Shivaji — at no expense! Or, PP partnership?

Visit London and you’ll see grand statues of renowned soldiers and statesmen — ranging from the Duke of Wellington (the former Colonel Arthur Wellesly of Assaye and later Waterloo fame) to General Henry Havelock, who raised the siege of Lucknow in September 1857 and extended the British rule in the subcontinent for another almost hundred years,  on prominent crossroads, avenues and park corners. Most of the London statues were not erected by governments of the day seeking cheap popularity by riding the reputations of figures dear to the British nation at the expense of the state treasury, but by a grateful people reaching into their own pockets, rifling up the funds collectively, to immortalize their heroes in stone and metal.

Chhatrapati Shivaji is one of those genuinely iconic characters in India’s chequered history whose prowess in mobile warfare distinguished by canny use of the mountainous terrain, surprise, stealth, and quick silver strikes had driven  Aurangzeb to distraction and fueled the Maratha ascendency in the affairs of the subcontinent — the Mughal Empire falling apart post-Aurangzeb. His extraordinary daring to meet with Afzal Khan who planned to kill him, an encounter that ended in the Bijapur sultanate’s commander being disemboweled instead by Shivaji Maharaj using the wagh nakh (tiger claws) — is the sort of storied action the “great Maratha” was famous for and  that long ago passed into lore.

This great warrior king deserves a grand and imposing memorial to remind us all not to be overawed by the reputation and capabilities of adversaries, and to use geostrategy and clever, asymmetric, hard power to bring down even the mightiest foe.

Shivaji is a national figure belonging not to Maharashtra alone. But any initiative that is of sarkari provenance will ipso facto be tainted by suspicion of petty political gain.  Shivaji is of and for all the people of India, and a campaign to collect a huge quantum of monies by private subscriptions from the citizenry would be a fitting tribute to the imperishable fighting qualities of the Chhatrapati — qualities that the Indian nation lost long ago. The nation needs heroes, and it is for the Indian people to voluntarily contribute — which they will — to such an extent as to make this project viable. The state government’s role in the event should be no more than to offer the site and clear legal,  and other hurdles to enable the building of the memorial, the scale of it limited only by the sum of private subscriptions.  The private sector corporations based in Mumbai would happily ante up the foundational funds and spearhead the country-wide campaign to collect the rest by going to the people.

The problem in this scheme of things could be the plan to build the statue on the small islet just offshore of the Mumbai coast that is deemed the ideal location. It would require reclaiming land, a majorly capital intensive activity. So the compromise between private contributions that are unlikely to reach the Rs 3,600 crore mark — the estimated cost of the project, and the government earmarking the entire amount from its near empty purse — the reason that no monies have so far been allotted for the construction by the BJP government in Maharashtra led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, is for the state and private subscriptions to join in a  public-private (PP) partnership. It will still the not unreasonable  criticism of public funds being diverted from the social welfare and development sectors. However, the installation of a massive Shivaji as the new Gateway to Mumbai and India as an outcome of  PP-partnership is something Narendra Modi’s regime would be enthused by.  Fadnavis should take the initiative and propose this option.

This will also set a precedent in a country a little too used in the last 60 years to departed leaders being remembered by political parties and their governments at the Centre  and even family members (sometimes forcibly) occupying valuable real estate (bungalows and such) in Lutyen’s Delhi and turning them into so-called “memorials” —  a flimsy excuse for the said families to expropriate government properties for private use.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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24 Responses to Shivaji — at no expense! Or, PP partnership?

  1. andy says:

    Cannot find the words to describe Shivajis greatness,so putting out a few quotes by some well known personalities:

    Swami Vivekananda on Shivaji:
    “Shivaji was the greatest Hindu king that India had produced within the last thousand years; one who was the very incarnation of lord Siva, about whom prophecies were given out long before he was born; and his advent was eagerly expected by all the great souls and saints of Maharashtra as the deliverer of the Hindus from the hands of the Mlecchas, and as one who succeeded in the reestablishment of Dharma which had been trampled underfoot by the depredations of the devastating hordes of the Moghals.”

