|Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur|
Portrait of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur(1912)
|Raja of Kolhapur|
|Born||26 June 1874|
Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Kolhapur
|Died||6 May 1922 (aged 47)|
|Father||Jaisingrao (Aabasaheb) Ghatge|
Shahu (also known as Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj or Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj) Bhosle dynasty of Marathas was a Raja (reign. 1894 – 1900) and a Maharaja (1900-1922) of the Indian princely state of Kolhapur. Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, also known as Rajarshi Shahu was considered a true democrat and social reformer. First Maharaja of the princely state of Kolhapur, he was an invaluable gem in the history of Maharashtra. Greatly influenced by the contributions of social reformer Jyotiba Phule, Shahu Maharaj was an ideal leader and able ruler who was associated with many progressive and path breaking activities during his rule. From his coronation in 1894 till his demise in 1922, he worked tirelessly for the cause of the lower caste subjects in his state. Primary education to all regardless of caste and creed was one of his most significant priorities.(26 June 1874 – 6 May 1922) of the
He was born as Yeshwantrao in the Ghatge Maratha family, of Kagal village of the Kolhapur district as Yeshwantrao Ghatge to Jaisingrao and Radhabai in 26 June 1874. Jaisingrao Ghatge was the village chief, while his mother Radhabhai hailed from the royal family of Mudhol. Young Yeshwantrao lost his mother when he was only three. His education was supervised by his father till he was 10-year-old. In that year, he was adopted by Queen Anandibai, widow of King Shivaji IV, of the princely state of Kolhapur. Although the adoption rules of the time dictated that the child must have Bhosale dynasty blood in his veins, Yeshwantrao’s family background presented a unique case. He completed his formal education at the Rajkumar College, Rajkot and took lessons of administrative affairs from Sir Stuart Fraser, a representative of the Indian Civil Services. He ascended the throne in 1894 after coming of age, prior to which a regency council appointed by the British Government took care of the state affairs. During his accession Yeshwantrao was renamed as Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj. Chhatrapati Shahu was over five feet nine inches in height and displayed a regal and majestic appearance. Wrestling was one of his favourite sports and he patronised the sport throughout his rule. Wrestlers from all over the country would come to his state to participate in wrestling competitions.
When Brahmin priests of the royal family refused to perform the rites of non-Brahmins in accordance with the Vedic hymns, he took the daring step of removing the priests and appointing a young Maratha as the religious teacher of the non-Brahmins, with the title of Kshatra Jagadguru (the world teacher of the Kshatriyas). This was known as the Vedokta controversy. It brought a hornet's nest about his ears, but he was not the man to retrace his steps in the face of opposition. He soon became the leader of the non-Brahmin movement and united the Marathas under his banner.
Chhatrapati Shahu occupied the throne of Kolhapur for 28 years, from 1894 to 1922; during this period he initiated numerous social reforms in his empire. He is credited with doing much to improve conditions for the lower castes. He also ensured suitable employment for students thus educated, thereby creating one of the earliest affirmative action (50% reservation to weaker sections) programs in history. Many of these measures were effected in the year 1902. He started Shahu Chhatrapati Weaving and Spinning Mill in 1906 to provide employment. Rajaram college was built by Shahu Maharaj, and later was named after him.. His emphasis was on education, his aim being to make learning available to the masses. He introduced a number of educational programs to promote education among his subjects. He established hostels for different ethnicities and religions, including Panchals, Devadnya, Nabhik, Shimpi, Dhor-Chambhar communities as well as for Muslims, Jains and Christians. He established the Miss Clarke Boarding School for the socially quarantined segments of the community. Shahu introduced several scholarships for poor yet meritorious students from backward castes. He also initiated compulsory free primary education for all in his state. He established Vedic Schools which enabled students from all castes and classes to learn the scriptures, thus propagating Sanskrit education among all. He also founded special schools for village heads or ‘patils’ to make them better administrators.
