Indian Vernacular History-writing and Its Ideological Engagement

A Contemporary Account on Shivaji’s Visit to Agra (1666) in Brajbhāṣā Verse


  • Piotr Borek Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland



Śivājī, Shivaji, Bhūṣ aṇ, Bhushan, Śivrā jbhūṣ aṇ, history-writing, vernacular, courtly Brajbhāṣā poetry


Indian Vernacular History-writing and Its Ideological Engagement: A Contemporary Account on Shivaji’s Visit to Agra (1666) in Brajbhāṣā Verse

The visit of Shivaji Bhosle at Aurangzeb’s court in 1666 is a famous subject of modern historical and popular accounts. A contemporary relation of this event is to be found in vernacular poetry, which according to the Western understanding of traditional history should not be considered factually reliable. Academic research of at least the last two decades has seen many attempts to oppose this view and to theorize Indian vernacular literatures as legitimate ways of recording the past. This article offers an analysis of a few 17th-century Braj stanzas by Bhushan against the background of modern professional historical accounts, all of them devoted to the 1666 event, in order to demonstrate intersection points between two separately molded ways of intentional history-writing and to support the credibility of recording the past by the early modern poet.


MS = Śivrājbhūṣaṇ. Manuscript no. 54 (new no. 27). 52 folio. Location: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune. (Date of acquisition: 1898–1899).

ŚB = Miśra Ś. 1989. (ed.). Bhūṣaṇ granthāvalī. Vārāṇasī: Nāgarīpracāriṇī Sabhā.

VB = Miśra V. P. 1994. (ed.). Bhūṣaṇ granthāvalī. Naī Dillī: Vāṇī Prakāśan

Borek, P. 2015. The Reliable Poem. A 17th-century Hindi Poet in his Words. In: Cracow Indological Studies 17: 29–48. DOI:

—. 2016. Recognition through Traditional Values. A Literary Representation of dāna as an Essential Way of Boosting Royal Worthiness. In: Cracow Indological Studies 18: 211–239. DOI:

—. 2017. Deification in a Secular Text. On Some Functions of Religious Content in Bhūṣaṇ’s Śivrājbhūṣaṇ (1673 AD). In: D. Stasik (ed.). Polish Contributions to South Asian Studies. Warsaw: Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa: 70–81.

—. 2019. Zapis przeszłości w Indiach. Dworska kultura literacka języka bradź. Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka.

Busch, A. 2005. Literary Responses to the Mughal Imperium. The Historical Poems of Keśavdās. In: South Asia Research 1(25): 31–54. DOI:

—. 2011. Poetry of Kings. The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India. New York: Oxford University Press.

—. 2012. Portrait of a Raja in a Badshah’s World: Amrit Rai’s Biography of Man Singh (1585). In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 55: 287–328. DOI:

—. 2014. The Classical Past in the Mughal Present. The Brajbhasha Rīti Tradition. In: Y. Bronner, D. Shulman and G. Tubb (eds). Toward a History of Kāvya Literature. New Delhi: Oxford University Press: 648–690.

de Certeau, M. 1975. L’écriture de l’histoire. Paris: Gallimard.

Dalmia, V. 1997. The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions. Bhāratendu Hariśchandra and Nineteenth-century Banaras. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Edgerton, F. 1931. The Elephant-lore of the Hindus. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Goody, J. 2006. The Theft of History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gordon, S. 1993. The Marathas 1600–1818. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Mantena, R. 2007. The Question of History in Precolonial India. In: History and Theory 3 (46): 396–408. DOI:

Pollock, Sh. 2007. Pretextures of Time. In: History and Theory 3 (46): 366–383. DOI:

Rao, V. N., Shulman, D. and S. Subrahmanyam. 2001. Textures of Time. Writing History in South India 1600–1800. Delhi: Permanent Black.

Sarkar, J. 1920. Shivaji and his Times. London: Longmans, Green and Co.

—. 1955. House of Shivaji. Calcutta: M.C. Sarkar & Sons, Ltd.

Sharma, A. 2003. Hinduism and Its Sense of History. New Delhi–Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI:

Sharma, S. 2011. Literature, Culture and History in Mughal North India 1550–1800. Delhi: Primus Books.

Singh, M. P. 2001. Shivaji. Bhakha Sources and Nationalism. New Delhi: Books India International.

Tripathi, M. 2018. Hindi Canon. Intellectuals, Processes, Criticism. Translated by Sh. Naved. New Delhi: Tulika Books.

White, H. 1998. Interpretation in History. In: V. E. Taylor and Ch. E. Winquist (eds). Postmodernism. Critical Concepts. Volume III. Disciplinary Texts: Humanities and Social Sciences. London–New York: Routledge: 150–179.

HŚS = Dās, Ś. S. 1965–1975. Hindi śabdsāgar. Kāśī: Nāgarīpracāriṇī Sabhā.

OHED = McGregor, R. S. 1993. The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary. Oxford–New York: Oxford University Press.

Platts, J. T. 1884. A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English. London: W.H. Allen & Co.

Steingass, F. J. 1892. A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, Including the Arabic Words and Phrases to Be Met with in Persian Literature. London: Routledge & K. Paul.




How to Cite

Borek, Piotr. 2020. “Indian Vernacular History-Writing and Its Ideological Engagement: A Contemporary Account on Shivaji’s Visit to Agra (1666) in Brajbhāṣā Verse”. Cracow Indological Studies 22 (1):1-17.