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.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

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."

Sunday, December 08, 2013

When Nanasaheb Peshwa Dies on January 14 1761...

Today December 8 2013 is 293rd Birth Anniversary of  Nanasaheb Peshwa aka Balaji Baji Rao (नानासाहेब पेशवे / बाळाजी बाजीराव)

John Darwin:  

"Why do the products of Westernized culture (in science, medicine, literature and the arts) still command for the most part the highest prestige?"
 
Prof. Dr. John Darwin is a formidable name among historians. He is a faculty of history at University of Oxford.

Among others, he has written impressive 'The Empire Project: the Rise and Fall of the British World System 1830-1970' (Cambridge, 2009).

 I have already quoted Prof. Darwin on this blog earlier here

For Caravan, July 2013, Srinath Raghavan has reviewed historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam's book. There, Dr. Darwin has been praised as one of the "best historians" of the younger generation, in the league of the likes of  the late Eric Hobsbawm of older generation.
historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam
historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam
SRINATH RAGHAVAN
SRINATH RAGHAVAN

In the earlier post, I hailed his two books as 'masterly'. One of the two is 'The Empire Project' and the other is 'After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire', 2007.




I was thumbing through the latter and,  as is the habit, went to the pages where he writes on Marathas.

"The Maratha confederacy has long been portrayed as a predatory horde that reduced northern India to anarchy. But behind its rise can be seen something more interesting than an alliance of freebooters. The Marathas’ territorial conquests were marked not by scorched earth but by their elaborate revenue system, whose voluminous records are preserved at Poona (modern Pune). Maratha leaders aimed not at general devastation but at the gradual absorption of the Mughal domain into the sphere of their svarajya or ‘sovereignty’. Their object was not so much the absolute overthrow of Mughal power as its enforced devolution: hence the eagerness with which they sought to cloak their rule with the authority of Mughal grants and decrees. The Maratha enterprise, suggests a modern study, is best seen as the struggle of an emerging Hindu gentry, under their sardars or chiefs, to share Mughal sovereignty and revenues in ways that reflected the rising importance of new landholding groups...

...South Asia in the first half of the eighteenth century should not be seen as a region that was drifting from stagnation to anarchy. In the northern interior the triangular conflict between Marathas, Mughals and the transmontane invaders was also a struggle between ‘gentry’ groups, who were striving to build a stable and sedentary order of towns, markets and settled agriculture, and ‘warrior’ groups who were part of the old tradition of nomadic pastoralism on the upland plains connecting northern India and Central Asia."

Although little sobering is this: 'the Maratha confederacy has long been portrayed as a predatory horde that reduced northern India to anarchy'. 

Now, comes a howler from the professor.

"In a further battle at Panipat, in 1761, the Afghans crushed the Maratha army and killed the peshwa, chief minister of the confederacy."

We know that the then peshwa Nanasaheb Peshwa  on that day  was not even on the battlefield and was at least a 1000 km away in Maharashtra, and died a natural death, no doubt accelerated by the defeat,  five months later! On that day in the battlefield,  peshwa's cousin and son were killed.

I felt sad reading this blunder in Dr. Darwin's book. 

Nanasaheb Peshwa- earlier on this blog, I have been critical of him here and praised him here-  was one of the most important personalities of 18th century, not just in the Indian context but that of the South Asia, West Asia and colonizing nations of Europe. One may argue that he was at least as important, if not more, as George II of Great Britain, British monarch from 1727-1760.


When you look up 1761 in Wikipedia, it lists only 16 events for the year. The first one is the third battle of Panipat.  When you look up 1947  in Wikipedia, it lists about 113 events for the year. One of them is independence of India

T S Shejwalkar (त्र्यं शं शेजवलकर) narrates  how “wise-man” and a key adviser to the peshwa, Sakharam-Bapu Bokil (सखाराम बापू  बोकील),  had started making plans,  based on Maratha empire’s existing sway over large parts of South Asia, to reach Iran 

I don't think, since his death,  any other native Marathi speaking personality has influenced 'world affairs' more. (No wonder 18th century Marathas get decent coverage in Darwin's book on global history.) All great  Marathi speaking personalities of 19th, 20th and 21st century India have at best influenced South Asian political/ social affairs.

Nanasaheb remains largely unsung in today's Maharashtra including Pune. I wonder why. 

Is it because he was a Brahmin? Wasn't he a product of his time like most men and women?  

Personally speaking, I have started hating Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) since reading "1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow", 2004 by Adam Zamoyski but Mr. Bonaparte is recently rated by some to be the second greatest person in the history of mankind, next only to Jesus

Historical personalities are not fairly judged by the yardstick of political correctness of the present.
 
Artist: George Price, The New Yorker, November 1 1941

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