    Sir E. Sullivan about Shivaji in Warriors and Statesmen of India:
    “Shivaji possessed every quality requisite for success in the disturbed age in which he lived. Cautious and wily in council, he was fierce and daring in action; he possessed an endurance that made him remarkable even amongst his hardy subjests, and an energy and decision that would in any age have raised him to distinctions.”

    Sir E. Sullivan about Shivaji:
    “By his own people he was painted on a white horse going at full gallop, tossing grains of rice into his mouth, to signify that his speed did not allow him to stop to eat. He was the Hindu prince who forced the heavy Mughal cavalry to fly before the charge of the native horse of India. His strength and activity in action were glory and admiration of his race.”

    Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru about Shivaji:
    “Shivaji did not belong to Maharashtra alone; he belonged to the whole Indian Nation. Shivaji was not an ambitious ruler anxious to establish a kingdom for himself but a patriot inspired by a vision and political ideas derived from the teachings of the ancient philosophers.”

    Indra Gandhi about Shivaji:
    “I think Shivaji ranks among the greatest men of the world. Since we were a slave country, our great men have been somewhat played down in world history. Had the same person been born in a European country, he would have been praised to the skies and known everywhere. It would have been said that he had illumined the world”.

    Rabindranath Tagore about Shivaji:
    “In what far-off country, upon what obscure day I know not now, Seated in the gloom of some Mahratta mountain-wood O King Shivaji, Lighting thy brow, like a lightning flash, This thought descended, Into one virtuous rule, this divided broken distracted India, I shall bind.”

    Kavi Bhushana on Shivaji:
    “Kashi would have lost its splendour, Mathura would have become a mosque; if it had not been for Shivaji, all would have been circumcised (converted).”

    Samarta Ramdas Swami on Shivaji:
    “He can be glorified as successful, famous, blessed, valorous, meritorious and an icon of morality. There has been none like him, a knower of Dharma, who has protected Hindu Dharma in Maharashtra”

    The memorial to Shiva Chattrapati needs to be built as soon as possible,a grand way the grateful nation can pay homage to this iconic King who created an indegenous empire out of nothing by challenging the mighty Mughal empire,using his Ganimi Kava guerrilla tactics and indomitable will to defeat the enemy time and again…CHATTRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ KI JAI..

  2. Hari Sud says:

    Shivaji’ fame is great. He outwitted Aurangzeb in his own game in South India. There are other heroes like Lachin Sen Phukan in Asom, who inflicted a strategic defeat on Aurangzeb’s Army at SaraiGhat (Guwahati corridor) battle. The Mughal army never returned to fight again in Asom. Same way Maharana Partap although lost the battle of Haldighat but kept the fight up and finally expelled the Mughal Akbar from Rajasthan. Similar commemoration need to be erected for them too.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      The Mughal’s were never expelled from Rajasthan by Rana Pratap, as you appear to claim. Even as late as Aurangzeb, the Rajput’s were the “sword arm” of the Mughal army. Rana Pratap is certainly a worthy role model. Unfortunately, he had to face conflict, treachery, and hurdles from both his fellow Rajputs and the Mughals.

      Shivaji’s greatness was his strategic sense, his military and organizational skills, and his practical nature. Such was his effect, that he drove Aurangzeb (widely considered to be one of the, if not the, most powerful persons in the world in his time) insane and bankrupt. Shivaji played Aurangzeb’s obsession with him (Shivaji) to his singular advantage. IMHO, Shivaji was truly one of the few Indians to rightfully earn the title “The Great”.

  3. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    India was never short of people with a healthy degree of drive. If we begin to erect statues for every such person then we will be left with a lot of statues and a lot of people imagining the greatness of these people without ever gathering the courage within themselves to do it for themselves. We will end up with a bloody church of right wing hinduvivad.

    4 inch moorty of Hanuman ji works just as well as a mountain sized one. Seek out a hanuman bhakt instead with a mountain sized unstoppable drive.

    For all the statues in UK, including the ones erected with private money, there are really nobody, living, who can save them from irrelevance,

    • I think you are right to point out relevance. Shivaji is Indian icon of liberty, he is as relevant today as he was when he created the Martha empire. Shivaji was not sectarian either. Equating him with sectarian ideology or regionalism is absurd.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        There are people who will forever remain relevant, as the chain of persons and personalities who had a common purpose. Beyond the one that was easy and fashionable for their respective times. Shivaji, will live on alongwith several others, known and unknown, in the minds and daily lives of those who care.

