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 ‘Devotees create a God out of a mortal – it absolves them of any responsibility to behave like their idol.’

– says Govind Pansare about Shivaji Maharaj, Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar.

In an eerie premonition, he second guesses their mysterious deaths too –viral fever, samadhi & flying chariot respectively used as elaborate cover-ups for their elimination.  Did he anticipate his own assassination too?

‘Shivaji Kon Hota?’ (Who was Shivaji?) is a slim (70 page) sharp analysis on Shivaji Maharaj.        6209899421_b3b9a929fb_b

Pansare does not deify Shivaji. Instead he takes down Shivaji from a temple sanctum – but places Maharaj on an even higher humanitarian pedestal.

He shoots down myths on Shivaji’s miracles (The famed Bhavani sword wasn’t a gift from a goddess, but crafted in Portugal)– and instead sings paens on Maharaj’s foresight, eye for detail (his soldiers were raised from farmers and allowed to return to farming – this gave them an empathy for civilians, women, children and crops as nothing else could) razor sharp administration, decisive moves, chivalry (every campaign had strict norms of not brutalizing or enslaving ladies of any caste and of not demolishing any worship place) and single minded devotion to Swarajya.

He cheers Maharaj even as he sneers at his pseudo-devotees, the ones who misuse Shivaji’s aura for personal & political motives, the ones who commit every crime using Shivaji’s shield – crimes that would have Maharaj throw them over a precipice.

Shivaji’s vision was Swarajya (freedom), not Hinduism. His earliest army was sculpted from farmers and shepherds, his navy from fishermen and merchants; barbers like Jiva mahal (Afzal Khan assassination) and Shiva (Panhala fort escape) played a protective role while his chief spy Bahirji Naik belonged to Ramoshi caste. Muslim converts like Nimbalkar and Netaji Palkar were embraced back, not ostracized.  Yet, while a brahmin Dadoji Kond dev trained young Shivaji, there were also Brahmins who performed Koti Chandi yagna to pray for Shivaji’s defeat by Jaising.

‘’Great men face rigid opposition in their lifetime – some even get assassinated. But if their revolutionary ideas stay alive in people’s minds, then their enemies find a novel technique to kill them once again.

They do a volte face and disguise themselves as bhakts (followers). They distort, mutilate and corrupt the original ideas – and present this corrupted version as THE vision to a gullible public. Nobody knows – or cares to know the difference.”

Pansare draws parallels in current times. For every vatandar sytem that Maharaj tore down, today there are panchayats, MLAs, sugar barons , corporations sucking away public blood. For every rapist that Maharaj had blinded, today’s political parties turn a blind eye to them. For every Madari Mehtar (Agra escape) and Daulat Khan (Naval commander) in Maharaj’s army, today Hindu Muslim riots are instigated using Shivaji’s pretext.

Pansare points out how Shivaji glory has been throttled from pan Bharat to Maharashtra, then further down to Maharashtrian Hindus and then further down to high caste Hindus.

Pansare was dangerously close to an inconvenient truth. Of course they had to kill him. Or … have they?

Maharaj still rules hearts and minds. The book is in its 4th edition and 45th reprint. Hope is still alive.  shivaji kon hota