Say Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and most bow their heads respectfully before this revered king. Countless books have been penned around him and more are waiting to speak about him. Thane-based senior radiologist Dr. Gautam Pradhan has done something similar but with a slight difference. His book 300 Brave Men is not just another book on the legendary king. Written in English and first part of a trilogy, it is a fictionalized account based on real-life events in history on the life of this legendary Maratha king who changed the history on not just Maharashtra but also India. This happens to be his debut book. And what a start! The trilogy is published by Leadstart Publishing.
Ask him about the intriguing title 300 Brave Men and if the book is more than just an account about Shivaji Maharaj, his answer is straightforward. “This is the first book of a trilogy on the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji. It is a dramatized account, narrated rather like the script of a movie with independent scenes, which attempt to transport the reader to the site of action and make him/her visualize the scene as it unfolds. The title is derived from the book’s last chapter based on the ‘Battle of Pawankhind’, in which 300 Maratha soldiers thwarted over 3000 imperial Bijapuri troops at a narrow pass for over 12 hours to give Shivaji a safe passage. Similarly, the second book in the series will be called ‘Lord of the Royal Umbrella’, after its last chapter which is based on the coronation of Shivaji.”
With many books already written, there is a need to keep one’s book differently engaging. Pradhan thinks the average reader considers pure history books as boring reads. “They are unlikely to hold the attention and interest of anyone but the scholarly kind who are interested in genuinely studying history. The same would hold true of historical biographies. My book, in spite of being based on true history, is dramatized accounts, thus delivering the same facts in a much more interesting manner. There are numerous such works on the great King in Marathi by authors like Ranjit Desai and N. S. Inamdar which are legendary. However, an English language reader has no such options. There are hardly any dramatized accounts of Shivaji Maharaj’s story in English. My books will attempt to fill this void.”
Pradhan regretfully writes that non-Maharashtrian Indians hardly read or know about the great King. “Also, young Indians, Maharashtrian or otherwise, who are educated in English, are unlikely to read Marathi literature on his life. The perception of medieval Indian history amongst westerners is of the era of the “Great Mughals”. People like King Porus, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Maharana Pratap Singh, Prithviraj Chauhan and Rani Laxmibai are mere ‘rebels’. I reject this kind of portrayal of an ancient land, in which the foreign barbaric invaders are portrayed as the heroes and the indigenous brave hearts who tried to stick their necks out and stop them are portrayed as a mere ‘sideshow’!”
It took Pradhan 5 years to do the research. “My books are based on some original sources of Maratha history, including Bakhars, Shivbharat, chronologies and some translated Persian sources, as well as scholarly works on Shivaji’s life by several historians. All ‘events’ described in the books are real & documented events, though their description is ‘fictionalized’ or ‘dramatized’. In addition, I have also added some traditional stories on Shivaji, which are, in reality, undocumented and no more than “folklore”, but make for interesting reading. However, not wanting to mislead the reader, the last section of the book clearly states which section is ‘true history’ and which is not.”
For Pradhan, this eight-year-old journey involving the book was quite emotional for him. “While recreating the events, I have lived through each of them. I have discovered a sensitive, caring and principled human being behind the brave, tough & ruthless persona of the king projected by conventional books, and have tried my best to portray him as such. Shivaji’s life is full of stories of bloody battles and great escapes, yet, only the famous stories live and the incredible political drama around each event as also the unbelievable planning of each mission is either never read about, or forgotten. I have tried my best to bring out these aspects. Also, there are numerous events and battles apart from the traditional ‘famous’ ones, which I have tried to portray, thus giving the reader a new perspective of Shivaji’s story. Thus, English literature on Shivaji was long overdue and I have attempted to write a series of books which, I hope, will be read not just by Indians, but also by westerners interested in Indian history.”
A qualified radiologist, Pradhan always considered himself as creative person, despite feeling caged in an uncreative medical profession. “My books are an attempt to break out of these confines. Besides, writing and publishing a book has been on my bucket list for a long time. As reading history has been a favourite hobby, I decided to write my first book based on historical events.” For him, writing was a hobby and passion giving him a temporary break from his main profession. “Writing a medical book would be work again, wouldn’t it? “
Dr. Gautam Pradhan’s message to would-be readers is specific. If you love to read about Indian history, are proud of our past and want to celebrate the Indian heroes along with reliving their thrilling moments, this trilogy is for you. “For that is exactly what you will find in them… the drama, the passion and the thrill of an era long forgotten. The present books are on Chhatrapati Shivaji. Who knows, I may get a chance to write about other great personalities in the future.”
With a start like this, success is not at all surprising.