Kashibai was the one who was left behind, said the very talented Priyanka Chopra who so beautifully portrayed the Maratha queen. She was indeed the wronged woman, but she was so much more. And this blog post is dedicated to her, the woman who was an embodiment of the kind of strength that one so seldom comes across.
We are introduced to Kashi as the wife and queen of the Peshwa, selfless in her devotion to her husband and equally proud of his achievements. Her loyalty is her sharpest sword, for a word against her beloved has the gentle queen transform into a fierce warrior who will use all of her will to defend the one she loves. And yet she is firmly rooted in tradition, with a strong sense of justice and deep respect for what religion commands.
Kashibai is the outburst of colours, the gurgling of the stream. She is unrestrained in her expressions of love for Bajirao, and yet she fears losing him. Even then, she does not question her faith in her lord and states with confidence that he would never lay his eyes on another woman.
When we confer divinity upon mortals, we often forget that they are flawed by nature. When we place another at the centre of our universe, we often forget that they have only uttered a word of promise, a word which could easily be twisted to suit their needs when required. And it so happens, that Mastani walks into Shaniwar Wada and Kashibai the queen is forced to watch from a distance. The confusion, the protest, the erosion of trust, play upon her delicate face.
Realization truly dawns on her the day he returns late, her words reflecting her knowledge. She makes her bold proclamation in silence and leaves once she has solid proof of her husband’s infidelity.
The Kashibai we loved, the picture of joy, is but a shadow of her former self as she returns as the mother of Raghunath. And yet she strives to forget her personal trials and be true to her duty as the woman of the house. The stoic indifference with which she welcomes Mastani, the curt yet dignified criticism of the Peshwa’s deed, and the firm adherence to duty are a veil to the woman who was by all means, treated unfairly.
Her cutting words to Mastani are justified, and even then they are laced with the residual love she feels for her husband. Even when she asks him to never enter her room again, she holds on to her mangal sutra- the one thing that remains of their relationship.
Deprived of his strength, the Peshwa fights his last battle and sinks into a state of deliration. Kashibai is by his side, even when he no longer sees her as herself.
Her immense strength was no doubt far greater than Mastani’s will to follow her heart. Mastani admits to being maddened by love. Kashi meanwhile, refuses to be maddened by rage and continues to live for all the others for whom she is indispensible. Even in today’s world, the message of Kashibai’s life (and that of numerous other women who suffered at the hands of patriarchy) is relevant.
To forgive and to show restraint requires great strength of will. When one refuses to submit to the perfidies of the mind, it is a transgression from the mortal to the divine.
And that is what the Queen called Kashibai did.
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