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CHHATRAPATI SHAHU JI MAHARAJ, A REVOLUTIONARY KING (1874-1922).
(Remerging Shahu Ji Maharaj on his 89th Death Anniversary following on 6th May 2011)
Er.H.R.Phonsa5/6/2011 12:02:13 AM
Rajarshi Chhatrapati ShahuJi Maharaj was the Maharaja or the king of the Indian princely State of Kolhapur he was known to be a great social reformer of his time. Shahu was a staunch follower of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Shahu devoted his life for the upliftment of the subjects including untouchables. He was described by his renowned biographer Shri A.B. Latthe as “The greatest Maharaja that ever sat on the thrown of Kohlapur and one of the powerful men that the nation ever produced in its long& brilliant history”. Chhatarpati Sahu Ji Maharaj’s concern for good administration can be judged from his statement “Although I am on the throne of Kohlapur, I feel proud to call myself as solider, farmer or labourer . While addressing meeting in Madras he said “I am here not as king but friend to those whose pitiable condition shall melt even a stone hearted person “
Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati was born on 26 July in the year 1874 as Yeshwantrao Ghatge( as per Kohlapur Archives Office Kohlapur ,Shahu rumal No2, page 272). He was the eldest son of Narayan Dinkarrao Ghatke also called Appasaheb Ghatge and his wife Radhabai,. Narayan Dinkarrao Ghatke was the head of Kagal and his wife was the daughter of the Raja of Mudhol that's in today's Karnataka state.. Narayan Dinkarrao Ghatke was Regent to Kohlapur State, so lived in Laxminivas Palace in Kohlapur where Yeshwantrao Ghatge was born. This caused Shahu's family to remain closely associated with the ruling dynasty of Kolhapur. It also helped Shahu Chhatrapati's descending on the throne despite his not being a male-line member of the Bhonsle dynasty. Sahu Ji Maharaj lost his father at the age of 12 years and his mother when he was only three years. Shahu received his earlier education under the care of his father. As luck would have it Yeshwantrao Ghatge when a child of only 10 years, he was adopted by Anandibai, the widow of Chhatarpati Maharaja Shivaji IV ( Narayanarao) of Kolhapur on March 17th, 1884. So he ascended to the throne of Kohlapur Chhatrapati and was given the name as Sahu Ji Maharaj at an early age of 12years only. Appasaheb Ghatge passed away on 20th March 1886.
Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj was married to Laxshmibaisaheba, the daughter of a Maratha nobleman shri Meharban Gunajirao Khanvilkar from Baroda having blood relation with Chhatrapati of Satara. His 11 years old bride was selected by his father before his death. Sahu Ji’s marriage was ceremonised on 1st, April1891, But as per the will of his father Sahu Ji was not to touch his wife and maintain strict celibacy till he was 18 years old and fully grown up so as to father healthy children, Sahu Ji Maharaj couple was blessed with four children. Sahu Ji Maharaj was over five feet and nine inches in height and bore majestic appearance of a real Maratha king. Wrestling was one of the favorite sports of Chhatrapati Shahu. Wrestlers from all over the country would come to his state of Kolhapur to participate in the wrestling competition.
After the untimely death of his father people became worried as to how look after the minor king. Mr. William Lee-Warner a friend of Appasaheb Ghatge was then Assistant Political Agent to Kohlapur & Secretary to Bombay State decided to sent Sahu Ji to Rajkot for study. Mr. William Lee-Warner also got appointed Sir Sturt Milford Fraser I.C.S.as tutor and guardian to sahu Ji .So Sahu Ji got his Education at Dharwad in karnaka, about 130 kilometers from Kohlapur. At Dharwad Sahu Ji was given regular sound education and he was taught English, Arithmetic, Geography, economic, Law, Revenue and others connected subjects. After school timing Sahu ji attended to Drill, games and marshal arts
At regular interval he was taken to rural areas , places of pilgrimages, office and other work places , so as to make him acquaint with local problems which he was supposed to face in future as a king. After receiving proper training and education in all administrative spheres Chhatrapati Shahu Ji’s coronation took place on2nd April, 1894 with Royal pump & show. So after 32 years Kohlapur State was put under direct rule of their Chhatarpati. Lokmanya Tilak and nearing rulers wished Sahu Ji Maharaj all success. Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj is known to have done a lot for the empowerment of the poor and the down trodden.
