15th August 2013
Shivaji’s humiliation by “Brahmins” was as abominable as humiliation by Aurangzeb
I hold Shivaji in the highest esteem. I don’t have any heroes any more but he was a hero during my teenage years. In class 10 in school I played a lead role in the school Shivaji celebrations organised (Kendriya Vidyalaya, Picket, Secunderabad) in 1974-75. I wrote an English play about Shivaji, and then directed and acted in that play. I also painted Shivaji’s exploits in watercolour paintings for the exhibition.
Never did I bother to inquire into his “caste” or even his religion (he, too – it is my understanding – was a believer in individual merit, not in someone’s caste or religion).
But yesterday, while exploring the caste system, I came across this fact – that Shivaji was humiliated by Brahmins during his lifetime.
Why? Because he was a “Shudra”!
What kind of a religion is this which disrespects real achievements and contributions but pretends that people’s status must be determined by IMAGINARY past achievements in a life that no one has any clue about! The re-birth myth is a curse on India.
It is unfortunate that Shivaji bothered to get a “Brahmin” to crown himself king (at HUGE expense – he managed someone to FAKE his background). He should have chosen the most learned person in his kingdom, regardless of the person’s religion or caste.
I now feel even more disgusted with Brahminical (caste) Hinduism than ever before.
“Shivaji keenly felt his humiliation at the hands of the Brahmans to whose defence and prosperity he had devoted his life. Their insistence on treating him as Shudra drove him into the arms of Balaji Avjji, another victim of Brahmanic pride. The Brahmans proclaim[ed] a social boycott of Balaji Avaji who had ventured to invest his son with the sacred thread. Balaji naturally sympathized with his master and tried to raise him in social estimation by engaging Ganga Bhatta who ‘made Shivaji a pure Kshatriya.” [Sarkar, Jadunath. Shivaji and His Times. Calcutta: MC Sarkar & Sons, 1919.
“Shivaji’s descendant, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, was not allowed to chant vedic mantras. The reasonwas they were shudras and hence had no right to worship or be worshipped in vedic tradition. A very recent example is of Pandarinath Patil of Chikhali dt., Buldhana. He was insulted for chanting the mantra, Omkar. Even today, all Sankaracharyas are Brahmin by caste.” [Source]
Basically, everyone seems to be misusing Shivaji’s legacy to further their “cause”.
‘Dalits see him as the champion of the outcastes because he was one king who employed their services in his fight against his enemies; Hindutva historians see him merely as a Hindu king ranged against Muslims, seeking to establish a Hindu swarajya; Marathas see him only as their foremost leader who fought Muslim rulers on one side and Brahmin bigotry on the other side; while Brahmins have written about Shivaji as a king who achieved greatness because he was guided by Brahmin sant and advisors.’ [Source]
Whatever the political use people are making of Shivaji, one thing is clear: the Brahmins seriously insulted this fine gentleman.
Here are my research findings about Shivaji’s insult from his own religion.
This is what I first came across:
From The Evil of Caste: The Caste System as the Largest Systemic Violation of Human Rights in Today’s World By Chanan Chahal
If birth of the Shudra was so pure just because feet are closer to the mother earth, then what happened in the case of Shri Shattarpati Shiva ji?
It is a well known historical fact that, Shivaji, after having established a Hindu kingdom in the Western part of Maharashtra, thought of proclaiming himself a king by having a coronation ceremony performed by a Brahman. But he was denied by the Brahmans by proclaiming that Shri Shattarpati Shivaji was a Shudra by birth. Therefore the coronation could not be performed, because he was not a Kashatriya. Even though the Kashatriyas had failed to defend the state, or regain it, from the Moguls, it took a Shudra warrior to take it back.
Brahman’s refusal to crown Shivaji, meant lot of the tribes would not follow him in battle, because he was not a legitimate king duly crowned, so Shivaji offered ten times as much to a Brahman called Gagabhat from Benares to perform the coronation ceremony on 6th.June 1674. Even then the Brahman would not touch him with his hands to anoint his fore-head instead he used his left toe. The name of Shivaji is mentioned with great pride throughout India, as one of the greatest warriors who stood up to the mogul might, but to a Brahman he was nothing, but a Shudra.”
Not willing to believe just one source, I investigated further. Here are the results of a few of my attempts to confirm this story. It appears that this is true.
“Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad had prepared a hand book of History for the school teachers some time back. In this she pointed out that since Shivaji was a Shudra, the Brahmins refused to coronate him, so a Brahmin Gaga Bhat had to be brought from Kashi, who did the coronation ritual. Since Shivaji was a Shudra this coronation was done with the toe of his left foot by Gaga Bhat.” [Source: SHIVAJI’S STATUE IN ARABIAN SEA by Ram Puniyani, June 06, 2009]
“as a Shudra or low-caste person, Shivaji had perforce to enact some ceremony by means of which he could be raised to the status of a kshatriya or traditional ruler. Not a single brahmin was ready to do the coronation ceremonial function of the shudra shivaji. To this end, he enlisted the services of Gagga Bhatta, a famous Brahmin from Benaras, who did the Brahminical thing in falsely certifying that Shivaji’s ancestors were kshatriyas descended from the solar dynasty of Mewar and that too the coronation was made by the thumb of the leg only of shivaji belonging to shudra. This coronation ceremony took on June 6,1674.” [Source: http://www.ambedkar.org/bamcef/journal/feb01/letus.html]
Dalit’s Inheritance in Hindu Religion (2009) By Mahendra Singh, Foreword by P.Parameswaran, President, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari
In his book ‘History of India (1000 to 1707 AD)’, Shiva Lal Agarwala & Company Educational Publishers, Agra, Dr. A.L. Srivastava writes “Orthodox Brahmans in Maharastra were averse to recognizing him as Kshatriya …. At his initiation into the rites of the twice-born (Dwija) Kshatriya, Shivaji’s guru and other Brahmans uttered Vedic mantras, but Shivaji was not allowed to utter or repeat them….” . Coming to position of descendants of Shivaji, Dr. Ambedkar in the same above book writes, referring to aversions of Brahmins, “They could do nothing to the two sons of Shivaji, Sambhaji and Rajaram. Shivaji had their upanayan performed in his life-time by Brahmins with Vedic rites. They could do nothing to his grandson, Shahu because the Brahmin had no ruling power in their hands. The moment Shahu transferred his sovereign power to his Brahmins Peshwa their road to repudiation became clear… There is definite evidence that upenayana ceremony of his successor, Shahu-II, who was adopted in 1777 AD had been performed with Pauranic rites and by the direction of Peshwas. The performance of upanayan of Shahu-II with Pauranic rites was tantamount to his being regarded by the Peshwas as a Shudra”.
Dr. S.V. Ketkar in his book “History of caste in India writes similarly (p. 60) as, “even today I know of a Brahamana of character sufficiently independent to give up all his Jahagir of 40,000 rupees a year and refuse to perform Vedokta ceremonies in the family of Shivaji”.
As an ideal king and able administrator Shivaji helped the poor peasants by distributing Zamidar’s land and taking minimum revenue. He ensured that justice is given to all and never favored his family at the cost of others. He did not have blind belief in orthodoxy and superstitions and undertook sea journeys. He practiced secularism by placing Muslims in his army in good position.
“as a Shudra or low-caste person, Shivaji had perforce to enact some ceremony by means of which he could be raised to the status of a kshatriya or traditional ruler. To this end, he enlisted the services of Gagga Bhatta, a famous Brahmin from Benares, who did the Brahminical thing in falsely certifying that Shivaji’s ancestors were kshatriyas descended from the solar dynasty of Mewar. 11,000 Brahmins are reported to have chanted the Vedas, and another 50,000 men are said to have been present at the investiture ceremony, which concluded with chants of, “Shivaji Maharaj-ki-jai!””
A Social History of India By S. N. Sadasivan
A most renowned conversion to Kshatriyahood, scintillating for its pomp, conspicuous for its splendour, exorbitant for its cost and extraordinary for its rituals, was of Sivaji, indisputably, the most prominent of all Maratha leaders. Sivaji was bom in April or May 1627 in the family of Bhosales founded by Bhosavant who was a Patil or a village officer. His father was Shaji, a military officer under the services of the Mughals and the Muslim rulers of Bijapur, who led successful expeditions against the powerful Vijayanagar empire. Shivaji’s mother was Jijabai. His birth was considered to be the answer to her worshipping a local deity Sivai Devi after whom he was named.
Brought up in an ambience of reverence to mythological heroes, Sivaji mastered the art of guerilla warfare developed by Malik Ambar, the Abyssinian minister to the Sultan of Ahmednagar. He by his undaunted bravery, formidable political acumen and exceptional organisational ability offered inspiring generalship to a closely knit army drawn from the bold peasantry and the daring hill tribes and conquered vast territories of Aurangazeb who for his religious intolerance was the most hated of the Mughal emperors.
