Swarajya – Battles we should never forget

Battles of the Maratha Empire is book that covers the life and time of Maratha empire and the various states that fought against foreign powers like the Mughals, British and Portuguese. Interestingly, the author Aneesh Gokhale, gives a multi faceted view of those times, where the partnerships between the great powers varied with time.

Maratha empire lasted roughly from 1650 to 1820. In the span of 170 years, the warriors of the empire fought various battles and power balance tilted multiple times. While the Empire had its main base in Pune, there were a number of independent and powerful kingdoms that fought under the same ideology – Swarajya.

When I bought this book, I was apprehensive that the entire narrative will revolve around Chatrapati Sivaji. Sivaji Maharaj laid the foundation for Swarajya movement and was the most powerful force not just during his time, but also after his demise in 1680. I wanted the book to cover all key battles for Swarajya till early 1800s. Author Aneesh Gokhale does an excellent job of covering the entire 170 years of the empire. The times of Sivaji Maharaj and also with great details the battles and warriors post his time.

When in school, History and Mathematics were my favorite subjects. What I feel disappointed about is the version of our own history we were taught. This book by Aneesh Gokhale gives us the details of missing links in our history textbooks. These are not just small gaps in what we were taught – we were conveniently taught that control of India moved from the hands of local kings to the Mughals to the British. Few kings like Tipu Sultan fought the British. Babar “founded” an empire. Akbar the great. Humayun. Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb. Then those Viceroys followed. No one told the stories of warriors who fought these foreign forces successfully and unsuccessfully. We read so little about the Marathas, Bosales, Scindias, Holkars, Gaikwads and many other regional powers. But these were the Swarajya forces that fought India’s battles against foriegners.

This book covers all these battles spread over a period of 170 years. There are many fascinating aspects of those times that get covered here. The way forts were built and managed. How kingdoms collapsed due to small mistakes, sometime simply due to bad luck. The tactics used to win over enemies. Nizams, Bengal, Delhi, Agra, Jhansi, Pune, Nagpur, Gingee, Bundelkand, Gwalior, Indore, Jhansi and many other parts of the country are covered in great details.

Writing style is a school textbook style in some places and could have been done better. Also there are few typos here and there. Probably a more focused proof reading would have helped the author.

A really fascinating read for the nationalist in your. An awesome eye opener for us who know the names of innumerable number of small towns but do no realize how crucial these places were in our past. The last chapter on the Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi is amazing. You have to read it to believe it. And those poetic verses we all heard of simply come to life in this chapter.

चमक उठी सन सत्तावन में, वह तलवार पुरानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

An absolute must read. Not just this book, you should invest time in understanding the battles fought by other kingdoms and warriors against the foreign powers. As a nation, India did put up a strong fight against foreign rules. Celebrate Swarajya!

And if you are hard pressed on time, at least read the following Wiki page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maratha_Empire

If you have any comments, please add them in below section or you can tweet me @ VijayIvaturi

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