Jodha Akbar, A mockery of History

Can somebody teach Ashutosh Gowariker elementary level Indian History. A friend finally managed to pull me for this 4 hour long movie. She knew that I am very much interested in History and thought I might love to see it come to life. But this movie was a mockery of history. Here is how.

1) Rajputs at the time of Akbar spoke Marwari (or its variants) while Mugals spoke Persian in court. However the movie made a mockery of the history by making the Hindu actors speak so pure Hindi that it looked like speaking Sanskrit and Muslims speak Urdu.. I agree that expecting the audience to understand Persian might be too much to ask for, but Marwadi is an easy language to grasp.

2) Siege of Chittorgarh: Chittorgarh was one of the most strongly defended fort of Rajputs and was the center of all resistance to Mugals. The fort was considered impregnable and Akbar had to lay an expensive and bloody 58 day siege to defeat it. (which also included a lucky matchlock hit to then Rajput chief Jaimal which demoralized the defending army) This battle established Muslim dominance over the region and make Akbar famous. but the movie conveniently ignored this important siege. Also it ignored the slaughter & rape that followed.

Then there were lots of discrepancies in the weapons used:
3) Cavalry archer and composite bow: Although towards the end there was a small scene where cavalry archers were shown, the movie simply ignored them.
The reason why Mugals (from the time of Babar) had military dominance was because of their mastery in making composite bow (an Mongol art which is now lost). Unlike the bows made of traditional wood, these bows were made of bone tendon of ox and wood shavings binded together in a short, light yet powerful bow. These bows were light enough to be used by a mounted archer and yet powerful enough to inflict a lethal wound at even 400 yards distance (500 m).
Cavalry archer was a highly trained Mongol/Persian soldier (Native Indian soldiers were never allowed to join these ranks dominated by Khans) against which there was actually no defense. A foot archer cannot defend himself once the enemy closes in, hence his use and deployment is limited. But a mounted archer could close in at lightning speed, shoot a couple of arrows without stopping and flee to safety before the enemy could even think of retaliating. Also since they wore little or no armor, these soldiers were faster than normal heavy cavalry, who were glorified in this battle. Hence making a chase not only impossible, but one which could potentially lead into traps. Cavalry archers were the primary reason why Babar, with his tiny army could decimate the then Indian rulers.

BTW the depiction of a lone foot archer taking repeated shots at Hemu Vikramaditya is ridiculous. No archer can even stand a chance to be so close to enemy infantry as was shown in the movie.

4) Matchlock: Akbar’s weapon of choice was never a sword, but Matchlock. Its like a musket, but uses a slow burning wig instead of a flint-stone to ignite the charge. These weapons were light, deadly, had a good range and were easy to train/master. However I could not see any matchlock in the movie.

5) Elephants: Whoever has even seen a real life elephant would agree that elephants are not tamed in the way shown in the movie. It would be plain stupid to even think that a lone unarmed man could be a match against the beast. horses might be trained in the way as the elephants were trained in a movie, but you cannot compare the two.
Also in a battle, the elephants move before the infantry does. Once the battle starts and the ranks are broken, a charging elephant would kill more friendly soldiers then foes. Also during those days, the tusk of the elephant was sawed off and replaced by a sharp saber. Something which the movie missed.

5) Cannons: In the battle against Hemu Vikramaditya, there was no cannons & no infantry. Hemu had 30,000 horses and 500 war elephants against a mere 10,000 light cavalry of Akbar. This made Hemu arrogant & careless. His lightly guarded artillery train was lost to the scouts & foragers of Akbar. Akbar’s army was mobile and he did not have sufficient gunpowder or operators to strategically man these guns. Hence no cannon shots were fired in his decisive second battle of Panipat.

Also during those days hollowed out brass cannons were used (most of them manufactured in Rewari). This was because cast iron was brittle, and for machining a hole in the barrel you needed a high quality of steel & forging skills that India did not have. It was only in the later years when the metallurgy technology was perfected and when the brass prices went sky rocketing high, did Indians switch to Cast Iron. But the cannons in the movie were exclusively cast iron ones, which is wrong.

6) I am not even talking about Jodha Bai and all the mushy scene, because the movie started with a big disclaimer about her origins and how scanty and inconsistent historical records are about her.

7) Tobacco and wheat: Remember the Akbar’s visit to the market disguised as a commoner? Tobacco was an Latin American crop that was not available in India for at least a century after Akbar (read this BBC Link). Also the prices of the coarse grains (jowar, bajara) were shown more than that of Wheat. Something which is historically wrong. Only after the green revolution of 1970, wheat became an affordable staple grain.

All I am trying to say is that although the Director wanted to depict this as a historical movie, it would have been more accurate if he had the basic courtesy of checking the details with even a guy who has a Undergraduate degree in Indian History (if fees of a professor was too much to pay for)cav


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