How history has systematically distorted the figure of Shivaji: Excerpt from Govind Pansare's book

Jan 2019
159
Valencia
#1
How history has systematically distorted the figure of Shivaji: Excerpt from Govind Pansare's book

Was Shivaji an incarnation of god? A large number of people believe this to be true. Some call him Shiva’s incarnation; others, an incarnation of Vishnu. It does not take long in our country for humans to become gods. We even have a term for it. Dev manoos – godlike person.

We treat anyone who is great in any respect, including those who do the people’s welfare, as god. Is this an instance of the simple faith in god or is it the cunning of some people who have malicious intent?

Did Shivaji’s contemporaries turn him into an avatar, an incarnation? We cannot be sure. But we do know that they attributed miraculous powers to him, such as flight and invisibility. Of course these are false. Shivaji would have benefited from these rumours, since they would have increased his followers’ loyalty. But there is a difference between the calculated promotion of ignorance and history.

Shivaji was a human being. He was a good and great man. Shivaji had intelligence and foresight, he was a pragmatic man of morals. He was a brave and great warrior. But he was human. He was not a god. He was not an avatar.

What are the consequences of turning Shivaji into a god? If he is made into a god, then we get away from our responsibility to emulate him. If someone says, “Behave like Shivaji: don’t trouble the ryots; don’t touch the stem of ryot’s crops; don’t shield the rapists; love your religion, but do not hate the religion of others,” then here comes the reply – how can we compare ourselves with Shivaji? He was god’s avatar – we are only human. How can we hope to behave like him? We will behave the way we can.

As Shivaji is only a god, it is enough to worship his image once a year, to only celebrate his birth anniversary, collect donations in his name, spend some of it on some programme and gobble the rest, actually to spend very little and misappropriate most of it, arrange processions, apply tilak to our foreheads – this is all. One calls oneself a Shivabhakta, and hopes to garner influence. However one does not feel obliged to follow Shivaji’s example.

Shivaji came to ryots’ help. Do these hypocrite bhaktas help the ryots? Actually they make use of Shivaji’s name to threaten people. Shivaji’s portrait and his flag are raised aloft on illicit distilleries, gambling dens and such similar activities. This is a misuse of Shivaji. We must understand who Shivaji was and put a stop to this misuse. We must understand who Shivaji was so that we can distinguish between his true followers and the hypocrites.

Shivaji and the Bhawani Sword

Did Shivaji succeed because he wielded the Bhavani talwar, a sword blessed by goddess Bhavani? A Chief Minister of Maharashtra tried to become popular in recent years by his quest to retrieve the sword from the Royal Collection in London.

Researchers have shown that the Bhavani talwar was made in Portugal, where the techniques to forge swords from various metals was very advanced. The Portuguese brought this sword to Goa, from where it went to Sawants, and then to Shivaji. Mother Bhavani did not play a role in the forging of the sword. In Satara, there is a sword in a museum that some say was used by Shivaji. There is an ongoing dispute as to whether this is the Bhavani talwar. On that sword, there is an inscription in Portuguese. Anyone can see that.

