Shivaji: <strike>Wily</strike> Brave Warrior

Now that the redecoration is done, let's get back to some blogging! Woo!

I took this picture at Agra Fort when I was there in late July. This plaque is the first one you encounter after passing through the gates and having your ticket checked:


I'm not sure if you can read it, but the important sentence says, "Shivaji came to Agra in 1666 and met Aurangzeb in Diwan-i-Khas. He was betrayed and imprisoned, though the brave Maratha ultimately escaped." Note the difference in the word "brave." Someone has clearly painted over the original word and hand-painted "brave" to replace it. But if you look closely you can see what was once written:


It used to say "wily" (larger version available here). Someone, assumedly from the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), has replaced "wily" with "brave" as an adjective for Shivaji. I don't know when, and I don't know why, but I wonder if the ASI was covering its butt after recent communal unrest in Maharashtra concerning a book about Shivaji...

In June 2003 Macalester College professor James Laine's book, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India was released in India. By the following year, Laine was caught in an enormous controversy:

Apparently, trouble began with a long critical review of the book in the Marathi magazine Rangataranga (October 2003). The reviewer drew attention to a short passage in the book that allegedly questioned Shivaji's "paternity" citing a joke circulated in Maharashtra. He denounced it as "ridiculous". It was this reference that triggered the controversy. A note introducing the review "publicly condemned it [the book], the author, and those who have provided him with false and malicious information". In early November, letters were sent to OUP demanding the withdrawal of the book. OUP apologised and withdrew the book later that month. But the worst was yet to come...

On January 5, 2004, about 150 cadre of the Sambhaji Brigade attacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), ransacked its library and destroyed invaluable artefacts, manuscripts and books (Frontline, January 30, 2004). Although Chitralekha later condemned the "unforgivable" attacks, Sathaye says that "it is clear that [its] writings provided an intellectual and ethical foundation" to the violence. The Canadian scholar, who was in Pune at the time of the attack, points out the difficulty in categorising the Sambhaji Brigade as a "Hindu fundamentalist" outfit. He says: "The literature of [the Sambhaji Brigade's] parent organisation, the Maratha Seva Sangh, stresses devotion to Shivaji, to his mother Jijabai, and to modern non-Brahmin leaders Jyotiba Phule, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Shahu Maharaj, as part of a new religious/political movement known as Shivdharma. Founded in 2000, this largely lower-caste movement consciously regards itself as distinct from mainstream Hinduism and is particularly hostile towards Brahminic hegemony. Shivdharma is, in short, a marriage of a passionate folk devotion to Shivaji with anti-Brahmin politics." As Sathaye notes, Laine expected his book to be controversial, but for "his portrayal of Hindu and Muslim identity, and not for publishing a joke about Shivaji's mother". Two weeks after the attack, the Pune Police registered cases against OUP and Laine and the Congress-NCP government banned the book (Frontline).

Trackback URL for this post:


It appears that my comments

It appears that my comments are removed and I have not made copy of the comments.

vkvora2001, are you referring

vkvora2001, are you referring to the comment here:

or did you write another on this post which was lost?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.