Shahu Chhatrapati Ji tried his level best to make education and jobs available to all those living in his domain.
He created history by becoming torch bearer of masses, eradication of poverty, ignorance, backwardness, creationg conditions of equality among all his subjects under his Government orders. He tried to remove Superstitions from the mind of the backward classes by giving them free and compulsory education He studied closely the situation in spread of education among his subjects through Government and private run schools. He found the following report prepared in 1850.
Community Students in English Schools Students in Vernacular Schools
Brahmin 47 46 Vide Graham D.C.: The Statistical Report
Sheinvis 07 -- of the Principality Of Kohlapur, Bombay
Prabhu 05 --- Rajrshi Shahuji Maharal KaJeevan Sangarash
Maratha 03 04 (Mool Nivasi Publication New Delhi 2002 Hindi)
Muslim 03 --
Oil Presser ( Teli) 01 03
Ginjin 01 --
Kodale 01 ---
Sunar( Goldsmiths) --- 03
Kesar --- 02
Shilpi( Tailor) --- 01
Others 03 ----
Total 71 59
Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj came in contact with Dr B.R. Ambedkar and was greatly impressed by his revolutionary ideas. The first conference of untouchables was organized under leadership of Shahu Ji Maharaj(21-22 March) 1920 at Mangaon Kohlapur , Dr Ambedkar was its Chairman. The Maharaja told the gathering that they had found a leader in Dr Ambedkar who will work for their amelioration.
Observing the pitiable condition of Backward classes ( SC’s, St’ & OBC’s) in the field of education, , he ordered to close all community based separate schools for Brahmin & Dalit Students. He closed sixteen separate schools opened for the backward classes only and ordered their merger these with common Government schools on 30th September 1919. This forced students from all sections of his subjects to study in common Government common schools. He further ordered stringent punishment for any student found observing Untouchability in schools. He worked for Universalizing Education in Kohlapur State. He sanctioned scholarships to the students coming from the Backward Classes.
As untouchables were forced from centuries to live were forced to live out side the Upper Caste habitations. Their place of living were filth filled they used to lift dead animals from the housed of the upper Caste peoples, extracted their skins and ate the carcasses. Mare image of the Untouchable not to speak of his touch was considered to pollute upper Caste persons. If an untouchable had to go to market place, he had to tie an earthen pot from his neck for spiting and a broom at his back to clean his foot prints from the path else they pollute a Brahmin following him. Untouchables then were forbidden to wear clean clothes, turbans as head gears, keep moustaches, ride a horse on marriages or festivals, wear ornaments, send their children to schools, have water from common well or tank , use Rest Places or serve in Government department except as sweepers. Sahu Ji Maharaj appointed his Coachman from among the untouchables, who served Maharaja as his personal assistance too, Maharaj Ji used to take tea, water, meals from the untouchable houses to show that he himself does not observe untouchability from the core of his heart and shall punish any body observing it howsoever high caste he or she may belong to. Observance of Untouchability in any form in any Government establishment was banned on 15th, January1919 and erring persons ordered to be punished. The village officers (Patil& Talathi) were made answerable for non compliance of His Highness’s orders.
In Kohlapur out of 71 State Government officers, 60 were Brahmins and 11 non Brahmins but non from Backward classes. Backward classes included all classes of peoples excluding Brahmins,Prabhus, Shenis Parsis and other advanced classes. So he dared to negate the Laws of Manu and Manusmiriti by sanctioning 50% Reservation for the backward Classes in Kohlapur State Services on 26th July 1902. This was his 28th birthday gift to his people against the tough opposition from upper caste Brahmin Ministers who numbered over 98% in his government . As per the Laws of Manu codified in Manusmiriti 100% dignified jobs and services including those of temple priests were reserved for Brahmins( Twice born) and people coming from Upper Castes. The Shudras( OBC included) were assigned only job of service to the other castes. He issued instructions to his Dewan during his London visit to get issued the Royal Order and stressed its application in his State forthwith with warning that erring officers daring non compliance to it to be removed from the service of the state Of Kohlapur.

