Mastani, lost in the haze of happiness, murmured, ‘Rau!’
Bajirao, elated at the way she had addressed him, said, ‘Rau! Yes! That is what I am. Mastani’s Rau. Say my name once more.’
The words floated in the air like a delicate fragrance, ‘Rau! Mastani’s Rau! Rau!’
The formal address of Shrimant, Swami, Sarkar… they all dissolved in that one beautiful moment leaving just Rau.
This extract, from late NS Inamdar’s seminal Marathi novel ‘Rau’, beautifully captures the impassioned, heedless love that Shrimant Bajirao Peshwa shared with Mastani , a Muslim courtesan. It was this all-consuming love that drove him to defy societal conventions, rebel against his orthodox Brahmin heritage and ultimately, lead to his untimely, hallucinations-induced death. ‘Rau’ was recently translated into English by Vikrant Pande, whose previous works include Inamdar’s ‘Shahenshah’, Milind Bokil’s ‘Shala’, and Ranjit Desai’s ‘Raja Ravi Varma’ amongst others.
Pande’s work on the historical tale is rich in nuance, with a narrative that evocatively captures the politics and drama of a bygone era. Read more