        Then there are those who cannot keep their focus for long. May be it could be of some help if a tourist spot is developed for their benefit. But what really stops this second set from simply carrying its own personal Shivaji in its hearts and minds? Really nothing does, except they themselves. And if a set of people, even if significant in count, have decided to work against their own hearts and minds, then even gods cannot save them. Much less a tourist spot.

        The wisest conclusions/inferences i came across, came to me from weirdest of places. One such finality of thought and purpose, I gained from Baba Ramdev, when he said something to the effect that one does not need permission/legislation, to do a good deed. Such an attitude will not wait for a tourist spot to get actuated.

        Come to think of it, one bent upon treachery will not care for an oath of office either. 😀

  4. &^%$#@! says:

    Way to go Bharat. Keep it up…..! .After making a Paswan-like suggestion that the COAS be chosen on communal lines, Karnad has now migrated to extolling the virtues of the statue building spree. People need to be inculcated (or better still inculcate themselves) in the values and principles Shivaji stood for. Statue building is no substitute for this. If today India is on the ropes, it is because the values that Shivaji personified have either been forgotten, or never learned by its people. The famous saying goes as: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”, One only hopes that the time (and the student) does not take take too long to be ready for the teacher to appear……….

  5. H N Bhagwat says:

    Here is what a great historian has written about Shivaji – “At the auspicious hour chosen for the interview, the Maratha Army, 50,000 strong, entered the city. The citizens gazed with admiration not unmixed with awe at the men who had vanquished the greatest kings of North India & South India alike, and caused wailing at the Court of Bijapur and consternation among the peerage of Delhi. Here rode the fleet hardy horsemen who had poured like a swift resistless flood to the farthest districts of Mughal Deccan and carried their raids to the very gates of Bijapur & Golconda. There tramped the Mavale infantry, whose feats were the theme of many a ballad and legend throughout the Southern land, whose assault no fort had been able to withstand, and whose swords were dreaded by every foe they had met in the battle.” – Jadunath Sarkar in ‘Shivaji and his times’.

  6. Satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    Was the recent A-5 test to a 2500 km range or to a 5000+ km range ? The report by Hemant Routof the New Indian Express, who seems to have good sources in the DRDO, says the former.

    Was it fully successful ?

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Satyaki: Look at the bright side of life. At least it was not fired at a range of 250 kms!

    • Satyaki@ — alas, around 2,000kms. It was apprehension of testing at this range that had prompted me to write the Dec 14 post — “Price of angering the Bear & the A-5 decision” at https://bharatkarnad.com/2016/12/14/price-of-angering-the-bear-a-5/

      • satyaki says:

        Bharat Sir,

        In that case, my understanding was that the test was planned for the ~2000 km range and went off successfully. Is that correct ? Better than not testing at all or a failed test.

        Interestingly, most Chinese ICBMs appear to be tested from Taiyuan and land in Xinjiang (either Korla or Lop Nor). The overall range to which they are tested is thus 2200-3300 km or so.

      • Speculation, totally my own. Agni 5 also has a satellite navigation system. Currently IRNS is limited to subcontinent. Was the range limited to test the missile with NAVIC?

        “The Performances expected for the IRNSS system are: Position accuracy around 20 m over the Indian Ocean Region (1500 km around India) and less than 10 m accuracy over India and GSO adjacent countries.”

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Regional_Navigation_Satellite_System

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Satyaki: A small piece of advise/suggestion – when you cannot change things, don’t fret over them. Take it out of your life/mind and fill the void it leaves with something you can influence in a positive and decisive manner. Cheers!

  7. andy says:

    Since there were a few disgruntled elements on the forum because @Bharat chose to write about Shivaji,it makes sense to highlight how Indians (following in the footsteps of their colonial masters)have systematically relegated their own history and heros to the dustbin, choosing instead to learn about the bloodthirsty invaders that pillaged,raped and murdered Indians, plus destroyed the finest indegenous architecture.

