Journeys with Knowledge: G.S. Sardesai's Notes from Travels with Jadunath Sarkar

In the second part of this series, G.S. Sardesai shares an ennobling wealth of anecdotes from his numerous journeys with Acharya Jadunath Sarkar
Journeys with Knowledge: G.S. Sardesai's Notes from Travels with Jadunath Sarkar

Read the previous parts of this series

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Journeys with Knowledge: G.S. Sardesai's Notes from Travels with Jadunath Sarkar

A Partner in Travels

In most of his journeys after 1925 (when I retired from the Baroda service), I have been his companion, and the time we spent together has been most fruitful to me. I shared his hardships and he accorded me a share of his vast store of knowledge, as, while awake we talked day and night of history and history only. Some of these trips which we planned and undertook together are still fresh in my memory. I can never forget the sessions of the Indian Historical Records Commission at Baroda, Gwalior, Nagpur and other places which we attended for years in company discussing many a historical problem, and seeing many a scene of history. Some of the places we thus visited included Indore, Ujjain, Mandasor, Kotah, Gwalior, Bhilsa, Sanchi, Dhulia, Ajanta, Ellora, Assai, Aurangabad, Daulatabad, Deulgaon Raja, Sindhkhed, Lonor, Mehkar, Bassein, Karanja, Ramtek, Vijaynagar, Talikota, Gadag, Tanjore, Sangameshwar, Mathura, Agra and Delhi.

I have personally observed that the nicely-balanced and detached intellectualist in Jadunath is overpowered by occasional outbursts of his love and admiration of Maharashtra and its people. He records his impressions thus:

I have travelled extensively through the Sahyadri hill range and the river valleys, and everywhere have noticed with surprise the free, self-reliant character of the common people, peasants and day-labourers such as can never be seen among the helpless ryots of big zamindars in Hindustan, the police-ruled population of indigo-growing areas, the vassals of feudal jagirdars in Rajputana and Malwa. There is a wonderful diffused sense of democratic equality and self-respect among the Marathas which can make them the best nationals of Free India. In nobility of aims and manly persistence of endeavor, the Maratha people have an advantage which no other race in India possesses. They alone among the Hindus had beaten back the tide of Muslim conquest and defended the independence of their country against all the resources of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzib. The Marathas have a historic advantage of unique importance in the India of today. Their near ancestors had faced death in a hundred battle-fields, had led armies and debated in the chamber of diplomacy, had managed the finances of kingdoms and grappled with the problems of Empire. The same honourable spirit is still being shown by the sons of Maharashtra.

Thus Jadunath’s acquaintance with the Maratha country and his attachment to it have been thoroughly ingrained in his being and they have been daily getting additional strength on account of our joint labour at Poona and Kamshet through the long years of our companionship.

Our Literary Co-operation

In October 1909 under the earnest patronage of the late Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad of Baroda, his scholarly Diwan Ramesh Chandra Dutta, I.C.S., organised the Maratha Library Conference at Baroda. Jadunath along with M. M. Haraprasad Shastri, Dr. R. G. Bhandarkar and three other eminent scholars were specially invited to attend that grand assemblage of the high lights of Indian history and culture.

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As the working Secretary of this Conference, I had the long-sought opportunity to meet and know at close quarters Jadunath after four years’ acquaintance through correspondence. Along with an all-India outlook in letters brought about by this Baroda Conference, I made a more valuable acquisition, namely, Jadunath’s personal friendship anchored with love’s lengthening chain through years of tempest in the stormy sea of life.

Since then we have invariably met at least once every year and over the gaps of time we have built a historic bridge of letters concealed as yet from any fifth eye. And curiously enough, we two did it not knowing what each of us was doing at the other end of this bridge of correspondence. Years after, when I happened to tell him that I had carefully preserved all his letters written to me and valued these as a precious treasure, he gave me a more pleasant surprise by saying that he on his part has been preserving every letter I wrote to him.

Time may come perhaps after our exit when someday these letters will reveal how two distant souls came daily closer together and fully shared each other’s joys and sorrows, sustaining the spirit of one another, and how we have raised and solved many a baffling problem of medieval history of India. The letters all deal with knotty points of Indian history.

Our comradeship in letters developed into a sort of sentimental family relationship over-riding distance of geography, of race and caste. I have lived with him at Patna, Calcutta and Darjeeling, and he with our family at Bombay and other places. We have enjoyed our happiest time together in my last shelter of old age on the bank of the Indrayani at Kamshet working hard to reconstruct the history of the Peshwa regime.

Though we have both finished our labours, Jadunath comes every year to breathe the bracing air of Maharashtra, and lives though not with me in my dreary and forlorn hermitage of Kamshet yet sufficiently near at Talegaon to comfort me, reviving my drooping spirits for a time.

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Our joint endeavours in digging out the buried historical treasures of India from neglected corners have been eminently fruitful. It is a well-known fact—though Jadunath in his proud scholarly indifference to little acknowledgements may not care to publish it—that I was able to carry to completion the stupendous work of editing the series of forty-five volumes of the Peshwa Dafter Selections mainly through the active and unstinted support (both moral and intellectual) which I received from him during four years of abnormal trouble and stress that bore me down.

It was his loving encouragement and pressure that could persuade me to join him in our next venture, namely the publication of the cognate English series of fourteen volumes of the Poona Residency Correspondence, an indispensable supplement to the Peshwa Dafter bringing this period of uncharted history down to the fall of the Maratha power.

To mention only one of the many lesser ventures in historical study regarding Maratha history under Jadunath’s powerful initiative and drive: the publication of the news-letters from Mahadaji Sindhia’s Camp, about 800 in number published in one volume by the Gwalior Darbar, and two volumes of original letters published by the Historical Society of Gwalior. I have in my possession two files of important correspondence concerning the minor activities in which we two figured.

Though I cannot say that I could render much help to Jadunath, I am forever grateful to him for the disinterested and unique help I received from him in my own historical studies. But for his helpful comradeship I would have been nowhere near the fulfilment of my life’s mission. I sincerely feel that it is to him that I owe all the work which I have been able to put forth.

Jadunath’s interest in Maratha history and his mastery over Old Marathi have been most fortunate for Maharashtra though imbecile jealousy and resentment at this inroad into the Maratha preserve by a bold Northerner have not been wanting to detract his work.

Jadunath’s command of Persian and Dingal (Western Hindi) combined with his technique of textual criticism gave him a decisive advantage over any purely Marathi-bred scholar. This I could realise when I began editing the Peshwa Dafter, when he regularly sent me corrections of misreadings and copyist’s errors. He alone could detect wrong readings of Persian words in the original Modi script.

Today his knowledge of Marathi is thorough and accurate. It may be said to have attained perfection now that Marathi poetry has ceased to be a mystery to him. He loves to reproduce Tukaram and Kabir, Kalidasa and Rabindranath, Shakespeare, Hali and Hafiz in the same breath.

To be continued

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