Those who use the people’s ignorance and their faith to push their own agenda are not prepared to let people know the truth. It is not possible to understand the real Shivaji and Mother Bhawani by shouting Jai-Shivaji and Jai-Bhawani every morning and evening.
~~~




Have they made Shivaji bigger or smaller during the last fifty years? What has happened in terms of his acceptance across the regions? Has it grown or lessened? Fifty years ago his portraits used to be displayed outside Maharashtra. They were displayed in Madhya Pradesh. They were put up in Karnataka in the South. They were hung in Baroda and Gujarat. During the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement we all woke up to the Maharashtrian identity taking inspiration from Shivaji.

Of course, the movement of Samyukta Maharashtra for a linguistic Marathi state was quite justified. It was certainly justified to politically remember Shivaji as he had prepared a Rajya Bhasha Kosha. However we did not observe the limits of propriety. One of the stalwarts of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement used to say in speeches, “Maharashtra has history whereas others have geography only!” Of course, it used to evoke a tremendous applause. This was extremism.

Shivaji is dear to Maharashtra. Just as Maharashtra has the history of Shivaji, doesn’t Karnataka have the history of Rani Channamma? Doesn’t Rajasthan have Rana Pratap’s history? Are the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat of recent origin?

True, a sense of propriety was lost in the heat of propaganda. Finally we succeeded in making Samyukta Maharashtra. However, we, at the same time, put Shivaji in the confines of the walls of Maharashtra. Shivaji, who was also popular outside, was made to belong to Maharashtra alone.

What is now happening in Maharashtra? The Shiv Sena was founded in the 1960s. This party invokes Shivaji’s name in whatever it does, against non-Maharashtrians or against Muslims. These forces have founded many more outfits: Hindu Ekta, Maratha Maha Sangh, Patit Pawan Sanghatana – all these chant Shivaji’s name.

When they opposed reservations, the slogan they raised was Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai. When dalit hamlets were attacked in Marathwada and elsewhere, again the slogan used was Jai Shivaji, Jai Bhawani.

Shivaji is cynically used to serve selfish interests. Something similar had happened at the time of World War II. The British wanted to enlist Indian youth to the armed services. They printed posters with Shivaji’s picture on it, calling upon “You mavlas of Shivaji! Enlist today! Shivaji was brave; you too are brave. Join the War!” Those who had forced the country into slavery used Shivaji. Now those who are hell bent upon dividing the country, those who are dividing the poor ryots on the basis of caste and religion, are again using him.

It may be their business to do this. But why should we make it our own? Why should we allow them to do so? They propound a false history. They only shout Jai. We must recount the true history, not merely shout Jai. Those who are well off in terms of power, wealth, status and knowledge do not use force alone to maintain their hegemony. They do not use only weapons, truncheons and the state. They use ideas. They use history. They encourage such ideas amongst the people; they make them digest the philosophy and the history which is useful to maintain their own superiority.

Such thought and philosophy, such false, half true and distorted history, help to maintain the status quo. Thought is a very effective weapon. It lasts a very long time. It is superior to the gun. The rulers always use this weapon against the oppressed.


Excerpted with permission from Who Was Shivaji by Govind Pansare, translated by Uday Narkar, LeftWord Books.
 

kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,669
USA
#2
Kings could become Gods in polytheist religions like Hinduism. Romans had this habit. Lord Ram was a minor king, since he doesn't appear in history, but only in mythology. When people start idealizing one (ruler or a historic person) with exaggerated stories whether true or not, with time, in a polytheistic culture, one could get elevated above mere humans, and become God. That was what happened to King Ram. There must have been something virtuous in King Ram, for people to notice, but probably not anything close to what legends made him out to be. Otherwise he would have shown up in real history.

Same thing is now happening to King Shivaji. He was guerilla leader who fought against the Muslim Mughals, and made some success, though in the end his clan lost it all to the British. There is a dearth of leaders among Hindus when it came to successfully fighting off invading Muslims for a thousand years. Shivaji and his succeeding clan broke this mold. He deserves proper recognition for it, but Hindus have hyped him to the hilt, and he is becoming a God. Surprising? Not really.
 
Likes: Bharata

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,489
New Delhi, India
#3
Keep the two things separate - mythology and history. Mythology is not history, it has its origins in people and in the land where they live (and their experiences with natural happenings). The wise do not mix these. In case of Shivaji, there was a third ingredient - ethnicity, tribal pride, the Marathas. So, deifying of Shivaji is not surprising. Mundas, Oraons, and Kharias have their God in Birsa Munda.

Birsa Munda
 
Apr 2019
294
India
#4
Kings could become Gods in polytheist religions like Hinduism. Romans had this habit. Lord Ram was a minor king, since he doesn't appear in history, but only in mythology. When people start idealizing one (ruler or a historic person) with exaggerated stories whether true or not, with time, in a polytheistic culture, one could get elevated above mere humans, and become God. That was what happened to King Ram. There must have been something virtuous in King Ram, for people to notice, but probably not anything close to what legends made him out to be. Otherwise he would have shown up in real history.

