This man deserved more than he has received. He left us some three centuries ago, but, even today, his relevance has not diminished. In fact, in this uncertain times, when we are struggling on our western and northern frontiers and even internally, his relevance has increased manifold. I am talking about the great Maratha ruler of the sixteenth century Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. His name has been only been used by all political parties for their very narrow political objectives. We failed desperately, as Late Shri Ninadji Bedekar, famous Historian used to say, to take Shivaji Maharaj on International fora. The military ruler was at par or fared even better than Alexander (the great ?), Napoleon or others. After three centuries we have now found a rock patch on an island to construct a ‘huge’ memorial. The irony is that around 380 forts of Swaraj are lying in state of abject neglect and apathy. (read my related article here)
Back to the main topic, since childhood, I myself and many like me, have grown up with the fed in thought process that Shivaji Maharaj died a natural death because of knee and joint pain because of excessive horse riding.
Of late, a new debate is taking place, by neo historians and history enthusiasts, claiming that in fact, Shivaji Maharaj was poisoned to death by his ministers who grew more ambitious. I have been a keen reader on the topic of Shivaji Maharaj who was my childhood hero, since, standard fourth, when the entire history book used to be dedicated to this great ruler. Unfortunately, the entire history of 50 years of the strife of this great hero does not find even 5 pages today. More stress is given for European, American history and revolutions. What kind of generation are we trying to raise? A generation which appreciates western history and abhors and disrespects our local history?
I have read many books and articles on this noble king, subscribed to various youtube channels to get as much as information. During all this research, I found that the history of Shivaji Maharaj is not properly documented, as one finds exactly opposite viewpoints, with supporting documentary evidence of that period. For example, Late Shri Ninad ji Bedekar claimed that the battle of Pavinkhind never took place, a skirmish took place at the base of Vishalgad where Baji Prabhu Deshpande was martyred. Shiv Shahir Shri Babasaheb Purandare in his oratory masterpiece Shiv Charitra, on the other hand, presents the tale which is now a folklore, the battle of Pavankhind.
The death of Shivaji Maharaj too is mired with uncertainty. I happened to watch a video on youtube (link) by Maratha History Channel, which with the help of documentary evidence claims that Shivaji Maharaj died a natural death at the age of 50. On the other hand, Professor Namdev Jadhav (link), who is a historian and a great orator with the help of some old documents (Bakhar) claims that Shivaji Maharaj was poisoned to death. This leaves the history enthusiast like me more confused.
The death of Shivaji Maharaj and reasons behind it is crucial, as a caste-based shade is now given even to his death, for narrow political gains. Let’s leave them aside. The reason of finding the exact reason of Shivaji Maharaj death is of prime importance because of the fact that had the king been poisoned, the act might have done an irreparable damage to the entire history of this subcontinent. Because had Shivaji Maharaj stayed for 15-20 years more, he had the gut, the gumption and the capacity to conquer the Mughal empire, which was on decline anyways. One must not forget the fact that only after the Britishers defeated the Peshwas and hoisted their Union Jack on Shaniwarwada, they could establish an unblemished empire which looted our nation and bifurcated it when the loot was over.
I strongly believe that a unified effort by historians, supported by Government and its agencies must be made to properly research and reach at a consensus so that actual history must be easily accessible to everyone and especially to the younger generations who nowadays find all that is Indian as outdated and out of fashion. Hence I strongly believe that the Mystery of Death of Shivaji Maharaj must be resolved at the earnest.