February 19 marks one of the most important days for the people of Maharashtra. This day marks the birth anniversary of the legendary king and the founder of the Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We the citizens of Maharashtra consider him as our ‘Aaradhya Daivat‘ or the ‘presiding God’.
People outside Maharashtra or even non-Marathis may find it an exaggeration of sorts to compare a historical figure with God. However, for the Marathi people, he was the one who saved them from the repressive Mughals and the Deccan sultanates and gave them a life of dignity.
I write this article not to state the greatness of Shivaji Maharaj, but to review people’s adherence to his ideals in the Maharashtra of today.
Shivaji Maharaj was nurtured and mentored by his mother Jijabai Sahib who taught him all the good things that would eventually make him an ‘ideal person’. He was filled with such confidence that at the age of 15, he along with a bunch of his friends captured the Torna Fort from the Adilshah. The treasure he found there was used for building an army and for the welfare of his people. He never had ambitions of enriching himself or his family at the cost of his subjects. For him, the welfare and goodwill of his people was of paramount concern.
The ruling class of today’s Maharashtra is far removed from Shivaji’s ideals of governance. Every major political party of Maharashtra asks votes in the name of Shivaji Maharaj, promising to adhere to his ideals of governance. Sadly, they just use his name to manipulate the voters. The Shiv Sena, which runs in Shivaji’s name, commits acts of hooliganism and extortion often targeting the people who are weak, thereby breaking Shivaji’s most important ideal of protecting the weak.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), led by Sharad Pawar, is corrupt to its core. The irrigation scam still has its effects as hundreds of farmers commit suicide during every drought. This is mainly because Pawar’s nephew siphoned off funds intended for irrigating the fields of the farmers. The NCP has the blood of innocent farmers on its hands, thereby breaking another of Shivaji’s ideals of the welfare of farmers. The Congress is an equal partner in crimes carried out by the NCP.
The ruling party of Maharashtra, the BJP, is not pious as it claims to be. It divides people in the name of religion, and discriminates against particular communities breaking the most important rule of Shivaji – that of secularism. Shivaji never discriminated on a communal basis – be it religion or caste.
The shameless farce propagated by political parties is carried out unchallenged during the time of elections. Are we so naive as to really believe them?
Ask anyone from Maharashtra – young, old, male, female, student, professional – as to who their ideal is, and there is major chance that everyone will unanimously answer – Chhatrapati Shivaji.
If then, you ask them how many follow his ideals ardently, you’ll find that not even half of them comes close to following Shivaji!
One of the many redeeming qualities of Shivaji was that he never smoked or drank alcohol. He was strongly against any kind of addiction.
On the other hand, you’ll be surprised to know how many youngsters in Maharashtra drink alcohol and smoke nowadays.
Respecting the dignity and honour of women was another of Shivaji’s important ideals. Women felt safe in his rule. Even the enemy’s women folk who fell in the hands of the Maratha army were treated with utmost respect and sent back to their homes with full honour. Crimes against women were punishable by death in Shivaji’s time.
Sadly, the scenario is opposite today. Maharashtra ranks third when it comes to crimes committed against women. The NCRB data shows that 4144 cases of rape were registered last year alone. In the same period, 2509 cases of murder of women were reported. It is such an irony that we worship Jijabai for giving birth to Shivaji, and also treat our women with such disgrace.
If we carefully introspect ourselves, we will find that almost all of us revere Shivaji, but at the same time, we are also deeply reluctant to follow his ideals. Forget the political parties – we may not be responsible for them or their actions – but we are responsible to ourselves. We should retrospect on how much we have maligned the ideals which were so dear to our king’s heart and thereby, try to improve ourselves. This would eventually lead our path towards a better society.
In today’s Maharashtra, Shivaji has been reduced to a figure from which we derive pride to satisfy our egos. On February 19, one can only witness bike and car rallies of people sporting flags, honking horns, shouting slogans and dancing to Bollywood tunes on loud DJs across the state. Is this a tribute befitting our great King?
Merely shouting slogans and taking out bike rallies doesn’t honour Shivaji. On this day, we should teach our children about the great deeds of Shivaji Maharaj. We should mark the day by exploring our rich culture and organising the Powadas (historical ballads written in an exciting style) which beautifully narrate the deeds of Shivaji. Remembering and adhering to his ideals is more important than shouting slogans, carrying out bike rallies or dancing on streets.
There is also the issue of statues. Some people believe that constructing statues is necessary to show the greatness of Shivaji. What I want to ask these people is that do you really believe that we need statues to know of Shivaji’s greatness? His greatness lies in his deeds and his ideals, and not in some materialistic statue.
Even then, if someone wants to show structures of his greatness, then they should preserve the historical forts that Shivaji fought for, rather than spending thousands of crores on a statue. What would be Shivaji’s reaction if he saw millions spent on commemorative statues, while the debts of the farmers are not being waived off?
Let us all ensure that we remember, celebrate and follow Shivaji Maharaj’s legacy and ideals and aspire towards being at least a fraction of the man that he was. We would then become possibly one of the best communities on this planet!