Time and again Bollywood has distorted historical facts in the name of ‘cinematic freedom’ and the latest example is the movie ‘Panipat’. It has now come to light that the movie has presented Surajmal Jat in a bad light just because it wants to show a Hindu ruler as a ‘traitor’.
Panipat the Movie
According to the movie, Maharaja Surajmal Jat is a scheming and treacherous Hindu ruler who did not come to the aid of Marathas during the battle of Panipat against Ahmad Shah Abdali, when the latter needed them the most. Just like historical movies that came out from the Bollywood stable before this one, right from Jodha Akbar to Padmavat to Bajirao Mastani, this movie too has conveniently overlooked as well as distorted facts to suit its agenda.
Besides portraying Maharaja Surajmal as a traitor and the only one responsible for the Battle of Panipat being lost, the movie also hides the real history by not presenting the true extent of atrocities committed by the Afghans lead by Abdali. Bollywood has always whitewashed crimes committed by Muslim rulers and this movie is no exception on that count. Atrocities committed by marauding Afghan troops, including heinous crimes such as rape of Hindu women, indiscriminate killing, loot, plunder etc has been conveniently swept under the carpet.
Third Battle of Panipat: Historical Facts
Hindsight allows us to see historical events in a light that the actual players cannot. History is never black and white; there are many shades of grey that complicate its analysis by us in the present.
Battle decisions and strategies are taken at the spur of the moment or even when they are planned, existing circumstances are the basis of every decision taken. Warriors back then had their own reasons to take the decisions they took. We have hindsight wisdom while they had to take on the spot decisions.
The Third Battle of Panipat took place between Ahmad Shah Abdali of Afghan and the Marathas. Sadashiv Rao Bhau was chosen by the Peshwa to lead the battle against Abdali. There were many strategic and tactical errors committed by Bhau which ultimately led to the defeat of Marathas but this doesn’t take away the fact that they fought bravely and had the upper hand until the afternoon of 14th January, 1761 when the tide turned in favour of the Muslim confederation.
Bhau was neither weak nor incompetent, however this was his only failed campaign and as it almost always happens when one fails, their mistakes are magnified to unbelievable proportions.
Role of Maharaja Surajmal Jat
Bhau failed to enlist the support of any powerful Hindu kingdom. Neither Sikhs nor Rajputs and Jats allied with the Marathas. The only Hindu king who joined forces with Bhau was Surajmal Jat. He had his own conditions, one of which was the Wazir’s post for Imad-Ul-Mulk, which Bhau refused to accept. Therefore, on 4th August 1760, Surajmal deserted the Marathas (Solstice At Panipat by Uday S Kulkarni). But to give credit where it is due, Surajmal Jat ensured the safe passage of women and children (who had travelled to the battlefield) as well as injured soldiers after they were treated for their injuries.
What ifs are great in hindsight but those creating history do not have the benefit of hindsight. History is brutal which is why Jaichand, is known not for his numerous works benefitting Hindus, but the one act of treachery that gave Mohammed Ghori passage into Bharat.
Similarly, neither Surajmal nor Sadashiv Rao were aware of the consequences of their decisions and actions. Therefore, to paint one as a hero at the cost of the other is not just unfair but a total subversion of facts. But in the world of Bollywood facts hardly matter and Surajmal has probably been made out a villain just to divert the attention, to whatever extent possible, from the savagery of Abdali and his allies.
Bollywood should either stick to facts and present events as they unfolded or simply stay away from historical topics. Already Marxist Historians have distorted our history enough, we don’t need Bollywood to add to the chaos.
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