Shivaji’s first known letter rediscovered

It was a chance discovery that led history researchers Anuradha Kulkarni and Ajeet Patwardhan to open up the rumaal (cloth) that contained the documents found by the late historian SG Joshi on Sunday prior to the launch of their own book the same day.

While the duo were busy preparing for the launch of the Shivcharitra Sahitya (Volume 15) on Sunday, December 9, they came across an original copy of an old letter dating back to the times of Shivaji, which has been cited as the oldest letter ever found.

Both researchers, of the Bharat Itihaas Sanshodhan Mandal (BISM), stumbled upon the letter that bears the royal seals of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The letter which showcases the benevolent side of the founder of the Maratha empire deals with the dispersion of justice and the subsequent appointment of a new village Patil (headman) in the village of Ranjhe in Pune district.

Historian Gajanan Mehendale, who helped authenticate the letter, says, "The letter and its translation from Modi was first published in 1928 by VL Bhave and then again in 1930 by SG Joshi. Since the document itself was about an official appointment, copies of the same used to be made. They never had an official seal of the state on them. And the translations that were published back then were from these copies. This is the original one because it also has the official seal and the mudra of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on it. We had to verify the authenticity of the seal because it is faded. However, the dimensions for the opening seal are always 2.5 cms and the closing one 1.5 cms. This has been documented by historians almost 80 years ago. We corroborated the same and found it to be the original letter and not the copy as was the case earlier."

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