Posted: Mar 24, 2008 at 2322 hrs IST
No legacy is as rich as history. It is who we are that is responsible for what we are in the final analysis. Trying nobly to preserve and enrich his history and that of his fellow compatriots, Rakesh Dhawade, director of Institute of Research and Development in Oriental Studies –Arms and Armour (IRDOS), believes his amassment of arms and armour speaks volumes about the past.
"People look at weapons and they associate them with violence. We look at them and we see human craftsmanship, the marvel of metallurgy, artistic application of science and even a narrative of the psycho-sociology as well as economics of an era. My institute wants to wash this negative notion and provide people that second perspective on weapons. They are not just for destruction but instruction too, in that they are an account of the progression of various spheres of the life of mankind in a certain period of history," asserts Dhawade.
His entire collection of arms and armour has been trickling through generations in his family like a hallowed family heirloom. "My story of arms collection goes back in time, literally", says Dhawade. "My surname, Dhawade, means a person who took iron ore out of the furnace and moulded it. All these weapons have been bequeathed to me by my forefathers who were in this profession, and to them by theirs".
And when he speaks of forefathers, it is a lineage seven generations from which he has inherited an association with the defense of the land, from the Battle of Panipat right up to the Kargil war. So arms collection was more hereditary than a hobby. "In our collection we have every possible variety of Indian weapons ever used, be it daggers, battleaxes, spearheads, swords, weapons used in cavalry and even weapons like rifles from recent history. The ones that we do not possess, like horse armour, we have tried to replicate them by doing a lot of research".
The sphere of activity of IRDOS, executed by Rakesh and wife Varsha, includes collection, exhibition, protection and conservation of the arms and armour. "What people fail to realise is that the preservation of the conglomeration of these arms is just as crucial as its collection. We need to safeguard this rich heritage of ours for the future," he says. Living up to the motto of his institute - preserving past for the future – IRDOS has a functional laboratory and conservation cell devoted to the care and cure for the extensive and diverse artifacts under its patronage.
As far as showcasing these weapons is concerned, Rakesh did his first exhibition in his fifth standard. IRDOS has drafted a list of several occasions on which they hold exhibitions of the weaponry in collaboration with other organizations and trusts. These occasions include the birthdays, coronation days and death anniversaries of national luminaries like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and others. "Our last exhibition was held on Shiv Jayanti and we plan one this month and two in the month of June. My undying reverence for the sacrifice of these great men fuels this initiative", Dhawade reveals.
Dhawade has written 11 research papers, three of which have been published in the UK. But a problem that he faces is the space required to lodge or display his arms collection. "We do not have the adequate funds required to buy the land to erect a museum, though I am trying to get some land," he says. Dhawade does not believe in donations. His entire enterprise is self-funded. Currently all his weaponry is housed in warehouses and stores across the city.
He feels strongly about the preservation of his consanguineous collection. He avers, "Actually, it used to be a passion. Now it is my life. I felt there was a lacuna in this subject and I have been trying to bridge that by my research for some 25 years now. I cannot think of doing anything other than dedicating my life to the cause of restitution and promotion of this collection. We cannot forget the legends that made history, or the priceless, timeless specimens of antiquity that went in its making".