In 2009, when thieves had ruined the grave of Mastani in Pabal by digging it up to find a diamond which she is believed to have swallowed to end her life, the Muslims and the Hindus of the village had gathered to put pressure on the local administration to restore it. Within a month, the grave was restored by the archaeological department. For the Hindus based in the village Pabal, the grave of Mastani is her ‘samadhi’, while the Muslims call it a ‘mazaar’.
Irrespective of their beliefs, people from both the community visit Mastani’s grave with equal devotion. “Because Mastani was Maharaja Chhatrasal’s daughter, the Hindus of Pabal consider her as a Hindu. The Muslims think she was a Muslim as her mother, Ruhaani Bai, was a Persian-Muslim. Despite their respective faiths, there’s never been a dispute in the village on this matter,” says Sanjay Ghodekar, the principal of a Padmani Jain Mahavidyalaya in Pabal, who has done M.Phil on Mastani as a subject in 1997 based on his six-year long extensive research.
Situated at a distance of 60 kms from Pune in the village Pabal, the grave of Mastani is located in the middle of a 2,000 sq ft land surrounded by a boundary wall and three doors, while the fourth side has an elevated platform made for reading the namaz.
On one side of the grave is a ‘taboot’ (diya kund), where the caretaker of the grave Mohammed Inamdar lights a diya every day. ““The day when the grave was restored, while the rituals were performed as per the Muslim tradition, the Hindus too joined in with garlands to place it on the grave,” says Baba Inamdar, nephew of the caretaker, who is also the vice-president of All India Muslim and OBC Organisation. “There’s no restriction on anyone’s entry here, no matter who belongs to which religion,” he says.
Mastani was the second wife of Peshwe Bajirao I of the Maratha Empire. The legend goes that when the king of Bundelkhand, Maharaja Chhatrasal was attacked by Mohammad Khan Bangash, Chhatrasal sought help from Bajirao I, who succeeded in rescuing the king. As a gesture of thanks, Chhatrasal gifted Bajirao I, one-third of his empire as well as his daughter Mastani. “Chhatrasal had 13 wives and one of them, Ruhaani Bai, was a Persian-Muslim. Though Bajirao was already married to Kashi Bai, he also married Mastani with the required rituals,” says Ghodekar. However, the fact that she was a Muslim, didn’t go well with his family members. Though initially she stayed at Mastani Mahal in Shaniwarwada, owing to the intolerance from family, Bajirao shifted her to a palace in Kothrud. Later, when conflicts failed to end, he shifted her to a palace specially made for her in Pabal. Today, there’s no sign of the said palace in the village. The money collected as tax from three villages – Pabal, Tendur and Loni – was used by Bajirao for maintenance of Mastani, says Ghodekar.
“If Maharaja Chhatrasal, Bajirao and Mastani did not allow religion to come between them then who are we to decide whether Mastani belonged to Muslims or the Hindus,” says Baba Inamdar.
Inspired by the unique love story of Bajirao and Mastani is renowned filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film Bajirao Mastani. Interestingly, Shivaji Jadhav, a villager, reveals that though earlier not many people visited this village, from the time the news about Bhansali’s film has caught up, the footfall has increased. “Many people are curious about Mastani’s grave. People click their photos with the grave. Earlier, no one cared. Unfortunately, no one from the film production house have visited the village so far,” claims Jadhav.
Pabal also has a huge well in the centre of the village. Another legend goes that even when Mastani was housed in Shaniwarwada, a special house-help would travel all the way from Pune to Pabal to take water for Mastani from the well, which stands dried today. “A few decades ago, a sword was found in the village. Assuming that it may have once belonged to Mastani’s security guards, it was kept safely in the office of gram panchayat, although there’s no proof about the sword’s history,” said Ghodekar.
The village remembers the beautiful queen in many other ways. Padmani Jain Mahavidyalaya takes out an annual magazine as a tribute to Mastani. Besides, the college also organises a state-level debate completion named Bajirao Mastani Debate Competition which sees participation of students from across the state.
People raise objections to Pinga, call it ‘insult to Marathi culture’
The song ‘Pinga’ from the film Bajirao Mastani has received flak from a section of Maharashtrians, who feel that the song is an insult to Marathi culture and the Peshwas. People are raising objections to portrayal of Kashi Bai dancing on a song that they feel looks like an item number and even the fact that ‘pinga’, the folk dance of Maharashtra, has been depicted as lavani.