The following are some excerpts culled out from Rajwade's copious writings on the state of history research and writing in the Maharashtra of his time. As we can verify from experience, a century after he wrote this, the condition has only grown worse with seemingly no solution or reform in sight.
Indeed, the best histories of India continue to be written by a few eminent people endowed with dedication, passion and patience often working alone with meagre resources.
The desire, the machinery and the fruit; or the desire, the body and action are the three divisions of activities of the human society. To write history is to describe these divisions.
The method of writing history which is considered scientific in Europe is considered equally so in India. Whether the history is political, religious, social or economic or whether it is of a single notion such as learning, wars, culture, Dark Ages, evil thoughts, or whether it is of the controlling agency which gives rise to these notions, the method of writing it faithfully and scientifically must be the same in all countries and at all times.
Faithfulness and the scientific method are the two essences of history writing.
If students, agriculturists, merchants, men and women get an accurate knowledge of the histories of their own and of foreign countries, then it greatly helps the accomplishment of our national objects.
If the ordinary people get a general idea of their mother country, religion, government, language and culture, a real love for their country naturally grows in them and they clearly understand in a greater or lesser degree their equality or deficiency with others by comparison with others. S uch manifold benefits accrue from a general knowledge of history. Therefore, thoughtful leaders of a nation should have an instinctive and intense desire to popularise the knowledge of history, especially, their own history.
In nations which are eager to conquer foreign territories and to lead their own country to prosperity, nearly all leaders are proud of their history, country, religion and language. It is but natural for patriotic writers to follow this course. In order to infuse love for one's own country in the plastic and undeveloped minds of people, the only history that is needed is the one which is imbued with the patriotic instinct.
Is it possible to infuse love for one's country with a history which describes its motherland as beggarly, its nation as worthless, its language poor, its religion false, its people cunning and its ancestors foolish? But such false histories are written by our own people. These are termed histories but they are a disgrace to their own country. Authors of such histories write them with the objective that they should be used in schools to train young minds in the praise of foreigners. The two classes of baneful historians viz, those who traduce their own country and those who praise foreign countries, cannot exist even for a moment in a free nation. The growth of such historians is possible only in a conquered nation.
The work of unearthing historical papers, mildewed with dampness and which are lying in remote attics, lumbers and nooks and corners, is fraught with considerable danger. Ordinarily there is no escaping a cleansing bath, and sending the clothes to a washerman after completing the task of hunting out, dusting and selecting from old records and manuscripts in private houses. More than half of the time is occupied in fighting with ants, moths and insects which are moving in and out of the holes in the covering cloth, which looks like a sieve and which may be likened to Indra who is called “thousand-holed.” It is not an old record if in it are not found the pieces of old rags or old saris, tatters of crumbling khadi, decayed binding laces, rotten skin covers and worm-eaten boards of wood.
In the process of undergoing the penance involved in the act of research of old records, the nose is filled with repulsive odour, the eyelashes are deposited with dust, the head is fully covered with cobwebs as to be practically entangled in a net, and such a painful scratching sensation is experienced in all the pores of the body that for five or ten days, one remains in a constant dread of suffering from the evil effects resulting from such work.
Even as I was publishing the Sources of Maharashtra History, I have been silently observing a curious phenomenon: what were the big and small princes, Jagirdars Inamdars, owners of temples, and politicians of old days such as Scindia, Holkar, Gaikawad, Angre, Patwardhan, Vinchurkar, Pawar, Raje Bahadur, Kolhapurkar, Tanjavarkar, Phadnis, Pratinidhi, Phaltankar, Bhorkar, Jatkar, Hydrabadkar, Jayapurkar, Jodhpurkar and Sagarkar doing till now?
Is it fair that a penniless man like myself should search their records or documents relating to their own history and try to print them, but wealthy men like them should remain apathetic and indifferent in the matter? Is it that their ancestors do not bear any relationship to them? Their willingness to enjoy the principalities and jagirs acquired by their ancestors, and their unwillingness to learn the prowess and history of their ancestors are matters which cannot be found in any other country upon the earth.
When Vasudev Shastri sold his house and his belongings for the purpose of printing the records of the Patwardhans of Miraj, Sangli, Jamkhindi, were they sleeping? We have been forced to exclaim that Shivaji Maharaj, Damaji Gaikawad, Parashurambhau Patwardhan were actually the grand and great grandfathers of history researchers like us and that they did not bear any relationship to these princes of our own time.
How enormous is the forgetfulness in these princes and inamdars about their own ancestors? How heinous is their fault? This land of Bharat is famous for its ancestor worship. Is it proper that in that land, ancestors should be treated in this fashion today?
So long as the princes are sleeping, the Jagirdars are dozing, and the inamdars are slumbering, those of us, who have awakened must keep green the memory of the ancestors of our nation. Though our means are limited, we must be devoted to this righteous cause. Our work must be done single-handedly.
Generally, you will find that the present-day tendency of our country is that not even half a person will undertake this kind of work. Therefore it is improper to hope that we will see a good number of such devoted people in say, fifty or even a hundred years. If under exceptional circumstances, one person becomes fortunately inspired to undertake such work, and if he can retain his inspiration till the very end, then he is well-advised that he should not expect any help from anybody in this country.
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