Wednesday, June 25, 2014


(Remembering a kindhearted Dalit King on his140th Birthday falling on 26th June,2014)
Rajarshi Chhatrapati ShahuJi Maharaj was the Maharaja or the king of an Indian princely State Kolhapur and was known to be a great social reformer of his time. Shahu was a staunch follower of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and devoted his life for the up-liftment of his 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 Shahu Ji Maharaja'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. He was the eldest son of Narayan Dinkarrao Ghatke also called Appa saheb 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. Shahu Ji Maharaj lost his father at the age of 12 years and his mother when he was only three years.  Young prince 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 Shahu Ji Maharaj at an early age of 12years only. Appasaheb Ghatge passed away on 20th March 1886.
Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj was married to Shrimati Lakshmibai née Khanvilkar (1880–1945),, 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. Shahu Ji's marriage was ceremonised on 1st, April 1891, But as per the will of his father Shahu 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, Shahu Ji Maharaj couple was blessed with four children. Shahu 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 to look after the minor king. Mr. William Lee-Warner a friend of Appa saheb Ghatge was then Assistant Political Agent to Kohlapur & Secretary to Bombay State. He decided to sent Shahu Ji to Rajkot for study. Mr. William Lee-Warner also got appointed Sir Sturt Milford Fraser tutor and guardian to Shahu Ji .So Shahu Ji got his Education at Dharwad in karnaka, about 130 kilometers from Kohlapur. At Dharwad Shahu Ji was given regular sound education. He was taught English, Arithmetic, Geography, economic, Law, Revenue and others connected subjects. After school timing Shahu Ji attended to Drill, games and martial 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. Therefore after 32 years Kohlapur State was put under direct rule of their Chhatarpati. Lokmanya Tilak and neighboring rulers wished Shahu Ji Maharaj all success.
Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj is known to have done a lot for the upliftment of the poor and the down trodden. Shahu Chhatrapati tried his level best to make education and jobs available to all those living in his domain. He created history by becoming light of masses, eradication of poverty, ignorance, backwardness, 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 data prepared in 1850.

Students in
Students in

English Schools
Vernacular Schools
Oil Presser (Teli)
Sunar( Goldsmiths)
Shilpi( Tailor)
Note: - Vide Graham D.C.: The Statical Report of the Principality Of Kohlapur
Bombay Rajrshi Shahuji Maharal Ka Jeevan Sangarash (Mool Nivasi Publication New Delhi 2002 Hind)
The Maharaja 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 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, Maharaja ordered to close all community based separate schools for Brahmin & Dalit Students. He closed sixteen separate schools opened only for the backward classes and ordered their merger with common Government schools on 30th September 1919. This forced students from all sections of his subjects to study in common Government 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 POOR AND Backward Classes besides meritorious students.
As untouchables were forced from centuries to live outside the Upper Caste habitations. Their places of living were filth filled. They used to lift dead animals from the houses of the upper Caste peoples, extracted their skins and ate the carcasses. Mare shadow of an Untouchable was considered to pollute upper Caste persons, not to speak of their touch. If an untouchable had to go to market place, he had to tie an earthen pot from his neck for spitting in it 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 times, wear ornaments, send their children to schools or have water from common well or tank , use Rest Places or serve in Government department except as sweepers. Shahu Ji Maharaj appointed his Coachman from among the untouchables, who served Maharajaas his personal assistance. Maharaj Ji used to take tea, water, and meals from the untouchable houses to show that he himself does not observe untouchability  from the core of his heart and shall punish anybody 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, January 1919 and erring persons ordered to be punished. The village officers (Patil & Talathi) were made answerable for non compliance of His Highness's orders by any body.
On the invitation of the Justice Party government of the Raja of Panagal better known as Sir Panaganti Ramarayaningar KCIE, (1866-1928) Chhatarpati Shahu Ji Maharaj while addressing meeting in Madras he said, "I am here not as a king but friend to those ,whose pitiful condition shall melt even a stone hearted person. Raja of Pangal was an active in the All-India Non-Brahmin movement. He was a friend of Shahu Ji Maharaj and was closely associated with the Satya Shodhak Samaj movement. Raja of Panagal was Chief Minister or Premier of Madras Presidency from July 11, 1921 to December 3, 1926. Raja of Panagal introduced reservations for backward classes in government jobs in 1921.
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 for government department's posts. This was his 28th birthday gift to his people against the tough opposition from upper caste Brahmin Ministers who numbered over 98% in his Cabinet. . As per the Laws of Manu in Manusmiriti 100% dignified jobs and services including those of temple priests were reserved for Brahmins( Twice born) and people coming from Upper Castes. He issued instructions to his Dewan during his London visit to get issued this Royal Order and stressed
its application in his State forthwith with warning that erring officers daring non compliance to it, be removed from the service of the state Of Kohlapur.

