Sunday 4 January 2015

Ma. Eknathji on Chhatrapati Shivaji

|| योग: कर्मसु कौशलम् ||

The Tercentenary of Chhatrapati Shivaji's Coronation is being celebrated all over the country during the year that commenced on June 2, 1974, and the present volume conceived as part of the celebrations is now brought out as signifying their concluding phase. It may be recalled that the idea of the coronation day celebration was first mooted by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1886 as a symbolic expression of the aspiration of the people for sustained freedom and in order to mark the beginning of New India's struggle for independence from what has been described as the rule of "the Mughals of the modern era". The celebration, as then suggested, came off in April 1896 at Rajgarh, and sought to stress the truly nationalist, revolutionary and anti-imperialist direction regarded as necessary for the struggle and to provide the new movement for Swaraj with the dynamic inspiration of a popular, national hero. Lokmanya Tilak, who used to visit Sinhagad every year and stay there for some time to imbibe the spirit of Shivaji, firmly believed and declared that "The only consciousness which we as a nation can proudly retain and foster ought to have its springs in Hindutva".Hence he rightly saw and shared with his compatriots, the appropriateness of projecting the image of Shivaji as a symbol of the sublimest sense of patriotism and nationalism, and representative of the ideal of political emancipation.

Directing the people, to adopt like Shivaji, every means including the use of arms, methods of warfare and military strategy in the fight against alien oppression, Tilak pointed out to them, on the occasion of Shivaji's coronation day celebration: "If thieves enter our house and we have no strength to drive them out, we should, without hesita¬tion, shut them and burn them alive. God has not conferred upon the foreigners the grant of the kingdom of Hindusthan". It was an image revealed in the archives of history and re-shaped out of legend and tradition, and it served to bring Shivaji back to the modern peasant and worker as well as to convince the intelligentsia of the need for an organised fight for freedom. There is nothing incongruous in an image of Shivaji, himself a ruler, the "Chhatrapati", serving as a source of revolutionary and anti-imperialist inspiration for a fight against alien oppression. Shivaji had, in his own days, risen above narrow affiliations of caste and community, broken the shackles of class-consciousness and defended masses against all forms of exploitation. We have it on record that he had even to fight his own kith and kin and the Jagirdars, Patels and Deshmukhs who were thriving on the inams granted by Badshahs. It would not, therefore, be surprising to know that a revolutionary like Vasudeo Balwant Phadke, acclaimed as among the first to raise the banner of armed struggle in 1878 against British Imperialism in India, issued a manifesto in his name signing it as "Shivaji the Second".

The Tercentenary is thus a tribute of a nation to one of its most outstanding heroes for having roused it from a state of semi-slumber and infused into it the courage and dynamism needed to stand up and arrest the advancing tide of Moghul conquest and domination. It was Shivaji who made the people, the sons of the soil, re-awaken to a sense of unity forged spontaneously by  bonds of a time-honoured concept of nationalism. The call for unity was in the name of "Hindvi Swaraj ", which implied free and un-hampered self-determination of a people with a heritage dating back to the ancient seers of the land and a culture moulded in the light of their vision and by the power of their penance. Moghul conquest was the chief political feature about the time of the birth of Shivaji. The trail of destruction, through fire and plunder, that the Moghul armies left behind, as they advanced in conquest, the religious discrimination by the Muslim rulers and the harassment to which the natives of the land, the Hindus, were subjected, all resulted in great discontent, social and religious. Contemporary conditions grew so desperate and everyone was in such a state of helpless expectancy that all thoughts turned towards the advent of a deliverer. The man of destiny was Shivaji, born in February 1630 in the hill-fort of Shivneri, where his mother Jija Bai had to be left for safety. That is the setting into which we see Shivaji the Great, ushered as an infant. In the shaping of his life through the early years of childhood and boyhood the influence of the mother, Jija Bai, was supreme. "He has proved by his example that the Hindu race can build a nation, found a state, defeat enemies ; they can conduct their own defence, protect and promote literature and art, commerce, industry ; they can maintain navies and ocean-trading fleets of their own and conduct naval battles on equal with foreigners. He taught the modern Hindus to rise to the full stature of their growth. Shivaji has shown that the tree of Hinduism is not really dead, that it can rise from beneath the seemingly crushing load of centuries of political bondage; that it can put forth new leaves and branches. It can lift up its head to the skies", writes Jadunath Sarkar, in Shivaji and His Times. He further points out that, "Intensely religious from his very boyhood by instinct and training alike, he remained all through his life abstemious, free from vice, respectful to holy men, passionately fond of hearing scripture readings and sacred stories and songs".

According to Vincent Smith, "Indeed, it is safe to affirm that his religious zeal was the most potent factor in arousing the sentiment of nationality which inspired his lowly countrymen to defy the Mogul Legions". However, as Sarkar has rightly stressed, "Religion remained with him an ever-fresh fountain of right conduct and generosity, it did not obsess his mind nor harden him into a bigot." By all accounts, Shivaji's personal life was marked by a superior standard of morality and deep spiritual fervour. Here indeed was not only a warrior and administrator, but one who was devoted as a son, attentive as a husband, and a unique exemplar of duty as a father. Historians, poets, novelists, bards and play wrights have painted the picture of this medieval India's outstanding hero in resplendent hues. And the image of Shivaji is regarded today as a blend of history and legends. The legend as it appeals to the modern mind is happily not divorced from history. "Study the life of Shivaji and you will find him a nation-maker, instead of a marauder, as the Europeans represent him," says Swami Vivekananda, the patriot-monk of India. We have here endeavoured to present in the form of a narrative, marked by a certain sequence of incidents (as it moves from chapter to chapter), the whole course of Shivaji's illustrious career in a brief compass. The trend would be seen to be almost unbroken, even if some of the chapters are selected, culled out and strung together, as for instance those that appear under the titles, "Refrain", "Cres-cendo", and "Closing strains", included in the opening, middle and concluding sections of the volume with a view to providing a comprehensive picture of the entire ground. What we have offered here is neither just history nor just legend. It is a blend of both, so that the legends that are narrated are rooted in facts of history.

VKP : Vol. 4, No. 1. February, 1975

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

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