Saturday, 26 May 2018

Shivaji Maharaj Described by Rabindranath Tagore

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj inspired several freedom fighters and nationalists during India's freedom struggle with his principles and deft leadership. He fought against the Mughals for several years, and defended his subject and state till his last breath. Several nationalists of the pre-independence India from Punjab, Assam, Bengal, Gujarat Bengal, and Tamil Nadu conjured up his heroics to inspire people to rise and fight for the freedom of India. Noble prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore, and Punjab Kesari, Lala Lajpatrai have narrated Shivaji's life through poems and a biography. Tagore's plays on Shivaji Maharaj were staged in Bengal and Assam to ignite the spark for freedom in people. Other luminaries like Bipin Chandra Pal, and Aurobindo Ghosh too glorified him through their writings published in magazines, and newspaper.

Shivaji Maharaj - The Source of Inspiration

The values that Shivaji Maharaj imbibed were rare to find in other rulers. He treated women with respect, and at no time looked at them as a mere object. Unlike other rulers, he never harmed or enslaved women even after defeating his opponents. Whatever qualities and values his mother wished were all found in him. As a leader, his judgment on anything was unquestionable. He was far superior in administration and military strategies than the rulers of his time.

His bravery and courage inspired millions of Indians to rise and fight against the British.  With his values, and immense love for the country, he became a national here for the people during the seventeenth century. Freedom fighters looked up to him as a source of inspiration to fight for India's freedom.

Shivaji Festival and biography

Bal Gangadhar Lokmanya Tilak started Shivaji Festival in 1895 to sow the seeds of nationalism in youngsters of Maharashtra by demonstrating examples of Shivaji. During those days, Bengal, Punjab, Pune, and the then Bombay used to be the base of revolutionaries to form strategies for India's freedom. The festival soon got popular among Bengalis. And when Lokmanya Tilak visited Bengal in 1906 for the festival, he received immense support.

One of the Bengal's revolutionaries, Barindra Kumar Ghosh, younger brother of Aurobindo Ghosh, was deeply influenced by Shivaji. He used to write articles on Shivaji for a revolutionary magazine called “Jugantar.” One more revolutionary group, Anushilan Samiti also contributed in inspiring Bengalis through biographies on Shivaji Maharaj. They published a book in Bengali with the title “Mukti Kon Pathe?.” Its English translation is “Which Way Lies Freedom?.” The book narrated how Shivaji's leadership earned Maharashtra its freedom. They even adopted Shivaji's slogan of “Har Har Mahadev” for the revolutionary movement.

The poem “Pratinidhi” by Tagore on Shivaji is popular throughout India. In the poem, Tagore describes how Shivaji adopted Bhagva Dhwaj (Saffron Flag) to represent Hinduism. The prelude to the poem starts with a brief narration of the meeting between Shivaji Maharaj and his guru, Ramdas at Satara Fort. It goes this way - One morning, seeing his guru begging from door to door, Shivaji wonders why the mendicant is not happy since he, the king himself is his disciple. So to satisfy him, he summons his courtier Balaji and asks him to deliver a hand-written note to Guru Ramdas. Ramdas finds out that Shivaji has donated his entire kingdom to him.

Ramdas goes to Shivaji the next day and says, “Now that you have given away your kingdom, what use will you be”? Shivaji humbly replies that “I will happily sacrifice my life in your service.”  Ramdas then asks Shivaji to join him for begging. Together, they collect alms from a few houses. After some time, Ramdas then suggests Shivaji that he should continue to rule not as a king, but as his 'Pratinidhi' (representative). That way, the kingdom will be ruled by someone who has no kingdom, and the ruler will be free of all the worldly things. He then blesses Shivaji and gives his saffron cloth, and says “From now on, this 'Bhagwa Dhwaj' will be your Royal Standard.”

The poem sheds lights on how Shivaji's guru, Ramdas infuses the idealism of representing the country, and how freedom is greater than himself.

Here is the English translation of the poem “Pratinidhi” by Rabindranath Tagore

“So fate has made you the representative of a beggar
You will be a king but at the same time poor (deen) udaseen (detached)
You will follow the Raj dharma
As though it were my karma
Despite having a kingdom you will be without one
Vatsa so with my blessings take this saffron attire of mine
Make this wanders’s (sanyasi) (bairagi) cloth your flag
Said Guru Ramdas”

Another famous poem of Rabindranath Tagore's on Shivaji Maharaj was published in 1904 for a book with the title “Shivaji Utsab,” which was distributed to the people for free at Shivaji Festival in Calcutta.

This is the English translation of the poem that was published for a book.

“In what far away century on what unmarked day
I no longer know today
Upon what mountain peak, in darkened forests,
Oh King Shivaji,
Did this thought light up your brow as a touch of lightning
As it came to thee –
“The scattered parts of this land with one religion
‘Shall I bind for eternity.” (11)

The poem highlights Shivaji's character and its importance in contemporary India rather than being a mere description of his life's events. 

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