Historian and writer Babasaheb Purandare dies at 99 in Pune

Published on Nov 15, 2021 08:59 AM IST

On the morning of Purandare’s demise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a series of tweets, remembered him as “witty, wise and with rich knowledge of Indian history”, and that he had the honour of interacting with him “very closely” over the years

Raja Shivchhatrapati, Purandare’s hugely popular two-part magnum opus on Shivaji, written in Marathi, was first published in the late 1950s and has since been a staple in Marathi households. (HT Photo/File)
Raja Shivchhatrapati, Purandare’s hugely popular two-part magnum opus on Shivaji, written in Marathi, was first published in the late 1950s and has since been a staple in Marathi households. (HT Photo/File)

Respected writer, historian and theatre personalityBalwant Moreshwar, popularly known as Babasaheb Purandare, died at a private hospital in Pune early on Monday following a brief illness, the hospital said in a statement.

Purandare (99), popularly called ‘Shiv Shahir’ (Shivaji’s Bard) for his work on 17th century Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji was recently diagnosed with pneumonia for which he was undergoing treatment, according to doctors at the Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital.

“Purandare breathed his last at 5:07am. The final rites will be performed by 10am,” stated the hospital in a statement.

On the morning of his demise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a series of tweets, remembered Purandare as “witty, wise and with rich knowledge of Indian history”, and that he had the honour of interacting with him “very closely” over the years. He also recalled having addressed his centenary year programme earlier this year.

“I am pained beyond words. The demise of Shivshahir Babasaheb Purandare leaves a major void in the world of history and culture. It is thanks to him that the coming generations will get further connected to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. His other works will also be remembered,” one of PM Modi’s tweets said.

In July, he entered his centenary year and was greeted by a host of leaders from various fields including politics, cinema and literature.

Raja Shivchhatrapati, Purandare’s hugely popular two-part magnum opus on Shivaji, written in Marathi, was first published in the late 1950s and has since been a staple in Marathi households, going through numerous reprints over decades.

Born on July 29, 1922, at Saswad near Poona (now, Pune), Purandare was fascinated by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from an early age and wrote essays and stories which were later published in a book form, ‘Thinagya’ (Sparks).

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Over eight decades of his writing and theatre career, Purandare delivered more than 12,000 lectures on Chhatrapati Shivaji, studied all the forts and history of the Maratha Empire, making him an authority on the subject.

He penned and directed a historical play ‘Jaanta Raja’ (1985), a theatrical magnum opus performed by over 200 artists, translated and enacted in five languages, and has clocked over 1,250 stage shows in Maharashtra, Goa, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and the USA.

Among his prominent works are the monumental two-volume “Raje Shivchhatrapati”, “Jaanta Raja”, “Maharaj”, “Shelarkhind”, “Gadkot Kille”, “Agra”, “Lal Mahal”, “Purandar”, “Rajgad”, “Panhalgad”, “Sinhagad”, “Pratapgad”, “Purandaryanchi Daulat”, “Mujaryache Mankari”, “Fulwanti”, “Savitri”, “Kalawantinicha Sajja”,

He was conferred the Maharashtra Bhushan award in 2015 and the country’s second-highest civilian honour Padma Vibhushan in 2019.

Shivachhatrapati Pratishthan led by Purandare has undertaken Shiv Shrushti (Shivaji memorial) project at Ambegaon near Katraj and it is in the final stages.

Purandare also has had his fair share of controversy for his portrayal of Shivaji, with outfits like the pro-Maratha Sambhaji Brigade and even some Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders accusing him of distorting history with a malafide intent.

The Sambhaji Brigade, which had vehemently opposed the then Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government’s decision to honour Purandare with the Maharashtra Bhushan award, alleges that Purandare’s works on Shivaji were given a “casteist” and “communal” spin.

After turning 99, Purandare said in his interview to Hindustan Times: “I may be old but not old in my thoughts, hence I understand what the new generation is looking at and [I am] eager to understand them more.”

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