The legendary, great Maratha warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja’s birth anniversary is celebrated with much pomp and glory, yet, all that he stood for in terms of administration and social justice is ignored…
If you are born in a Maharshtrian family, you are bound to hear of the tales of valour of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the great and benevolent 17th century warrior and King of the colossal Maratha dynasty.
The episodes of `Shaista Khan’, `Afzal Khan’ and the grand escape from Agra are some of his famous tales that enamour tender minds. I too, as a child, was a recipient of Shivaji’s stories of glory. Creating toy forts during Diwali (the tradition continues) is a way to keep his brilliant `guerrilla warfare strategy’, alive and kicking.
Thanks to the moral code of conduct, last week’s birth anniversary celebrations of Shivaji were low key; else politicians of Maharashtra, across party lines, take this opportunity to appease their vote bank by throwing money to make it into a hyped, garish occasion, with roadside rallies thrown in.
Amidst the blitzkrieg of triangular-shaped orange flags, the name of Shivaji Maharaj is hailed in thunderous voices.
Every political party in Maharashtra ensures that the legendary king is kept alive only to further their cause of popularity and not be inspired by the way he ruled. The present state government has taken a giant leap in appeasement to its citizens or/and respect to this legendary son of soil, by embarking upon the construction of a 3,000+ feet tall statue in the midst of the Arabian Sea.
The point is – why is Shivaji being restricted only to a king whose unprecedented skills in war and encounters with the enemy are being eulogised? Why is his name being used like war cries to fan nationalism/patriotism by politicians?
Why is no one replicating his great skills in administration which saw a socially just, environmentally rich and inclusive society and follow his example? Why is obeisance to such a stalwart leader just a shrill affair?
Let us take the case of over 350 Shivaji’s forts. If our political Netas are so respectful of Shivaji, then ensuring that the forts are in good condition, should have been accorded top priority.
Alas, barring a few forts where attempts have been made to conserve them as per period architecture, they mostly lie in a state of pathetic neglect. Sinhagad Fort in our very own city is shoddily maintained. Presently, the Fort is closed due to road concretisation work, however, once you are up there, you can visualise the erstwhile grandeur but amidst rusted signboards, litter and wild overgrowth. Why can’t the relevant authorities make this into a well-maintained tourist spot as Shivaji’s story interests people from all over the country and abroad? Successive governments have failed to fortify his forts ad turn them into attractive tourist spots to inspire new generations.
Why? Is it rocket science to spruce up forts when funds are allocated in the state’s annual budgets?
Chhatrapati Shivaji was not a king who constantly just rode horse to enter a battlefield. His was an administrator, par excellence, who did not discriminate through caste and religion and who had members of all communities in his army ad this included several Muslims too.
His civic governance was impeccable and it ensured a peaceful kingdom to live in.
Noted historian, R C Majumdar has mentioned that, `he was not merely a daring soldier and successfully military conqueror but also an enlightened ruler of his people.’’
In her popular book on Shivaji, titled `Frontiers’, Author Medha Deshmukh Bhaskaran points out to his great quality of justice. She writes, “Raja tells Baji Prabhu high on power that when you use your sword against the unarmed and the defenceless, it turns into a devil, when you help the undeserving and the unscrupulous with it, it turns into a traitor, when you use it against the aggressor to protect the weak, it becomes a worshipper and when you empower the helpless, the weak, the vulnerable, to defend themselves with it, it becomes God.’
Today, Shivaji has become a religious and caste-based entity. In 2015, there was a furore over the Maharashtra Bhushan award being given to doyen of Maratha history and a vintage historian, Babasaheb Purandare who has done stellar research on Shivaji, allegedly due to his caste.
If ever apt respect has been given to Chhatrapati Shivaji, it is by the India Navy which respects him for creating the first ever Naval force of the Maratha dynasty. Shivaji is also relived by innumerable youngsters of Maharashtra who are avid trekkers on his forts.
One wishes, political leaders would go beyond the Shivaji rhetoric and apply his administrative skills of women empowerment, environment preservation, tax collection and civic governance to make life of citizens, a better place to live in.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,