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ISSN: 0974-892X


January, 2023



Fictionalisation of History in Basavaraj Naikar’s The Sun of Freedom


Dr. Kh. Kunjo Singh, Former Head English Dept., Manipur University, MANIPUR


Basavaraj Naikar’s fine novel The Sun of Freedom (2020), first revised edition published by Vishwakarma Publications, Pune is one of the commendable Indian novels in English fictionalizing colonial history of India, particularly of the  Deccan region. In attempting to represent colonial conflict between Bhaskararao Bhave of Peshwa dynasty, king of Naragund and the authorities of the East India Company around 1857 in the most realistic terms in this novel, Naikar has fictionalized Indian history along with cultural and religious materials in the most effective and efficacious manner. The history he fictionalizes is not only of Naragund, a princely state in Karnataka then, but also of the complex ramifications of the whole Indian history.

The people of India particularly in and around Naragund, are Hindus and in their self-contained Brahminic Society the retention of the myths, legends, beliefs, customs, religion, proverbs, tales, taboos, patriotism, nationalism, humanism, etc. is upheld with an utmost sense of duty. In the fictional world of Naikar history and traditionally preserved culture have been fictionalized in an artistic manner.

In order to easily understand how history has been fictionalized to get the effect of a postcolonial novel in The Sun of Freedom it will be useful to throw some light on the colonial historical and political facts as resulted from the collective political consciousness and native identification.

India or Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, with a very old history has been existing peacefully and independently till the advent of the British colonial rule. The novel The Sun of Freedom (2020) is a faithful record of the turbulent period of the colonial history of India vis-à-vis Naragund where collective political consciousness and native identity collapse with the advent of colonialism and British Paramountcy resulting in the loss of national freedom. As this forms the central theme of the novel, there has been immense historical and political importance relating to the administration of the kingdom of Naragund (India). In fact, the novel embraces the entirety of Naikar’s idea on evaluation of the historical phenomena. We see clearly that the novel opens with the Arcadian environment exhibiting the essential qualities of a primordial image of a pure Hindu society, which was stable, peaceful and prosperous with promising royal administration keeping full faith in God and religion of the historic colonial period from 1800 to 1863.

In the history of this time the Deccan region has sixty-three princely states. The British government posted Mr. Manson to officiate as Political Agent over these sixty-three princely states. By this time under the initiation of Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor – General of India, the severe act of the Doctrine of Lapse was passed by the East India Company. Under this doctrine there is no room for an heirless king or queen of a princely state to adopt a son from among his or her nearest relatives. Besides, the East India Company passed the Disarmament Bill in 1845. Under this Bill all the heads of the princely states of India should surrender all their military weapons such as guns, rifles, swords, etc. to the Company Sarkar within three months failing which they are to be severely punished.

The historical situation of the birth of Bhaskararao Bhave in 1800 as the son of the reigning king of Naragund, Appasaheb or Apparao Sarkar, has been beautifully rendered fictionally. A few moments before the birth of the baby Appasaheb was walking up and down in his court and feeling rather fidgety he said:

What shall I do if it’s a female child? I only hope and pray that Lord Venkatapati will bless me with a male issue. [S.F.:9]

As the king was a devotee of Lord Venkatapati he believed that he got his son as the boon of Lord Venkatapati. So he arranged a grand service to Him. He also arranged for a grand naming ceremony of the boy. This ceremony is described fictionally as:

On the occasion of the naming ceremony, all the relatives and dignitaries of the Samsthan had gathered in the harem. The Rani had adorned the child with gold chain, rings and waistband. ………..…….. The priest applied the sandal paste and saffron powder on the child’s forehead and adorned its head with a wreath of jasmine and chrysanthemums. He said, “The baby-gem is born from the womb of the Rani. He is named Bhaskararao as per the desire of Appasaheb Sarkar. Let the baby shine like the sun whose name he bears and give light to the entire world.” [Ibid.: 11]

