Bahujan Revolutionary King Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj


Bahujan Revolutionary Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, The King of common people.

Rajarshi Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj was a true visionary social reformer. His simple living, remarkable efforts for the welfare of backward classes and his genuine contributions to educational, social and even agricultural reforms like water harvesting will always guide us towards doing better things for our nation.

  1. Shahuji Maharaj’s contribution towards building Radhanagari Dam
    As the King of Kolhapur, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj decided to construct the Radhanagari Dam, considered the second dam in India, on 18 February 1907, foundation stone laid down in 1909. The Dam was completed in 1935 and has been working at full capacity since 1938. While it is said that post medieval age Indian kings in general overlooked the problems of common citizens but Radhanagari Dam is the living illustration of Shahu Maharaj’s vision towards the development and welfare of common citizens. The Dam is being used for irrigation as well as hydro-electricity power generation.

Radhanagari Dam is the mission of my Life.” These were the words of Shahu Maharaj. He dedicated his life for this dream. During the construction of this dam Maharaj used to stay in his bungalow Benzar Villa, which went underwater after the construction of the dam. Probably due to decreased rain fall and dried up surroundings, it has again visible for the tourists in the modern day.

It’s solely because of the visionary Shahu Maharaj that Kolhapur is self sufficient in Water Management, unlike places like Latur.

  1. The Practice of Reservation was first introduced in modern India by Rajashree Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj in his own kingdom from 26 July 1902. The idea of reservation came from Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, but the task of implementing this idea was undertaken for the first time by his intellectual heir and follower Shahu Maharaj. He declared his intention of implementing 50% reservations (excluding four jatis of Brahmins, Parsi, Shenvi, Prabhu) in his Kolhapur kingdom on 26th July 1902. Out of some 664 princely states that existed at the time in India, only two kingdoms was just and fair to Bahujan Samaj : (1) Karvir (2) Baroda. Both belonged to Marathas.

Chhatrapti Shahu Maharaj was a reformer in deeds and not just in words. Besides he was intelligent and smart. The following incidents from his life shows this brilliantly:

(a) As soon as implementation of 50% reservation for all the Bahujans declaration was made by Shahu Maharaj, one clerk named Adv. Ganpat Abhyankar from Sangli province of Patwardhan administration came to Kolhapur to meet Shahu Maharaj and opposed reservations. Chatrapti Shahu Maharaj was a reformer in deeds and not just in words. Besides he was intelligent and smart. He understood the communalistic plot of Adv. Ganpat Abhayankar. He took Adv. Abhayankar to the stable where horses are tied. All the horses were eating their food like harabras/chanas from their containers tied to their mouths in a very relaxed manner. Just then Shahu Maharaj ordered to open the mouths of horses and pour their food at one location on a mat. Then he ordered to untie all the horses. Adv. Ganpat Abhayankar was witnessing this scene attentively. Just when the guards untied the horses then those horses that were powerful, strong, heavy and healthy, plunged on the food, while those horses which were weak, sick, small, and miserable stood afar and only kept watching. What were they watching? Horses that were powerful, were not even eating properly. All that they were eating was what already was in their mouth because the relentless struggle and fight with equally strong fellow horses kicking from behind made sure that no one comes closer to the food. The weak horses thought of not entering into the rush of the heavy powerful horses because anyway they were not going to get anything. At this moment, Shahu Maharaj spoke to Adv. Ganpat Abhayankar pointing towards the weak horses, “Abhaynkar, what do I do with these weak horses? Shall I shoot them? I knew this would happen. That’s why I have tied each horse’s share of food to their mouth so that nobody else will put their mouth in their food. This is called ‘Reservation’.” At this Adv.Abhayankar hung his head down. He got the answer to his question. Shahu Maharaj continued, “Abhayankar, Jatis do not exists amongst humans. They exist amongst animals. But you allied this system of animals to humans, so I applied the human system to animals.” Abhayankar was completely at a loss of words and kept his mouth shut.

(b) Honorable Bhaskarao Vithojirao Jadav topped metric in Bombai in 1888. Then topped in B.A. Exam of Bombay University. He then passed his M.A first class and then passed his LL.B. in 1997. Having a child of Marathas topped B.A. in Bombay University gave immense joy to the Shahu Maharaj and he distributed sugar from the top of an elephant. In 1895 Shahu Maharaj facilitated Bhaskar Jadhav by appointing him to the top most post of his kingdom –‘Assistant Sarsubhe’, which is the equivalent of today’s District Magistrate, much to the displeasure of the then occupants of such high posts, as till then apparently only Brahmins got to occupy such posts. People of the stature of the famous social reformer Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade are known to have expressed their discontent. Ranade writes in a letter to Raghunath Vyankaji Sabnis: “Oh Sabnis, will this Maratha works as sharply as you and I Brahmins?” What this shocking informations shows us is that even some of the highly regarded figures of our freedom struggle were not above caste discrimination. (Another story about Ranade is that when his first wife died and his sister herself being a widow, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule met him and said, “Ranade, you believe yourself great social reformer. Now the opportunity to become truly great social reformer has walked up to you. You are a widower yourself. So you may marry one widow and get your widow sister at home married to a widower.” but alas, later Ranade is known to have, at the age of 32, married a girl of 9 years and kept his widow sister at home as it is.)

