1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising

I recently read Mrinal Pande’s English translation of Vishnu Bhatt Godshe Versaikar’s “Majha Pravas“. It’s called “1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising“.

I couldn’t put this book down. The translation was good – I felt I was reading Vishnu Bhatt’s experiences as he had written them down, and not be slowed by the translation. The book is about his experiences while traveling in central India, and the events that he got caught up in.

The lucidly written details of the various people, their personalities and qualities, battles between the British army, and the various Indian princely states, the suffering of the people as a result of such battles – the looting, massacres, and pillaging, by both the warring sides – gave me a rich perspective of that time.

Some of he details which I ended up mulling about, or stayed with me, after reading the book were:

  • The parts where he talks about the Ganga – sparkling clean waters, the intense emotions that he felt on sighting the river for the first time, and the associated spirituality.
  • The preparations for war, by the Hindu kings, always included elaborate rituals and offerings to various deities, and Brahmins. Reasons for a defeat, and subsequent pillaging and destruction were attributed to Fate, or a displeased deity.
  • The war machine of the local rulers seemed to lack the discipline, single-minded purpose, and industriousness of the British war machine.
  • A major reason for Brahmins to travel or migrate was the lure of making some money; at some location or the other there was a ruler or rich person who wanted to perform a significant “yagna”, or rituals related to death, or to commemorate a milestone in life.

This book reminded me of the unadorned details from the first hand account of the Peloponnesian War

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