…. Continuation from the previous issue
- Sir. A. Ramaswamy Mudaliar
Let us see what another great Indian, the poet and seer of the east Dr. Rabindranath Tagore says of Shivaji and the moral to be drawn from his life and times, writing to an early number of the Modern Review the great sage of Sabarmati says “A temporary enthusiasm sweeps over the country and we imagine that it has been united; but the rents and holes in our body-social do their work silently; we cannot retain any noble idea long. Shivaji aimed at preserving the rents, he wished to save from Mughal attack a Hindu Society to which ceremonial distinction and isolation of castes are the very breath of life.
He wanted to make this heterogeneous society triumphant over all India. He wove reports of sand; he attempted the impossible. It is beyond the power of any man, it is opposed to be divine law of the universe, to establish the Swaraj of such a caste-ridden, isolated, internally torn sect over a vast continent like India.” Wise words these, coming from one who has caught a glimpse of the vision celestial, who speaks as one inspired—but words wasted on the narrow, wordly monopolist. When will this nauter this selfishness, this caste pride disappear? Then alone will Swaraj be possible.
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Mr. Jadunath Sarkar tell us in his book on Shivaji “There was no attempt at well-thought-out organised communal improvement, spread of Education or unification of the people, either under Shivaji or under the Peshwas. The cohesion of the peoples in the Mahratta State was not organic but artificial, accidental and therefore precautious. It was solely dependent on the ruler’s extraordinary personality and disappeared when the country ceased to produce supermen.” Shivaji’s rule was followed by that of the Peshwas whose rule has been so much advertised by British historians. Let Mr. Sirkar give us a picture of their rule. “The Mahratta leader (the Peshwas) trusted too much to finesse.
They did not realise that without a certain amount of fidelity promises no society can hold together. Stratagem and falsehood may have been necessary at the birth of their state, but it was continued during the maturity of their power. No one could rely on the promise of a Mahratta Minister. The later-day Mahrattas trusted too much to diplomatic trickery, as if Empire were a pacific game of chess. Thus, while the Mahratta spider was weaving his endless cobweb of hollow alliances and diplomatic counter-plots, the mailed fist of Wellesley was thrust into his laboured but flimsy tissue of statecraft and by a few swift and judicious strokes his defence and hereon was torn away. The man of action, the soldier-Statesman, always triumphs over the mere scheming Machiavel”. True only too true, but we have not yet learnt this lesson.
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The Monopolists disowned Shivaji; they proved most ungrateful to him during his life-time. They got the lost pie out of his treasury. It is a sad and miserable chapter of our history, how they refused to crown him, how they pretended to make him a Kshatriya, how they tried to demoralise him with absurd rituals. Shivaji Maharaj understood something of their conduct during his lifetime and we are certain the Great warrior would now have realised the entire truth. It would shock his departed soul to find that the descendants of those people are to-day celebrating his ter centenary. We shall show in another article what part was played by the monopolists in the life time of Shivaji. (29-4-27)
The celebration of the Shivaji ter centenary by the Monopolists of South India and Bombay, the enthusiasm which is displayed by them in organising such a celebration and the sudden apparently spontaneous zeal shown by Monopolists in either Presidency, have given room for furious thought among the public. What is the object, the secret purpose of these demonstrations that those who treated Shivaji with scant courtesy, almost with open contempt, should now suddenly find untold virtues in him? What is the new orientation due to? We are deluged with correspondence requiring us to elucidate the mystery and asking us to throw some light in the dark recesses of those subtle machinations, which our correspondents are convinced, are contemplated in these manouvres. We shall not attempt to answer our correspondents at this stage but we shall give them some idea of the relations that existed between Shivaji and the Monopolists of his period.
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Let us take the great event of Shivaji’s life that which concerned him most and about which he was most keen—his Coronation. Shivaji had long felt the practical disadvantages of his not being a crowned king. “Theoretically his position was that of a subject; to the Mughal Emperor he was a mere Zamindar; to Adil Shab he was the rebel son of a Vassal Jagirdar. He could not claim equality of political status with any king. As he was a mere private subject, he could not, with all his real power, claim the loyalty and devotion of people over whom he ruled. His promises could not have the sanctity and continuity of the public engagements of the head of a State.