The historic event of the marriage of Bhaskararao to Savitri, the daughter of Manjrekar family of Ajare of the Western Ghat area is described fictionally as:

The wedding was celebrated on grand scale in the palace of Naragund. The chiefs of all the neighbouring princely states were invited to the royal wedding. Thousands of natives, relatives and friends feasted on a variety of dishes and hundreds of cows were given away to Brahmin priests. [Ibid.:12]

The simple historic pilgrimage to Tirupati to visit the temple of Lord Venkateshwara is presented fictionally as a grand journey:

In Ramayana, the second’s time, an event happened. He used to visit the temple of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati every year. Once in the month of Pausya, he left Naragund for Tirupati with a limited company consisting of two camels, five horses and fifty persons in all. The camels were loaded with cooking utensils, ropes and tents. The five horses were ridden by sardars and others were cooks, servants and palanquin bearers who carried the palanquin by turns. [Ibid.:13]

The historic event of the funeral ceremony of Appasaheb that took place in 1835 is described as a cultural traditional event usually found in fiction:

Then, at the beckoning of the priest, Bhaskararao lit the pyre with a burning wooden stick. As the jungle wood caught fire, flames began to rise high and lick the whole mass of faggots. Bhaskararao and the other relatives went round the pyre five times. [Ibid.: 22]

When Bhaskararao Bhave became the administrator of the kingdom of Naragund in the historic year 1835, he had a busy schedule of administration. In the midst of his royal duties he entered into romantic affair with a dancing girl called Bhimasani. The culmination of this love between this historic personage and the dancer is described fictionally:

He steered her to the silk covered bed and laid her there. Bhimasani surrendered herself whole-heartedly to the king as she had never before to anyone. He tumbled upon her, explored her innermost beauty and dallied with her until the fire of his burning was quenched. Then both of them got up with a sense of satisfaction and slipped into their garments. He gave her a final patronizing kiss as she took leave of him. [Ibid.: 27 – 28].

The passing of the Disarmament Bill in 1845 which is a landmark in the colonial history of India is also presented as a strand in the plot of this fiction:

It was in 1845 that the Disarmament Bill was passed by the East India Company when Dalhousie was the Governor General of India. A copy of the bill was sent to Babasaheb of Naragund also, through the Deputy Commissioner of Dharwad. [Ibid.: 31]

The historic event of holding a meeting of the heads of the princely states of Deccan region under the initiative of Babasaheb of Naragund to stand unitedly against the Doctrine of Lapse is also fictionalized when Babasaheb sends out messages to them:

He, therefore, sent out messages to Bhimaraya of Mundaragi, Desai of Hammagi, Yasavantaraya of Jamakhandi and Viravva Rani of Chitradurga asking them to gather at Jamakhandi to discuss the problem of adoption. [Ibid.: 43]

The historic episode of Mr. Mansion, Political Agent, sending a letter to two officers of Babasaheb to make a conspiracy against him is also fictionalized in the form of writing a letter to two of them as:


Dear Krishnajipant,

I hope this letter finds you in a good health. I will be camping at Munavalli in January 1856. I, therefore, request you to come there with Banyabapu to see me personally without fail to discuss some very confidential matter. Please keep this as a top-secret. The rest in person.

Thanking you

Yours Cordially

[Ibid.: 79]


The historic episode of the killing of Mr. Manson, Political Agent of Naragund by Marya as a revenge for killing his dear brother Raya is narrated without any exact date and time as an ordinary event of fiction:

He lifted up his large sword and struck it heavily on Manson’s neck and fell a little distance away from there. Blood spurted out from the mangled parts. The trunk of the British officer lay there, still writhing with convulsions. [Ibid.: 101]