His military genius has belied the mythological monopoly of warfare handed down by the Brahminic fiction to an imaginary warrior clan called the Kshatriy.. As H.G. Rawlinson says: “In appearance Sivaji was a typical Maratha”. The Brahmins vied with one another to get into his services and although he was of the opinion that they should strictly confine themselves to religious life, he had appointed a great many of them in his administration from top to bottom. Sivaji borrowed the administrative system of the Mauryas, but neither they nor the imperial Guptas ever attached any importance to Kshatriyahood; yet it is amazing even to a frozen intelligence why Sivaji wanted to get converted himself as a Kshatriya.
The Marathas to whom he belonged, is a sturdy peasant community which had its own aristocracy. According to Brahminic standard they are Sudras. Capt. E.W. West, Mountstuart Elphinstone, F.W. Sinclair and a host of other students of society in India, are of the definite opinion that the Marathas are Sudras and most of them are Kun(a)bis (cultivators). The other names parallel to cultivators used in upper India and in Gujarat are Kurmis, Koeris and Kanbis who also belong to the Sudra caste. The Marathas would have remained as self-respecting farmers, had not the Brahmins evolved the social framework of Chaturvarnya and arrogated to themselves exclusively the authority for ordaining Kshatriyas. Sivaji was given unstinted support for his military operations by the swordsmen belonging to the Hill Kolis of Mawal who were made later on Marathas by him. The Brahmins did not protest at this upgradation because in spite of their conversion, the Hill Kolis remained as Sudras within the Sudras.
The Brahmins who served Sivaji for manoeuvring his power from behind to their advantage, however, were disturbed when Sivaji legitimately aspired, that he should be made the monarch of the territories he brought by the sword under his control. Unlike in the days of the Mauryas and Guptas or even the Chalukyas, in the 17th century caste system had taken its most monstrous form and the entire mobilisation society was aimed at making caste laws fully enforced in its farthest interpretation. The Brahmins had made everyone a slave of caste and forged laws that the Kshatriyas of their ordination alone were entitled to be crowned as kings.
By his deed (karma) Sivaji would have been a super- Kshatriya but the more he conquered, the more his fame spread, and the more was the intra-communal jealousy and envy against him. The Maratha families who were equal to the Bhosales, did not want to be subordinate to Sivaji whom they looked down upon as a usurper and an upstart while they openly pledged their loyalty to Aurangazeb and the Mohammaden ruler of Bijapur. The hostile Marathas repeatedly endorsed the Brahmin view that Sivaji was a Suclra as any one of them and had no right to be a king although they were happy to be submissive to the imperial authority of Aurangazeb and the sovereignty of Adil Shah of Bijapur.
His prime minister Moro Pant Pingle, himself a Brahmin, was openly opposed to the admittance of Sivaji as a Kshatriya though he apprised his political master that the Maratha Brahmins were prepared to perform his coronation rites in conformity with non-vedic scheme befitting to a Sudra military leader. The great warrior felt insulted and was in a predicament when he found the Brahmins were unrelentingly treating him as a Sudra. He therefore, admitted to his inner circle Balaji Avji, the leader of the Kayasthas who himself was fighting Brahminic insolence. Avji who had the temerity to invest his own son with the cross thread with the help of like-minded others, managed to create a pedigree for the Bhosale family tracing it back to the maharana of Udaipur. Nevertheless, it was not difficult for the Brahmins to defeat the whole genealogical venture.
Sivaji finally approached Visveswar, popularly known as Gaga Bhatta who was a Brahmin theologian well-versed in scriptures and rituals to confer upon him Kshatriyahood as well as to conduct his coronation. Gaga Bhatta was an authoritative provenance to the other Brahmins who had hardened their stand against making Sivaji, a Kshatriya, however conceded to his request on his being assured of a gargantuan fortune he demanded.
As a prelude to the confirment of Kshatriyahood and his coronation, Sivaji visited a number of temples and made lavish offerings. To the idol in the Bhavani temple in Tuljapur alone, he gifted a parasol made of pure gold weighing 1.25 mounds.
The Brahmins drew up a long list of his sins both by commission and by omission including inadvertent killing of cows that he might have unknowingly committed, during raids or battles for the expiation of which they fixed their own sums which Shivaji paid. At the instance of Gaga Bhatta 11, 000 Brahmins with their wives and children numbering in all 50, 000 souls, had to be sumptuously fed and supplied with clothes and other necessities on a liberal scale for four months, the expenses for which were entirely defrayed by their generous patron.