Details of Employment in services are given below (Before and after the issue of this order);
Employment         Year         Brahmins     Non Brahmins with Marathas included      Untouchables
Govt Depts.        1894             60                        11                                                       Nil
Private Sector   1894             46                           07                                                        Nil
No of students 1894               2,522                         8,088                                               234
GovtDepts.       1922         26                            59                                                          Nil
Private Sector   1922           43                        109                                                          01
No of students  1922       2,722                   21,027                                                       2,164

Note;- Population of Brahmins was 3% of the total populationof the State of Kohlapur.

His great grandfather Chhatarpati Shiva Ji the other Great Maratha king, were treated with contempt by Brahmins, so they cared little for praises or irk of Brahmins. But Shahu Ji passed laws to allow training of non-Brahmin males as temple priests. He passed orders declaring religious places properties as Kohlapur State properties. He ordered that the appointment of Shanka-achariyas in future shall be with approval from Kohlapur State authority. He abolished Kulkarni system and appointed Kshatrya Jagadguru ringing a bells of reasons, secularism for his subjects. He approved conducting of marriages without a Brahmin priest as valid marriage. He promoted inter caste marriages among his subjects. Many good hearted Brahmins like V.D. Topkhane, Gopal Krishan Gokhale, and Raja ram 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 and Satya Sodhak Samaj principles. Primary education to all regardless of caste and creed was one of the significant moves of the King.
His orders dated 22August 1919 granting 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 dated 3rd May, 1920. 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 Maharaj a by irrational thinking superstitious Brahmins who were supported by Lokmanya Bal Ganga Dhar Tilak and some others. While opposing right of higher Education to Backward Classes, Tilak is on record to have said in one of his speech dated 11November,1917 ( Javatmal Maharashtra)" 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 Backward classes peopled to follow their ancestral trades, where only elementary education was needed. Determined to implement his egalitarian thoughts the Maharaja was prepared to face all his adversaries opposing these measures. On 15 April, 1920 Chhatarpati Shahu 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 profession for the untouchables and not in giving them the higher education "However Maharaja was not against Brahmins but Brahmanism and Brahminical ways and their halfhearted reforms. The plea forrunning governments on the principles of Manusmriti was out rightly rejected by Shahu Ji Maharaj.
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 M. A LL.B academic examinations, Bhaskarrao Jadhav proved good fried of Maharaja and Kohlapur along with downtrodden state subjects. Many good works done in Kolhapur bear his contributions. Later Maharaja persuaded him to contest elections for the office under Montage-Chelmsford 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 Phule. Mr. Bhaskarrao Jadhav proved a corner stone in founding non Brahmin Movement in Bombay Presidency.                                                                                                     An OBC person under the amended Reservation Rules was appointed a clerk in judiciary services. A Brahmin j udge 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 without any work assigned to him, but the judge gave him certificate of bring meritorious. Thus failed the plan of the Brahmin judge to get ousted an untouchable from service on flimsy grounds.
Shahu Ji Maharaj not only did pioneering social reforms but also 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 started work of Shau Chhatarpati Spinning and Weaving Mills in 1906. Many reforms were initiated to improve existing commerce, industry, judiciary, policing, crime reduction means. He saw to it that rules are for the betterment of people not to harass them.
The state bureaucracy was from Brahmins, Prabhus, Shenis and Parsis who always created hurdles in Maharaj's welfare measure for the Untouchables. So Maharaja took harsh but necessary decisions without 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 to flourish 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 all from the upper castes. He created the Huzur Office or secretariat of the Chhatarpati by appointing his Ex. Teacher R. V. Sabnis as its head . There after all orders of His Highness were issued under his signatures by him. R. V. Sabnis belonged to lower caste Kayastha and his appointment was resisted by Brahmins saying as per Religious rules no lower caste employee can be appointed on higher rank post than Brahmin and a Brahmin shall not serve under any lower caste officer. Chhatrapati Shahu Ji 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.
Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj always lent helping hands by all means to anybody 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 an awakening among Dalits ShahuJi Maharaj denoted Rs 2,500.00 for this noble cause. Dr Ambedkar started " Mooknayak" (Leader of the Dumb ) on 31st January ,1920. Also when Dr Ambedkar faced financial problems in completion of his higher studies in September 1921. Shahu Ji sent him Rs750.00 with assurance that he can write for any such help to him any time. Again Shahu 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 on21stFebuary,1921.
Rajrishi Chhatarpati shahu Ji Maharaj's qualities of head and heart earned him honorary LLD from Cambridge University,; G.C.S.I; G.C.V.O; G.C.I.E; titles from Queen Victoria, Duke of Connaught & Imperial Darbar respectively. His full official name was: Colonel His Highness Kshatriya- Kulawatasana  Sinhasana Dhishwar,  Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu  Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib BahadurGCSIGCIEGCVO.
          As per the law of the nature who so ever is born is to shed the mortal frame. Shahu Ji Maharaj fell in the category of people , who live for others and they are remembered ages after their demise. Shatarpati Ji Maharaj suddenly passed away on 6th May, 1922 at a prime age of 48 years. He was survived by his wife, his elder son Rajaram and his daughter Radhabai .
 Rajrishi Chhatarpati shahu Ji Maharaj 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 shall be to remember his contribution, sacrifices and courage to work for his set goals of Dalit empowerment besides  for welfare of all countrymen.

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