Author Interview – Aneesh Gokhale

Hi friends, the following is an interview of Aneesh Gokhale, promising author of widely popular and successful novel ‘ Sahyadri to Hindkush’.




 *About the Author*

Aneesh Gokhale , born March 1988 , completed his schooling in Pune and pre sea training from New Delhi . He works as a navigating officer in the merchant navy.

He is an avid trekker and hiker , having done about forty hikes and treks in the Sahyadris. His other passionate interests are amateur astronomy , photography and reading books in both English and Marathi on a variety of topics . Maratha history is one of his favourite subjects. He has been writing short stories and winning prizes for essay writing and general knowledge quizzes since childhood . He currently resides in Navi Mumbai.

This is his first book.

Aneesh Gokhale can be reached at :

*Book  is  available  at   :


1) What inspired you to take up the interesting subject of Maratha Empire?

I have always loved to trek , hike in the Sahyadris . As you know , there are a large number of forts in these mountains . I have always liked history as a subject , but trekking got me interested in Maratha history . So , I started reading about it casually , and one day thought why not go ahead and pen a book of my own ?
Initially , I started writing a fictional narrative , with Maratha history as a backdrop ,but soon realised that the actual history is unknown to a lot of people . So I started writing a book which dramatised these little known events . Sahyadris to Hindukush was born out of this effort .


2) Is it tragic that usually one day i.e third war of Panipat is used liberally to encapsulate heroics of a hundred year plus Maratha Empire? If yes, what can be done to change the same?

Yes . If you see , the   Marathas have been a dominant force in India’s politics from the time Aurangzeb invaded the Deccan around 1680 . Some would say even earlier , but even if we take Aurangzeb’s invasion as a watershed event   , we find that Marathas are central to Indian polity for roughly a century . ( 1680 – 1802 ) . Be it the 27 year war of independence , Bajirao I heroics , conquering upto the river Indus or even the exploits of Madhavrao Peshwa and Mahadji Scindia .

But , I do believe that a lot more has been written about one day – Panipat – than these 100 years . How many of us know about the 8 year long siege of Jinjee ? Or the various battles that Bajirao fought – Palkhed and Bhopal to name a couple . Or the fact that Maratha armies managed to dominate everything from Attock to Cuttack . I personally believe that our Panipat fixation must end .   To me it denotes a defeatist mentality , that we keep harping on 14th Jan 1761 and have little knowledge of so many other important events .

Plus again , was Panipat the end ? Certainly not , though it is painted that way . The achievements of Madhavrao Peshwa and Mahadji Scindia came after Panipat . I am pretty sure most people have not heard these two names .

Well , obviously people’s mindset needs to change . People who have an active interest in Maratha history should write and share about personalities and events other than Panipat . That a century of achievements should get far more prominence than a single day of defeat .


3) What according to you are the factors that helped Maratha’s forge a national identity?

I believe in this case you mean a pan – Indian identity ; in essence supplanting the dominant Mughals . ‘ national identity ‘ as defined by the European experience will not apply here .

First   and foremost   Chhatrapati   Shivaji   , his ideals and struggle for a swarajya laid the foundation . Self rule is something we take for granted today , but it was a distant dream in the days of Shivaji . It was he who inspired a struggle against Turkish , Persian , Mughal and Afghan rulers of the day . He made people believe that they were rightful rulers of this land and laid the foundation of a national identity .

This continued to be the underlying theme right up to the Anglo Maratha Wars . Secondly , the Maratha empire was quite egalitarian given the times . We had Kshatriya Chhatrapatis , Brahmin Peshwas and subhedars belonging to the lower castes . Even the son of a shepherd could become a widely respected subhedar by sheer dint of his effort . Thus , they could politically dominate much of India .

Thirdly , the Marathas invested heavily in ghats , temples and dharamshalas all over the nation . Ahilyabai Holkar’s contribution in this regard is legendary . The importance of this cannot be understated . And ofcourse , political control preceded any temple building . Even today , the erstwhile Maratha rulers – Shinde , Holkar , Gaikwad etc are fondly remembered outside of Maharashtra .

Quotes by Bajirao , Shahu and the treaties with the Mughals show that the Marathas looked upon this land as a geographic and cultural whole to be ruled by the native people . Panipat is an example of this ideal playing out on the battlefield .

4) What are the salient features of your book which will inspire people to look into the 18th with a different perspective?

Well , I have taken a time period from 1740 to 1758 . This was the time when the Maratha empire grew to its largest size . The book touches upon various largely unknown events and battles that led to the Maratha empire dominating the Indian landscape . We in Maharashtra often hear terms like ‘Atake paar jhende ‘ ( flags carried beyond Attock ) – to denote achievement . This book explores how this town situated far on the Indus entered the Marathi language . Also battles fought to the sought . So this book shows how the history of the Maratha empire is india’s history . It is not merely the history of one province .

I have also touched upon the rise of Abdali . So readers can get to know more about him . His struggle to carve out a united identity for the Pashtuns . Thus all in all , the book aims to provide a new perspective to politics of the 18th century .

5) How did you go about with the research for this book?

I visited the places associated with the book – like Shaniwarwada , Lal Qila , the forts in Maharashtra .   I read around twenty five books on my chosen subject and time frame .   I could not visit the Hindukush for obvious reasons , so I got in touch with Pathans from KPK and Afghanistan so that I could get my facts about Pashtun ( Pathan ) culture right . All put together it took me around 3 years to complete the book . I started when I was about 21 .

