Not for myself I fought and ruled, but for God and the dharma, the religion of Hindu nationality which Ramdas enunciated (Conversations of the Dead, Shivaji & Jaysingh, by Sri Aurobindo)
I had heard about Shivaji for a long time without really knowing him well. There are cities in India where I feel ‘at home’, as if I already knew these places The first time I visited Pune, quite a few years back, I felt good, connected, spiritually alive. Was it my imagination? Nevertheless, I attributed this to Shivaji’s presence in His realm. When I finished the Art of Living course which I had come to conduct outside the city, I had a few hours before catching my plane and I set upon finding a museum about Shivaji, which I was sure was bound to exist in the city where he was born. I asked the driver and he took me to the main museum of Pune, the Raja Kelkar museum. It did look nice from the outside and it had indeed a marvelous collection of Mughal antiques which included paintings, instruments, lamps & different types of nut crackers. But I was astonished to see that there was not a single artifact on Shivaji. It did not make sense, because I had already noticed that Shivaji is a hero to most Maharashtrians whatever their political affiliation. I then explored other Pune museums: there is a Tilak museum, a tribal one, a war museum, but nothing on the great son of the soil who was born 60 kms from Pune.
As I finished my disappointing visit of the KeIkar museum, I felt right here and there that I should do something about honouring Shivaji in His city. But first I had to know him. I then set upon buying all the books that had been published about Shivaji. There came my second surprise: I quickly realized that all the biographies of Shivaji were terribly out dated: the most famous and quoted of all “Shivaji and his Times”, by (Sir) Jadunath Sarkar, was written in 1938! My favourite one, Chhatrapati Shivaji, by Setumadhavrao Pagadi, was published in 1973. It is the most recent of mainstream biographies of Shivaji. Now as Frenchman, I grew up hearing about the greatness of Napoleon who lived 300 years ago. And I do know that there is not a year that passes by, without two or three books on his life, his military victories, his mistresses, or his administration, being published.
How does Shivaji compare with Napoleon? Well, admirably. More than that even, as Shivaji surpasses him in many ways. Napoleon was a unique war strategist; and so was Shivaji. In fact, Chaatrapati fought in even more difficult conditions than Napoleon, as he did not have the might of a national army behind him and had to face the powerful and ruthless Mughal Empire of Aurangzeb. Napoleon was a remarkable administrator who made laws, some of them still in use in France; and so was Shivaji: once he conquered a territory, he made sure that it was well and fairly administered, as we will see later. What Shivaji did better than Napoleon then? Shivaji was secular, he believed in the oneness of all religions, though Hinduism was supreme to him. But furthermore, Shivaji was a Vibhuti, a direct incarnation from God who came to succour and help India at a time of great need, when the cruel and a-dharmic hand of Aurangzeb was poised to devastate the whole of the land and eventually make of the Indian subcontinent Dar al-Islam, the house of Islam.
It is necessary to dispel the impressions created by Indian and western historians who have made of the struggle of Shivaji a fight between Hindus & Muslims and an inter-religious struggle. It was not so: Moghuls in the times of Shivaji were still considered as ‘foreigners’. Thus it was a battle between Indians and invaders. Shivaji used his own integrity during this epic fight and mastered all the arts of wars of his time, so as to be that perfect leader. His courage to challenge the Mughals was unparalleled. He was truly a bhakti: SHIVAJI WORKED FOR THE DIVINE, AS GUIDED BY THE DIVINE
Great men and women who walk this earth and are instruments of God, do most of their work while in their physical body. But when they die, I believe they leave something behind, a presence, a will. This day, when I could not find a house in honor of Shivaji, the idea of a Museum of true Indian History, dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj started taking shape in my mind, as our Foundation FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism) had already made many exhibitions (see fact-india.com). Pune is the ideal place for this Museum: it’s Shivaji Maharaj’s realm, it is central to India and more than anything, Marathas have a stronger national fiber than in other states and I felt the Museum will be better protected here.
This is a difficult project. Whoever has never attempted to raise money for a Museum should give it a try… I have met hundreds of potential donors, but when I say that I want to build a Museum of true Indian History, it wipes off the smile of their faces and they say they have to consult their board, ha, ha… This is why we are most grateful to those who believed in this project and gave the bulk of the funds and also to the dozens of NRI’s who know me through my writings and trusted me with their donations.
Trying to portray Indian History as it happened, not as it has been written, is also a very sensitive task and at nearly every step, we have encountered obstacles sometimes even from our own people. Yet, Shivaji was an instrument of God and whoever binds him to a particular caste, or even a particular guru, demeans him and hampers his work, for he was a supra-national figure and his qualities of dedication to Mother India, of respect of human rights and honest administration, are needed today. His extraordinary courage in front of adversity, should also be an example to many Hindus, who today, at the slightest threat, go underground.
Please see the photos of what has already been done in the Museum on this link. This is just a humble beginning: we are planning to start the foundations of the main Museum which will house exhibitions from the Vedas to the India of tomorrow. If God, in spite of my shortcomings, gives me the strength, the enthusiasm and the health to do this work, it will be a wonderful and noble project, that will be talked about for generations. But for that we need funds a lot of funds and. I hope all of you will pass along the message to your friends.
The Museum, whose address is: Ahead of Marathwada Institute. Vadgaon Shinde road. Wadgaon. Pune 4, is OPEN every day from 9am to 6pm and entrance is FREE. Please tell your friends about it. we have daily aarti in the temple in the morning at 9.30am
FACT is a registered Trust with Indian & UK, US tax exemption. If you would like to help, you could make a donation to: FACT, Account No: 04071450000237, IFCS code: HDFC0000407. We will mail you back your tax exemption certificate and we will honor all our donors.
Namrita & François Gautier/ Trustees FACT