(c) Shahu Maharaj used to endeavor to make smallest person big. Once Shahu Maharaj gave sanad to 3rd Standard pass out Tukarambua Ganeshcharya, of Matang community to practice law. The entire upper castes rose in uproar that a mere 3rd standard pass out Tukarambua Ganeshcharya was granted to practice law. A few Brahmins came to meet Shahu Maharaj and expressed their disagreements. Shahu Maharaj told them coolly: “You don’t take your cases to him.” The Brahmins were at a loss what to say.

(d) Once Shahu Maharaj gave job to a person of Matang community in the Court. The privileged castes, especially Brahmins who had exclusively filled the Court till then, could not digest the fact that one Matang would work in the Court with them. They decided to drive him away. They ragged him. Other Brahmins in the court office gave him separate table, separate chair, separate mat, separate glass and also separate room. Nobody spoke to him nor was anyone telling him to do any work. Angry looks of Brahmins and gossips about him was what he had to tolerate. He felt miserable and was at the brink of crying. After 15 days, the officer in the position of judge remarked in his confidential report (CR) that this Matang worker is not doing any work, he is inefficient in doing any work and recommended deduction of his 15 days salary. Shahu Maharaj did not take this matter seriously. But then after another 15 days same remarks came about in his confidential report (CR). “That worker is not doing any work. He is not efficient in any work. His one month’s salary must be cut and he be reduced from the job.” After reading this confidential report Shahu Maharaj decided to personally pay attention in this case. He conducted inquiry through intelligence agencies and found out the real reasons. After finding out the real reasons Shahu Maharaj issued a memo to that officer. In this memo Shahu Maharaj says “As per your letter you say that this officer is inefficient and you are correct here. I felt this after conducting inquiry. But I am hereby placing one responsibility on you; that of making this inefficient worker efficient within 15 days. Otherwise your 15 days’ salary will be cut.” Promptly after 15 days, the officer’s report reached Shahu Maharaj stating that “That worker is every efficient and he has improved tremendously.” This is what we call tit for tat.

Conclusion: Reservation is not beggary, alms or crutches. It is representation. By giving reservations was Rajashree Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj wanting to make beggars or handicaps in his kingdom? Definitely not. Shahu Maharaj thought that this is an issue of representation. That was why he asked Bhaskar Rao Jadhav to demand representation.

