Statue of Shivaji- Memorial for a Mountain Rat
Mr Narendra Modi, has set in motion, the process for erecting a Sea memorial for Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire. This memorial had been proposed by the Congress-NCP Government eight years ago. But environmental issues had surfaced. The ‘eco challenges ‘ have now been tackled, it appears.
Shadows threatening the Statue
There have been objections to the memorial on two grounds. One is the huge commercials involved to build it, about Rs 3,600 Crores ( Rs 36 Billion). The other one is the ecological impact of construction on an already fragile marine eco-system. Fishermen losing livelihoods thereby is also a social issue. People wonder how a cash strapped Maharashtra Government will finance the project, when more practical projects are orphaned. There are also reports criticizing this plan as grandiose and unwarranted when Shivneri, the place and fort where Shivaji was born, is languishing due to neglect.
Cool Chilli’s Views
Cool Chilli and NewsTikka.com agree with most views that this immediate focus on the memorial could only be to humour the strong ‘Maratha’ community in Maharashtra pushing for reservations. It also helps to yank the ‘Shivaji brand’ away from the Shiv Sena.
Rs 3,600 is no small money. There are enough right-thinking citizens who question the need to ‘splurge public money’ on political plans. And rightly so.
But having said the above, Cool Chilli also believes Shivaji can teach us a few things.
Why is Shivaji Bhonsle relevant ?
Most of us would have heard of Shivaji as a warrior and Leader but not as a Manager. His letters to his team members, far down the line on proper management and inspection are a reflection of his ‘operational’ acumen. Cautioning a fort keeper on the need to keep lamps/wicks away from the reach of rats, lest there be a fire, reflects his attention to detail. His letter to Aurangzeb, in which Shivaji praises Akbar and questions Aurangzeb’s interpretation of the original Rabb-ul alamin in the Quran (Lord of all men) as Rabb-ul-Musalmin (Lord of Muslims only) is full of political eloquence, sarcasm, and understanding of the leverage, rulers have on religion. The harsh ‘Jaziya’ tax imposed on non-Muslims by Aurangzeb would have been enough to trigger conversions where fear and ridicule failed.
Shivaji and the Marathas
Not many Indians would have heard of the Maratha Empire, Shivaji was uniquely responsible for siring. The Empire or Maratha Confederacy responsible for the beginning of the end of Mughal rule in India. Shivaji, as the son of a brilliant commander, Shahaji Bhonsle and visionary Mother, Jijabai did something unimaginable in the 17th Century. Standing up to Aurangzeb and the Mughal Empire. And eventually being the raison d’etre for its decline.
Far less may realize the following. That one of the most ancient ways of life and traditions surviving in the world today owes its very existence to this one man. Else, much of the sub-continent, if not in its entirety, would have been completely transformed. ‘Converted’ seems very politically loaded word these days. But back then, many invaders added Mission Accomplished, after that. Imagine more than 60% of us reading this would have been bearing a different name besides much else. It does not require much thought to realize what the world would have lost.
Aurangazeb and China. Bhonsle and Bharat.
India is on a similar pitch with respect to China as Shivaji had been with the powers of his time. The Adil Shahs and Nizam Shahs initially and later the Mughal Empire itself. If at all there is a difference, it is that, India is better placed now than Shivaji had ever been. The world acknowledges India’s spiritual power and also as a growing economic and military power but, the Indian Elephant is still struggling to deal with the Chinese Dragon, politically and militarily.
Shivaji began life as the son of a ‘jagirdar’. Shahaji had never lost a battle as a commander and was widely respected. But what Shahaji’s son did to stop Aurangzeb and create his own Kingdom, by thwarting the Empire is the stuff of legend. The ‘Mountain Rat’ as the Mughal Emperor called him, kept Aurangzeb both frustrated and engrossed.
Aurangzeb spent both his time and money trying to rein in the ‘Mountain Rat’ who protected Deccan India from Mughal excesses. The Vijayanagar empire which had protected southern India from invasions for two hundred years collapsed at the Battle of Talikota. From a seemingly winning position, the Vijayanagar army lost, thanks to the treachery of the Gilani Brothers.
Malik visits The Meenakshi Temple to pillage.
A few decades before the Vijayanagar empire was founded and three centuries before Shivaji’s birth, Muslim invaders (before Babur) showed their mindless fanaticism in a place as far as Madurai in the deep South. Alaudin Khilji and Malik Kafur (castrated and converted by Khilji) and most others of their ilk, thrived on tyranny. These marauders beat a hasty retreat from Madurai since they were far from their base and there were reports of attack in the north. But Aurangzeb had been far more established in the sub-continent. We can only imagine the worst this Mughal Emperor could have unleashed.
Arguably, we see South India retaining/preserving more ancient Indian (read Hindu) legacies. One man, takes credit, Chhattrapati Shivaji. We recognize Ashoka the Great for spreading Buddhism and Adi Shankara for helping Hinduism survive the ‘onslaught’ of Buddhism/Jainism. We see the ancient Tamil Kings as pioneers in sea trade and responsible for sowing Indian thoughts and ideas in many parts of South Asia. Shivaji is likewise an inspiration for coolly standing one’s ground in the face of adversities and succeeding. No small achievement for a boy brought up primarily on the vision of his mother Jijabai.
Maharashtra with its rich history and natural attractions can contribute much to Indian tourism. It is currently second in attracting foreign tourists and in the top 5/6 for domestic ones. Incidentally, Tamil Nadu which is second to Maharashtra in the State-wise GDP list, leads in both these segments. A monument to Shivaji if developed with ecological soundness and packaged thoughtfully/tastefully has great potential. A lot of places across Maharashtra, South India and across India could be part of the ‘Shivaji trail’. Additional tourism related economic opportunities for farmers and residents across these locations. One could begin with the Shivneri fort and then proceed to various locations associated with Shivaji as tourism spots leading up to the Shivaji Memorial as a grand finale. For those unable to travel, a grand museum under the Shivaji Statue could be a one stop Tourism Paradise.
Creative Contributions Needed
Public-Private partnership could make a difference. The common man may also be willing to contribute to a project of this significance. The memorial for the Founding Father of the USA, George Washington, took decades (due to funding challenges) and initially also invited contributions of One Dollar a person in the days gone by. Funding is definitely a tough hurdle, but not insurmountable, considering the respect Shivajiraje Bhonsle commands.
A city state with limited natural resources, like Singapore, with just 150 years of history has managed to package its history very beautifully. Nature and History have bestowed India with varied ‘tourism ores’. We just need to mine and refine to witness India’s Spiritual Power also increase along with the tourism.
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We at NewsTikka.com believe in the old Indian saying, ‘Vaasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘, meaning ‘The World Is One Family’. Hence we respect and encourage all doctrines and actions that help us move towards this ‘inclusivism’.
The traditions and lives of the adivasis of mainland India, the forest dwellers in the Amazon forests and the very ancient primitive humans of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are at stake as are other vulnerable communities. We need to correct the belief that ‘I/we know all there is to know and you/they know little.’
The Europeans destroyed the precious ancient records of the Mayan Civilization in misguided religious fervour. The ISIS (and the Taliban before it) has damaged various precious legacies of human history. We need to discourage attempts to erase ancient surviving customs whether by force, money or guile (unless those practices be generally unacceptable, like Sati).