Opinion

Does India Need a ShivSmarak as Tribute to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ???

PM Shri Narendra Modi yesterday laid the foundation stone for the Shiv Smarak, a memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji, to be constructed in the Arabian Sea off the Mumbai Coast. Modiji traveled in an Indian Coast Guard hovercraft to perform a symbolic ‘jalpujan’ for the proposed Rs 3,600 crore memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Slated to be 309ft tall, the statue along with a pedestal and foundation would be taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty. It is expected that it will be built at a cost of Rs.3600 crores.

The memorial complex on the islet will house a library on the warrior king, an amphitheater, an aquarium, an IMAX cinema hall to screen films on the Chhatrapati, guest rooms and a helipad. There will also be replicas of the entrance arch of the historic Raigad Fort, of Tulja Bhavani temple, courts designed after his palaces and ‘wadas’ of the Maratha era.

A lot of people on the social media have criticized the building of such a Smarak and have said what else could have been done with the money. Surely such people are thinking for the benefit of the nation. To them I wish to say that building this memorial is not at the cost of other good work being done, because there were other schemes also sanctioned on the same day, all of which are going to benefit society. There are also a section of people who are comparing this with the money spent by other politicians of opposition parties and saying that BJP is now following in their footsteps. These people are also well-meaning folks who don’t want the Government wasting money. My only grouse with such people is that they should understand that BJP is building a memorial for a Historical figure, a Brave Ruler of the past Era & not for a Politician or for members of a political family.

But all this does not explain why it is important for us to have the Shiv Smarak. Let us pay attention to some facts:

  • Today if one had to look anywhere around the length and breadth of India, where would you point your finger to, to say that such-and-such a great person lived in India? All our freedom fighters except for Gandhiji lie hidden in plain sight, on crossroads, in some corner of some educational buildings, in market spaces, behind huge trees, etc. There is no memorial to talk about our great Generals like Sam Manekshaw or Gen. Kariappa. There is no memorial to talk about our great Engineers like Vishweshwariaya , town planners like Kempe Gowda, educationists like Madan Mohan Malaviya or S Rajagopalachari, except in the capital of the states where they belonged to, and that too in such places where no one would even pay attention to them.
  • Many of our ancient historical wonders have been seized by Islamic rulers or destroyed by Europeans over a period of time and their original structure has been modified or lost. So our pride of having a truly Indian structure is lost. For eg. the Dhruva Sthamb as converted to Qutub Minar. (Please don’t assume that I am trying to say anything anti-Islam … I am just saying that some of our ancient monuments are lost to time). We have hardly any modern monuments to our credit.
  • Brave rulers like Rani Chennamma, Ahalya Bai Holkar, Shivaji Maharaj, MahaRana Pratap, the kings of Travancore, the Chola, Chera & Pandyan Kings, and many, many more all have been forgotten or at least are only known to people from their respective states. Even our school History books do not cover them at all.
  • In such a scenario, it is time that we gave those rulers their due who protected our culture, our heritage and our country from invaders, fanatics and cruel kings from across our borders. Else how will our future generations even know about them?

NOW A LITTLE ABOUT THE GREATNESS OF CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ:

  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is not just a pride of Maharashtra but of complete India.
  • He was an able administrator, a brave soldier, a fore-sighted ruler and most importantly, a fair and just ruler. HIS RESPECT TOWARDS WOMEN IS LEGANDARY.
  • If one had to learn about standing up after falling down, one has to look at Shivaji Maharaj’s life. He regained control of all the forts he had to give up in truces. He accepted tactical surrender, but never accepted defeat.
  • As a leader, one has to motivate one’s followers and also show respect to them. For Shivaji, his generals were his life, so to say. When he lost Tanaji Malusare during the battle of the fort of Kondana, Shivaji renamed the fort from Kondana to Sinhagad in his honor. Per legend, Shivaji’s words after hearing about the demise of Tanaji wereGad ala pan Sinha gela(“although the fort was captured a lion was lost”). You will not find many rulers who gave so much credit, love and respect to their generals or subordinates.
  • Shivaji never differentiated between people of different religions. The chief of his cannon division was Ibrahim Gardi and one of his confidential assistants was Maulavi Haider Ali. He restored temples and mosques equally.
  • For those who were forcefully converted into Islam, Shivaji gave them a chance to reconvert into Hinduism under his protection. In fact he married off one of his daughters to such a reconvert to show that it should be widely accepted. This was revolutionary.
  • Chhatrapati’s escape from the Agra fort and Auranzeb’s confinement is a story which inspires every child to be brave and never feel fear if one is correct in one’s stand. Such daring and cleverness is what children need to learn and emulate.
  • His preparedness for deceit when he went to negotiate with Afzal Khan, a commander of Adil Shah, is just legendary too. He negotiated for a meeting in his stronghold, went prepared wearing a steel armour, and covered his fingers with steel tiger claws in case of an emergency. When Afzal Khan tried to stab him from behind (Peeth pe vaar), Shivaji killed him by attacking him on his trunk, with his tiger claws.
  • Shivaji is the ‘Father of the Indian Navy’. He was a statesman par excellence and he understood the need for securing the coastal borders of his kingdom. The Maratha Empire laid the foundation of the Indian Navy and developed ports along the West Coast from Mumbai to Konkan to Goa, to protect sea trade and also protect the land from raids, plunder and destruction by Arabs, Portuguese, British and other invaders. He also built a number of sea forces and bases for repair, storage, shelter and docking of ships. In his time, ships had cannons mounted on them and were fully prepared for trade or warfare, as the case may be.

Those worrying about the expenditure should understand that income from visitors’ tickets will recover a part of the costs and cover the costs of maintenance. But what is most important is that we are creating pride in our History for ourselves and in outsiders. When we talk about tolerance, Hindu Samrats, bravery, fore-sightedness, justice and valour, who is better than Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to be the best example of the same?

Jai Hind !!! Vande Mataram !!!


Rati Hegde

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