    Let me begin this by recalling a small conversation with a tenth grader relative of mine

    This is India’s history from that persons point of view

    Harappans were the first people in India, and they had a fetish for building abnormally large bath-tubs.

    Their asses were then kicked by the some unknown invading Aryans.

    Somewhere down the line, Alexander and his badass gang of Greeks came calling.

    Chandragupta Maurya with his adviser Chanakya, did some awesome 420giri to take over from the Greeks.

    They were then succeeded by the Guptas who brought the ‘Golden Age’ with them.

    Mahmud of Ghazni, however, looted all that gold. He needed a sum total of 17 visits to complete his gold quest.

    Mohammad Ghauri followed him with similar intentions, but decided to avoid the trouble and simply stay back. And then he died.

    He left his slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak to do all the ruling. His most significant achievement was to build one pointless tower.

    Then came a Muslim queen, underlining our credentials in female liberation.

    It was then the turn of Tughlaq and his gang of idiots. They moved national capitals around because they hated the weather.

    From somewhere, Babar, a descendant of a lame, one eyed king from Central Asia landed in India.

    He and his sons, calling themselves Mughals, ruled India for the next 350 years.

    Their party came to an end when Englishmen arrived, redcoats and all, and took a strong fancy to our country.

    I am not making the above stuff up. Of course, I might have taken liberties with some of the descriptions, but then this was more-or-less what a tenth grader summarized about pre-British Indian history. I would have appreciated this individuals grasp of Indian history if not for the fact that this version is completely and utterly bullshit.

    Yes IT IS

    Peruse that list again, in case you did not read it carefully. Till the advent of the British, how many Indian emperors, kings have been mentioned in the above list? How many of them have been highlighted and glorified in our history despite some seriously awesome stuff they did? Has our History been modified to such an extent that our own ancestors have been left out of it?

    The one word answer to the last question: YES

    If you see, India is one of the very few countries to have a civilization which goes back to about 3000 BC. No other country has this big a history. To put it in perspective, India’s last golden age was in the 6th century BC. Wonder what were the others in the world doing at that time……….

    The Angrez were probably a step out of the stone age..

    Americans?

    America…What the hell is that?

    We are a civilization that was so advanced, that we were actually celebrating our golden age when Brits still hadn’t figured out what ”Being Clothed’ meant and the Americans could have been the name of an opium brand. So isn’t it kinda surprising that only two Indian emperors were considered to be worth remembering by a tenth grader in an eon or so? Would have been humorous, if it wasn’t our civilization. And because it is, it becomes deeply distressing and disturbing.

    The Gupta dynasty as a dynasty, ended in about 6th century AD. However, the last meaningful king that our History textbooks bother to mention is Chandragupta II, whose reign ended in 4th Century AD. And then, the scene is fast forwarded to the point where Mohammad Ghauri invaded India in 1191, to start the Delhi Sultanate which would then metamorphose into the Islamic Empire. What does the above line tell you?

    It tells you that an average tenth grader actually knows nothing about what happened in India in the intervening period between the Guptas and the Delhi Sultanate (A time period of about 800 years). At least they do not think it was worth remembering. To be fair they are not to blame, especially when you consider our academicians have dedicated ONE single Chapter in the Seventh standard History textbook, to cover the period when it was Indians who ruled the land..

    Yes… ONE CHAPTER, COVERING A PERIOD OF A THOUSAND YEARS ENCOMPASSING THE WHOLE OF THE INDIAN CIVILAZTION. One Chapter from history lessons stretching across the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and the tenth grades of CBSE. One insignificant chapter in over five years of schooling dealing with a period of more than one thousand years.

    If you have the time and patience to revisit your seventh standard History textbook check it out.

    Now why only one chapter, is known only to the enlightened souls who designed those textbooks. And as a result of either their deliberate oversight or perhaps pure ineptitude, most of the school children do not know or have any idea about:

    The Harsha Empire:

    This empire was founded by King Harshavardhana. This guy ascended the throne immediately after the Gupta dynasty, at an age when we aren’t allowed to have a driving license or have a drink. He became an emperor at the age of sixteen in about 606 AD. He went on to capture what is today called North India (Including Kashmir) and Pakistan,

    He actually united all these states, something that we struggle to do even today!!!