B.S. Naikar has brought down the course of history in a fictional way by mentioning that the Mamledar of Naragund was bribed by the British Political Agent Mr. Malcolm to spy on the activities of Babasaheb and send him the report. Accordingly the Mamledar sent reports on the activities of Babasaheb to Malcolm on the 27th, 28th and 29th May, 1858. The latest report of the 29th May, 1858 reads as:

I reported yesterday what had happened at Naragund upto last evening. Last night 5 guns were fired from Naragund fort at eleven o’clock. I do not know whether it was in consequence of his palki being paraded or as an acknowledgement to God that all the guns and ammunition had been successfully carried upto the fort. After this, no thailees or letters  ought to be sent to the Naragundkar. He has rebelled against the government and it only remains to send a force here. [Ibid.: 106]

The historic battle fought outside and inside the fort of Naragund between the native force and that of the British is also described in fictional forms without proper date and time.

A few company soldiers were mangled to death and fell in the bloody pools. Likewise, several native soldiers who were also shot dead by the enemies sagged to the earth and died heroically for their master Babasaheb. The gunpowder that was available in Naragund was soon exhausted. The soldiers of Naragund lost their lives very rapidly. The surviving ones began to run for life. The soldiers of Colonel Malcolm were many times bigger in number than the small army of Naragund. [Ibid.: 110]

The historic event of possessing of Bhaskararao’s palace by the Company soldiers on the 2nd June, 1858 and jubilant mood and gestures are rendered in the form of a fictional narrative piece:

A couple of soldiers climbed the roof of the palace and brought down the banner of Bhaskararao and threw it to the ground contemptuously. Then they hoisted the Union Jack on to the flag post. As their banner began to flutter in the morning wind, they felt proud of themselves. [ Ibid.: 123]

The historic event of the escape of Babasaheb’s mother Yamunabai and his wife Savitri from the imminent danger in the palace through the secret underground exit, emerging out of the hill of Naragund and walking into the bordering woods in the hot sun and finally descending into the water of Malaprabha river to commit suicide by drowning themselves there, is narrated as an imaginary narrative usually in fiction.

And lo, the sandy bed of the river seemed to slip from beneath their feet. The torrential current of the water pushed them ahead mercilessly along with it and stopped their respiration. The two poor women felt a sudden blackout of consciousness and knew not what happened to them further. [Ibid.: 139]

The historic event of the arrest of Bhaskararao from the house of Mallanagowda of Toragal by the British military officer Frank Seutor is presented fictionally without mentioning exact time, date and year as if it is a piece of story imaginarily constructed.

He instantly stood up and kicked Frank Seutor and felled him to the floor. But Frank Seutor’s soldiers surrounded and overpowered Bhaskararao because of the very strength of their big number. Thus they arrested Bhaskararao and took him to Belgaum. [Ibid.: 194]

The historic trial of Bhaskararao showing his exchange of argument with the British judge in the court is presented as a fine piece of fictional composition of dialogue.

“Mr. Bhaskararao, you have committed the great crime of organizing a mutiny against the company government in India. Don’t you know that?”

Bhaskararao replied curtly, “That’s because your company government tried to snatch away our natural freedom and our right to adopt children of our choice for our properties”.

“But don’t you remember the Doctrine of Lapse prevents you from adopting any child?” asked the judge.

“But your Doctrine of Lapse is itself an illegal rule unnaturally imposed on our people,” replied Bhaskararao.

“You cannot say that. The law had been passed by Lord Dalhousie in the British Parliament,” said the judge.

“No, it is not applicable to our country. Our laws are different from yours.” replied Bhaskararao. [Ibid.: 196]

The historic incident of Bhaskararao’s escape from the jail when his associate Shankara Bhatta, a Brahman of his kingdom surrogated him in the jail by exchanging their respective garments is presented as a fictional scene.