Same thing is now happening to King Shivaji. He was guerilla leader who fought against the Muslim Mughals, and made some success, though in the end his clan lost it all to the British. There is a dearth of leaders among Hindus when it came to successfully fighting off invading Muslims for a thousand years. Shivaji and his succeeding clan broke this mold. He deserves proper recognition for it, but Hindus have hyped him to the hilt, and he is becoming a God. Surprising? Not really.
In epics Valmiki's Ramayana and Mahabharata Rama and Krishna were not Gods. Although there so many interpolated instances in extant versions which establish them as Vishnu's incarnation. But it's so easy to discern them.
They were probably defied in Gupta era.
 

kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,669
USA
#5
Isn't Dr. Amdekhar being worshipped now as some demi god by Dalits? I see pictures of people prostrating in front of his pictures and statues decorated in religious style.
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,489
New Delhi, India
#6
Yeah, they do. They even have temples dedicated to MGR and Rajnikant. They will have one soon for 'Thala' Dhoni. :)
Christians too worship Jesus.
 
Oct 2015
1,061
India
#7
"History" has nowhere said that Shivaji was 'reincarnation of God'.

Even the second-oldest biography of Shivaji (Sabhasad Bakhar, completed in 1694 by one of his ministers) does not say he was reincarnation or anything like that. The maximum this 320 year old biography says is that about five times in his life, during sleep, he was possessed by Goddess Bhawani. This one can equate with seeing a powerful visual dream.

Historical Shivaji was a human being with some outstanding qualities. Half a dozen people who saw him have described his physical appearance which was: he had bright eyes with quick eye-movement; when he spoke, he appeared to be smiling; medium height; well built. His military acumen was great. He had become a celebrity in India during in his lifetime because of the things he did (Killing of Afzal Khan, Escape from Agra prison, Manner in which he made Aurangzeb's life miserable etc.). Shivaji became well-known outside India also during his lifetime because of his sack of Surat city two times. Many Europeans - English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian - wrote about him during his lifetime. Shivaji''s oldest biography is by a Portuguese.

Pansare was not a historian, but a rationalist. He opposed all supernatural things (and that is fine). His book on Shivaji has nothing new, nothing which has not been known for last 100+ years.

I wonder whether discussing this topic - Was he a God? Did he win wars because of a particular sword he carried? - may be of help as a historian. It is that we are taking public statements of some political leaders and confusing them with history?
 
Last edited:
Apr 2019
294
India
#8
Yeah, they do. They even have temples dedicated to MGR and Rajnikant. They will have one soon for 'Thala' Dhoni. :)
Christians too worship Jesus.
They won't do it for Dhoni because in his community only dead people are worshipped(as ancestors). Many years ago when Dhoni-mania was at peak, his parents opposed construction of temples on his name.

"History" has nowhere said that Shivaji was 'reincarnation of God'.

Even the second-oldest biography of Shivaji (Sabhasad Bakhar, completed in 1694 by one of his ministers) does not say he was reincarnation or anything like that. The maximum this 320 year old biography says is that about five times in his life, during sleep, he was possessed by Goddess Bhawani. This one can equate with seeing a powerful visual dream.

Historical Shivaji was a human being with some outstanding qualities. Half a dozen people who saw him have described his physical appearance which was: he had bright eyes with quick eye-movement; when he spoke, he appeared to be smiling; medium height; well built. His military acumen was great. He had become a celebrity in India during in his lifetime because of the things he did (Killing of Afzal Khan, Escape from Agra prison, Manner in which he made Aurangzeb's life miserable etc.). Shivaji became well-known outside India also during his lifetime because of his sack of Surat city two times. Many Europeans - English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian - wrote about him during his lifetime. Shivaji''s oldest biography is by a Portuguese.

Pansare was not a historian, but a rationalist. He opposed all supernatural things (and that is fine). His book on Shivaji has nothing new, nothing which has not been known for last 100+ years.

I wonder whether discussing this topic - Was he a God? Did he win wars because of a particular sword he carried? - may be of help as a historian. It is that we are taking public statements of some political leaders and confusing them with history?
To be honest I've never heard anybody claiming Shivaji was an incarnation in my whole life.
 
Oct 2015
1,061
India
#9
History of Shivaji:

The most well-regarded book is 'Shivaji and His Times' by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, 2nd Edition, 1929. He has drawn upon sources from nine languages.

After the above book, Jadunath Sarkar had also written an article on Shivaji & his immediate descendants for Maharashtra Gazette. The exact date of article is not mentioned in it, but Sarkar died in 1958. If something was missed in the book, it will be updated in this article.

https://gazetteers.maharashtra.gov.in/cultural.maharashtra.gov.in/english/gazetteer/History Part/History_III/chapter_1.pdf
 
Jun 2017
524
usa
#10
Growing up in Pune, heart of Shivajiland, never did anyone consider Shivaji "God" or incarnation of one.
What we did have was tremendous pride and respect for him. Any man, who could galvanize his people to stand up to oppressors and succeed is worthy of respect and admiration.
It was not only his military acumen but he was also a man of high morals. In a day and age when capturing women and putting them into harems, distributing them amongst your subordinates or selling them in slave markets was commonplace, Shivaji never resorted to such actions.
 

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