Tuesday, August 18, 2015

History - 3 - Battle of Palkhed

Peshwa Baji Rao I riding a horse
(source: Wikipedia)
Among the notable battles fought in India, the Battle of Palkhed, between Peswha Baji Rao I and the Nizam-ul-Mulk, would not readily spring to mind for many. Which is a pity, for several reasons. While the three battles of Panipat – in 1526, 1556, and 1761, the battles of Talikota in 1565, Plassey in 1757, and Buxar in 1764, are rightly remembered for their pivotal impact on India’s history, the battle of Palkhed does not readily spring to mind. It should, for it is not only one of the notable battles in history, it also holds lessons that perhaps deserve a closer look.

The battle of Palkhed was fought in 1728, between the armies of Baji Rao, the second Peshwa of Maharaj Shahu, and the Nizam. A brief look at the three principal players who were involved directly or indirectly reveals a fascinating if not turgid brew of politics and intrigue that had by then become the staple of the putrefying Mughal empire in Delhi.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mahabharata Vol 10 - Swarajya Review

My review of Dr. Bibek Debroy's Mahabharata, Volume 10, was published in Swarajya on March 27, 2015, titled, "3 Years with Vyasa" (the title was not my idea; credit to the Swarajya team for that!)

The Mahabharata, Volume 10

Translated by Bibek Debroy

Or Three Years with Vyasa
In the Ramayana, most of us think of the epic as ending after the reunion of Rama with his sons and Sita's descent into Mother Earth. We don't often ask or care to know how did Rama and Laxman die - both were after all human. Similarly, for most of us, the Mahabharata had for all practical purposes ended with the defeat of the Kauravas on the plains of Kurukshetra, and with Yudhishthira crowned the rightful king. What after that? Sure, Parikshit was crowned king when Yudhishthira ascended heaven in his human form. We also know of the faithful dog who accompanied him along the way. But there are several details that are often glossed over in most retellings. A reading of the unabdridged Mahabharata is therefore revealing on many fronts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tales from the Mahabharata - 12 - Yudhishthira's Chilling Words

A chilling side to Yudhishthira's personality came to the fore as the Kurukshetra war was dying down. My piece appeared in Swarajya on 12th April, 2015.

Not a quarter given
Yudhishthira is revered as dharma-raj, the man who never uttered a lie (except for one very prominent occasion during the War and at least one other occasion when he knowingly chose to remain silent lest he be proven a liar). Yudhishthira saved his brother Bhima when he had been trapped in a python's coils - Nahusha in a cursed form. Yudhishthira's wisdom was what revived his brothers during the famous Yaksha prashna samvad in the Aranyaka Parva. His insistence on the truth was noble, indubitably, but at times it grated. His brothers - Bhima mostly, but Arjuna also - chafed under the yoke of what they saw an unreasonable burden of dharma.