Life Sketch of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj

  • 1874: Born on 26 June at Laxmi Vilas Palace, Bawada, Kolhapur.
  • 1876: On 3 January, Bapusaheb, the elder brother of Shahu was born.
  • 1884: On 17 March, he was adopted by Anandibai, widow of Raja Shivaji IV. In the Adoption Ceremony, Coronation Ceremony, Chhatrapati Shahu was respectfully addressed by the citizen’s of Kolhapur.
  • 1885: On 31 December, he travelled to Rajkot for education.
  • 1886:
    In January, Shahu was admitted to the famous Rajkumar Mahavidyalay, Rajkot.
    On 20 March, Shahu’s father, Jaysingrao alias Abasaheb Ghatge died.
    On 22 March, Shahu and his friends reached Kolhapur to attend Abasaheb’s funeral.
    In Novembar, Shahu meets Governor General Lord Dufferin at Mumbai.
  • 1888: On 8 May, Chhatrapati Shahu laid the Foundation stone of Kolhapur Miraj Railway.
  • 1889:
    In April, Shahu returned to Kolhapur from Rajkumar Mahavidyalay, Rajkot.
    On 22 May, Sir Stuart Mitford Fraser was appointed as Shahu’s teacher and guardian.
    On 11 June, he went to Dharwad for further education.
  • 1890: He met Prince Albert Victor during the Prince’s visit to India and Nepal.
  • 1891:
    On 1 April, he married Laxmibai, daughter of Gunajirao Khanvilkar of Baroda.
    On 20 April, Kolhapur Miraj Railway was inaugurated by the auspicious hands of Governor Lord Harris.
    On 21 April, Governor Lord Harris inaugurated an industrial exhibition at Kolhapur.
    On 11 May, the marriage ceremony of Bapusaheb Maharaj, Shahu’s brother was concluded.
    From 5 November to 21 December, Shahu visited south India along with his co-learners and Sir Fraser.
  • 1892: From 28 October to 24 December Shahu, visited North India along with his co-learners and Sir Fraser.
  • 1893:
    In January, Shahu returned to Kolhapur from Dharwad. Raghunath Vyankaji Sabnis was appointed as Shahu’s local teacher.
    In November, Shahu completed his academic education. Shahu visited entire Karveer Sansthan to perceive administration and to know about his kingdom.
  • 1894:
    On 10 March, Shahu’s first baby girl, Princess Radhabai alias Akkasaheb, was born.
    On 2 April, Governor Lord Harris handed over the charge to Chhatrapati Shahu of governing Karveer Sansthan. Chhatrapati Shahu addressed to the citizens of Kolhapur and declared his first manifesto assuring public welfare.
    On 13 April, Raghunath Vyankaji Sabnis was appointed as Shahu’s secretary (Huzur Chitnis).
    On 14 April, Chhatrapati Shahu declared his first pronouncement. Courts were prohibited auctioning cattle of farmers. Regulations regarding hunting were published.
    On 10 August, Chhatrapati Shahu handed over the authority of Kagal Province to his brother Bapusaheb.
    On 24 September, Chhatrapati Shahu was hosted and honored in a public meeting at Pune.
  • 1895:
    On 1 January, Queen Victoria honored Chhatrapati Shahu with ‘G.C.S.I.’.
    From 21 March to 20 April, Chhatrapati Shahu stayed in the tribal region of Panhala & listened to the grumbles of tribes.
    On 27 March, Chhatrapati Shahu offered a grand welcome ceremony to the Governor Lord Sandhurst at Pune. The occasion was the inauguration of new building of Fergusson College. Shahu was the president of the institution.
    On 31 May, Chhatrapati Shahu returned his rights of hanging criminals till death to the Governor General.
    On 1 June, Bhaskarrao Jadhav was appointed as ‘Sahayak Sarsubhaa’.
    On 24 August, Jungle law was declared to protect wildlife in the region. At the same time, Chhatrapati Shahu reserved rights of tribes.
    On 26 August, Shivaji Smarak Deligation met Chhatrapati Shahu in his court regarding the repair of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja’s Mausoleum.
    On 1 September, Sou. Radhabai Krushnarao Kelavkar was appointed as a chief of the Department of Female Education.
    On 18 September, Governor Lord Sandhurst assigned the signet to Chhatrapati Shahu at Pune. Chhatrapati Shahu was honored by ‘G.C.S.I.’.
    In November, Chhatrapati Shahu accepted presidential post of ‘Shivaji Nidhi Samitee’.
    On 14 December, the great grandmother of Chhatrapati Shahu passed away.
  • 1896:
    In March, Chhatrapati Shahu started work of ‘Shahupuri’ – the new Merchant Center in Kolhapur.
    In April, Chhatrapati Shahu visited regions in Sahyadri ranges.
    On 24 June, Raghunath Vyankoji Sabnis was appointed as the Minister of revenue.
    On 22 August, ‘Maratha Aikyechchu Sabhaa’ honored Chhatrapati Shahu at Boribandar Station.
    On 15 October, Chhatrapati Shahu inaugurated a dispensary in the memory of Ahilyabai Holkar.
    On 20 November, Chhatrapati Shahu visited drought affected regions of Raibag, Gadhinglaj and Katkol.
  • 1897:
    On 18 January, Colonel Ray was appointed as the British political agent.
    From January to May, Chhatrapati Shahu visited drought affected regions of Bhudargad and Panhalpeta.
    On 21 June, a special court was organised at the new palace on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee.
    On 22 June, Chhatrapati Shahu laid the foundation stone of ‘Victoria Leper Asayama’ building.
    On 31 July, Chhatrapati Shahu’s first son, Rajaram Maharaj was born.
  • 1898:
    On 5 September, Raghunath Vyankaji Sabnis was appointed as a Diwan of Karveer Sansthan.
    This year, Chhatrapati Shahu planned numerous remedies against death & plague.
  • 1899:
    On 15 April, Chhatrapati Shahu’s second son, Prince Shivaji, was born.
    On 5 August, there were efforts to make Chhatrapati Shahu a victim in the case of poisoning to the British political agent Colonel Ray.
    In early November one morning Chhatrapati Shahu went to Panchaganga River for bath where the ‘Vedokta controversy’ began.
    The Palace of Kolhapur, Palace of Panhala & British office were connected through telephone for speedy decisions regarding activity to restrict plague.
  • 1900: On 24 May, the British Queen Victoria honored Chhatrapati Shahu as a ‘Maharaja’ considering his dedication to his duty of public welfare.
  • 1901:
    On 18 May, ‘Victoria Maratha Boarding House’ was inaugurated by the auspicious hands of the British Political agent Sir W. T. Morrison.
