Status of Brahmins in the Life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj !

A few years back one Western writer, James Laine, wrote an objectionable book on the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The widespread outburst against this book resulted in the Brahmin community being targeted and criticised. Recently in Pune, fanatic Maratha Organisations not only crossed all the limits of Brahmin-hatred, but committed the sinful act of desecrating a statue of Dadoji Kondadev.

On the basis of historical evidence what status the Brahmins were having in the life of Chhatrapati, it will be clear that creation of such hatred amongst Brahmins and non-Brahmins by (mis)using the name of Chhatrapati is a cruel joke on the great Maratha King. In support of this, few selected paragraphs from the publication ‘Samaj Jagruti Booklet’ by ‘Akhil Bharatiya Maratha Vikas Parishad’ are given ahead. Parishad further stated that today unity amongst Hindus being of utmost importance, dividing them in castes will not be proper.

1. The First three poets who narrated the qualities of Chhatrapati during his life time were Brahmins !

A. The first Poet, Samarth Ramdas Swami, composed the following lines praising Shivaji Maharaj.

‘यशवंत, कीर्तीवंत । सामर्थ्यवंत, वरदवंत ।
पुण्यवंत आणि जयवंत । जाणता राजा ॥
आचारशील, विचारशील । दानशील, धर्मशील ।
सर्वज्ञपणे सुशील । सकळाठायी ॥
या भूमंडळाचे ठायी । धर्मरक्षी ऐसा नाही ।
महाराष्ट्रधर्म राहिला काही । तुम्हाकारणे ॥

It is important to note that during His travels all over India Samarth Ramdas Swami did not come across any personality He considers greater than Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. After Shivaji’s demise, Samarth Ramdas in his letter to Sambhaji advised him ‘To remember the Chhatrapati’s stature and valour’.

B. Another poet who sang praises on the qualities of Shivaji, Kavi Bhushan was a Brahmin.

C. Poet Parmanand Nevaskar who on the suggestion of Shivaji wrote Shivaji’s biography in Sanskrit – ‘Shivbharat’, was a Brahmin.

This just goes on to show that those main three poets who wrote his biography and extolled his greatness in the lifetime of Shivaji were Brahmins.

2. Devotion of Brahmins to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj !

A. After Chhatrapati Shivaji’s escape from from Agra, two of his devoted attendants, namely Dabir and Korde were arrested by Aurangzeb’s soldiers. These two had kept Sambhaji Maharaj hidden at Mathura, but did not disclose it despite being subject to everyday lashings and torture in Aurangzeb’s prison.

B. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was fully aware that Brahmins could be reliable and devoted. Janambhat Abhyankar and Dadambhat Abhyankar who were stationed at Sindhudurg fort by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj did not desert Sindhudurg fort till their death. After Shivaji’s demise, Aurangzeb was able to lay his hands on this fort only after the brothers were killed. They had promised Shivaji that they would never leave Sindhudurg fort and they remained true to their word by embracing death right there.

3. Brahmins are witnesses to very important incidents in Shivaji’s life !

A. Bapuji Deshpande who fought and secured Kondana fort for Shivaji was a Brahmin.

B. When Shivaji was fighting Fateh Khan on Purandar fort, Nilkanth Sarnaik the killedar rendered invaluable help to the Maratha forces.

C. Nanaji Deshpande, a Brahmin, was the first incharge of Shivaji’s espionage division. Subsequently this post was taken over by Bahirji Naik.

D. Vedamurti Dergeshastri of Tryambakeshwar used to perform rituals to propitiate Bhagwan Shiva for welfare of Shivaji.

F. The architect of Shivaji’s daring raid on Lalmahal, Chimaji Deshpande, was a Brahmin.

G. Chimaji’s father was in the service of Jijau for many years in Lalmahal. He had intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny of Lalmahal, hence he was handed the responsibility or organising the raid.

H. There is historical account of how Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ritualistically worshiped cows and Brahmins before meeting Afzal Khan. Prabhakar Bhatt who presided over this worship was the chief priest of kingdom.

4. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s reverence for Brahmins !

A. There are 4-5 letters available mentioning donations given to mosques by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. These letters are used to declare him a ‘secular’ king. Why are the 82 letters noting donations to Brahmins ignored ?

B. On 8.9.1671 in a letter to Tukaram Subhedar, Shivaji Maharaj wrote,’Bapuji Nalvada had some grievance with a Brahmin and on that account he struck him with his sword. After this he killed himself with a dagger. He struck a Brahmin despite being a Maratha. He had to face the consequences’. From this letter we see the respect Shivajihad for Brahmins. His chieftains were also well aware of this. Hence when Bapuji Nalvada realised what he had done, he decided to end his life for he knew that a sever punishment awaited him when Shivaji came to know about the incident. An ideal ruler inspires this kind of awe and reverence among his subjects.