On the coronation day, as Sivaji sat on his golden throne studded with luminous pearls and precious stones, flowers of various kinds made of gold and silver and miniature gold lotuses speckled with jewels were showered over the distinguished gathering. With all the largesse which Sivaji distributed, the Brahmins who suppressed their indignance at Sivaji’s conversion to Kshatriya by ritual purification done by Gaga Bhatta, rose in revolt when Sivaji was to be taught vedic mantras (hymns) befitting to a twice- born. They contended that only Brahmins were twice-bom and there could be no true Kshatriya in the modem age. Gaga Bhatta lost his nerves at the resentment of the members of his clan and he suddenly dropped the item from the rituals listed in the programme of the coronation which was performed on June 6,1674 at Raigarh. Besides many fabulous presents, Gaga Bhatta received a reward of one lakh of pounds in his capacity as the archpriest of the function. The title of Kshatriya Kulavamsa Sri Raja Sivaji Chhatrapati was conferred on the Maratha conqueror. The head of the English factory at Surat, Henry Oxenden was an eye-witness to the grand and glittering celebration. Oxenden who presented Sivaji with a diamond ring, noted that he was not at any time allowed by the Brahmins to attend to any other business than the religious ceremonies and the talks pertaining to them.
The validity of the prohibitively costly coronation of Sivaji according to the vedic rites, was questioned by a Bengali Tantrik priest by name Nischhal Puri Goswami and a few inauspicious occurrences and mishaps that had taken place within weeks of the coronation, he attributed to the inadequacy of the vedic scheme that Gaga Bhatta followed to propitiate the spirits and goblins. On September 24, 1674 Nischhal Puri conducted a second coronation of Sivaji in accordance with the Tantrik rites after which paradoxically mischance only multiplied.
The cost of coronation according to Sivaji’s court chronicler Sabhasad was 14, 20, 000 buns. There is however no agreement as to the actual amount involved but according to Jadunath Sarkar: “The coronation exhausted Sivaji’s treasury and he was in need of money to pay his troops”.
Sivaji passed away on April 4, 1680 little less than six years after his coronation but before completing his 53rd year. Them is a general belief that Sivaji before his coronation had passed through the process of Hiranyagarbhayaga for investiture to be a Kshatriya but the English and Dutch records are completely silent on this. Whatever the ritualistic details of his coronation, it abundantly illustrates that even as late as 17th century A.D., the mightiest warriors have become victims of the lam and temptations of Kshatriyahood by the confirment of which neither had they enhanced their military capability nor durability of their domains.
James W. Laine, A Question of Maharashtrian Identity: Hindu Self-definition in the Tales of Shivaji, in Intersections: Socio-cultural Trends in Maharashtra (2000) edited by Meera Kosambi
I have spent a considerable amount of time studying the Shivabharata (1927; hereafter SBH), a Sanskrit text composed by Shivaji’s court poet, Kavindra Paramananda. Though incomplete, and not always accurate in its details, the text provides a rare window not only on the world Shivaji inhabited, but on the view that he wished others to have of him. It is a panegyric which suggests the loftier ideals of the ruling Hindu nobility and their Brahmin servants, and provides a complicated picture of the ways this group at least defined themselves as Hindus and viewed the Hindu-Muslim Kulfurkampf of their era. There are good reasons to see the SBH, like Shivaji’s coronation in 1674, as part of Shivaji’s attempt to claim Kshatriya status and legitimate rule as a Hindu king or Chhatrapati. Indeed, I am sure that the SBH was commissioned at about the same time as the coronation; its language of royal legitimacy presupposes the coronation.
In legitimating Shivaji’s lineage, however, the court poet needed to recount the successes of the Bhosle clan, especially the deeds of Shivaji’s grandfather Maloji and his father Shahaji, and in these stories it becomes clear that the recent rise of the Bhosles was one fostered by Muslim patrons. Of course, in the seventeenth century Deccan, the sultans ruling from Ahmadnagar or Bijapur (the Nizam Shah and the Adil Shah), depended on the service of petty Hindu rajas, or sardars. Shivaji’s immediate ancestors were soldiers of fortune who won the right to tax certain lands by their loyal military service to the Muslim overlords, and although they certainly remained Hindus, they operated in a rather Islamicate world.’ The SBH accurately notes that Shivaji’s father and uncle were named after a Sufi pir, and that their battles were clannish or with rival Hindu rajas.