    He fought almost 300 battles in the 41 years he ruled with a win loss ratio that even Novak Djokovic would envy; 299-1. Uniting all these states, I guess was trouble even then.

    Not only was he adept as a fighting machine, but actually authored three full length Sanskrit plays Ratnavali, Priyadarsika and Nagananda, while he was busy conquering. Nagananda especially is considered one of the greatest plays ever written in Sanskrit literature. It is thought to be the first play ever to have five acts where the tone changes midway from Romance to horror and ends with the villain turning into the hero. This guy introduced plot twists and ‘cut to the chase‘ in the 6th century AD. And all of that was probably thought in the middle of a battle.

    Amongst Harsha’s other achievements, was that he was the first to abolish Sati as a rule in his kingdom, some 800 years before Raja Ram Mohan Roy was even born. He was a major patron of the Nalanda University, and was the title sponsor of the ramparts around it, for protection from invaders and other pricks. No wonder Nalanda expanded singularly because of this guys patronage.

    Harsha was the first King to have ever established a diplomatic relationship with China, with ambassadors and gifts being exchanged in 630 AD. And last but not the least talented persons were patronized by this emperor so that they could work on their field of expertise.

    Guess who lived during Harshas rule and was patronized by him,the guy who went on to INVENT THE ZERO!!!!

    Surely Emperor Harsha deserves more than the 10 lines that he currently gets in our history textbook.

    OR

    The Pala dynasty

    This dynasty was founded by Gopala in Bengal in the year 705 AD. This guy was not your run-of-the-mill type of tyrant that were prevalent those days.

    Gopala was DEMOCRATICALLY elected by the people of his kingdom. He was the FIRST EVER democratically elected ruler in South Asia, perhaps even Asia and even the world. Giving people right to elect the ruler wasn’t the most fashionable thing those days you know!!!!

    Legend goes that people of Bengal at that time were sick of repeated invasions, pillaging and general anarchy. So they got Gopala, the most powerful military dude in their kingdom, anointed him as their king. And boy did he rule! He and his successors ruled for the next 400 years. Yes… 4 centuries in all!

    Their empire at the peak of their power,
    speaking purely in terms of square kilometers, exceeded even the Mughal Empire at its peak. Go figure….

    Pala’s other achievements again had something to do with the Nalanda university. In those days, what would a king do if he captured a territory? His intentions would most probably be to rape, loot, pillage, plunder, destroy and disfigure, not necessarily in that order. And what did King Dhanapal do when he captured Nalanda? He adopted it and took it to even greater heights. And then figured one university was probably not enough. So he established the Vikaramashila University as well. These two universities are even today universally acknowledged to be the greatest universities ever in Indian History. One flourished under the Palas, and the other was established by them. And as a footnote, the entire region of Tibet adopted Buddhism because of this guy’s efforts. So the Dalai Lama, in some way, has to thank the Palas for his influence today.

    So ruling almost the entire Indian Sub-continent (From Afghanistan to Myanmar), establishing not one but two of the greatest Universities of those times guarantees you a place in the annals of history as a magnificent king. But then the Palas did not stop at that. They then went on to build the biggest ever Buddhist Vihara or monastery, ever. The Somapura Mahavira consisted of 177 cells for the monks to live with a magnificent stupa in the middle. The entire campus occupied about 30 acres and rivaled the Pyramids for its opulence, but with a fundamental difference. The Somapura Mahavira was actually useful. In those times you couldn’t have been a great Buddhist monk if you hadn’t been to Somapura.

    Kicks ass…doesn’t it

    Apparently, an archeologist named J.C.French wanted to excavate the site of Somapura, but was refused citing lack of funds. Pretty much the story of the shortchanging of this great empire by our history. They deserve more than the 7 lines they get in our history textbook.

    OR

    The Chalukyas:

    Remember the King Harsha you met two paragraphs ago where I told you that he had a battlefield win loss ratio of 299-1? Well, The Chalukyas were responsible for that ‘one’ is his loss column.

    And amongst many other things like inspiring the architecture that you have seen in Hampi, establishing and propagating the Kannada language they also ruled over a huge area.

    Poor souls don’t even get a mention in the text book.

