Bakhar is a form of historical narrative written in Marathi prose. Bakhars are one of the earliest genres of medieval Marathi literature. More than 200 bakhars were written in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, the most important of them chronicling the deeds of the Maratha ruler Shivaji. Bakhars are considered valuable resources depicting the Maratha view of history, but also criticised for falsification, embellishment and magnification of facts.
Most scholars believe that the word bakhar is a metathesis of the Arabic-origin word khabar ("information"). S N Joshi argues that the word is derived from the Persian word khair or bakhair ("all is well", the end salutation in a letter), since it appears at the end of most texts. Bapuji Sankpal argued that the word is derived from the Sanskrit-origin word akhyayika ("story").
The principle characteristics of bakhar are that they were written in prose, had a forceful style of writing, were of political historical nature which appealed to Maratha patriotism, were often commissioned by a patron, displayed an acceptance of tradition and also a belief in the supernatural. Early bakhars were sparsel written and contained a number of words of Persian derivation, later works tended to be voluminous and contained Sanskritised prose.
The earliest dates associated with a bakhar are 1448 or 1455, by different authors, being considered as the year that the prose part of "Mahikavatichi Bakhar", comprising the second and third chapters, was written by Keshavacharya. The bakhar, which is the compilation of three authors of the 15th and 16th centuries - Bhagwan, Datta and Keshavacharya - is significant as the earliest attempt at uniting the Marathi-speaking populace against oppressive Bahmani rule.
There are around 200 known bakhars, fifty or so of which are considered to be notable, while some others have not been published at all. All the bakhars except for the early works, such as Sabhasad bakhar, 91 Kalmi bakhar and the Ajnyapatra bakhar besides others, are considered to be written between 1760 and 1850 during the heyday of the Peshwas.
At least eleven bakhars have been written principally about Shivaji's life and rule, of which Sabhasad bakhar, 91 Kalmi bakhar are the most important, some others being derivations of Sabhasad bakhar of varying reliability. These have been valuable resource material for historians chronicling Shivali's life and achievements.
List of Bakhars
Some of the bakhars include:
|Mahikavatichi Bakhar||15th and 16th centuries||Bhagwan, Datta and Keshavacharya||the earliest attempt at uniting the Marathi-speaking populace against oppressive Bahmani rule|||
|Sabhasad bakhar||c. 1694||Krishnaji Anant Sabhasad (official in Shivaji's administration)||One of the earliest biographical narratives on Shivaji, written at fort Jinji in 1697 by a courier of Shivaji|||
|91 Kalmi bakhar||Written in the 18th century by unknown writer. Few scholars such as Jadunath sarkar treat it as contemporary work however Surendranath Sen assign this a late 1760 composition because of its inaccuracies and inconsistency.||Author not known, multiple versions of book by various scholars.|||
|Chitnis bakhar||c. 1811||Malhar Ramrao Chitnis (senior writer in the Satara court of Shahu II|||
|Peshwyanchi bakhar||c. 1818||An erstwhile Peshwa official (probably Krishnaji Vinayak Sohoni)||Narrates the history of the Peshwas|||
|Bhausahebanchi bakhar||late 18th century||Account of the Battle of Panipat (1761)|||
Most historians have long neglected as unreliable, due to their colourful literary style with elements of Marathi, Sanskrit aphorisms and Persian administrative jargon. However, bakhars are recently being investigated for their historical content.
James Grant Duff relied on bakhars in the making of his "History of the Marathas". Shankar Gopal Tulpule described the bakhars as a reliable source of history, while the Indian nationalist historian Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade (1864–1926) described them as "full of meaningless verbosity" and "fragmented, contradictory, vague and unreliable". Jadunath Sarkar (1850–1958) also described them as "collections of gossip and tradition, sometimes no better than opium-eaters' tales".
- Tulpule, Shankar Gopal (1979). Classical Marāṭhī literature: from the beginning to A.D. 1818. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 443. ISBN 978-3-447-02047-3. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
- Deshpande, Prachi (2007). Creative pasts: historical memory and identity in western India, 1700-1960. Columbia University Press. pp. 19–39. ISBN 978-0-231-12486-7. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- Datta, Amaresh (1 January 2006). The Encyclopaedia Of Indian Literature (Volume One (A To Devo). Sahitya Akademi. pp. 329–331. ISBN 978-81-260-1803-1. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- Sen, Surendranath (1993). Studies in Indian history: historical records at Goa. Asian Educational Services. pp. 135–136. ISBN 978-81-206-0773-6. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
- Krishna, Bal (1940). Shivaji the Great. Kolhapur: Arya Book depot. Retrieved 17 March 2012.