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Beyond Recorded History


Rimpi Khillan Singh

1857 : ITIHAAS AUR SANSKRITI
Edited by Murli Manohar P. Singh and Rekha Awasthi
Publication Division, 2010, pp.326, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 2 Febuary 2011

This compilation of essays endeavours to look beyond documented history to reveal the facets which have been remained ignored by mainstream historians and literatteurs of the time. The authors focus on the collective memory, which has remained alive in folk songs, country music, rural arts and local literature, interpreting the events of 1857 based on the history of the common man rather than the heroes of that period. Exploring the roles played by the farmers, labourers, dalits, women, even prostitutes, the authors explain that the 1857 revolution was not only a peasant movement or sepoysmutiny triggered by hurt religious sentiments, but also a janandolan(uprising of the common people) and all walks of society participated in it. Amrit Lal Nagar, the famous Hindi storywriter, brings out the local folklore of people of Awadh which was the torchbearer of the revolution. Ranjitbaba, Jhalkaribai, Matadin, Avantibai, Uda Devi, Mahaviri Devi, and others, all coming from marginalized society played a prominent role in leading the revolution though they do not find a mention in history books or mainstream literature. Narrating the story of the famous battle between Raja Mardansingh of Banpur and General Heuroes, folk poet Daduram brings out the grief and sorrow of the common people who were forcibly evicted from their homes. Amongst various newspapers which played a prominent role in 1857, historians have rarely enumerated the work done by the Urdu or regional newspapers. There is an essay on Urdu journalist Maulvi Mohammed Bakar who it would seem has been intentionally forgotten by the mainstream authors of that period. The essay titled Dharmnirpekshata aur HindiUrdu Ke Rishtedelicately reveals the layers of collaboration made by the two languages to showcase the anguish of the people and stressing the unity of both Hindus and Muslims resulting in one common stream i.e. of Hindustani. While the literary contributions of the legendary Bhartendu during this struggle cannot be questioned, they still indicate his deep resentment towards the Muslims as also against the Hindustaniwhich was fast becoming the common dialect. The coterie of writers around Bhartendu, mainly comprising brahmins, had the same resenting attitude. This book has tried to transcend the literary boundaries of these writers limited by their socalled aryavadivision making Hindi the synonym for patriotism and nationalism. 1857 aur Hindi Navjagaranexplores the legacy of the larger literary community of Hindi authors who limit themselves to the works of Bhartendu, Balkrishna Bhatta, Pratap Narayan Mishra, Balmukunda Gupta, ...


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