Details of Caste wise Employment in services in the Kohlapur Kingdom are given below (Before and after the issue of this order);
Employment In Year Brahmins Non Brahmins with Untouchables
Marathas included
Govt Depts. 1894 60 11 Nil Note;- Population of Brahmins was
Private Sector 1894 46 07 Nil only 26,000(3% only) out of total
No of STUDENTS 1894 2,522 8,088 234 population of Nine Lacs of the
Govt Depts. 1922 26 59 Nil State of Kohlapur
Private Sector 1922 43 109 01
No of STUDENTS 1922 2,722 21,027 2,164
Like his great grand father Chhatarpati Shiva Ji the Great Maratha king, both treated with contempt by Brahmins, so they cared little for praises or ire of Brahmins. He also passed laws to allow training of non-Brahmin men as temple priests. He passed orders declaring religious places properties as Kohlapur State properties. He ordered that the appointment of Shankaachariyas in future shall be with approval from Kohlapur State authority. He abolished Kulkarni system and appointed Kshatra Jagadguru ringing a bell of reasons, secularism for His subjects. He approved conducting of marriages with out a Brahmin priest. He promoted inter caste marriages among his subjects. Many good hearted Brahmins like V.D. Topkhane, Gopal Krishan Gokhale, Rajaram Shastri supported the progressive efforts of the Maharaja issued for the welfare of his subjects. Shahu ji was associated with many progressive activities in the society including education for women. He was greatly influenced by the contributions of social reformer Jyotiba Phule. Primary education to all regardless of caste and creed was one of the significant moves of the King.
His orders dated 22August 1919 of giving equal treatment to Untouchables by all Kohlapur State officers was strong and clear. All employees of his state including those serving in Municipal Boards were to get facilities of Provident fund. The curse of forced labour was done away with under His Highness’s orders. Even State Dewan, state Regent and all higher officers were ordered to comply with this and wags for the any forced labour were ordered to be deducted in case of non compliance from the salary of the erring officer for disbursement to the effected labourer. However it created ill will towards Maharaja by irrational thinking superstitious Brahmins who were supported by Lokmanya Bal GangadharTilak( 1856-1920) and some others. While opposing right of higher Education to Bachward Classes. Tilak, the mentor of Mahatma Gandhi and political Guru of Sawarkar , is on record to have said in one of his speech dated 11November,1917( Javatmal Maharathtra) “ Would the tailors use sewing machine, the peasants that plough and the merchants the scale of balance in the council” Tilak & congress party was for the Bachward classes peopled to follow their ancestral trades, where only elementary education needed. Determined to implement his egalitarian thoughts and the Maharaja was prepared to face all his adversaries opposing them. On 15 April,1920 Chhatarpati Sahu Ji Maharaj replied thus to Tilak, “ Tilak would have been ashamed of expressing such thoughts in his speech Brahmin V/s Brahmantra. Tilak advised untouchables not to take secondary education after primary education. He wanted them to learn the crafts of their castes, thus he believed in constitution of the caste proferssion for the untouchables and not in giving them the higher education to them “However Maharaja was not against Brahmins but Brahmanism and Brahmanical ways and their half hearted reforms.
He was unique in many ways. Against the established principle of suppression of the agitations by the trade unions demanding welfare measures, he encouraged them to strive hard to have their rights granted. Against stiff opposition from the upper Caste Officers he appointed a non Brahmin Mr Bhaskarrao Jadhav in his State services. Since Mr. Bhaskarrao Jadhav had high qualities of Head and heart earning distinctions in the academic examinations he appeared for Mr Bhaskarrao with M.A LL.B qualification, proved good fried of Maharaja and Kohlapur downtrodden state subjects. All good works done in Kolhapur bear his contributions. Later Maharaja persuaded him to contest elections for the office under Montage-Chelsford Reforms of 1921. He served as an able Minister in Bombay Government from 1923-1930. He contributed in carrying forward the activities of the Satya Shodak Samaj established by Mahatma Phuley. Mr Bhaskarrao Jadhav proved a corner stone in founding non Brahmin Movement in Bombay Presidency.
