Shahu of Kolhapur

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Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur
Maharajah of Kolhapur 1912.jpg
Portrait of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur(1912)
Raja of Kolhapur
PredecessorShivaji VI
SuccessorRajaram III
Born(1874-07-26)July 26, 1874
Gangavali mangaon Raigad
DiedMay 6, 1922(1922-05-06) (aged 47)
FatherJaisingrao (Aabasaheb) Ghatge

Shahu(also known as Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj or Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj) GCSI GCIE GCVO(July 26, 1874 – May 6, 1922) of the Bhosle dynasty of Marathas was Raja (reign. 1894 – 1900) and Maharaja (1900-1922) of Indian princely state of Kolhapur.[1][2][3] Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj also known as Rajarshi Shahu was considered a true democrat and social reformer. First Maharaja of the princely state of Kolhapur, he was an invaluable gem in the history of Maharashtra. Greatly influenced by the contributions of social reformer Jyotiba Phule, Shahu Maharaj was an ideal leader and able ruler who was associated with many progressive and path breaking activities during his rule. From his coronation in 1894 till his demise in 1922, he worked tirelessly for the cause of the lower caste subjects in his state. Primary education to all regardless of caste and creed was one of his most significant priorities.

Maharaja of Kolhapur in 1894

Early life

H.H. Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj seated with palace servants

He was born as Yeshwantrao in the Ghatge Royal Maratha family, of Kagal village of the Kolhapur district as Yeshwantrao Ghatge to Jaisingrao and Radhabai in June 26, 1874. Jaisingrao Ghatge was the village chief, while his wife Radhabhai hailed from the royal family of Mudhol. Young Yeshwantrao lost his mother when he was only three. His education was supervised by his father till he was 10-year-old. In that year, he was adopted by Queen Anandibai, widow of Kingh Shivaji IV, of the princely state of Kolhapur. Although the adoption rules of the time dictated that the child must have Bhosale dynasty blood in his vein, Yeshwantrao’s family background presented a unique case. He completed his formal education at the Rajkumar College, Rajkot and took lessons of administrative affairs from Sir Stuart Fraser, a representative of the Indian Civil Services. He ascended the throne in 1894 after coming of age, prior to which a regency council appointed by the British Government took care of the state affairs. During his accession Yeshwantrao was renamed as Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj.Chhatrapati Shahu was over five feet nine inches in height and displayed a regal and majestic appearance. Wrestling was one of his favourite sports and he patronised the sport throughout his rule. Wrestlers from all over the country would come to his state to participate in wrestling competitions.

He was married to Lakshmibai Khanvilkar, daughter of a nobleman from Baroda in 1891. The couple had four children – two sons and two daughters.[4]

Vedokta controversy

When Brahmin priests of the royal family refused to perform the rites of non-Brahmins in accordance with the Vedic hymns, he took the daring step of removing the priests and appointment a young Maratha as the religious teacher of the non-Brahmins, with the title of Kshatra Jagadguru(the world teacher of the Kshatriyas). This was known as the Vedokta controversy. It brought a hornet's nest about his ears, but he was not the man to retrace his steps in the face of opposition. He soon became the leader of the non-Brahmin movement and united the Marathas under his banner.[5][6]

Social reform

Group at Residency including the Maharaja of Kolhapur

Chhatrapati Shahu occupied the throne of Kolhapur for 28 years, from 1894 to 1922, and during this period he initiated numerous social reforms in his empireShahu Maharaj is credited with doing much to further the lot of the lower castes and indeed this assessment is warranted. He also ensured suitable employment for students thus educated, thereby creating one of the earliest Affirmative action(50% reservation to weaker sections) programs in history. Many of these measures were effected in the year 1902 on July 26.[7] He started Shahu Chhatrapati Weaving and Spinning Mill in 1906 to provide employment. Rajaram college was built by Shahu Maharaj and afterwards it was named after him.[8]. His emphasis was on education and his aim was to make education available to masses. He introduced a number of educational programs to promote education among his subjects. He established hostels separately for different ethnicities and religions like Panchals, Devadnya, Nabhik, Shimpi, Dhor-Chambhar communities as well as for Muslims, Jains and Christians. He established the Miss Clarke Boarding School for the socially quarantined segments of the community. He introduced several scholarships for the poor but meritorious students from backward castes. He also initiated a compulsory free primary education for all in his state. He established Vedic Schools that enabled students from all castes and classes to learn the scriptures and propagate Sanskrit education among all. He also started special schools for the village heads or ‘Patils’ to make them into better administrators.

