Shivaji’s Quest for Hindu Validation

04 October 2015

Who Was Shivaji was first published as in 1988 as Shivaji Kon Hota by Communist Party of India leader Govind Pansare. The work is not as much a biography of Shivaji as it is an attempt to debunk some of the myths surrounding his persona. In his introduction, Anirudh Deshpande, an associate professor in the department of history at Delhi University, notes that Pansare questions the way in which dominant Maratha historiography has enforced modern,(colonial and post-colonial), religious categories on the past.

Although he has been appropriated by Hindu nationalists and erected as a Gobrahman Pratipalak— the protector of the cow and the Brahmin—Pansare reminds us that Shivaji faced great opposition from powerful Hindus who refused to be ruled by a person belonging to a caste lower than their own. On 16 February 2015, Pansare and his wife were gunned down by unknown assailants outside their home in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Pansare succumbed to his injuries four days later. His murder, is as of now, unsolved.

To oppose Shivaji, some Brahmans in his kingdom performed a yajna called Kot Chandi Yajna. They conducted this yajna on behalf of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, the mighty nobleman who served the Emperor of Delhi; they wished him victory. A chronicle describes the scene:

Mirza Raja was worried that Shivaji, very brave and clever, was fond of battle. He was a very skillful warrior. He had personally killed Afzal Khan. He ran riot in the camp of Shaista Khan. Mirza Raja was therefore worried about his own success. The great Brahman priests suggested a way. He would succeed if he performed a yajna. Then Mirza said, “Prepare a Kot Chandi and eleven crore lingas. Chanting should be practised to fulfill my desire.” He thus arranged for four hundred Brahmans to sit for the yajna. The yajna and prayers continued round the clock. He set aside two crore rupees for the yajna and it went on for three months. After completion of the yajna the Brahmans were properly rewarded and then he set on his campaign.

Many Brahmans of Maharashtra opposed the anointment of Shivaji as king. This is a well-known fact. According to the system of Chaturvarna and the old Hindu laws, only Brahmans and Kshatriyas had the right to become a king. Even though Shivaji was a warrior, even though he had conquered what could easily be a kingdom, religious law said that he was not entitled to be a king. Some doubted his being a Kshatriya.