South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - A Short Genealogy of Recounting Nana Fadnavis Across Time

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

Nana Fadnavisor Balaji Janardan Bhanu (1742-1800) is the best-known Chitpāvan politician in the history of the Maratha Empire/ Peshwāī. His literary characterization is however deeply paradoxical, and ambivalence. The nature of this ambivalence demonstrates changing relationships between Maratha pre-colonial history and its present Marathi literary consumption.


‘Traditionalist’ approachesto Nana adopteulogy as their favourite genre (John Briggs’s Nana Farnavis 1927, Nārāyaṇrāvāyācī bakhar 1854, and Krishnaji Pandurang Limaye’s Srī Nānā Faḍnavīs 1906). However, ‘modernist’, twentieth-century literary approaches describe Nana as corrupt, and a terrifyingly evil, pre-modern influence. Vijay Tendulkar’s Marathi play Ghāśīrām Kotwāl (1972) and Narayan Dharap’s Marathi horror-novella Chandravilās (2012) are excellent examples of literary ambivalences that exemplify changing relationships between ‘modernism’ and the nationalist consumption of pre-modern history. While Tendulkar responded to the Shiv Sena’s rising power by critiquing Nana as the epitome of Brahmanical corruption embodied in the Peshwāī, Dharap’s literary ‘modernism’ reinvented the consumption of this pre-colonial as horrifying, and outside the moral scope of the present. In Chandravilās, Dharap links the spirit of Narharipant Bhanu from the Peshwā court (a figure not unlike Nana) with the evil haunting of a small Konkani property; a situation requiring violent exorcism. Literary associations of corruption, and horror, increase ambivalences surrounding Nana Fadnavis and the Peshwāī. They challenge ‘traditionalist’ approaches of using precolonial history as nationalist resources and render precolonial history non-consumable. According to this ‘modernist’ re-inscription, therefore, the pre-colonial horrifying and corrupt becomes mythical and mythological.

Deepra Dandekar

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany

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