Friday, 11 December 2015

Bajirao Mastani : The real story

The origin of Mastani is shrouded in obscurity. Tradition makes her the offspring of a Hindu father (Probably Maharaja Chatrasal ) and a Muhammadan mother, but highly accomplished and trained in the cultivated arts of blandishment. Tarikh-i-Muhammadshasi mentions that
" She was a Kanchani (a dancing girl) skilled in riding and handling the sword and spear. She always accompanied Bajirao in his campaigns and rode stirrup to stirrup with him."
She was adept in music and gave public performances during the annual Ganapati celebration at the Peshwa's palace. Bajirao was passionately attached to her and felt in her company  all the inspiration of his eventful life. She dressed, talked and lived in Hindu fashion and looked after Bajirao's comforts with the devotion of a wife. In 1734 she bore him a son who was named Krishnarao . Bajirao ardently desired that  Krishnarao  be invested with the sacred thread and be declared a Brahmin. But even the powerful Bajirao could not get the orthodox Pune brahmin priests to agree. With a heavy heart he had to bring up the lad as a Muslim by name Shamsher Bahadur. His name is assumed to be that of his maternal uncle (Samsher Khan).

But Bajirao's infatuation for  Mastani since 1730, impaired his reputationin orthodox society, including his nearest kith and kin. No wonder that Bajirao's infatuation for her grew with years and led him into meat-eating and wine-drinking so repugnant in a Brahman household. Bajirao had sons by his Hindu wife ( Balaji Rao Nanasaheb was born on 8th  December 1720 much before Mastani came into their life ) and naturally the favour shown to the social outcaste seriously disturbed the peace of the Peshwa's family. Popular voice attributed Bajirao's love of wine and meat to his association with Mastani. But a man of Bajirao's type leading the life of a soldier could not retain the rigid rules of his Brahman caste, as he had to mix freely with all kinds of people.
 The narrow exclusive life of a Maharashtra Brahman must naturally undergo sudden changes by marching to distant lands and coming into contact with Rajput courts where wine drinking, flesh eating and smoking were freely indulged. This supplies a clue to Bajirao's lapses. Maratha society in general doubtless underwent immense transformation during the process of their expansion. The published papers supply us with only a few glimpses of what actually happened in Bajirao's family. Possibly the contemplated thread ceremony of Raghunathrao and the marriage of Sadashivrao were the immediate occasion of the trouble in late 1730s.

 Bajirao then became a topic of public criticism and the priests were not prepared to officiate at the ceremonies if such a tainted person as he were present. While Bajirao was absent from Poona on a campaign towards the end of 1739, Mastani was suddenly seized and kept in confinement by Nanasaheb(Bajirao's son from Kashibai ) and Chimnaji Appa. This broke Bajirao's heart completely that the world became all misery for him. He could not outrage society and public opinion by returning to Poona to rescue his beloved one by force. Mahadoba Purandare,
Morshet Karanje and other well-wishers of the family visited Bajirao at Patas and counselled him as to the best course to follow. The orthodox party meant'possibly to do away with Mastani altogether as the sole cause of trouble in their opinion, and wrote to the King's secretary Chitnis, to obtain his sanction for the violent course. The King was wiser.

 On 24th January 1740 writes Govindrao, " I have privately ascertained His Highness's pleasure on the subject of Mastani. He strongly objects to the proposal of forcible separation or personal restraint. He will not tolerate any offence being given to Bajirao, who should be kept entirely pleased. The evil does not abide in that lady. It can be stopped only when he himself feels so inclined. On no account can His Highnessadvise any violence to the feelings of Bajirao." Bajirao was away fighting his last war with Nasir Jang . Mastani was kept under restraint in an out of the way place and the ceremonies of Raghunathrao's thread and Sadashivrao's marriage were performed at Poona on 4 and 7 February 1740, when Shahu specially came down from Satara to grace the occasion
with his presence.

A letter dated 7th March 1740 from Chimnaji Appa to Nanasaheb strikes the following alarming
note, which gives a faint suspicion that Bajirao was quite ill at heart. "I have had no news from the revered Rao since we parted. I did my utmost to console his distracted mind, but God, it seems, willed otherwise. I do not know what fate is in store for us. We should send her to him upon my return to Poona."

As soon as the news of Bajirao's death reached Mastani she died in the palace of Poona, whether by suicide or of shock it is difficult to say. Her dead body was removed to Pabal, a village about 20 miles east of Poona, which Bajirao had granted her in inam and where an unpretentious tomb reminds passers by of the story of her love and her tragic end.

Her son Shamsher Bahadur's  education and military training was conducted in line with other sons of the Peshwa royal family . The uproar that had taken place during Baji Rao, Mastani's period seemed to have had no detrimental effect on the young lad. In the court meetings  Shamsher Bahadur enjoyed the same status and respect as Peshwa's other sons . He was awarded the title of 'Sardar' (General) by Nana Saheb Peshwa. Bajirao had given few districts of Bundelkhand to Shamsher Bahadur as his jagir  yielding 33 lakhs , which he himself had got as present from Maharaja Chattrasal . Shamsher Bahadur made Banda his chief town of residence and loyally served his half –brother Peshwa Balajirao . During the campaign of Panipat Shamsher Bahadur accompanied the Maratha armies to north with his 3,000 horsemen .

Shamsher bahadur  had a  son  in the year 1758 who was named Krishna Singh alias Ali Bahadur. The descendents of Shamsher Bahadur later assumed the title of Nawab of Banda  and  ruled this area till 1816.  In 1817 Britishers annexed their Jagirs and fixed a pension of 4 Lakhs to the owner of the state . The descendants of  Nawab of Banda lives in Bhopal and Indore.