C. In 8-10 letters Shivaji exhorts the reader to follow some rule under an oath on Cows or Brahmins.

D. In many letters on provision for ceremonial feasts to Brahmins, Maharaj gave strict instructions (1648 A.D.) that ‘Money be spent on ‘Religious Account’ and spare no cost’. From this his opinion about Brahmins is clear.

E. While donating land to Brahmins, Shivaji made a mention of their contribution with full gratitude., e.g. On 3 August 1674 Shivaji wrote to Murari Trimal Vibhute, ‘During Swami’s coronation, you toiled hard and by with great bravery earned a place in Swami’s heart. This token award is in consideration of your aforesaid valour’.

F. In order to get blessings and ensure success to Shivaji in the establishment of the Hindavi Swarajya, Jijabai used to arrange religious rituals from Brahmins, which finds a clear mention in a letter dated 18th February 1653 to Vedamurti Gopal Bhatt. Wherein Shivaji informs Gopal Bhatt that a particular ritual to propitiate Sun deity has to be performed.

5. Chhatrapati Shivaji never neglected mistakes by Brahmins either !

In a letter dated 19th January 1675 there is a mention about Shivaji having taken to task a Brahmin attendant for a mistake. Maharaj wrote, ‘Such attendants should be set right. Being a Brahmin is no excuse. No mercy will be shown in future.’ It means, though Shivaji respected Brahmins, he was impartial in such events. On the basis of 1-2 such letters, there is no need to increase anti-Brahmin spirit in the name of Shivaji. Those whose life’s goal is ‘to malign and destroy Brahmins’ are free to do it, but while doing so they should refrain from defaming the great soul of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

6. ‘Protector of Cows and Brahmins’ (Gau-Brahmin pratipalak)

When Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj did not hesitate from adopting the title of ‘Protector of Cows and Brahmins’ (Gau-Brahmin pratipalak), why do his ‘followers’ have an issue with the words ‘Gau’ and ‘Brahmin’ ?

Out of available 200 letters of Chhatrapati, approximately 100 are written to different Brahmins donating or rewarding them something. Letters are a mirror to the person’s mind. Chhatrapati Shivaji took Brahmins into confidence in events that later gained historical significance. This nature could be observed from his letters. If Shivaji is called ‘Protector of Cows and Brahmins’, some people become very upset. In the year 1647 A.D. Chhatrapati Shivaji wrote a letter to Moreshwar Gosavi stating, ‘A Brahmin guest, even an uninvited one, is auspicious. Maharaj is protector of ‘Cows and Brahmins’ (Gau-Brahmin pratipalak). Maintenance of cows is a very virtuous act.’

Where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj himself did not hesitate from adopting the title of ‘Protector of Cows and Brahmins’ (Gau-Brahmin pratipalak), one fails to understand why his ‘followers’ have an issue with the words ‘Gau’ and ‘Brahmin’ ? Prof. Shivajirao Bhosle says “Some people refer to Shivaji Maharaj as ‘Gau-Brahmin pratipalak’. I agree with this title. The cows enrich the earth, the Brahmins with their piety and study uplift the society; if the Maharaj felt that they should be protected, nothing wrong with that. Today the words are twisted and meanings misrepresented. Doesn’t the milk revolution and the difficult exams administered to select officials remind us of this Gau-Brahmin pratipalan ? Wouldn’t it be nice if in the 21st century, the word Brahmin stood for scholarship, intelligence, adherence to facts, and independent thinking !

7. Brahmins who helped Chhatrapati Shivaji and Marathas who turned hostile !

A. Chhatrapati Shivaji’ biography mentions that there were many Brahmins holding important positions within the inner circle.

B. Dadoji Kondadev, a very reliable Manager sent by Shahaji Maharaj from Benguluru for helping Chhatrapati, was a Brahmin.

C. Seven out of the eight Ministers in Shivaji Maharaj’s cabinet, were Brahmins.

D. Dabir, Korde, Atre, Bokilkaka – all vakils, were Brahmins.

E. There is an outcry that a Brahmin Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni was Afzal Khan’s vakil; but it is prudent to note that Chhatrapati Shivaji’s vakil, Gopinathpanth Bokil too was a Brahmin.

F. Brahmin detractors are silent about the thousands of Marathas who served Aurangzeb.

G. It is a fact that 38 relatives of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj were helping Afzal Khan. When Afzal Khan went to meet Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, his ten main body-guards included Mambaji Bhosle (Shivaji’s uncle), Pilaji Mohite and Shankarji Mohite (relations of Shivaji’s father-in-law).

Shri Sunil Chincholkar (Reference : ‘Samaj Jagruti Booklet’ published by Akhil Bharatiya Maratha Vikas Parishad)