………… he took off his garments and gave them to Bhaskararao and Bhaskararao took his garments and put them on. Now their roles were changed. Shankara Bhatta looked like Bhaskararao and vice versa. Shankara Bhatta touched Bhaskararao’s feet and asked him to hurry out of the jail. Bhaskararao had tears in his eyes and caressed his face. He took up the food packet and walked slowly out of the jail building. No soldiers objected to his departure from the jail as everybody mistook him to be the Brahmin Shankara Bhatta. Shankara Bhatta sat in the cell in the guise of Bhaskararao in a fake posture of dignified suffering. [Ibid.: 201-202]

The historic event of punishing the two betrayers – Krishnaji Pant and Banyabapu instead of rewarding them is narrated in the way a fictional event is narrated.

But Malcolm replied, “I am just a servant of my government. I have to obey the instructions given by my supervisors. I am sorry to tell you that you are to be appropriately punished. Mr. Krishnaji Pant, you  are sentenced for Kalapani punishment. And Mr. Banyabapu, you are to be imprisoned in the dungeon at Dharwad.” [Ibid.: 207]

The historic passing of orders for giving punishment to different guilty civilians is expressed fictionally in an ordinary way.

As per the 1858 Act IV Colonel Malcolm had ordered for death sentence for thirty people, Phatka for nine people, Kalapani punishment for thirty-four people; hanging for five people and sakta majuri for thirteen people. [Ibid.: 208]

The historic event of Bhaskararao’s meeting with Nanasaheb in Nepal in the last part of the novel is delineated as a fictional scene with a simple but forceful dialogue.

Then the sanyasi asked, “Huzoor, could you identify me?” Nanasaheb answered, “Not exactly, but I guess you belong to some South Indian monastery.”

The sanyasi laughed mischievously and said, “In a way you are right. Now I deserve to enter a monastery permanently.”

Nanasaheb was rather puzzled and asked him, “What do you mean? You have already been staying in a monastery, don’t you?”

“No, Maharaj, you have not recognized me yet. You used to write to me earlier. I am Bhaskararao Bhave of Naragund Samsthan in South India.”

The sanyasi uttered these words in a low pitch. Then Nanasaheb jumped out of his seat, hugged him and exclaimed, “What a surprise! You are our old bold Bhaskararao of Naragund who fought with those British monsters!” [Ibid.: 211-212]

Among the historic incidents and events narrated in the novel the story of Bhakararao’s marriage at the age of sixty to a young girl at Kashi is presented as a fine fictional tale to enhance the degree of suffering and misery of Bhaskararao. The romantic scene of the marriage night in the bridal chamber is presented as a fine fictional delineation.

Bhaskararao gently drew her into his arms and planted a few kisses. When touched by his masculine body, she felt a sudden thrill and her hairs stood on end. Being an experienced man, he knew how and where to titillate and excite her. He explored her erogenous zones and caressed them stimulatingly……………………………………………………… Kashibayi examined the bed sheet and felt satisfaction with the bloodstains on it. [Ibid.: 224]

The historic death of Bhaskararao leaving his boy son Ganeshpant, his wife and old woman Kashibayi is written fictionally without mentioning exact time, date and year.

He had reached sixty-six years by now. One day he slept after his lunch. In the evening he did not wake up. She shook him this way and that, but alas, his face fell to a side. Bhaskararao was no more. [Ibid.: 229]

The dialogue among the elders of the monastery about the identity of a dead Sanyasi is presented in an unhistorical manner but in a fictional pattern.

“That’s what we have heard. But the truth is that Bhaskararao escaped to Nepal and lived somewhere there. It was some surrogate who was hanged in the name of Babasaheb.”

“Then our Sanyasi may have been Babasaheb,” said the third man.

“I think,” said the second man, “Our Sanyasi must have been one of the mutineers possibly belonging to the blood relatives of Babasaheb. It could be Vishnupant or Govindarao.”


Naikar, Bhasavaraj.
The Sun of Freedom. Pune: Vishwakarma Publications, 2020. Print

-----------------------. The Sun Behind the Cloud. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2001. Print