BAJIRAO MASTANI, HISTORICAL MOVIES DEPICT CONTEMPORARY LIFE OF BYGONE ERA
Bajirao Mastani (the story)
Daughter of Maharaja Chhatrasal of the establishment of Bundelkhand, Mastani was a strong woman who was adept in dancing and singing, and also knew the art of horse riding and spear throwing. Her mother, Ruhaani Bai , was a Persian Muslim who was a court dancer at the Nizam of Hyderabad. History tells us that Bajirao had rescued Chhatrasal after Mohammad Khan Bangash invaded Chhattrasal’s kingdom during 1727-1728. Bajirao broke down Bangash’s army, and put up Chhatrasal to his throne. This gesture of Bajirao had indebted Chattrasal and he was highly obliged. In a spur of gratitude, he awarded him with his daughter Mastani. Bajirao and Mastani gave birth to a child who was named Shamsher Bahadur. Mastani lived with Bajirao at his palace of Shaniwar Wada (Pune). But because of Bajirao’s family’s reluctance to accept Mastani as their daughter-in-law, Bajirao had later in 1734, built a separate residence for Mastani at Kothrud. Ranveer Singh is seen playing the role of Bajirao I, whose original name was Bajirao Ballal (Balaji) Bhat (18 August 1700 – 28 April 1740). Due to the death of his father, Balaji Vishwanath who was the first Peshwa of Chhattrapati Shahu, Bajirao had to be appointed as Peshawa at the tender age of 20 years. He was also considered to be an eminent personality among the soldiers.
Bajirao is acclaimed for the fact that he fought over 41 battles and had reportedly never lost any of them. This has been confirmed by General Montgomery, a British general, in his historical writings. He followed the pace of his father and became the first to understand the fragmentation of the Mughal Empire and exploit them by the principle of ‘Divide and Rule.’
Bajirao was the one who initiated to moving the administrative capital of the Maratha Empire from Satara to the city of Pune in 1728, and was successful in his attempt. Maratha Empire had lost their confidence in the authority after their idol Shivaji had left them. But Bajirao re-installed their faith and dominated the sub-continent for entire 18th century before the British people came to power in the 19th century.
More about Bajirao Mastani drive a few kilometres ahead of Pune on the road to Nagar and ask the way to Pabal. You’ll get clear directions to Mastani’s tomb, which the village houses. It has already turned this quaint village on the outskirts of Pune into a hit. The number of people visiting the place has shot up so much that villagers tell any outsider entering Pabal: Mastani’s dargah is this way. People are coming from all over. With the movie making so much buzz, people want to know more about Mastani. This grave has shot Pabal into the limelight, too, says Mohammad Inamdar, whose family has been looking after the tomb for generations.
Located around 60 km from Pune, Mastani’s 275-year-old tomb is housed in the middle of a courtyard, surrounded by a boundary wall and three doors. One end of the courtyard has an elevated platform, which is used for namaz. One of the walls has Mastani’s painting, too. According to local villagers, Muslims call the place ‘Mastani chi Masjid’ and Hindus ‘Mastani’s Samadhi’. The courtyard is still under renovation and recently got a fresh coat of paint. In the middle of the courtyard is a stone tomb, where Mastani was buried over two centuries ago. Next to the tomb stands a diya kund (lamp), which Inamdar lights every day.
Since the movie is making so much buzz, I thought of visiting Mastani’s grave. It’s fascinating that such an old love story is still alive. The painting and the grave rekindle the mystery around Mastani. Watching the movie after visiting Pabal will be more exciting, says Vaibhav Saklani, an entrepreneur from Hrishikesh.
Though Bajirao was already married to Kashi Bai, he married Mastani, too. However, since she was a Muslim, she was not welcomed by the Bajirao family. Though she stayed at Mastani Mahal in Pune’s Shaniwarwada, she was later shifted to a palace, specially made for her in Pabal. While the grave was in complete ruins, the state archaeology department started restoration work after miscreants dug it up in 2009. Some records also say that Mastani was on her way to meet Bajirao, who was holed up further north. It’s true that she died at Pabal, where her samadhi/tomb stands today, says Pandurang Balkawde, a Pune-based historian. Locals said the tomb was dug up when people tried to find a diamond that Mastani swallowed to commit suicide. Testimony to an ever-lasting love story, Mastani’s tomb is now a weekend getaway, too.
By Zeenat Zafar