Alka Dhupkar & Priyanka Das, Pune Mirror, June 18 2017
On June 16th, BJP president Amit Shah posted a photo on Twitter of himself and state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis standing with folded hands and heads bowed in a crane above the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The photo was accompanied by this caption: “Paid tribute to the legendary Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, an epitome of valor and courage. He is an endless source of inspiration for us.”
Shah’s words are in keeping with the Maharashtra government’s ongoing project to build a 629-foot statue of Shivaji off the Arabian Sea.
The bronze statue, which will be located about 1.2 km southwest of Raj Bhavan, in Mumbai, will be built by Delhi-based Ram Sutar, who is also overseeing the construction of the nearly as monumental statue of Vallabhbhai Patel that will be installed near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, in Gujarat. Shivaji’s statue, which is expected to be completed in 2019, will cost around Rs 3,600 crore.
Quite naturally, the government has been accused of profligacy, and of riding roughshod over the concerns of both fishermen and environmentalists. Speaking to Mirror earlier this year, Debi Goenka, executive trustee and founder of Conservation Action Trust, said, “Why is the government dedicating a memorial to a warrior in the sea who spent most of his life in the Sahyadri mountains? ”
Shivaji Bhonsle built over 110 forts between 1650 and 1680 in and around the Sahyadris. He also captured and repaired several forts. Mahrashtra has a total of 350 forts, and only 100 of these are protected by the state and the Centre. The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums protects 49, while the Archaeological Survey of India protects the other 51. About 50 of these protected forts are associated with Shivaji, and were either built, or captured by him. That leaves us with the 250 ‘unprotected forts’, out which about 100 are associated with the Maratha king.
The state-appointed Fort Conservation Committee (Gad Sanvardhan Samiti), in its recommendation in June last year, provided a list of 83 historical forts that need to be declared a ‘State Protected Monument’ on priority basis – 50 of these are associated with Shivaji — but so far not a single fort from this list has got the protected tag. During the recent hearing of the Public Interest Litigation filed by Prabhakar Bhide challenging the proposed Shivaji Maharaj memorial; state government informed the Bombay High Court that the government is taking steps to protect current monuments and forts in the state.
According to Tejas Garge, the head of the state-funded directorate of archaeology and museums, there are 87 caretakers for 371 monuments, which include the forts. More importantly, both the state and the Centre — the ASI — only allocate funds to protected monuments, which impacts a majority of the historical structures in Maharashtra. There are several structural hurdles as well, says Garge. “Funds provided for conservation cannot be used for manpower. So, even we have adequate funds for conservation, we cannot hire more people because no posts have been created for them.”
Several forts built/captured by Shivaji, especially the unprotected ones, exist in varying states of neglect. At Songad, in Raigad, and Mahimatgad, in Ratnagiri, for example, there are no caretakers and no information boards; the walls are crumbling, and, of course, no visitors, apart from trekkers.
Garge also says that no archaeological excavation has ever been conducted on both protected and unprotected forts of Shivaji. “Excavation is an important way to learn more about the way a historical figure and his people lived and fought and died.”
According to Santosh Hasurkar, founder, Durgveer Pratisthan, a Mumbai-based voluntary organisation that has been involved in conserving the state’s forts for the last 11 years, “The government is building new, ‘artificial’ monuments to honour him, but these are the real monuments Shivaji left behind.”
Mirror trekked to several — mostly unprotected — forts associated with or built by the Maratha warrior to find out how his legacy is faring.
GOVINDGAD (GOWALKOT), CHIPLUN
This fort, which is spread across two acres, is located near the Vashishti river. In 1660, Shivaji captured this fort and renamed it Govindgad. Until 2014, the fort wall was also not visible because of lack of maintenance. The state government has no presence here, and in fact, over the last two years, three local organisations — Raje Pratisthan, Global Chiplun and Karnjeshwari Temple Trust — have tried to conserve the fort. They are led by Dr. Sachin Joshi, member of the State Fort Conservation Committee.
A couple of months ago, seven cannons that were used to park boats at the nearby jetty were reinstalled at the fort. An intriguing aspect of the fort’s construction is the indigenous use of lime. “Lime was made here with the limestone and other materials. The limestone was crushed with help of a wheel and bullocks,” said Dr. Joshi. Recently, volunteers found the wheel out in the jungle beneath the fort wall. One big concern about the fort is that the lime between the stones in the walls has given away and if repairs are not made, the walls may collapse in the coming years.