    Similarly

    The Pallavas:

    You all know Chalukyas defeated the undefeated king Harsha right. But then shortly afterward, Pallavas gave a bloody nose to the same empire which had defeated the then undefeated king. Pallavas ruled over the Chalukyas and most of India south of the Narmada for about 150 years.

    They single-handedly built the rock-cut temple complex in Mahabalipuram. It is rumoured that half the temples are actually under the sea, so the Mahabalipuram complex is actually way more impressive than what is visible.

    And it is in the Pallava kingdom, you have the genesis of the south-asian script or ‘Pallava Grantha’. Whenever and wherever you read Tamil or see it’s alphabets, remember that it had its origins in the Pallava Grantha. Here is a list of all the languages that owe its existence to the Pallava kingdom as their scripts have their root in this grantha

    Tamil
    Telugu
    Malayalam
    Tulu
    Sinhalese
    Malay
    Bahasa Indonesia
    Thai
    And how many pages does the great Pallava dynasty get in our textbook… u guessed it… ZERO.

    and Finally

    The Cholas

    In a speaking convention, the best speaker is always reserved for the last. In a farwell party for your seniors, the most popular guy is always honoured last. So I am mentioning the most important empire in Pre-Islamic Indian history, which also happens to be the most shortchanged, The Cholas, Last.

    Just to give you an idea, the Chola empire, if it existed today would have spanned

    India
    Sri Lanka
    Bangladesh
    Myanmar
    Thailand
    Malaysia
    Indonesia
    Vietnam
    Singapore
    Maldives
    Try to visualize the expanse of the Chola Empire,

    Clearly, Cholas did not know what the word small meant.

    Cholas were one of the earliest empires in Indian history, with some estimates dating them back to almost 300 B.C. They are even mentioned by Emperor Ashoka in his pillars, as a friendly empire in the south. Their recorded downfall is in the 1250’s. In pre-medieval India’s highly fluid power equations, the Chola empire was the one and perhaps the only constant.

    The good stuff about the Cholas first. I am sure all of you must have heard of the beautiful and the grand temples all over Tamil Nadu. It was the Cholas who added the adjective grand before the temples. The kind of made it a fashion statement to build big temples, covered with intricate carvings, a trend which was essentially followed by his successors transcending empires.

    Ever heard of the Brihadeeshwara Temple in Tanjore. It was built by Raja Raja Chola in the 11th century. Let me tell you some quick facts about this place of worship

    The Shivling in this temple is the largest of its kind, in the world.
    The Nandi outside, is, again, the largest in the world.
    The base of the temple is supposed to be so big, that the shadow of its massive ‘gopuram’ actually does not fall on the ground.
    The top of the ‘gopuram’ consists of a single granite stone weighing approximately 82 tonnes (82,000 Kgs for those weak in metrics). Now, this being 11th century AD, it was a problem getting that big piece of rock to a height of 63 Metres. So what did the Cholas do?
    Unsurprisingly they built the world’s largest transport ramp, using some kick-ass trigonometry, which stretched all the way to about 20 Kms, all the way inclining towards the top, which basically allowed the elephants to push the rock all the way up.
    Once on top, they sent masons to do some intricate carvings on that stone, as if somebody would notice at that height.

    No wonder it is called ‘Big’ Temple

    Any emperor or empire will consider this piece of art to be the peak of their artistic prowess which will be talked about for generations to come. But Cholas being the Cholas, weren’t satisfied. Raja Raja’s son Rajendra went on to build an exact replica of this temple at a place called Gangai Konda Cholapuram, near the modern town of Chidambaram.

    Two big temples, takes quite a beating doesn’t it. Sadly the second temple is not even mentioned in the history books, anywhere. None outside Tamil Nadu even know about its existence, even today.

    And also did I tell you, the Cholas were the first in the world to build a fully functional water diversion/water regulation system in the world. Chola king Karikalan built this 329 feet stone dam over the river Kaveri and a network of canals, in 1st century AD, for water storage and irrigation. So when most of the western world was still eating raw animal flesh, Cholas were building dams, navigable canals and were irrigating 10,00,000 (1 Million) hectares of land in their kingdom.

    And before I forget, the system they built is in use even today!!!

    I don’t have to tell you whether our historians bothered to mention this thing in our textbook.

