There is a mad rush of two kinds, it seems, one is to rename the places and other is to build huge monuments. The places are being renamed in such a haste that one will certainly be confused for a while. A new station almost popped out of nowhere between Jogeshwari and Goregaon, it was named Ram Mandir. Elphinstone road station is being renamed as Prabhadevi, a proposal is under consideration to renaming Dadar as Chaityabhoomi and many such proposals are in the air. All for narrow political gains and to score those precious brownie points with their respective vote banks. Monuments are also being created with equal pace. A huge statue of Sardar Patel is coming up in Gujarat. A monument for the great Maratha warrior King Shivaji Maharaj, at least the foundation stone of which has been laid in the Arabian Sea.
I have been a self-proclaimed follower of Shivaji Maharaj since my early childhood days. We, as kids grew up listening to his stories of valor. Over the years, I have read as much literature as possible on the great king, have never missed an opportunity to visit a fort during my tours. Even in the last trip to Jaigad for some other work, I made it a point to visit the Jaigad fort. The conditions of these forts make me angry, very very angry. In my earlier blog post on Lohgad fort penned in 2010 (read here), i had raised the condition of the fort and the ensuing loot that was going on there. In my social life, working with an NGO we had written to the Cultural Ministry about the apathy shown towards the upkeep of these monuments. No reply was ever received, for obvious reasons. No one cares.
The Jaigad fort, which I recently visited too is a nice little fort, just 14 kms away from the famous temple town of Ganapatipule. The fort is in its worst condition, the walls are cracking up, there are no signs of upkeep. One banner of “swaccha bharat abhiyan” was hanging at the entrance which contradicted the condition of the fort. There was an office of Archeological Survey of India, but, it looked deserted. Considering the fact that the fort was just 14 kms away from Ganapatipule, one would assume that there would be rush here, but, the fort looked desolate, with two or three groups. The fort is adorned with a creek and is the meeting point of Shashti river. It gives a very beautiful scenic view. The fort would have had its deserved part of glory, had it been maintained properly.
This condition prevails in just all the forts in Maharashtra. Shivaji Maharaj built forts, more than 350 of them, at very strategic places. But, alas, we failed to keep these marvelous pieces of history alive. The restoration work that is seen in some forts, Shivneri, for example, seems to be out of sync, it does not match the original aesthetics or color combination and looks too much cosmetic. Even the tourists who visit these forts have a large chunk of blame to accept, as they come at these historical places to enjoy their holidays and weekends. The walls of these forts are scribbled with all and sundry names. Forts are not understood, very few care to taken assistance of guides, if they are available, or any reference material to study the fort or its importance. At Raigad fort, we found that the very seat where Shivaji Maharaj was coronated, youths climbed up with shoes and chappals to take group photos and selfies. How insulting is that?
Contrast this with the upcoming huge monument costing Rs.3600 crores. From the video which is circulating in the social media (if it is to be believed), the monument would be magnanimous. I do not oppose a monument, per se, for this great king. In fact, i strongly believe that we as Indians have failed to take this noble king to the world. A king who ranked second to none. However, would it not be have been proper, if we would have shown that much care for the original monuments that are lying without care. If, we really loved and adored this great king, we would not have left these forts in the condition that they are right now. It looks hypocritical, short visioned plan, to build a huge monument, when the originals are left to fend for themselves.
Forts are a great treasure of past. If they are properly developed, proper infrastructure is created, awareness is created, it can become living source of inspiration to coming generation. It will also assist the locals around the fort in generating some revenue through tourism. We are blessed to have so many forts, including sea forts, but, for our apathy.
Late Shri Ninadji Bedekar, renowned historian used to tell a story about his trip to Great Britain. He inquired with the locals why they did not have a monument for their great Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The reply he received was Churchill rests in our heart, we do not need a monument. It seems, we failed to keep Shivaji Maharaj in our hearts, atleast the political breed, for they are not as visionary as their King was.