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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Not against Purandare as an individual but opposition to his writings will continue: Critics

"Our protests against him ends with his death but objections to writings remain as he has twisted history relating to the Maratha warrior,” says Santosh Shinde, Pune organiser of Sambhaji Brigade

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
November 16, 2021 3:53:11 am
Pune Today Live Update, News Pune LiveHistorian Babasaheb Purandare passed away at the age of 99. (Express Photo by Pavan Khengre)

WITH THE death of Balwant Moreshwar Purandare, better known as Babasaheb Purandare, it seems the controversy surrounding his books on Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will also die a natural death. A large section of Maratha community leaders, authors and activists who had taken objections to his writings on Shivaji and his mother Jijamata for what they termed as “distortion of history” now say that while they had opposed what Purandare wrote, they were never against the author himself.

“Our opposition to the writings of Purandare on the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj still remains and will continue in the future as well. But we are not against Purandare as an individual. Our protests against him ends with his death but objections to writings remain as he has twisted history relating to the Maratha warrior,” says Santosh Shinde, Pune organiser of Sambhaji Brigade, which had been staging protests opposing Purandare’s writings. The organisation had also strongly opposed the state government move to honour him with Maharashtra Bhushan award in 2015. Even as the Pune unit of Sambhaji Brigade continued to aggressively oppose his writings, Purandare refused to meet its leaders or hold any dialogue with them on the objections they raised.

Another Maratha community leader, Pravin Gaikwad, state organiser of Sambhaji Brigade, has a different take though. “We don’t entirely reject his writings… it’s not possible as he has highlighted several factual events from history. We also do not want to belittle his efforts in creating awareness on Shivaji era as he roamed several forts for years and presented history before the people. But yes, we do not accept certain pages of his books, which distort the history relating to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his mother. We have, in the past, registered our strong protests against these incorrect writings and demanded their removal from his books,” he says.

The Maratha leaders and authors have taken exception to certain contents of books such as ‘Shivcharitra’ and ‘Raja Shivchhatrapati’ in particular. “His books contain several objectionable paragraphs which are distortions of history and defame Shivaji Maharaj,” says Shinde.

Though some of the paragraphs were removed by Purandare from his books, a few others “which damage the image of Shivaji and his mother and lower their standing in public eye still remain”, says Shinde. “Despite our protests, Purandare had steadfastly refused to remove them. Neither did he give any clarifications nor tried to explain why such objectionable paragraphs were allowed to continue…It hurts us; it hurts the followers of the king not only in Maharashtra but across the world,” says Shinde.

Though protests against Purandare’s writing started some 25 years back, he came under heavy shelling after author James Laine’s book, ‘Hindu King in Islamic India’, came out in 2004. The Sambhaji Brigade accused him of helping Laine in “distorting history” relating to Chhatrapati Shivaji and vandalised Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune in protest. “The author in his book had thanked Purandare for helping him write the book on Chhatrapati Shivaji. Laine too distorted history and received help from the likes of Purandare,” says Shinde.

While concurring with Shinde’s views, Marathi author Shrimant Kokate, who had openly slammed Purandare’s writings on Shivaji, says, “We don’t say anything against anyone who has died. This is not our tradition or culture…”

Both Shinde and Gaikwad accused Purandare of writing “what RSS wanted”, accusing him of writing Shivaji-era history to suit the ideology of the organisation. “Certain pages of his books are…partial, glorify wrong people and cause damages to the standing of Shivaji who has acceptability among all sections of the people,” he says.

“Chhatrapati Shivaji believed that after death, there should be no animosity with the individual. Likewise, we have nothing against Purandare, but we will continue to oppose his certain writings on Shivaji Maharaj,” says Gaikwad.

Activist Maruti Bhapkar, another critic of Purandare’s books, says, “Purandare was a veteran author and well respected figure. We pay our tributes….His contribution in highlighting the Shivaji era is immense. He has presented history beautifully. However, we have been objecting to some paras in his books. Unfortunately, he refused to remove them and heal the injured hearts of Shivaji followers. He never even apologised…This pain will continue to remain with us…”

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