Mahimatgad, near Nigudwadi village, is dying a slow death. Its remains are scattered like the broken bones of an ancient god. The main gate is in shambles, the temple ‘inside’ the fort, could itself do with some divine help and there are cannons scattered all around. Mahimatgad was one of Shivaji’s most important forts, and helped the Marathas control the trade between the Konkan Coast and the Middle-east. “There is nothing at the fort, not even a display board. If the villagers are taken into confidence, this fort will come on the tourist map,” said Ajit Rane of Durgveer Pratishthan from Devrukh.
This fort is historically important because Shivaji jailed three British officers in this fort for almost three years in the early 1660s. Unfortunately, today the fort has no information on display, and nor is there a proper route to reach it. The only parts of the structure that still remain intact are the main door, the steps and several water tanks.
SAMBHAJI MAHARAJ MEMORIAL, SANGHAMESHWAR
Sambhaji Raje, Shivaji’s eldest son, was captured by the Mughals in Kasba and tortured for two months before being executed in 1689. The Sardesai Wada, from where Sambhaji was captured, is a private house in Sangameshwar. Half of the structure has collapsed. A few years ago the government also constructed a Sambhaji Raje Museum nearby. However, today this museum is locked up, and there are no signs referencing the events surrounding Shivaji’s son. “Now, the district collector wants to construct another museum at Sardesai Wada, but they are not offering any compensation to the owners”, says Subhash Raghunath Sardesai, one of the owners of the private house.
KENJALGAD FORT, WAI
This fort, surrounded by the backwaters from the Dhom dam, is situated in Wai, in Satara. Shivaji captured the fort a few weeks before his coronation in 1674. Getting to the base of the fort from Korle village is a tricky affair, and requires some serious trekking skills. Plans to build a proper road leading up to the fort were never seen through, said Chandrashekhar Shelke who has authored a guidebook on Maharashtra’s forts. “Mapping of the existing structures and remnants is required for conservation. Preservation of the fort is possible only if the government steps up to the plate,” said Shelke.
ROHIDA FORT, BHOR
Also known as the Vichitragad, this 700-year-old fort, near Bhor, is historically significant, as it was part of the Purandhar treaty signed between Shivaji and Aurangzeb. Rohida was one of the 23 forts that were given to Aurangzeb by the Maratha ruler as part of the treaty. Vinayak Renake, secretary (Pune) of the Shivdurg Samvardhan, which is currently looking after the upkeep of the fort, shared that Rohida served as a training centre for the soldiers. The fort was under Shivaji’s control between 1640 and 1690. “About a year ago we had sent a proposal to the government suggesting they collaborate with organisations that are working in the field of conservation, but the main problem stated was the inadequate funds allocated,” said Renake. “We aren’t against the statue being built but organisations are limited not only by funds, but also due to the various rules that don’t allow us to even clean up the place,” he added. Portions of the fort’s wall, parts of which are precariously perched on the route posing a serious threat to visitors especially during the monsoons, have collapsed.
SHUBHANMANGAL FORT, KHANDALA
Located in Shirwal village, in Khandala, this is where the first battle under Shivaji’s command was fought. Only a small portion (bastion) of the fort, which once spanned eight acres, survives today. “Wood carvings, which were part of the bastion, have been stolen,” said Dr Sachin Joshi. “If the people of the village are allowed to take care of it, we will clean it up and install a statue to recall the glory of Shivaji,” said Tambe. Sharvey Dhongde, co convenor of INTACH (Maharashtra) said that the unprotected forts such as Shubhanmangal are the most vulnerable.
While it is more known for its Trimbakeshwar temple – one of the 12 jytorlingas (holy abode) of Lord Shiva, Trimbakeshwar also houses Trimbakgad (also known as Shreegad or Metgad). Shivaji, who regularly visited the fort, is said to have given donations to the temple housed inside. He also used it as an HQ of sorts whenever he visited the region. Today, of course, not much remains of Trimbakgad. According to experts, landslides caused by natural erosion and a steady stream of visitors to the mountain on which it is located – Gangadwar, the source of the Godavari, is not too far away – has severely impacted the structure. “There are people who are still interested in the fort and regularly clean it up and surroundings, but that is obviously not enough,” said Girish Takle, a Nashik resident and avid trekker.
— With inputs from Vaishali Balajiwale
█ Shivaji Bhonsle built over 110 forts between 1650 and 1680 in and around the Sahyadris. He also captured and repaired several forts.