Sahu was a strong advocate of equality among all strata of society and refused to give the Brahmins any special status. He removed Brahmins from the post of Royal Religious advisers when they refused to perform religious rites for non-Brahmins. He appointed a young Maratha scholar in the post and bestowed him the title of `Kshatra Jagadguru' (the world teacher of the Kshatriyas). This incident together with Shahu’s encouragement of the non-Brahmins to read and recite the Vedas led to the Vedokta controversy in Maharashtra. This dispute brought a storm of protest from the elite strata of society and vicious opposition to his rule. He established the Deccan Rayat Association in Nipani during 1916. The association sought to secure political rights for non-Brahmins and invite their equal participation in politics. Shahu was influenced by the works of Jyotiba Phule, and long patronized the Satya Shodhak Samaj, formed by Phule. In his later life, he eventually moved towards the Arya Samaj.
Shahu made great efforts to abolish the concept of caste segregation and untouchability. He introduced (perhaps the first known) reservation system in government jobs for untouchable castes. His Royal Decree ordered his subjects to treat every member of society as equal, and granting the untouchables equal access to public utilities like wells and ponds, as well as establishments like schools and hospitals. He legalised inter-caste marriage and made great efforts to improve the situation of the dalits. He discontinued the hereditary transfer of titles and tenures of revenue collectors (Kulkarni), a caste infamous for exploiting the masses, having enslaved the Mahars, a lower caste.
He also worked towards betterment of the condition of women in his empire. He established schools to educate women, and also spoke vociferously on the topic of women's education. He introduced a law banning the devadasi Pratha, the practice of offering girls to God, which essentially led to sexual exploitation of girls at the hands of the clergy. He legalised widow remarriage in 1917 and made efforts towards stopping child marriage.
Shahu introduced a number of projects which enabled his subjects to sustain themselves in their chosen professions. The Shahu Chhatrapati Spinning and Weaving Mill, dedicated marketplaces and co-operative societies for farmers were established to free his subjects from predacious middlemen in trading. He made credits available to farmers looking to buy equipment to modernise agricultural practices, and even established the King Edward Agricultural Institute to instruct farmers in increasing crop yield and related techniques. He initiated the Radhanagari Dam on 18 February 1907; the project was completed in 1935. The dam stands as a testament to Shahu’s vision for the welfare of his subjects and made Kolhapur self-sufficient in water.
He was a great patron of art and culture, encouraging music and the fine arts. He supported writers and researchers in their endeavours. He installed gymnasiums and wrestling pitches and highlighted the importance of health consciousness among the youth.
His seminal contribution in social, political, educational, agricultural and cultural spheres earned him the title of Rajarshi, which was bestowed upon him by the Kurmi warrior community of Kanpur.
Chhatrapati was introduced to Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar by artists Dattoba Pawar and Dittoba Dalvi. The Maharaja was greatly impressed by the great intellect of young Bhimrao and his revolutionary ideas regarding untouchability. The two met a number of times during 1917-1921 and went over possible ways to abolish the negatives of caste segregation. Together they organised a conference for the betterment of the untouchables during 21-22 March 1920 and the Chhatrapati made Dr. Ambedkar the Chairman as he believed that Dr. Ambedkar was the leader who would work for the amelioration of the segregated segments of the society. He even donated Rs. 2,500 to Dr. Ambedkar when he started his newspaper ‘Mooknayak’ on 31 January 1921, and contributed more later for the same cause. Their association lasted till the Chhatrapati’s death in 1922.
Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj died on 6 May 1922. He was succeeded by his eldest son Rajaram III as the Maharaja of Kolhapur. It was unfortunate that the reforms initiated by Chhatrapati Shahu gradually began to cease and fade for the lack of able leadership to carry on the legacy.
During his life he acquired the following titles and honorific names:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shahu of Kolhapur.|
Shahu of Kolhapur
Bhosale Dynasty (Kolhapur line)Born: 26 July 1874 Died: 6 May 1922
(as Raja of Kolhapur)
| Maharaja of Kolhapur
(as Raja of Kolhapur)
| Raja of Kolhapur
(as Maharaja of Kolhapur)
Please visit : www.shahumaharaj.com