    In July, Chhatrapati Shahu was drawn in Balmaharaj adoption legislation.
    In August, a discussion of Chhatrapati Shahu and Bal Gangadhar Tilak regarding Tai Maharaj issue took place.
    On 25 September, Colonel Cilley laid down the foundation stone of the new building of the Maratha Hostel.
    On 1 October, Chhatrapati Shahu ordered to perform all the religious rituals according to the Vedas.
  • 1902:
    In January, Krushnabai Kelavkar was appointed as an assistant doctor at Albert Edward memorial hospital.
    In March, Chhatrapati Shahu meets Sir Stuart Mitford Fraser in Bangalore. He was Shahu’s teacher and guardian.
    On 16 April, the ‘Vedokta Committee’ presented a detailed report. Chhatrapati Shahu was entitled by vedokta.
    On 6 May, all the rewards and authorities of Rajopadhye were sealed.
    On 11 May, Chhatrapati Shahu was honored by Southern Maratha Kings at Miraj.
    On 14 May, Chhatrapati Shahu departed from Kolhapur to attend the coronation ceremony of the British King Edward VII.
    On 17 May, Chhatrapati Shahu’s departed from Mumbai to England.
    On 2 June, Chhatrapati Shahu reached England.
    On 10 June, considering his work in educational & cultural fields, University of Cambridge awarded Chhatrapati Shahu with the honorary degree of ‘L. L. D.’.
    On 12 June, a grand welcome ceremony was organised to respect Chhatrapati Shahu by Winchester College.
    On 16 June, Chhatrapati Shahu along with other Hindi Kings attended a military parade of 30,000 soldiers.
    On 17 June, Chhatrapati Shahu attended a hosting ceremony by ‘Royal Asiatic Society of London’.
    In June, Chhatrapati Shahu attended a ceremony of ‘Imperial Institute’ at London. All the Indian kings were honored in this ceremony.
    On 30 June, Sir Alfred Pease of the British Parliament organised a special honor for Chhatrapati Shahu.
    Also in June, the ‘Royal Agriculture Society’ declared an honorary membership to Chhatrapati Shahu.
    On 2 July, the Prince of Wales honored Chhatrapati Shahu. Chhatrapati Shahu visited Windsor castle along with Shinde of Gwalior.
    On 11 July, on behalf of all Indian Kings, Chhatrapati Shahu delivered a speech at the ‘Royal Colonial Institute’. The program was organised on the occasion of the coronation ceremony.
    On 16 July, Chhatrapati Shahu met his well wisher Sir William LeWarner.
    On 24 July, Chhatrapati Shahu and his family started his Europe tour.
    On 26 July, the first declaration of 50% reservation to the backward class was published in the Gazetteer of Karveer Sansthan.
    On 1 August, Chhatrapati Shahu returned to England from his Europe tour. Discussed about the difficulties of Indian students in England.
    On 9 August, Chhatrapati Shahu attended the coronation ceremony of the British King Edward VII at Westminster Abbey. He left the British coast and reached Mumbai coast on 30
    th August.
    On 31 August, Chhatrapati Shahu reached Kolhapur.
    On 2 September, the citizens of Karveer Sansthan honored Chhatrapati Shahu regarding his safe arrival from England.
    In September, without the atonement for sea-faring, Chhatrapati Shahu visited the temples of goddess Ambabai & the goddess Bhawani and prayed.
    On 14 September, Chhatrapati Shahu’s adoptive mother Anandibai Ranisaheb passed away.
  • 1903:
    On 1 January, Chhatrapati Shahu attended the prime ceremony of ‘Delhi Darbar’.
    On 9 January, Duke of Connaught honored Chhatrapati Shahu with the degree of C. G. V. O. He was the first Indian king to get this honor.
    On 19 February, Political agent Colonel Ferris refused Rajopadhye’s application.
  • 1904:
    On 1 April, Bhaskarrao Jadhav was appointed as Superintendent of Kolhapur Municipality.
    In April, Princess Radhabai alias Akkasaheb was engaged with the King of Devas, Maharaja Tukojirao Pawar.
    In October, Governor Lord Lamington visited Kolhapur. He was highly impressed with the public welfare work of Chhatrapati Shahu.
  • 1905:
    On 1 January, the British Government awarded Chhatrapati Shahu with the degree of M. E. O. C.
    On 2 January, the Right of the Superior Court was offered to Chhatrapati Shahu by Mumbai Government.
    In January, Chhatrapati Shahu visited Bhavnagar along with the princes.
    In April, Chhatrapati Shahu inaugurated a knitting mill at Shirol.
    On 9 May, Rajopadhye’s application was rejected by the national government. It proved Chhatrapati Shahu’s victory.
    Also in May Tatyaarao Joshirao, a Purohit; was appointed in the place of Rajopadhye.
    On 10 July, Karveer Shankaracharya declared full rights of Vedokta to Chhatrapati Shahu.
    On 10 September, all the property of Shankaracharya Math (Monastery) was returned to Shri Vidhya Narasinh Bharati.
    On 22 September, Prof. Vijapurkar was suspended.
    On 9 November, the welcome ceremony of the British Prince & Princess at Bombay was organised.
    On 18 November, Lord Minto takes over as the Governor of India. Chhatrapati Shahu attended this ceremony in Bombay.
    In November, Chhatrapati Shahu attended the farewell ceremony of Lord Curzon who returned England from Bombay.
    On 20 December, the Brahmin community of Kolhapur agreed to the Vedokta rights of Chhatrapati Shahu.
  • 1906:
    On 9 September, Chhatrapati Shahu meets General Minto at Shimla.
    On 27 September, Foundation stone of ‘Shree Shahu Spinning & weaving Mill’ was laid down by the auspicious hands of Chhatrapati Shahu.
    On 15 November, ‘The King Edward Mohammadan Education Society’ was formed, with Chhatrapati Shahu as the founder president.
  • 1907:
    In February, Shahu Maharaj delivered a guidance speech in front of Lingayat Society at Siddhagiri.
    In the same month, renowned engineer Vishweshwarayya visited Kolhapur. He visited many lakes in Kolhapur province.
    On 1 March, Shahu Maharaj appealed to the institutions and Jagirdars to help Fergussen College.
    On 11 June, Shahu Maharaj ordered not to organise any public meeting without permission of the district magistrate.
    On 16 June, Shahu Maharaj got injured after falling down from horse during hunting at Dajipur.