He could sign no treaty, grant no land with legal validity and an assurance of permanence.” It was necessary to rectify his position in the eyes of the people. A formal coronation alone could show them that he was a King and therefore their superior and enable him to treat on equal terms with the rulers of Bijapur and Golkonda. `The higher minds of Maharashtra too, had begun to look up to Shivaji as the Champion of Hinduism, and wished to see the Hindu race elevated to the full stature of political growth by the forma assertion of his position as an Independent King. They longed for the Hindu Swaraj, and that implied a Hindu Chatrapati.’
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But the ‘Nationalist Monopolists’ of these days thought differently. They did not recognise in him a Champion of Hinduism or if they did, they assumed that a Sudra had to get over his Karma, and could do no less than perfect Brahmins and save the cows. Let Professor Jadunath Sirkar tell the story of Brahmin obstruction in those days, for there were as many adherents of the theory of ‘persistent, consistent and continuous obstruction till a proper reply was given,’ in those days as there are to-day. “According to the ancient Hindu scriptures, only a member of the Kshatriya caste can be legally crowned as King and claim the homage of Hindu subjects.
The Bhonslas were popularly known to be neither Khastriyas nor of any other twice born caste, but were tillers of the soil, as Shivaji’s great grandfather was still remembered to have been. How could an upstart sprung from such a Shudras stock aspire to the rights and honors due to a Kshatriya. The Brahmins of all parts of India would attend and bless the coronation of Shivaji only if he could be authoritatively declared a Kshatriya.”
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They did not care for Hinduism or for the rule who was supposed to have saved the Hindu faith. They stuck to their narrow communalism till was made worth their while to give up their obstructive policy. And history is repeating itself, to-day! Shivaji Maharaj was equal to the occasion. He attempted to secure the support of a Pandit whose reputation for scholarship would silence all opposition to the views he might propound. ‘Such a man’ says Mr. Sarkar ‘was found in Beshweswar, nick named Ganga Bhatta, of Benares, the greatest Sanskrit theologian and controversialist then alive, a master of the four vedas, the six philosophies, and all the scriptures of the Hindus, and popularly known as the Brahmadeva and Vyas of the age.
After holding out for sometime he became complaint, accepted the Bhonsla pedigree as fabricated by the clever Secretary Bhalaji Arj and other agents of Shivaji, and declared that the Rajah was a Kshatriya of the purest breed, descended in unbroken line from the Maharanas of Udaipur, the sole representatives of the solar line of Ramachandra’. And for this courtierly ethnological theory Ganga Bhatta, the leader of the obstructionist party of those days received the sum of 7,000 hons.
The historian tells us that the preparations for the ceremon took many months. The Sanskrit epics and political treatises were ransacked by a Syndicate to Pandits to find out the orthodox ancient precedents on these points. Invitations had been sent to learned Brahmins of every part of India and eleven thousand Brahmin families were assembled at Raigarh and fed with sweets for four months at the Rajah’s expense.’ Meanwhile the Raja was required to go to various shrines and make innumerable presents to the deities and priest at such places. But inspite of all this there was still a defect to be removed before the coronation could take place.
Shivaji might conquer many kingdoms and win victories over the most famous writers of the day but thanks to the Code of Manu, he was impotent, and a child before the monopolists of the day. Their obstruction had to be overcome not by deeds or even words but by the soothing influence of the most precious metal. And they saw to it — they whose descendants are today celebrating the tercentenary — that the Great Hero was dragged to the lowest depths of degradation before his coronation took place. The monopolists insisted that the Great Ruler should be publicly purified and ‘made a Kashatriya.’
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On the 28th May, 1674 Shivaji was made to perform penance for the sin of omission in not having observed the kshatriya rites so long, and was invested by Ganga Bhatta with the sacred thread the distinctive badge of the twice born castes. Let Mr. Sarkar tell the story of what happened next in his own words. “The next step was to teach Shivaji the Gayatri Mantra and initiate him into the rules of the Kshatriya caste. Shivaji very logically demanded that all the vedic verses appropriate to the initiation and coronation of a true Hindu King should be chanted in his hearing because the Kshatriyas being one of the holy `twice-born’ castes, he as an admitted Kshatriya was entitled to use the Vedic mantras equally with the Brahmins.
