Language – Marathi
Panipat 1761 is the synthesis of more than 20 years of great efforts by T.S. Shejwalkar to bring to us the most reliable account of this great battle. Written 50 years ago, this remains the best books chronicling the epic battle between Marathas and Abdali.
This is a follow up post on my earlier review of Panipat by Vishwas Patil. After that review, a friend suggested that I must read the book written by T. S. Shejwalkar as it is the most authentic book on the third battle of Panipat. And he was absolutely right. While Vishwas Patil’s Panipat is a historical novel, Shejwalkar’s Panipat is the result of relentless efforts to provide the readers the most accurate history of the great battle.
A great historian not only narrates an event but also unearths the chain of actions that led to a particular event. Any moment of historical significance is a culmination of various actions taken by the actors involved and each person’s disposition, temperament and character plays a significant role in the final outcome. So a historian needs to be an equally competent judge of human nature in addition to being knowledgeable and experienced in sociology, cartography, military science and of course geography. As the adage says “History is geography in motion” and while reading Panipat 1761 I was amazed by Shejwalkar’s command on all the above. Shejwalkar’s approach towards studying the “Cause and Effects” of an episode is like a scientist examining minutely and painstakingly through his microscope.
Without going into the details about the battle that have been well documented by many, I will briefly state a few propositions put forward by Shejwalkar that are still mostly unchallenged, thus showing his grasp of the Maratha history.
- During the Maratha-Mughal war of 1680-1707, Rajaram had to change the policy adopted by Shivaji towards his chiefs. In order to retain them Rajaram had to offer fiefs thus creating a kingdom made up of many fiefdoms whose chiefs believed that serving the country is a means of increasing their own power.
- After Shahu became Chattrapati, power got concentrated in the hand of Peshwas. This resulted in loss of balance in the administration as the old nobles never warmed to Peshwas. The main fatality of this approach was that Marathas could never decide a common political goal for their state and it cost them dearly while fighting with a nation creator like Abdali.
- During the reign of Shahu, Marathas also changed their policy of destroying Mughal empire. After his death also, Marathas continued with the same for their own political gains. This gave chance to Najib, Shuja, Nizam and Aliwardikhan to cement their own places. The same Najib and Shuja were responsible for Panipat.
- Though Maratha power expanded rapidly due to the policy of offering fiefs, it also created a disjoint union of various satraps instead of a strong central power. As a result the vital functions of administration, treasury, military and political command always remained weak; thus becoming the main impediment for Maratha response to a highly organised and powerful Abdali.
The thoughts and ideas proposed by Shejwalkar are visionary yet highly pertinent even today. My words are insufficient to illustrate the true worth of this book. It’s a book that every history lover must have in his collection.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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