Today’s politicians, especially in Maharashtra, keep solemnly stating on oath that they always keep public welfare uppermost in mind and invoke his name to show that their politics is clean and above board. How often have we heard the name of the great Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj used in the most cynical manner by his so-called followers? Given the scams and allegations of corruption flying around, that solemn oath appears to have been lost in the clamour to build the world’s tallest equestrian mounted statue in the Arabian Sea.
Speaking to Prashant Hamine, Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje Bhosale, the 13th direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, laments that the government has not done anything substantial in preserving the forts and rich heritage that the great Maratha warrior king left behind. An MBA from Kolhapur, Sambhajiraje did his BA from the Rajkumar College, Rajkot. Married to Swarageet Raje, they have a 14-year old son, Shahaji Raje Bhosale, who studies in standard IX in Indus International School. Referred to in reverence often by his royal title, Yuvraj Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje Bhosale has continued the family tradition of three centuries of adopting the same royal names.
You have been closely associated with the making of Nitin Chandrakant Desai’s movie Raja Shivchhatrapati; what do you think of the project, now that it is making waves on the silver screen?
It is an honestly good attempt at portraying the real history of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. I always tend to look at the positive side. It is four decades after doyen of Marathi cinema Bhalji Pendharkar’s movie on the same subject, that such an attempt been made. Earlier we did not have much of the information in documentation form. In Rajasthan you have coffee table books on say its culture and heritage. For example, forts like Navalgadh are the subject of coffee table books priced as high as Rs 3,000. I am planning to make a similar attempt to immortalize the history of our forts..
What do you make of the Maharashtra government’s announcement of grand plans to construct an equestrian mounted statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian sea?
It is a welcome decision. It will be the pride of Maharashtra and gives me great joy. I do not feel there is any need to bring politics into all this. More importantly the tourists and common people will be able to understand how Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj rose to such great heights through adverse conditions.
Today we see that most of the forts built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj are in ruins. How do you look at the government’s attempts to restore them ?
You see, the Central government gives huge funds for conservation of forts like the Mehrangadh fort in Jodhpur. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ruled his kingdom from Rajgadh fort for over 25 years. The state archeological department does not have the funds to carry out restoration work on forts like Sinhagad. If the Centre and the state archeological departments cannot do it, give us the authority or allow us to raise the funds. We shall do it. I do not want donations. Nor do I intend to do it for my personal sake. But today it pains me to see most of our rich heritage lying in ruins.
Do you know that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had 600 forts in his possession? Some forts like the Raigad are known as the Gibraltar of the East. Sindhudurg fort is known for its temple built by Rajaram Maharaj. If we do not do anything now to preserve this rich heritage of ours, 30 years down the line we will not be able to tell our grand children what was the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We need to have a tourism policy that takes all these factors into account. Surely it will appeal to the masses if there is a tourism circuit that is developed around the forts of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Is there any attempt to bring all the artifacts and memorabilia of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj under one roof ?
Some families may have the artifacts. The government can place these artifacts on display at the museum proposed in the monument at the Arabian sea while the families themselves retain the rights of the artifacts. Actually, people should also come forward to in donating the priceless artifacts that they have in their possession for the larger public good.
Often there is this talk of bringing back the Tuljabhavani sword of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from the British museum. Do you plan to make any efforts on this issue ?
The Indian government needs to make an all out efforts to bring back the famous Tuljabhavani sword of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. There are limits to what we can do. If the state agrees, then I can represent our case before the British government.
How do you continue to carry on the legacy left behind by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ?
Every day we begin our day’s work by seeking blessings of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We have always tried to inculcate his qualities of fearlessness, fairness, hard work and rule of law through justice. I have set up the Rajabhishek Samiti (Coronation Committee) where lots of students, researchers, scholars and admirers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj gather each year at Raigad fort on June 6 to commemorate his coronation.
We have plans to launch our very own website on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in a week’s time. Do you know that the art of guerrilla warfare developed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is still taught at US and UK military schools? I have plans to compile this into a book form.
How do you look at today’s rulers who constantly invoke the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and claim that they govern on the ideals set by him?
Today different political parties claim that they follow the ideals in governance and rule of law set by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. How well they follow them is all there for everyone to see. The government needs to set up a separate department itself to carry forward the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Today you need to adopt the modern world technologies like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube to reach out to the people. I have much work to do and will take good people along in my efforts to make the present and future generations aware of the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.