6) What according to you are the highlights / achievements of Maratha Empire?

I guess most of it I have covered in the ‘national identity ‘ question . Still ..

The Maratha empire denoted the first time in nearly a millennia that a native power had come to dominate the Indian sub continent . They ensured that the fall of the Mughals did not bring another outsider to dominate Indian politics . The temples , ghats , dharamshalas built were another huge achievement . Let us not forget the problems pilgrims had to face under various foreign rulers .

They displayed unity and a sense of purpose when others like the Rajputs descended into internecine warfare . I will in fact go out on a limb and say that the Marathas gave us the belief that we were good enough to govern ourselves .

7) What can a person ofmodern era learn for the events of the 18th Indian subcontinent?

We can learn from both the achievements   and failures . The Marathas managed to forge a large empire and successfully governed it for quite some length of time . Their achievements can surely be a source of inspiration even today . Somebody like Peshwa Bajirao can be   a highly inspirational figure for everyone .
From the defeats / failures we can learn much more . Bad planning , an inability to build alliances   , a leadership crisis leading to catastrophic results .

One thing to note is that Maratha politics of 18th century seldom had a Plan B for anything . This is where a major difference between them and Shivaji lies . The systems put   in place by Shivaji became   increasingly people centric with the   passage   of time   and due to various reasons . Thus we can learn the   importance of putting in place a sound , fool – proof process   when dealing with any task .

8) Was the 18th century a clash civilisations or only politics employed by various groups Mughals, Afghans and Marathas, for whom, war was only an extension of politics by other means? 

Yes . War was a means to extend political influence . But that wasn’t the only way . The 18th century is not just a collection of wars . Like politics of today , there were turncoats and party hoppers and people willing to spark sectarian strife for political gain . One can say even the temples built by the Marathas were a way of extending political influence .

9) What were the strengths of Maratha Empire that lead to their rise and weakness that lead to their fall?

Strengths :

1. Remained united at a time when other powers in India collapsed into internal warfare .
2. Were blessed with very capable leaders as far as the battlefield was concerned .
3.   Somewhere surely , there was this driving force that the ‘outsiders ‘ , meaning the Afghans , Uzbeks , Persians , Tajiks etc   had no business governing any part of this country .
4. People could rise to positions of power solely on basis of capability ; not lineage . It was   a kind of meritocracy at a time   when caste , lineage etc were overwhelming factors governing just about anything in   18th century India .

Weaknesses :

You have said … that lead to their fall … now I for one consider this fall came in 1802 , and not 1761 .   So in that sense , we have to see what weaknesses allowed the British to win , inspite of the ship being steadied by Madhavrao Peshwa and Mahadji Scindia .

1. A leadership crisis . Partly caused by the defeat at Panipat .

2. Internal politicking .

3. Straying away from the principles on which Chhatrapati Shivaji had founded his swarajya and Peshwa Bajirao had expanded it .

4. A refusal / failure to modernise according   to the   new armies invading from the west . Result being that arms purchases were used to score political points and arm twist the Marathas .

10) Which are your favourite books & authors and why?

As far as Sahyadris to Hindukush is concerned , the books by   G.S Sardesai ( Marathi Riyasat ) have to top that list . Very detailed books written in a simple easy to understand language and packed with facts and information . You would have to go through 4 -5 different books to get the kind of information and knowledge contained in one of his books .

11) What inspires you to write and your advice for anyone who wants to take up writing?

I believed that this part of India’s history should   be known to people   . So I went ahead and wrote ! . Anyone who wants to take up writing , well I can only say once you have started , stay the course and finish . It is an awesome feeling to see your book in print !
12) What challenges did you face while getting the book published?

Finding a publisher is very difficult especially for a first time author . The bigger houses do not take manuscripts directly . Some even have a waiting period of upto 3 years before your manuscript is taken up . ( Not published . Taken up for consideration ! ) . The smaller publishing houses are more approachable , but   then again they lack in marketing and distribution . I finally managed to find a publisher – Snehavardhan – a small publisher  in Pune after making 2 -3 rounds of various publishing houses in the city . My own city , Mumbai , I could not find any . So yes , getting someone to   publish your book is not   so easy .

 13) What message did you wish to convey through this book and how has been the feedback till date?

I wish to convey   that the 18th century was dominated by the Maratha empire   , which as I said before , denotes everyone   politically united under this empire . More importantly , this era should be recognised as India’s history , in much the same way the Mughal era preceding it and the British era following it are recognised .

Feedback so far has   been very good . Lot of people who have read the book did not know about this part of our history . Plus   people have appreciated the language used , and liked it as a historical novel .

14) Tell us something about your upcoming works?

My next book on Lachit Barphukan   . He fought against the Mughals in Assam at the same time as Shivaji . My attempt will be to not only bring make Lachit Barphukan’s story popular , but weave the two narratives – Shivaji and Lachit – together . Let us see how that works out.

Many thanks for this interview .

Thanks a lot Mr. Aneesh Gokhale for taking time out from your busy schedule and answering the questions. Wish you all the best for all your upcoming projects.

About Sumukh Naik

Namaste! Greetings from India! I am Author of 'Age Of Hiblisk', voracious reader & Human Resources professional. I like to keep things simple, very down to earth and believes in the message of spreading love and peace. My blogs are a reflection of the world around me. Please visit for more details 'Age Of Hiblisk' (Hardcopy / Kindle ) can be purchased at DISCOUNTED rates from: / (For Indian and Non Indian residents) I also define myself as a 'Soul Explorer'
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