'History of Peshwas gathering dust for want of translators'

Manuscripts and documents dating back to the reign of Peshwa Bajirao I, which bear testimony to the glory of the Peshwa empire, are gathering dust in Pune for want of experts who could translate them even as a film based on the life of the 18th century Maratha icon is set for release this week.

Noted Pune-based historian Mandar Lawate has lamented what he termed the government's 'apathy' when it comes to bringing to light the full glory and true history of the Peshwa empire that is recorded in manuscripts, letters and ancient documents written in the 'Modi Lipi' (ancient cursive form of Marathi script) that taken together run into about four crore pages.

"The British during their reign had kept and preserved these documents at Pune's Shanivarwada, the seat of Peshwa power," Lawate said. "Only Maratha history between 1630 to 1680 CE (reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) is known to the outside world. The rest of the history has been treated as less important by the government," he said.

He said that since there are few experts left today who can devote time and energy to decipher 'Modi Lipi', the history of the Peshwas, their conquests and expansion of the Maratha empire is still largely unknown.

"The present day descendants of Udaysingh Peshwa are more cultured and have refrained from falling into any controversy, preferring to maintain a low profile," he added.

Meanwhile, questioning the picturisation of songs in the upcoming film 'Bajirao Mastani' -- based on Bajirao and his two wives, Kashibai and Mastani -- by Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Lawate said, "Have you ever seen a chief minister dance in public? It was not the etiquette in those days for men and women to dance in public."

Women in those days used to remain inside the 'Gosha' (a veil, type of purdah system), he said. "There are no portraits available of women from royal families then. Only DG Godse has written a book on Mastani, which contain purely his inferences."

The film is set to hit theatres on Dec. 18.

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