From Chhatrapati to Lt. Col- A Painful Reality of Foreign Subjugation
While surfing the priceless treasures of Murdi's P K Paranjape library that was partially destroyed by the June cyclone, I came across thousands of rare books, and around 600 of them were published between the period of 1871 to 1945. These books offered me a chance to peep into the pre-independence era literature of India; especially the Marathi literature. A strong spirit of Resurging Indian Nationalism can be sensed in all these books, and many of these writers can be in a sense said to be still emotionally living in prosperous Maratha era. The Valiant age of Marathas when the Mughals were not only defeated militarily, but were almost obliterated. Comprehensive political control of the Marathas was established practically all over India barring few pockets in North West, North East and in the Southern regions of India.
Many of these books are memorials of quintessential scholarly work of historical research. They did extensive research during an era when there was no telecommunication, no rapid transport facilities and for every bit of information, they had to reach the spot to access old documents physically. I'll throw some light on what materials we recovered in a separate series. However, the objective of this write up is very different and let me elaborate it first.
There is a book in this library published in the year 1927 "Marathi Rajyacha Uttarardha- Khand Pahila" (मराठी राज्याचा उत्तरार्ध- खंड पहिला) by Yashwant Vasudeoshastry Khare from Miraj. This book sheds light into the period ruled by Peshava Madhavrao Ballal and Peshava Narayanrai Ballal ( January 1761 to August 1773). I won't go through the content of the book and will stop at its very first page about dedication. The author has dedicated this book to Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj (see the photo on the link). The content in Marathi reads "This book is dedicated to Shrimanmaharaj Kshatriya Kulavatans Lieutenant Colonel Sir Shri Rajaram Chhatrapati (GCIE) Sarkar, Rajya Karavir."
Here the designation of Chhatrapati Rajaram as Lt Col hurt me the most. But first, let us understand why?
While Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the head of the state and supreme commander of the Maratha Army, his military, diplomatic and political power had overwhelmed the Aadilshahi of Vijapur, Kutubshahi of Govalkonda, Portuguese of Goa and the Mughals of Delhi within a short span. Chhatrapati, with his military might and strategic foresight, had contained the British to the islands near Mumbai, Surat and few other trade pockets during the period of his rule.
In hundreds of letters exchanged between President of British Bombay and British representatives spread across Chhatrapati's kingdom, we can find British narrating how Marathas have squeezed their supplies, overtaxed their trade caravans beyond imagination and how their trade depots called Wakhars were dug, looted and razed to the ground by Shivaji Raje's commanders.
Not only that, when British sent their negotiator Mr Shenvi from Bombay Islands to convince Chhatrapati to compensate the looting of British depots of Rajapur and Hubli; Shivaji Raje stunned them by starting an entirely new issue. He told Shenvi to deliver a message to British of Bombay islands to stop harbouring Siddi warships anchored in Bombay Port. A surprised Shenvi replied that Siddi warships have temporarily taken shelter at port due to bad weather. However, Chhatrapati was not satisfied with the answer and issued an ultimatum stating that- " if they failed to expel the Siddi's from the Bombay Port, he would enforce the Dutch army with 10,000 strong cavalry- infantry formation to uproot British from Bombay and will try his best to burn and destroy, sink every Siddi warship anchored there! "
Upon receiving this stern warning, the British presidency of Bombay was shooked to the core and tried convincing Siddi's to leave the port; thus pacifying Chhatrapati. This was the position from which Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje dealt with the British.
But, situations changed, and British subjugated the fractured Indian States and established a pan Indian rule. Just within a span of few generations, Chhatrapati's direct descendants were awarded the posts of Lieutenant Colonel (then fifth officer rank) in British Indian Army; although an honorary rank. It's an unavoidable consequence of political-military subjugation of India by a handful of Britishers.
What pained me most; as I narrated earlier and repeating again is the journey of Hindu ruling clan from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as a head of sovereign state, supreme commander of Maratha armed forces, pioneer of a lightning cavalry in the Indian subcontinent, and the most effective Hindu King after Delhi's Prithviraj Chouhan to a Lieutenant Colonel of British Army.
What we must inculcate in our mind is that a few careless moves, unorganized nationalist elements, complacent behaviour, followed by reckless ignorance of foreign powers working on our soil can snatch away our freedom within few decades and we could become their slaves in no time!
I have great respect for Late Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj and the whole family which is still active in Maharashtra's social and political field. Also, any army man, whether he be a soldier or officer; is always my source of inspiration. Whatever I've written here, by any angle is not meant to denigrate Chhatrapati's Clan, nor it has anything to do about the post of Lieutenant Colonel.
So, my humble request to all is- Please try to read my emotions, pain and feelings and ignore the words!