With the trailers of Bajirao Mastani, the love saga directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, hitting the web, the curiosity regarding their history, love and other controversies is on the rise. While we can say that Bhansali would not compromise on making this epic saga a visual treat with too many colors and magnificence of sets. But, we can’t say that this show of opulence or grandeur would be supported by an impeccable story.
But, with this article we are trying to make an honest effort to uncover the truth that made this love story exceptional and timeless.
1. Rise of the Peshwa
Bajirao Ballal Bhat also known as Bajirao I was appointed as Peshwa (Prime Minister) to the fourth Chhatrapati (Emperor) Chhatrapati Sahu ji Maharaja. The king had recognized his talents at an early age. Though, being a Brahmin, Bajirao made full use of the opportunity and honor bestowed upon him. He fought 41 battles for the king and never lost one which earned him great respect across the Maratha kingdom.
He is credited with expanding the Maratha Empire, especially in the north.
2. Maharaja Chhatrasaal and his daughter “Mastani”
Chhatrasaal was a Bundela, Rajput warrior who fought valiantly against Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to establish his empire in Bundelkhand. During his time, the kingdom was rich and prosperous. The kingdom owned the diamond mines of Panna.
Chhatrasaal himself was a chief propagator of the Pranami faith that sought to bring together Islam and Hinduism. He married a Persian Muslim woman Ruhaani Bai, a court dancer of Nizam of Hyderabad and birthed Mastani. Mastani was an eternal beauty and was brought up like a Kshatriya princess with mastery in horse riding, sword fighting, religious studies, music and dance etc.
3. The Marriage
During 1727-28, Maharaja Chhatrasaal was attacked by a Mughal general Mohammad khan Bangash. Distressed by the sudden attack, the king sent a letter to Bajirao I for military help. Bajirao I responded by coming to the rescue of the king.
In gratitude, Chhatrasaal made an offer of marriage of Peshwa with his daughter “Mastani”. He bequeathed a third of his kingdom and Panna mines to Bajirao.
4. Unhappiness among Peshwa’s family over “Mastani”
The fact that Bajirao’s second wife was Half-Muslim didn’t go well within his family. The situation worsened further with Bajirao’s love for Mastani and neglect towards Kashibai, his first wife. A feeling of anger and jealousy crept in within the family members towards Mastani who by this time was actively participating in the state affairs.
5. Efforts to keep “Mastani” away from Bajirao
Mastani was never accepted as one of their own by Bajirao’s brother Chimaji Ballal Peshwa and mother Radhabai. He tried her to send into exile. Bajirao’s son Balaji, placed Mastani under house arrest while the Peshwa was away on a military campaign.
Realizing the hatred of his family, Bajirao built “Mastani Mahal” in north-east corner of his palace at Shaniwar Wada in Pune. The building had its external doorway.
6. Death of Peshwa
The death of Bajirao is still a mystery. The traditional myth says that Bajirao died from heatstroke while inspecting his estate near the city of Indore. Mastani couldn’t bear this tragedy and died soon afterwards by drinking poison.
Another finding suggests that Bajirao died due to the effects of Alcohol withdrawal. It is said that he made a vow to his mother to give up alcohol in lieu of Mastani being accepted in the family and sent to him. But, the emotional trauma of the news of Mastani’s death aggravated with his physical suffering proved fatal for him.
Whatever may be the truth but Bajirao’s love for Mastani was real and perpetual and this truth makes this love story worthy of a mention.