Abhay Shivgounda Patil

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Archive for the ‘Shivaji’ Category

My blogs – So far!

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[Updated on September 2, 2017.]

Latest blog on the Musical form Tarana.

My recent “professional” blogs on LinkedIn here:
Demystifying Continuous Performance Management
Life Lessons from Originals – a wonderful book by Adam Grant
Interviewing for Hiring: Nobel Laureate’s Advice
Leadership Learning
Self-healing Systems

A few personal blogs on education, society and stuff.
If you don’t see beauty, you are not seeing
Notes from a talk by K B Jinan, the activist, designer and disruptive educationist.
Geshe Dorji Damdul on Mindfulness:
HH Dalai Lama’s confidante’s take on mindfulness.
Remembering Dijkstra
My talk on some of the quotes by the eminent computer scientist Edsgar Dijkstra.
Turning Around Universities
My notes of a talk by Prof. Deepak Phatak on how MOOC can dramatically change the role of a traditional University.
Gen Y For Dummies
Had a good time attending the NASSCOM (Pune) session on Gen Y management.
The Loss of Innocence – The IIT, Then and Now
A typical IIT student was intelligent, unassuming, self made, studious and rooted well in the “local” ethos.
Mathematics for justice!
Can we divide something between people such that everyone is guaranteed to be satisfied?
Let’s Talk Dirty!
That’s right. I do want to talk about things dirty.
Watch Thyself!
What do I do when I see an accident?
Wages of Inequality – P. Sainath’s lecture in Pune
Will we ever stop wearing our ideologies on our sleeves and instead focus on the human side of the story?
Can we ever read History with an open mind?
As an 11 year old in the 9th grade, untouched by any “ism” and totally oblivious of the label p-secular …

And here are some personal musings!
Some Poetry recital (काव्यवाचन) on Soundcloud!
संदीप खरे अाणि वैभव जोशींच्या “इर्षाद” च्या निमीत्ताने

Sharad Joshi Interview
“I see a lot of parallels between the socialism of the first Prime Minister Nehru and the so-called development-politics of PM Narendra Modi.” Always insightful to know what this iconic leader has to say on the issues that confront us. (Translated from original Marathi.)
Uniqueness of Religious Regions of Maharashtra
Religious Geography of Maharashtra – now that’s one scary academic sounding topic!
Tale of Two Relocations
My experience of two relocations – first in the year 1993 to the USA and then in 2001 to India.
दोन स्थलांतरांची गोष्ट
“तुम्ही भारतात परत का आलात?”
बोलाचे साहित्य बोलाचेच विश्व, रंकाचे धन आणि रावांचे कवित्व ॥
विश्व मराठी साहित्य संमेलन!
आता तुम्हीच काळजी घ्यायला हवी…
A poem by Shankar Vaidya.
One year of JM – FC road one way plan
Serious issues needing urgent corrective measures. (August 20, 2010)
Was ist Mitaan bitte?


Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

February 22, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Can we ever read History with an open mind?

with 13 comments


Sourced from Wikipedia.

As an 11 year old in the 9th grade, untouched by any “ism” and totally oblivious of the label p-secular, I remember stealing uncomfortable glances at my Muslim classmates when the history teacher was gleefully describing Shivaji Maharaj killing Afzal Khan.  Those memories came back vividly as I recently watched the play “Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla” where a Muslim character tells his friend how everyone in his class used to stare at his tummy when the story of Shivaji piercing Afzal Khan’s abdomen used to be narrated in the class.

Can we ever discuss History rationally – without getting emotional, without attempting to push things under the carpet lest someone may get hurt? Can we ever accept that the History we are studying may be one sided – and there could be another version, which may actually be factual?  These questions came to my mind recently when I stirred up hornet’s nest with a Facebook update where I claimed that there are people who believe that the British rule of India was a lesser evil than the Peshwa (read Brahmin) rule that it replaced in Maharashtra.  (BTW, it was Jotiba Phule who stated publicly that he preferred British to the Peshwa rule.)

As a follow up, I stated that there were barbaric practices like alive burial of shudras in the under construction walls of forts and palaces.  I added that such practices by the ruling elite (read – Brahmin and Maratha) instilled a deep hatred in the minds of the untouchables – which they harbor to this day! To make matters amply clear, I clarified that while one has to accept the facts – they should never get translated into animosity against the descendants of those who perpetrated the atrocities.

Some of my friends asked for the proof.  I had no ready access to the proof – but thanks to Wiki I pointed them to a page which stated with reasonable authenticity that indeed in medieval India, the practice of burying humans either dead or alive in the foundations of fort walls, to ensure their stability, was widely followed.  It was believed that the ghosts of those sacrificed as such would keep evil spirits away.  As a corollary, one shouldn’t be surprised if these humans, who were buried, happened to be from the most disadvantaged class of the society – namely shudras and ati-shudras. And it also goes without saying that the ruling classes of those times approved – or rather accepted – such practices.

