Monday, June 20, 2016

Tipu Sultan and Chitpavan Jews?

Dec. 2015 saw most of India agog over a lavishly set movie, in which a princess storms into the headquarters of an ally and into his heart -- at a time when she and her bhabhi were actually storming the enemy camp to rescue her imprisoned brother. That did not count.
The evil Sasu relegates the princess to a kotha. The first wife delivers her son at her maika. When she brings him home, hero goes off to personally deliver his princess’ son.
Another historical mixup: Mastani’s son was born in January 1734 and Kashibai’s in August 1734, both under personal supervision of the Peshwa’s mother Radhabai.  
The princess earns the ire of her saut, the Peshwa’s brother and their compatriot Chitpavan Brahmins, all rooting for his first wife.
Now the Chitpavan Brahmins have a curious history:  Virtual anonymity until Balaji Vishwanath (Baji Rao’s father) left the Konkan and made his way into royal service. Once he was appointed Peshwa, his fellow Chitpavans flocked to Pune and its surroundings, taking up lucrative jobs and airs to go with them.
There is this old legend that Chitpavan means purified with fire i.e. they were washed ashore in a storm and were being cremated, but rose as if from death and were “chitpavan.”  Another that Parshuram  pushed back the sea to create a strip of land which was gifted to those survivors.  Accepted for generations as the base for their superior airs, handsome unusual looks, large noses, tall foreheads, blue or grey eyes, lean frame and scholarly attitudes.
Recent research endorses the shipwrecked story; but also links the survivors’ descendants’ matching genes to the Mediterranean peoples, perhaps Jews? Plausible, as trading links are truly ancient.
These nuggets emerged in 25 years of dedicated research before writing what is now acknowledged as a biography of the real Mastani, neither muslim nor dancing girl, but intelligence officer and princess par excellence. 

Research needs perseverance and an affinity for the object and for digging out history from sources other than those written by the victors to suit their purposes.  Two recent examples:
Utkarsh Patel’s presentation of Shakuntala, not as the romantic weeping willow made popular by Kalidas’s poem; but as a strong willed woman with the guts to tick off the king in open court, as depicted in the original story in Vyas’ original Mahabharat.

Perhaps the most serious contender prized looking at history through new prisms based on research  is Dr. Bhagwandas Gidwani, mentioned last week for his monumental, “The Return of the Aryans.”  His book “The Sword of TIpu Sultan” had inspired my Mastani research.
Gidwani’s book  debunks the communal Tipu Sultan of  the “mindless little men of the future who call themselves historians...".  
Instead tutored by a mullah, a pandit and a Brahmin prime minister, Tipu vacillates between Fakir, Patriot and King, as the only  bulwark against the English, other than Brahmin-led Marathas; instead of Rajput Rajahs with their infighting history that let India down at every invasion since Time Immemorial.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Authenticating Mythology?

 Mythological thrillers fly bookshelves as rewriting/ reviewing of history becomes a national preoccupation.  On TV, it commands TRPs, rules the box office.  It is the new gold.    
Is it not time to be super-careful, not to go astray, as happened with the instance of Jawaharlal Nehru?
It is only positive that as a people, we have become conscious of our past and want to know more about it. But some standards and authenticity must be a pre-requisite, not swept to the wayside in search of TRPs.
An old wives’ tale insists the Mahabharata should never be read at home, like the Ramayan is.   Reason:  it will only create quarrels within the family.  For what is the Mahabharat, but an unending rendering of family weaknesses, quarrels, arrogances, and greed that were allowed to fester to finally destroy the then-known world.
Remember the 1988 telecast of  TV Mahabharat  to all homes also saw the tumultuous birth of VP Singh’ Janata Dal, anti-reservation agitations and the Advani rath yatra disaster.
Now a different mood has writers delving into cryptic quotes from ancient writings to fashion thrillers, whilst others pour over the past with different, well researched prisms to uncover new meanings and dismiss old prejudices.
Some riddles require the expertise of wise scholars.  There is the ancient city of Dwarka, believed submerged off the coast of Gujarat near present day Dwarka.  Is that so?  Why then were the excavations into those ruins abruptly called off, after a brilliant start?
A well known scholar Dr. Daftuar has, after deep study, proposed the possibility that perhaps Krishna’s Dwarika  may be Atlantis,  submerged Greek city of Hercules. He finds amazing similarities in the two legends, Krishna, his brother Balrama and the Greek Hercules, as well as the circumstances of the destruction of the two cities, tied to the upsurge of information on the geographical development of the earth thousands of years ago. 
At that time, the whole of Africa, Eurasia and Australia were part of one land mass that slowly drifted apart to form separate continents of Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.   Makes the proposition pretty sound, doesn’t it?
That reminds me of another proposition by an earlier scholar, Canada based Dr. Bhagwandas Gidwani.   Based on his research of archival material in France and elsewhere, he set aside the whole British propounded “Aryan Invasion” theory they had used to decimate ancient Indian culture.  His “Return of the Aryans” follows the migrations from Ancient India in all directions – to South Asia and beyond, through present day Afghanistan, Persia, Eygpt and beyond, Europe right upto Germany’s Black Forest. 

The return journey, centuries later, of those who sought to rediscover the motherland is what the British preached as the Aryan Invasion in their textbooks.  Gidwani’s stand has, over time, won much acceptance and approbation. It not only affirms the pre-historic antiquity of civilization in India, but also offers answers to many questions left unanswered by the classic interpretation of history that we were taught in school.