Legacy of Shahuji Maharaj

Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur; the most popular Maratha King with a revolutionary vision. He was a social reformer to work for rural and low-caste indigent by providing them free education along with hostel facility in Kolhapur state. Even in today’s era, his foresight can be seen everywhere while considering development of Kolhapur, Maharashtra and India as well. This website is a small initiative to spread the greatness of the visionary king. After 100 years, when not a single thought of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj has become anachronistic, his vision & strategies are still as fresh as the blooming flower in the midst of nature. During a short life span and his tenure as a Chhatrapati, he has marked his works in the history of our nation. Kolhapur; a branch of a royal Maratha kingdom of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj; is blessed by the goddess of health, wealth, prosperity and peace Shri Mahalaxmi (Ambabai) who is also known as the mother of this universe. Kolhapur is the land where you find nature that is exquisitely beautiful, animals that are rare, and people who are proud and inviting. It is the land of the mighty river Panchaganga (Confluence of five rivers) and an Indian Gaur (Bison) who resides in Western Ghats. Kolhapur is a beautiful and diverse region with an incredible range of cultures and landscapes located in the world famous Western Ghats of India. It shares its borders with Karnataka, Goa & Konkan. All along this region you will find many green ways passing through Western Ghats. Satara lies to Kolhapur’s North and Sangli to East. Previously Kolhapur was a separate Maratha Empire for many decades and a princely state during British government. Kolhapur became a part of Independent India and was absorbed into it during 1947 to 1949. It is known for its rich biodiversity. Kolhapur has successfully conserved its bio diversity, along with the tiger and numerous species of birds, and it provides large number of Indian Bison. But apart from all other things anything about Kolhapur is shortened without mentioning Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj’s name. Truly, he was an architect of modern Kolhapur.

Once the late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Dams are not just constructions of cement and concrete, but in fact are places of pilgrimage in the modern India.” This was in fact the vision of Kolhapur’s King Shahu Maharaj almost 100 years before when he decided to construct Radhanagari Dam, which is considered the second dam in India (next to Kallanai by Karikala Chola), on 18 February 1907. Once the place of the dam was decided, the construction of houses for labourers and officials started which took almost two years, so the foundation stone for the dam was laid down only in 1909. In those days, there were neither engineering experts nor the availability of a skilled labor force; hence the work progressed at a very slow rate. There is a story about the shortage of funds also in air but King Shahu Maharaj was determined to complete the project so that the water for irrigation would be available in abundance and add to the per capita income of Kolhapurkars.

