A History Lesson

A long time ago, a father told his little daughter a different kind of bedtime story.

It was the tale of a hero, who freed his people from the rule of a tyrant. The hero was young and brave, chivalrous and generous. He respected all religions, respected all women and punished those who showed the slightest disrespect to either. He was learned and kind, shrewd and just. All his men would have gladly put their lives on the line for him, and a honoured few did so too. His people loved him, his land sang his praises and he was a favourite of all the scholars, sages and saints who lived under his patronage. At 16, he was a rebel and a revolutionary. A few years later, he became a king who continued to rule his land with the inherent intelligence, cunning and statesmanship that made him the darling of the masses and a thorn in the side of the Emperor. He was not the king of indulgent fantasy who rolled on feathered beds with concubines and left his courtiers to manage the land in his wine-sodden drunkenness. He was a warrior king, the son of a soldier, who gave his land and his people the same love and respect he gave his mother.

Every night, the little girl would close her eyes thinking of this young hero, who shone in her dreams like a star, a moon, a sun. Her mind would fly into the world of imagination on the wings of his stories. And her little heart would fill with pride because he was, after all, of her land. Across time and space, she was his subject. He was her hero.

Years passed and the little girl grew up into a young woman, the stories of the hero still alive in a corner of her heart. She had learned about valour and honour from this man of history. He had taught her the meaning of secularism before she knew its spelling. But the world was a different place now. There was no valour and no honour and the only place one saw secularism was on a political party manifesto.

But the thing that hurt her the most, was this: a bunch of hooligans had appropriated her hero, made him the symbol of something he was not, never was, never could be. They had taken his saffron standard and made it something to be feared and hated. They had stolen his history and tailored it to their purposes. His name was a swear word that the populace shuddered to utter. Those who claimed to follow him were seen as fundamentalists, as violent, crazy, intolerant as the hooligans who used his name to cover up their religious crimes.

She pretended to ignore the vileness she saw, the insults to his name, the unforgivable mockery of his deeds. But at night, she dreamed of his men who conquered the night and welcomed death for him. She dreamed of his courage as he embraced a giant twice his size, survived his treachery and caused his downfall. She dreamed of his escape from the Emperor’s prison, his hauteur, his cunning, his skill at disguise and his power over the hearts of his people.

This wasn’t just some local upstart, with a political agenda in his head and a bunch of goons by his side. This was a man whose heart beat for his land and its people, religion, gender, caste and creed be damned.

And no bunch of slogan-shouting, saffron-waving reactionaries are going to change that about Shivaji.

5 thoughts on “A History Lesson

  1. So true. So true. I haven’t lived in bombay…so I haven’t heard the trash they try to make you believe. I have heard the real stories of the valour and the cunning, especially the escape from Aurangzeb.urgh, you write So well, it’s almost a crime….🙂


  2. I agree – completely. My only concern is that soon these lies and propaganda will blur into the truth and everyone will start accepting that. That is what scares me… who says history is written by the victor? It is also written by forgetful people who will believe something if it is shouted at them 15 times a day.


  3. So true!

    The great man is always misunderstood most. The saffron followers really don't know much about history and what he stood for (or intentionally overlook it). And the political party you are referring to is tarnishing his image for sure.

    BUT, the first thing that comes to my mind is how our history text books in schools are used as breeding grounds for creating such Saffron holigans. Consider this:

    1) For all his greatness, he also had a few short-comings. He probably wasn't the best father (Sambhaji had defected to Mughals when Shivaji was alive). And our education system never educates us about this because it might tarnish his image.

    2) Little is taught about Sambhaji in schools. There is just a small chapter or a few paragraphs for him. He was equally brave and is said to have been a better army general than his father. But because of his 'vices': dancing girls, alcohol and the influence of Kavi Kalash (coincidentally a North Indian!) on his life. If Sambhaji ever got substantial coverage in our history books, then it will reflect badly on Shivaji which in turn will affect future voters! Who the f&$k cares about complete knowledge!!


  4. 3) There was another person in the history of Maharashtra who deserves
    at least equal admiration and respect if not more: Bajirao Peshwe. But ever wondered why he's never used for political gains? Because his community (Koknastha Brahmins) is minuscule in numbers. So the 'size of the prize' (as we call it in marketing!) is not that big.

    Another case in point on how text books breed contempt: It is true that Mahmud Ghazni destroyed the Somnath temple but what our text books DON'T tell us is that there was a hindu king (Anand Shah i think was his name) who aided him in that! And the reason probably why the idol at the temple was destroyed was because money/gold in those days were always kept inside the platform on which the idol was placed. Hence the idols had to be broken to get money/gold! But our textbooks only tell us that a Muslim king destroyed a Hindu temple and lead us ti interpret it as communal violence!

    So irrespective of how great a person Shivaji was or whatever were his drawbacks, he will always be made out to be demi-god coz votes matter!

    The least that Shiv Sena can do to honour this great man is remove the name 'Shiv' from their party's name!


  5. You stole my feelings.

    Perfect depiction of today's reality.
    Sometime, it makes me laugh, when people from saffron brigade preach and practice things in name of SHIVAJI, which he stood completely against.

    Just a addition to your article, Shivaji's army consisted of 30% to 40% muslims. Most of his bodyguards were muslims.

    Also, some people try to argue and disparage him on Sambajiraje. People show learn and know how did Sambaji die, before even uttering on anything.

    Shivaji stood for everyone, people of all caste, creed and religion. He laid foundation to a empire so big, which is modern day India.

    Really felt blissful reading this article.


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