At this there was a mutiny among the assembled Brahmins, who asserted that there was no true Kshatriya in the modern age and that the Brahmins were the only twice-born caste now surviving! Even Ganga Bhatta was cowed by the general opposition and evidently dropped the Vedic chant and initiated the Rajah only in a modified form of the life of the twice-born, instead of putting him on a par with the Brahmins in this respect.” What a commentary on the life and manners of Hindu society. Is it any wonder that the monopolists are proud of those ancestors of theirs who could bring the terror of the Dekhan, the prince whose fire and sword carried everything before him, on his knees make a clay model of him and deal with him as they liked? And what a lesson for posterity!
But even these hymns were not properly recited. Mahamahopadyaya Haraprasad Sastri is our authority for stating ‘that the greedy Brahmins probably saved their conscience by reciting some of the Vedic hymns of Shivaji’s coronation, by mumbling them in such a way that not a syllable reached the ears of Shivaji’. The practice of not reciting the proper hymns to Sudras or reciting them in such a way that they may! not get the benefit of it seems to be an ancient one well-known and widely practiced by the monopolists. Let those who criticise modern propagandists, who suggest that the whole of the mantra recitation is a hoax, ponder over this incident in Shivaji’s life and consider whether they are not in the right.
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But even a worm turns occasionally and Shivaji seems to have felt the humiliation when the Pandits declared that the only twice-born class in the Kaliyuga was the Brahmin caste. He desired to take them at their word and tell them what was expected of Brahmins in the modern age. The Persian manuscript Tarikh-i-Shivaji, 39 a, states: “The Maharajah learning of the refusal of the brahmins to teach the Vedic man trams said `the Brahmans are revered men. It is not proper to appoint them royal servants.
They ought not to discharge any work except worshipping God.’ So he removed all the Brahmins from their posts and appointed Prabu Kayasthas in their places. Moro Pant interceded for the Brahmins.” It is that intercession that paved the way for the ruin of the Mahratta Empire. Look at this picture of Royal magnanimity which ignored personal insults and look at that picture of the monopolists wresting every coin from the King whose memory their descendants today seek to revere.
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But let us proceed with the ceremonies that were then performed. Jadunath Sarkar tells us that “Next day Shivaji made atonement for the sins, deliberate or accidental, committed in his own life time. He was separately weighed against each of the seven metals—gold, silver, copper, zinc, tin, lead and iron, as well as very fine linen, camphor, salt, nutmegs, and other spices, butter, sugar and fruits and all sorts of eatables (betel-leaves and country wine being among them). All these metals and other articles to the weight of his body, together with a lakh of hun more, were distributed after the coronation to the assembled Brahmins.” And Shivaji was not a small little mountain rat. Mr. Parasnis is our authority for stating that Shivaji weighed 1401bs or ten stone. The money and other articles the Brahmins took home and what became of the country-wine let our readers answer!
But to proceed with the story. The Dutch records tell us that “even this failed to satisfy their greed. Two of the learned Brahmins pointed out that Shivaji, in the course of his raid, had burnt cities, involving the death of Brahmins, cows, women and children.” He could be cleansed of this sin—for a price The King was conscience-stricken and resolved to seek out the sufferers of their families and pay some compensation for the grief and loss they were subjected to. But that was not the point of the Purificatory ceremony.
He was told that “it was not necessary for him to pay compensation to the suffering relatives of the men and women who had perished in his sack of Surat of Karinja. It would be enough if he put money into the pockets of the Brahmins of Konkhan and Desh. The price demanded for this `pardon` was duly paid.”
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Such was the coronation of the great Shivaji and such the part played by the monopolists in that function, the Subhasad puts the total cost of the coronation including the sums distributed in gifts and alms at the incredible figure of one crore and forty-two lakhs of hun. The Dutch merchant Abraham Le Feber writing four months after the event says that the distribution of largeses alone amounted to 1,50,000 pagodas.
It is undoubted that several cores of rupees were spent in these ceremonies and that as happens on a minor scale today, so in those days the Royal Prince was plucked clean of all his plumage. And we read the pathetic sentence in the history, which must bring tears to the eyes of all ‘The coronation exhausted Shivaji’s treasury and he was in need of money to pay his troops. It was, therefore necessary for him to be out on raid immediately afterwards’. What a sad commentary indeed on the times! And it is with the monopolists that we are asked to ‘celebrate’ the tercentenary of Shivaji. Oh! Tempers! Oh! Mores!’ -2nd May 1927.
Source : Mirror of the year,
Published by Dravidar Kazhagam