Radhanagari Dam was completed in 1935 and since 1938 has been working at full capacity. While it is normally it is said that post medieval Indian kings and rulers overlooked the problems of common citizens, Radhanagari Dam is the living illustration of Shahu Maharaj’s vision towards the development and welfare of common citizens.

The Bahujan Samaj owes a deep debt of gratitude to the Bahujan revolutionary Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj who was the ruler of Kolhapur state in Maharashtra from 1884 to 1922. Maharaj of Kolhapur wanted to exterminate the stifling and strangulating structures of caste system and untouchability which are the immoral institutions created by the rapacious upper classes. By undertaking the responsibilities of the “Satya Sodhak Samaj movement” which was started by Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Shahu Maharaj toiled untiringly to uplift the Bahujan Samaj. He cautioned the Bahujan Samaj by showing the flagrant injustice happened to them by the despotic rule carried by the brahminical gluttons who seized hegemony in every sphere. Shahu Maharaj proposed communal representation and he viewed it as one of the weapons of liberation for the Bahujan Samaj. Writing to Lord Sydenham, Ex- Governor of Bombay in 1918, he said “the principle that majorities have no need of separate representation doesn’t hold good in a province where a selfish minority is likely to get the power, which is sure to be used to hold the majority (Bahujan Samaj) in perpetual vassalage”. 

Shahu Maharaj instigated many programs in order to liberate the Bahujan Samaj from the cloak of brahminical hegemony. The programs are as follows:

• Initiated hostels & boarding houses in the name of Hostel Movement
• Started a scheme called “Scheme Of Moral & Material Progress”
• Imposed compulsory & free education for all
• Gave special encouragement to female education and provided various educational facilities to backward class students
• Followed a policy of encouraging the establishment of libraries in different places and adopted measures to improve higher education
• Implemented 50% reservations for backward classes and issued an order on 26/7/1902

Shahu Maharaj was a true successor of Jyotirao Phule; he was a product of the movement led by Phule called Satya Sodhak Samaj movement. In the year 1882, Phule made a demand of free and compulsory education for everyone along with proportionate representation in government jobs to Hunter commission and as a successor of Phule, Shahu Maharaj implemented 50% reservations in his state in the year 1902 where some of the scholars refer this implementation as the first official instance (Government Order) providing for reservation for depressed classes in India. Dr. Ambedkar too, got a financial assistance for his higher education and his fort nightly “Mook Nayak”. Later, on March 21, 1920, when Dr. Ambedkar presided over a conference of the “untouchables” at Mangaon in the Kolhapur state, it was attended by Shahu Maharaj and there he declared “you (Bahujan Samaj) have found your savior in Ambedkar. I am confident that he will break your shackles. Not only that, a time will come when, so whispers my conscience, Ambedkar will shine as a front rank leader of all India fame & appeal.” Subsequently, Ambedkar and Kanshiram applauded the legacy of Shahu Maharaj.

Shahu Maharaj is credited with doing much to further the lot of the lower castes. He did much to make education and employment available to all: he not only subsidized education in his state, eventually providing free education to all, but also opened several hostels in Kolhapur thereby facilitating the education of the rural and low-castes. He also ensured suitable employment for students thus educated, thereby creating one of the earliest known Affirmative action programs in history of India. Many of these measures were effected in the year 1902.

Shahu’s other initiatives included restricting Child marriage in his state and the encouragement of intercaste marriage and widow remarriage. He long patronised the Satya Shodhak Samaj but later moved towards the Arya Samaj. Under the influence of these social-reform movements, Shahu arranged for several non-Brahmin youths to be trained to function as priests, in defiance of old conventions which reserved the priesthood for those of the Brahmin caste. However, he faced opposition from many, including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the very famous patriot of that time. There are many instances of Shahuji Maharaj and Dr. Ambedkar sharing a common bond and is well evident in Mooknayak (weekly publication by Dr. Ambedkar). Shahuji Maharaj during his address to the Depressed Classes Conference at Kolhapur, described Dr. Ambedkar as a future national leader and shocked orthodox society by dining with Dr. Ambedkar.

Chhatrapati Shahu was very fond of wrestling and encouraged it in his kingdom. Many wrestlers from all over India came to Kolhapur, as wrestling enjoyed royal patronage in Kolhapur.

The government of India hails Shahu Maharaj as a “social revolutionary, a true democrat, a visionary, a patron of the theatre, music and sports and a prince of the masses. Chhatrapati Shahu was a many-splendoured personality who thought and acted far ahead of his times.”

