Kanakagiri Siddhartha

Solstice at Panipat

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5 stars. A must read for any history enthusiast. The illustrations, the pictures, the references, just like history needs to be told. Special mention to the quality of printing and binding, i am a keen observer of these things. The font is very readable serif, may be Adobe Caslon. Good job publishers!

Marathas saved India by sacrificing a hundred thousand men at Panipat.This is how i look at Panipat 1761. Look at Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan to see what would have befallen India had it not for the Marathas. Sure they lost the battle. They also lost a whole generation of battle hardened leaders and able administrators. But they inflicted enough damage to Abdali's forces that he left for Kabul and never eyed Delhi again. Here Mr Kulkarni sets the context going back 50 years before 1761, and does a great job.

The battle. My school text book, and its current version, had one line on Panipat 1761. No context. No mention that it was Abdali's sixth invasion of Delhi. No mention that he reportedly took off with 12 crores worth treasure in 1757. Nothing on Marathas defeating Abdali's son at Attock in 1758.

Now the book review:

Here Mr Kulkarni sets the context going back 50 years before 1761, and does a great job. He also engages readers about the aspect of financing a battle, using Sadashiv Bhau's letters to his elder cousing, the Peshwa.

This is a story with too many actors, too many heroes. Mr Kulkarni takes time to tell each of their stories. Without dramatizing them, and is mostly non judgmental. Again, great work.

For me, he shines as a narrator when he is writing about Sadashiv Rao Bhau. The hero of this book. A courageous general and an administrator of rare integrity, who attained Veergati at Panipat.

I also enjoyed reading the descriptions of the battle formations, which convinced me feel Ahmad Shah Abdali was one hell of a general. He won Panipat, because he invested a lifetime's instinct and ruthlessness in it.

Of course, the outcome of the battle was a culmination of years of strategic and tactical decisions, good, bad and ugly, from both sides. Mr Kulkarni's book at times meanders, and at times gallops to reach the epic conclusion through most of these events.

Again, a must read for history buffs.

P.S. Also published on my personal blog.

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August 20, 2018

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