    In case you think Cholas were your peace loving, violence shying role model Emperors, let me move on to some of their badass stuff

    Cholas pioneered in the 6th century what we today know as the Navy. Use of ships for fighting battles existed, Battle of Salamis was probably the first naval engagement ever recorded, but Cholas took Naval warfare to an entirely new level. They probably were the first ones to make their Navy a totally independent service with its own powers and not the extension of the army as was the norm then. They also were the first to pioneer the concept of building exclusive fighting ships and the first to implement the idea of fleets.

    Their ship building program was instituted and ships were designed and built for different purposes. Trap ships (They called themselves ‘Kannis’ which means a ‘virgin’ in Tamil. They even had a sense of humour) to lure the enemies into traps, destroyers to do what their name suggests, supply ships etc were the some of the different types of Chola Naval vessels. Cholas also were one of the first to evolve strategic naval doctrines, advanced ship formations and naval warfare tactics. They were the first ones to start operating ships in fleets. The smallest fleet in the Chola navy consisted of about 12 ships and the largest went up to 500 or more vessels.

    In three words, They kicked ass…

    And to match their tactical nous, they augmented their vessels with the then state of the art weaponry, both indigenous and imported from China. Their ships were equipped with catapults and probably the first ship-based flamethrowers. Chola navies were routinely known to annihilate enemies five times their number. The Chola navy, in one line, could be described as

    Awesome tactics+Brilliant Ships+Latest Weaponry= Bad news for the enemy

    This combination enabled Cholas, to practice the first ever recorded instance of what is today called ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’. Sri Vijaya empire, ruling Cambodia, had the guts to actually sack a Chola Merchant convoy. Cholas responded by taking two fleets of about 500 ships each and obliterating the Sri Vijaya kingdom out of existence.The neighboring king of Kambujadesa, terrified of what happened to his colleague, basically folded his hands, bowed his head and sent an ornamental chariot to appease the Cholas and declared them as his rulers. And Cholas didn’t even have to fire a single shot.

    It is also believed by some sources, that Cholas because of a navigational error, landed in Sri Lanka by mistake. And just for fun, they went on to capture the entire country. There is no actual proof of this but knowing the Cholas, this is quite possible.

    At their peak Chola ships consisted of about 1000-1500 battle ships divided into 4 fleets placed in strategic locations like Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Kaveripoompatinam in Tamil Nadu also known as Poompuhar. They were so powerful that the Chinese actually requested Cholas to stop the rampant piracy in the straits of Malacca.They even merited mentions in dispatches in faraway Greece for their naval expertise.

    And they were no mugs on the land either. Recall the Gangai Konda Cholapuram temple built by Rajaendra Cholan? It literally means ‘Subduing of the river Ganges’. He built the city in honour of his march upto the Ganges river. A south Indian empire stretching from the River Kaveri in the south all the way up to the River Ganga in the North deserves much better treatment in our history books. As one of my friend’s said, if the Cholas had been born in America, DC or Marvel comics would have transformed them into super-heroes with a body of adamantium. Because they were born in India, they get about a quarter page in the text-book.

    There were in all a total of 16 Chola kings in the Chola Empire. For all of you who actually read that chapter, you will find only the names of two (Raja Raja Chola and Rajendra Chola) have been mentioned. And all the other kings and important details of their empire have been completely eliminated.

    There were other empires too at that time who find next to no mention or even worse no mention at all in our History textbooks. The Rashtrakutas ruling what today will be Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra were singularly responsible for three of the top four tourist destinations in the state of Maharashtra today. I am talking about the Ajanta, Ellora and the Elephanta Caves. A Special mention to the Kailas temple in Ellora which is the world’s largest temple cut out of a single piece of rock.This whole thing was built out of one single piece of rock!!!

    Same was the case with the Yadavas, who built the fort of Devagiri or Daulatabad, made famous later by the idiot Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. You know why he specifically chose Devgiri to move his capital?

    It is the only fort in recorded history that hasn’t yet fallen in an open battle. It was captured by Alaudiin Khilji through deceit and bribery, but was not won in a fight. Who built it..The Yadavs? Are they mentioned in the History textbook? If you said ‘No’, You got the answer right.

