected on the following,

"You should also have mentioned that Shejwalkar writes in Panipat that India should have had a proactive defence policy, we sure have had decision makers with little sense of history or geography."

You have done so.

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...

Our own gods are too busy with their own problems unlike the Abrahamic god whose business is revenge.

For he says (Romans 12:19) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Maybe I find "cold and clinical analysis" cathartic! I find Mahabharat cathartic.

"the thousands of civilians butchered by Abdali"?

If Marathas had won, they surely would have spared more lives, particularly of non-soldiers, but the actual battle would have been as bloody as it was.

Even on the former point, read Rajmohan Gandhi's book 'A Tale of Two Revolts'. Nanasaheb Peshwa of 1857 comes across as 'cruel' as Abdali.

Abdali was magnanimous in praise of Marathas after the defeat. I have so far not read Marathas praising their enemies after defeating them.

Let us say: Abdali played by the rules which were not same as that of Marathas. There is never one set of "rule of the law".

"you never had a Muslim invader ever after"?

How does it matter? Because Marathas, indirectly there and later by opposing Tipu, paved the way for the 'Christians'. (I deliberately say Christians because you did not say Turks or Afghans but Muslims.)

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...

About Abdali some other time. Please read what I have shared with you.

I hope I am able to communicate on the 'Maori analogy'

Oh I had been to Gagode yesterday, bought Geetai, the books are put up for sale in Vinoba's own house. Met Vijay bhau Diwan who is Vinoba's father's biographer.

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

You say: "... however wish you read a book about the Maori's during the period when European's first came in contact with them and how first the Europeans were employed on the side of one Maori tribe or the other, and eventually the how Europeans took charge of the country now called New Zealand."

There have been many such instances in the history of mankind.

Read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies".

Read D G Godse's essay on Bhasa's Pratima.

Ancient India too probably witnessed such events.

Read my post on Sarpa Satra at http://searchingforlaugh.blogspot.com/2010/02/sarpa-satra-made-in-india-practised-in.html

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

I have a suggestion on your views on Tipu.

Please publish them on your blog and I will provide a link to them from my blog.

best,

Anonymous said...

Hi
Very nice and intrestingss story.

vijaywebmaster89@mail.com said...

History Of Panipat-History Of Panipat:- Panipat historic name is Panduprastha.Panipat city was founded by the Pandava brother during the time of Mahabharata. Panipat is the one historical city in India where three big & historical wares took place. Panipat is situated 85 km from Delhi.Panipat was a part of district Karnal until 31 Oct. 1989.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating discussion and blog. But I take exception to the statement that Christianity came to India before Europe!! it is actually a well known fraudulent claim, the ulterior motive being to assert that Christianity is one of India's religions like Buddhism and Jainism, and therefore those who oppose conversion should stop doing so. You will need to research a bit to locate the arguments that expose this (I can't find them right now). Good luck!

Jawwad Kazi said...

Dear Mr Kulkarni,
I highly appreciate your knowledge on the subject and frank opinion on Ibrahim Khan Gardi, my ancestor from my mothers side. I would like to add that Abdali was so awestruck by this braveheart that he offered him a high rank in his service. But a patriot and loyal commander that he was, Ibrahim Khan rejected his offer. Yet Abdali asked him what he would do if he was pardoned, to which Ibrahim Khan said he would go back to Deccan, build another army and attack Qandahar! My mail ID is jawwadkz82@gmail.com. I would like to keep in touch with you.

Jawwad Kazi said...

Dear Mr Kulkarni,
I appreciate your knowledge about the battle and frank opinion about my great ancestor Ibrahim Khan Gardi (my mother is the direct descendant of Ibrahim Khan). I would like to add that even after the battle Abdali offered a very high service to him, but a patriot and a loyal commander that he was, Ibrahim Khan rejected it. Yet Abdali was so awestruck that he wanted to pardon him and asked him what he would do if left free. Ibrahim Khan replied "I will go back to Deccan, build another army and attack Qandahar!" My mail id is jawwadkz82@gmail.com, I would like to keep in touch with you.

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Dear Mr. Kazi,

Thanks for your feedback. I am happy that my gratitude towards the late Mr. I K Gardi has been read by his direct descendent.

I feel as if Mr. Gardi himself read it in the heaven!

You indeed should be proud of what Mr. Gardi did for his loyalty to the soil of India.

I have noted your e-mail id.

best,

Incognito said...

Sir, read your valuable comments and insights about the battle and am thankful for them!Eager to know more about it. Sir, is it possible for me to buy Shri.Shejwalkars book?? Sir, please lemme know where can I find it.
Regards

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Thanks Incognito for your feedback.

Shejwalkar's book 'Panipat 1761' is available both in English and Marathi.

You may find Marathi book in most bookshops of big cities like Pune, Kolhapur. Or you can write to Rajhans Prakashan to buy a copy.

I do not know where you can buy the English version of the book.

best

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...

You write "Turks"... "Afghans" ... Well Afghanistan is only as old as Abdali, before that it was shared between India and Persia. That is why Shejwalkar calls Abdali the Afghan Shivaji, have you read "Solstice at Panipat"?

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Thanks Yogesh and nice to see you again here...Thanks for the info...Yes, I knew what Shejwalkar says about Abdali...No I have not read the other book...happy new year to you...best