Some friends felt that I was holding the Peshwa’s responsible for the practices that pre-dated them.  I in fact was citing that as an example of an atrocity that is used to foment hatred against the descendants of the perpetrators.   A parallel example is how some Hindu organizations incite hatred against Muslims for the Muslim kings’ vandalizing of Hindu temples.

What surprised me the most that a friend accused me of Brahmin bashing!  True, in Maharashtra there are rabid organizations that have expressed their aversion to anything Brahmin in the most vulgar fashion – but my statements were no where on those lines!  Sambhaji Brigade is one such rabid organization. They vandalized the famed Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), when many priceless historic manuscripts got destroyed. The reason? A western author, James Lane, had dared to mention a vulgar rumor about Shivaji’s lineage in his book, and he happened to have acknowledged help from  some of the researchers from BORI in the credits.

All said and done, the fact also remains that – take any era – the powers to be have always mutilated History to serve their own purpose – sacrificing facts to promote their own agenda.  Shivaji’s story, as it is taught in Maharashtra, is no exception.  People who believe that they know enough of Shivaji’s legacy, should care to take the following pop quiz!  Do tell me if you are not surprised looking at the answers given at the end of this post!

1. Who discovered Shivaji’s samadhi on the Raigad fort and also started practice of celebrating Shivaji’s birth anniversary?

2. Who were the most virulent adversaries of Shivaji Maharaj?

3. What makes Shivaji a truly visionary ruler – well ahead of his contemporaries anywhere in the world?

4. Was Shivaji a Kshatriya king?

5. How many  of Shivaji’s bodyguards were Muslims?

6. What percentage of Shivaji’s commanders were Muslims?

7. How did Shivaji treat the family of his adversary Afzal Khan’s after killing him?

8. Do you know where Shivaji’s sword is today?

Answers below!


1. Who discovered Shivaji’s samadhi on the Raigad fort and also started practice of celebrating Shivaji’s birth anniversary?
No – it was not Lokmanya Tilak.  Jotiba Phule discovered the samadhi (cremation memorialof Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on Raigad Fort which had disappeared in creepers and climbers.  He wrote “Shivajicha powada” an epic poem.  He started “Shiv Jayanti” (Birth day of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) first time in India.

2. Who were the most virulent adversaries of Shivaji Maharaj?
No – not the Mughals and Nijam, but the Maratha vatandars (ones who ruled small fiefdoms – and gave cess to the kings) who brutally exploited the farmers.

3. What makes Shivaji a truly visionary ruler – well ahead of his contemporaries anywhere in the world?
Here are some facts.  He was the first one to set up an “administrative system” to manage his kingdom and collect fair taxes.  In one of his edicts he asks his army to treat trees as children of the society and allows them to cut only the decrepit trees, that too when absolutely necessary and only after seeking permission from the owners. During his time the language of the administration used to be Farsi – which was not understood by the commoners.  Shivaji created the compendium of Marathi terms in governance and made Marathi the official language of his state.  He banned slave trade.

4. Was Shivaji a Kshatriya king?
No! He was the first Shudra king.  Both the local Marathas and Brahmin did not accept him as a true Kshatriya (warrior class).  He had to persuade a brahmin priest from Varanasi (with a lot of money!) to come down and coronate him as a king.

5. How many  of Shivaji’s bodyguards were Muslims?
Some 5 of his 11 bodyguars were Muslims.  The most notable was Madari Mehtar who sacrificed his life while helping Shivaji escape from Aurangzeb’s captivity in Agra.

6. What percentage of Shivaji’s commanders were Muslims?
Apparently some 20% to 30% of his commanders were Muslims.  It was the same with the Muslim rulers – about 20% of their loyal commanders were chaste Hindus.  Notable Muslims under Shivaji were Ibrahim Khan (head of artillery) and Daulat Khan (head of navy).  The dreaded Afzal Khan’s ambassador was a Marathi brahmin named Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni – who was killed by Shivaji’s men.

7. How did Shivaji treat the family of his adversary Afzal Khan’s after killing him?
Shivaji not only allowed them to settle near Pratap Gad (where he killed Afzal Khan) but also arranged to send regular supplies from the Bhavani Devi temple for the upkeep of Afzal Khan’s tomb.

8. Do you know where Shivaji’s sword is today?
The ridiculous myth that the Goddess Bhavani bestowed her divine sword on Shivaji has been making rounds from time immemorial.  A blacksmith from Sawantwadi (in coastal Maharashtra) gifted a sword of Portuguese make to Shivaji – which he used as his personal sword.  This sword is kept in a museum in Satara.

How much did you score out of 8?

References: These two books are “must-read”s – and are principal references for this post.

  •  शिवाजी कोण होता – गोविंद पानसरे (Who was Shivaji by Govind Pansare)
  • छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज जीवन रहस्य – नरहर कुरुंदकर (King Shivaji – Unraveling his life by Narhar Kurundkar)
  • Books by Govind Pansare and Narhar Kurundkar.
    Books by Govind Pansare and Narhar Kurundkar.

Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

January 18, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Posted in History, India, Shivaji