During his reign, Shahu Maharaj gave special importance to the education of the masses and introduced several programs for them. He started separate hostels in Kolhapur for students from the Maratha, Lingayat, Panchal, Jain, Muslims, Shimpi, Devadnya, Vaishya, Dhor-Chambhar and Nabhik communities and the Miss Clark Boarding especially for the students from the untouchable (socially quarantined) communities. He offered scholarships to the needy and intelligent students from the backward castes so that they could continue their education. He made primary education compulsory and free for all in his Princely State. His royal decree held up the cause of women’s education. To abolish untouchability, he stopped the cruel system followed by many institutions to hold separate schools for the upper and lower castes in 1919. He started Patil schools so that village heads could be good administrators. In times when the study of Vedic literature was considered a domain of the Brahmins (higher caste Pundits), he established Vedic schools that taught the Vedas to the masses and Sanskrit schools for the propagation of the Sanskrit language.

He vehemently opposed caste discrimination and took many steps to abolish untouchability. He introduced reservation for the untouchables in government jobs. He issued a royal decree in his Princely State to treat all humans equal and to give equal access to the untouchables to public utilities like common wells, schools, hospitals and common buildings. His commitment to abolish untouchability was such that he was even ready to give up his throne for the service of the dalit or lower class people. He legalised inter caste marriages and discontinued the hereditary tenures (Watan) of revenue collectors (Kulkarni), infamous for exploiting the masses, as also the Mahar tenures that enslaved the Mahars (a lower caste). In 1917 he legalised remarriages and widow remarriages in his Princely State. He also introduced a law banning the practice of Devdasis (a tradition where a girl is offered to God).

He strived for giving the masses and lower class communities equal participation in political power. In 1916, he established the Deccan Rayat Association in Nipani with the objective of securing political rights for the non-Brahmins. He toured Maharashtra extensively and held public meetings to promote the cause of the anti-Brahmin movement. The struggle over the right to recite the Vedas occurred in Rajarshi Shahu’s time. This struggle created a storm in the social life of Maharashtra, and gave birth to the Satyashodhak (truth finding) movement.

Rajarshi Shahu implemented a number of projects in his Princely State, like establishing the Shahu Chhatrapati Spinning and Weaving Mill, Shahupuri market, a market for jaggery, construction of the Radhanagari dam and co-operative societies for farmers. He made credit available to the farmers and backed research to modernize agriculture. To increase the yield of cash crops and the use of technology, he established the King Edward Agricultural Institute. These were his experiments in the areas of agriculture, co-operatives and industry that yielded high benefits for his subjects.

He patronised and encouraged many artists from the fields of music, cinema, fine arts and folk art. He supported and patronized a few writers and researchers too. He helped Babasaheb Ambedkar for his education and for his newspaper, the Muknayak. He provided financial aid to gymnasiums and wrestling pitches for instilling health consciousness amongst the youth and he brought prestige to the sport of wrestling. It is because of these efforts that Kolhapur is known as the Pandharpur (one of the most important pilgrimage places) of wrestling.

The positive effects of his work in the cultural, social, political, educational, industrial and agricultural spheres are seen all over Maharashtra. Despite being a king of the Kolhapur Princely State, he was a democratic ruler. Dr. Ambedkar appropriately described him as the ‘Pillar of Social Democracy’. It’s because of his seminal contribution that he was conferred the title Rajarshi by the Kurmi warrior community from Kanpur.

Full Name and Titles

The full name of Chatrapati Shahuji Maharaj: Colonel His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajashri Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Kolhapur (Yeshwantrao Ghatge). He was the eldest son of His Highness. Meherban Shrimant Rajamanya Rajashri Jaisinhrao Ghatge [Abba Sahib Ghatge], Sarjerao Vazarat, Ma-ab, Chief of Kagal (Senior), by his first wife, Shrimant Akhand Soubhagyavati Radhabai Raje Ghatge [Baba Sahib, Radhabai], who was the only daughter of Meherban Shrimant Balwantrao Raje Ghorpade Bahadur, Chief of Mudhol, educ. Rajaram Coll., Kolhapur and Rajkumar Coll., Rajkot.

Shahuji’s official name was: Colonel His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO

During his life he acquired the following titles and honorific names:
§ 1874-1884: Meherban Shrimant Yeshwantrao Sarjerao Ghatge
§ 1884-1895: His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, Raja of Kolhapur
§ 1895-1900: His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, Raja of Kolhapur, GCSI
§ 1900-1903: His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Kolhapur, GCSI
§ 1903-1911: His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Kolhapur, GCSI, GCVO
§ 1911-1915: His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Kolhapur, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO
§ 1915-1922: Colonel His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Kolhapur, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO

§ Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India (GCSI)-1895
§ King Edward VII Coronation Medal-1902
§ Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)-1903
§ Hon. LLD (Cantabrigian)-1903
§ Delhi Durbar Gold Medal-1903
§ King George V Coronation Medal-1911
§ Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE)-1911
§ Delhi Durbar Gold Medal-1911

Chhatrapati Sahu Maharaj Harbinger of social justice legislation in India. The most progressive ruler during colonial era.