    Coming to the Marathas, except for Shivaji little is taught in the history books about the confederacy that defeated and replaced the Mughul empire,even Shivaji is not correctly represented,it is taught that the Marathas never faced the enemy in pitched battle,but at the battle of Salher they not only faced the Mughal army in pitched battle, but defeated them fair and square.In terms of sheer numbers this battle rivals the third battle of Panipat,(35000 Marathas infantry + light cavalry against some 60000 Mughal troops infantry+heavy cavalry +artillary).Has anyone even heard about this epic encounter,leave alone celebrating it?

    I am not against the lessons on the Islamic empire and their conquests, brutal as they may have been. They are a part of our history. But my question is, aren’t these emperors and their empires a part of our history too? Haven’t these empires contributed to our way of life, our values and principles more than the Islamic kings have ever done? And by eliminating these kingdoms from our history, aren’t you depriving our generation of this great knowledge?

    And by this wholesale deletion, aren’t you mutilating history?

    • Andy@ — Thank you for a brief but comprehensive historical tour d’horizon.

      • andy says:

        @Bharat.
        Thank you for writing about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his proposed grand memorial in the first place because…
        “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
        Marcus Garvey

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Andy: Nice write up. I know of the Battle of Salher pretty well (though not as well as you since you were perhaps there;-)). Most people have never heard of this Battle which again shows Shivaji’s ability to not only fight an open large scale battle, but also carry out harassing strikes against the enemy. His sacking of Surat was a classic, as was his foresight in building the Sindhudurg Fort in record time to check the rise of the Europeans. BTW, you forgot to mention Mandu which again was taken by Alauddin Khilji using bribery. That too (which was held by the Parmar’s) was an impregnable fort. A long time ago when I visited Mandu, I saw evidence of very early cannon’s being excavated there.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Andy: I re-read your post and I want to thank you for the time in putting together a really informative piece of work. Well done! One small addendum – the ZERO is implicit in Aryabhatta’s works, though it was formalized by Brahmagupta. Additionally, the matrix which is the basis for any serious numerical computation was discovered by Indians. The earliest form of the matrix can be traced to Brahmagupta who is also credited with the formulation of finite-differences (the most basic form of numerical discretization).

      Then, there was Panini who formalized semantics and grammar (without context free grammar, we wouldn’t have computer programming languages or communication protocols). The list is endless. It is a tragedy that just when the worlds politico-economic centre of gravity is shifting to the proximity of India for the first time since 1830, the show is run by a bunch of (or a) modern day Mohammad bin Tughlaq(s) who is/are too scared to even test the Agni 5 to its full range of around 8,000 kms. For the uninitiated, here is a partial (but still formidable) list of Indian discoveries:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_inventions_and_discoveries

    • Shaurya says:

      @Andy: Good one. Food for thought, maybe India should change capitals every 10 years, just to make our polity and history less Delhi centric. A similar narrative exists BTW in our cultural history too. The sheer diversity breath and depth of our land, its narratives is lost to a foreign mind, who have written our history, so far.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Andy: An addendum. You’ve described a good overview of select Indian kingdoms and dynasties. However, within the scope of this forum, it is only Shivaji who demonstrated the combined military skills, planning & organization, pragmatism, determination, and foresight necessary to take on what was possibly the leading military power in the world at that period of time (the Mughals). In this regard, he stands head and shoulders above possibly any Indian ruler. IMHO, Shivaji’s drawbacks were just two.

      First, he did not institute a meritocracy based succession, and thereby had his stellar works ruined by a less-than-worthy son. Next, to the best of my knowledge, he did not set up an artillery foundry, and largely relied on foreigners for his artillery. In light of his singular contribution to Indian history, a man should be judged by the times he ruled/lived in. Thus, he is excused in the former case since the eldest son (however worthless) was the successor of choice. WRT to the second point, he can be excused since there is just so much a man can achieve in a mere 50+ year stellar life. Perhaps, had he lived longer, he might have attended to the issue of Indian/Maratha-manufactured artillery too.

  8. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    @Andy, great write up indeed.
    @Special Character, great annexure from you too.

    Wish a 100th of the money of Shivaji statue was put into making a cartoon series of that write up and televised as a series.

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