An OBC person appointed under the amended Reservation Rules was appointed s a cleark in juciary. A Brahmin judge complained against this employee to the Maharaja as being unworthy and so for his dismissal. Upon this Maharaja said to the judge that he leave this man to you (judge) for a month, and you make him worthy by injecting your qualities in him else you (judge) shall be dismissed. This man remained with the judge for three months with out any work assigned to him, but the judge gave him certificate of bring meritorious. Thus failed the plan of the Brahmin judge to get outed an untouchable from service on flimsy grounds.
Sahu Ji Maharaj not only did pioneering social reforms he got executed many developmental and other welfare works. In 1909 the construction in Ratnagari a dam creating Maharani Laxmi Tank with another twenty new tanks bringing revolution in the Irrigation and drinking water systems. He built hostels for students. He stated work of Shau Chhatarpati Spinning and Weaving Mills in 1906. Many reforms were initiated to improve existing commerce, industry, judiciary, policing, crime etc. He saw to it that rules are for the betterment of people not to harass them.
The state bureaucracy was from British, Brahmins, Prabhus, Shenis and Parsis, who always created hurdles in Maharaj’s welfare measure for the Untouchables. So Maharaja took harsh but necessary decisions with out fear and favour. He proved that he was the king and his authority was supreme. At a stage he was convinced that the bureaucracy will not allow him introduce progressive welfare measures; so he dissolved the Council of Administration with member consisting of Dewan of Kohlapur state, Chief Justice, Chief Revenue officer, who all were from the upper castes. He created the Huzur Office or secretariat of the Chhatarpati, appointing his Ex. Teacher R.V. Sabnis. There after all orders of His Highness were signed by him. R.V. Sabnis belonged to lower caste Kayastha and his appointment was resisted by Brahmins saying as per Religious rules non can be appointed on higher rank post than Brahmin and a Brahmin shall not serve under any lower caste officer. Chhatrapati ShahuJi Maharaj also appointed a non Brahmin Mr Bhaskarrao Jadhav for superior in merit than the Brahmins. Maharaja also terminated the services of an arrogant Brahmin teacher who refused to teach Untouchable students in school. He also opened 21 boarding houses for students from all castes of Kohlapur State. In his thinking mere faith “ Astha” had no place, reasoning and quality was supreme to him
Rajarshi Chhatrapati ShahuJi Maharaj always lent helping hands by all means to any body from untouchables found in distress. He met Dr B.R. Ambedkar a number of times during 1917-1921. They were introduced by Dattoba Pawar and Dittoba Dalvi (artist) and their association lost till the sudden end of shahu Ji Maharaj in 1922. When Dr Ambedkar expressed his desire to start a fortnightly newspaper to bring about an awakening among Dalits Sahu Ji Maharaj denoted `2, 500.00 for this noble cause. Dr Ambedkar started “ Mooknayak” (Leader of the Dumbs) on 31st January ,1920. Again when Dr Ambedkar faced financial problems in completion of his left over studies in September 1921. Sahu Ji sent `750.00 with assurance to Dr Ambedkar that he can write for any such help to him any time. Again Sahu Ji Maharaj sent a cheque worth Rs1500.00 to Dr Ambedkar at his London address on 5th October 1921. When Mooknayak landed in financial distressed Shahu Ji Maharaj pulled it out by donating Rs750.00 in January 1921and Rs1000.00 on 21st Febuary,1921.
Rajrishi Chhatarpati shahu Ji Maharaj’s qualities of head and heart earned him honorary LL.D from Cambridge University,; G.C.S.I; G.C.V.O; G.C.I.E; titles from Queen Victoria, Duke of Conaught & Imperial Darbar Respectively. As per the law of the nature who so ever has born is to die. Shahu Ji Maharaj fell in the category of people live, who live for others and they are remembered ages after their demise. Satarpati Ji Maharaj suddenly passed away on 6th May, 1922 at a prime age of 48 years. He has left indelible mark in the history of India. He worked with dedication, strength, intelligent and exerted his authority despite many hurdles. He shall go in the history of Indian Dalit empowerment movement. Our best tributes to the departed Satarpati on his 107th birthday shall be to remember his contribution, sacrifices and courage to work for the set goals.
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