Girish Jadav displays his expansive collection of ancient weaponry from the Maratha period to Rishi Majumder
Photographer: Faheem Mulla
“As a child, what struck me most about Shivaji Maharaj’s picture was the punch dagger in his waist band. I felt the Chattrapati really liked that dagger he was always clutching. And what he liked I must like too.”
Girish Jadhav, a 58-yearold senior manager with a multinational company, strikes a pose from the Hanmanti school of sword fighting (an ancient school followed by the Maratha army), holding an 11th century punch dagger. He jumps and twirls, forming a perfect semi-arc to demonstrate an ideal thrust, which the weapon was designed for. He does this deftly, in little space, because the small room he lives in at Pune is crowded with three beds besides his own, occupied by three other lodgers he shares it with. He keeps a bundle of
in the corner of a
shared cupboard. His one room-kitchen residence in Kurla, Mumbai, where his wife and children stay, contains 700-odd antique weapons, from the 11th century onwards, belonging to the period in between the rise and the fall of the Maratha empire.
The collection comprises different kinds of punch daggers, swords, sword handles, shields, spears, war axes, arrows, tiger claws, head gear, battle armour, kukris and some pistols. His weapons collection has seen 180 exhibitions throughout the country and won him many awards
and medals from historians and government bodies. On his desk in Pune lie some sample weapons he has shortlisted to be sent to London, for a possible exhibition. Next to these lie notes for a book he’s working on, to be titled A History Of Arms. And next to those lie information to be sent to Nitin Desai (the man behind
many a Bollywood historical) for a serial he’s producing on Shivaji, along with Jadav’s many weapons, which will serve as models for duplicate weapons to be made for the serial.
Jadhav’s first antique weapon, “obviously the Maratha punch dagger”, was bought at age 30 in Pune’s Old Bazaar. “I knew exactly where to find it, because I had scoured the market for it, for many years,” he remembers. “I had dreamt of buying it since childhood, but had to wait till I had earned enough money.” Eventually 40 weapons followed. “Then friends and colleagues started talking about what I had, at business meetings even,” he says. “And I became a ‘collector’.” A friend got some school children to see his collection. “One of them told his history teacher, who asked me for an exhibition in his school,” he relates. “And the idea of holding exhibitions for the public hit me.”
His marketing job enabled him to travel to towns which were valuable sources for weapons from the Maratha period. “I was particularly interested in places where wars were fought during this period,” he says. While it took him many excursions to a Surat warehouse to procure a Pre-British muzzle loading gun-powder pistol, a 400-year-old Turkish Yataghan sword whose jade hilt was embedded with diamonds, rubies and gold (worth many lakhs of rupees) was gifted to him by Madhukar More. A constant aide was famed Maratha historian Babasaheb Purandhare, who contributed with his own knowledge on the era. “Discussions with him opened a new world to me,” Jadhav recounts. “I saw the link between weapons, history, places and the character of people and politics in today’s India.” His final step in this direction was learning to swordfight as the Marathas did then. “I went to Kolhapur to ask people, ‘Who knows Hanmanti?'” he says. “When some youngsters who knew the art started demonstrating, I filmed it to learn the moves.” Endless attempts in this direction led to finding Katkade Guruji, who taught him the art properly.
Jadhav was not privileged enough to pursue the low-paying career of a professional historian. Yet his historical and cultural roots clutched at him too much to let him remain a 9 to 5 executive. “I didn’t buy a colour TV, long after everyone else in my salary bracket had, because I needed to purchase tiger claws,” he says as he begins to tear up. “I saw my children having to sneak into other’s living room windows to catch their favourite serial. Yet they never once asked me to forsake my passion.” Ironically the same roots that prompt such passion, prompted a mob in Mazagaon to scream “Jaanta Raja” while burning a hut housing Muslim women and children. “No person who loves a subject can misuse it,” comments Jadhav uncompromisingly. “An understanding of history will show you how to connect people, not how to divide them by caste, class, religion… or even region.”
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/ucay