Shahu Maharaj and Ambedkar

When Babasaheb sought Shahu Maharaja’s financial support:

C/o Henry S. King & Co.
9. Pall Mall, London S.W.
4th September 1921

My Dear Maharajasaheb,

As directed by Mr. Dalvi I am placing my financial difficulties before you in the hope of getting some relief. But I am sorry to have to approach you but thinking that as you had been pleased to regard me as your friend you would do something to enable me to tide over my difficulties. They have chiefly arisen through the fall in the Indian exchange on London. When I left India I had calculated the total expenses I would have to incur for my two years’ stay in London and according to then prevailing rate of exchange I found that I had sufficient funds for my purposes. But as the funds had bee invested by a friend with whom I had deposited them, I was not able to transfer them to London at the time when I left India. Last year in the month of December when the funds were sent to me I found that owing to the low rate of exchange the funds realized a sum in London which fell short of the required amount by nearly £ 150. I have to pay £100 for my Law fees and need about another £100 for my return passage to India. In all therefore I need about £200 to tide over my difficulties. I would be very much obliged if Your Highness can see your way to help me with a loan of that amount. I will repay it with interest when I return. The matter is so urgent and I know so few people that I ventured to sound the matter by first approaching Mr. Dalvi and as Your Highness desired me through him, to write directly I feel sure that hopes are not misplaced.

I hope Your Highness is enjoying good health. We need you ever so much for you are the pillar of that great movement towards social democracy which is making its headway in India.
Awaiting the favour of an early reply I am yours sincerely.

B.R. Amedkar

(Source: Shahu Research Institute Kolhapur. Shahu Maharaj commemorative souvenir 1981)

Works by Shahu Maharaj

Shahu Maharaj, the ruler of Kolhapur princely state, gave a lot of financial and moral support and Satya Shodhak Samaj in its new incarnation as non-brahmin party carried on the work of superstition removal vigorously.

Two instances from the lives of two devoted leaders of Satya Shodhak Samaj in this period can be cited at the outset.

  1. The first of these relates to the life of Bhaskarrao Jadhav, the veteran non-brahmin leader. When Shahu Maharaj, who was humiliated in the Vedokta controversy, had set up Kshatra Jagatguru, Bhaskarrao opposed the move. On top of it, when all leaders including Shahu Maharaj saluted kshatra Jagatguru, Bhaskarrao boldly declared that being a Satya Shodhak he could not bow his head before any religious leaders. Ideas of Satya Shodhak Samaj defy not just Brahmin heads of religion, but also the whole institution of priesthood and the caste system based on inequality by birth. This is because at the root of the caste system is the superstition that sponsors the feelings of superiority of higher castes and the feelings of inferiority of lower castes. If superiority of Brahmin is replaced by superiority of the kshatriyas or even if brahmins and kshatriyas are on par with each other, it would not remove this superstition.
  2. The second instance relates to a strong and successful worker of Satya Shodhak Samaj, Once Shahu Maharaj had called Baburao Yadav for some work but he was very late in turning up. Naturally Maharaj asked him about the delay. Baburao took Maharaj to the balcony and from that balcony he pointed the bullock-carts resting at a distance. Maharaj could not understand the point. Soon, however Maharaj saw that Baburao Yadav’s bullock cart was full of red coloured stones of different sizes. Maharaj further asked Yadav to explain how his late coming was related to those stones. Then Yadav explained, “Sir I was delayed in reaching your palace because on the way I collected all these stones anointed with red sindhur, as these so called gods sitting on the boundaries of the village farms were responsible for converting villagers into stones! I collected all of them in my cart. That is why I was delayed in reaching here.”

These two instances reveal how Satya Shodhak Samaj had created a psyche against blind faith from top to bottom of the movement. Jyotirao Phule firmly believed that if you want to create a new social system based on freedom, equality, brotherhood, human dignity, economic justice and value devoid of exploitation, you will have to overthrow the old, unequal and exploitative social system and the values on which it is based. Knowing this well, Jyotirao Phule attacked blind faith. He tore to pieces the misleading myths that were ruling over the minds of women, Shudras and Atishudras. Yielding to fate, astrology and other such rituals, sacredness, god-men, etc. was deemed irrational and absurd. This was explained by giving innumerable examples.

TATA SIVAIAH, President, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule & Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Educational Circle, MSc Mathematics, Hyderabad Central University.

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