“Revisiting ‘Bakhar’: Power, Knowledge And Communities”

2198 words - 9 pages

This paper concentrates on the study of the selected ‘bakhars’. The ‘bakhar’, means a Marathi prose historical narrative. Except Mahikavati bakhar, most of the ‘bakhars’ were written from the 17th century to early 19th century. These bakhars were written by Maratha officials on the directions from their masters or senior officials. Those officials were considered as ‘Mahitigar’ i.e. well-informed and knowledgeable persons. The word ‘bakhar’ derived from Arabic word ‘khabar’, which means news or information. The bakhars were about biographies of great personalities, descriptions of great battles or genealogies of prominent families.
The origin of ‘bakhar’ literature, from Persian ‘tawarikhs’ and ‘akhabarats’ or from Sanskrit ‘akhyans’ and ‘puranas’, is a matter of debate among the scholars of Maratha history and Marathi linguistics. The most of the historians raised serious questions about the authenticity of ‘bakhar’ as a reliable source for history writing. However, historians had always used and still using ‘bakhar’ as source. The Marathi literary critics, considering ‘bakhars’ as an important Marathi prose genre of the pre-colonial period, focused on various aspects in their studies of bakhars such as writing styles, sketches of characters and events, uses of ‘puranic’ and mythical legends, ideal and moral values, uses of divine interventions, descriptions of society and places, vocabulary and uses of phrases, changing meanings of words, constructions of sentences etc in ‘bakhar’ literature.
Unlike the literary critics who mainly studied the origin of bakhar through literary studies as mention above mainly focused on one question i.e. from where bakhar is derived. Making departure from this point, Sumit Guha locates the social origins of the bakhars. According to him, the bakhars were used in administrative matters such as for settlement of legal disputes over hereditary rights. He concludes that bakhar was an apparatus through which the knowledge regarding administrative matters was created that was useful for Maratha bureaucracy. While exploring the development of historical memory and identity in Maharashtra, Prachi Deshpande observes,
A central feature of bakhar historiography was the tension between the narrative of power, putting forward claims to legitimacy on behalf of various actors in Maratha political environment, and a more detached, critical voice that commented, from within a moral universe, on historical actors, events, and outcomes.
Further she adds that,
“This tension produced representation of Maratha power and identity in the bakhar narratives”
In his study of Bhausahebachi bakhar, Anirudh Deshpande has shown that how one can see the cultural and organizational differences between Marathas, Rajputs and Afghans through the representations embodied in the bakhars.
Using three frameworks mentioned above i.e. Sumit Guhas argument about social origin of the bakhar and making knowledge through it, Prachi Deshpande’s...

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