Chhatrapati Sahu was a strong advocate of equality among all strata of the society and refused to give the Brahmins any special status. He removed Brahmins from the post of Royal Religious advisers when they refused to perform religious rites for non-Brahmins. He appointed a young Maratha scholar in the post and bestowed him the title of `Kshatra Jagadguru' (the world teacher of the Kshatriyas). This incident together with the Shahu’s encouragement of the non-Brahmins to read and recite the Vedas led to the Vedokta controversy in Maharashtra. The Vedokta controversy brought a storm of protest from the elite strata of the society; a vicious opposition of the Chhatrapati’s rule. He established the Deccan Rayat Association in Nipani during 1916. The association sought to secure political rights for non-Brahmins and invite their equal participation in politics. Shahuji was influenced by the works of Jyotiba Phule, and he long patronized the Satya Shodhak Samaj, formed by Phule. In his later life, he, however, moved towards the Arya Samaj.

In 1903, he attended the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, and in May that year he received the honorary degree LL.D. from the University of Cambridge.[9]

Chhatrapati Shahu made great efforts to abolish the concept of caste segregation and untouchability. He introduced (perhaps the first known) reservation system in government jobs for untouchable castes. His Royal Decree ordering his subjects to treat every member of the society as equal and granting the untouchables equal access to public utilities like wells and ponds, as well as establishments like schools and hospitals. He legalised inter-caste marriages and made a lot of efforts for the upliftment of the dalits. He discontinued the hereditary transfer of titles and tenures of revenue collectors (Kulkarni), a caste infamous for exploiting the masses, especially enslavement of the Mahars, a lower caste.

The Chhatrapati also worked towards betterment of the conditions of women in his empire. He established schools to educate the women, and also spoke vociferously on the topic of women education. He introduced a law banning the Devadsi Pratha, the practice of offering girls to God, which essentially led to exploitation of the girls in the hands of the Clergy. He legalised widow remarriages in 1917 and made efforts towards stopping child marriages.

He introduced a number of projects that enabled his subjects to self-sustain in their chosen professions. The Shahu Chhatrapati Spinning and Weaving Mill, dedicated market places, establishment of co-operative societies for farmers were introduced by the Chhatrapati to alleviate his subjects from middle men in trading. He made credits available to farmers looking to buy equipment to modernise agricultural practices and even established the King Edward Agricultural Institute to teach the farmers to increase crop yield and related technologies. He initiated the Radhanagari Dam on February 18, 1907 and the project was completed in 1935. The dam stands testament to Chhatrapati Shahu’s vision towards the welfare of his subjects and made Kolhapur self-sufficient in water.

He was a great patron of art and culture and encouraged artists from music and fine arts. He supported writers and researchers in their endeavours. He installed gymnasiums and wrestling pitches and highlighted the importance of health consciousness among the youth.

His seminal contribution in social, political, educational, agricultural and cultural spheres earned him the title of Rajarshi, which was bestowed upon him by the Kurmi warrior community of Kanpur.[10]

Association with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Chhatrapati was introduced to Bhimrao Rammji Ambedkar by artists Dattoba Pawar and Dittoba Dalvi. The King was greatly impressed by the great intellect of young Bhimrao and his revolutionary ideas regarding untouchability. The two met a number of times during 1917-1921 and went over possible ways to abolish the negatives of caste segregation. Together they organised a conference for the betterment of the untouchables during March 21-22, 1920 and Chhatrapati made Dr. Ambedkar the Chairman as he believed that Dr. Ambedkar was the leader who would work for the amelioration of the segregated segments of the society. He even donated Rs. 2,500 to Dr. Ambedkar when he started his newspaper ‘Mooknayak’ on January 31, 1921, and contributed more later for the same cause. Their association lasted till the Chhatrapati’s death in 1922.


Personal life

H.H.Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj sitting amongst crowds watching a wrestling match

In 1891, Shahu married Lakshmibai née Khanvilkar(1880–1945), daughter of a Maratha nobleman from Baroda. They were the parents of four children:

  • Rajaram III, who succeeded his father as Maharaja of Kolhapur.
  • Radhabai 'Akkasaheb' Puar, Maharani of Dewas (senior)(1894–1973) who married Raja Tukojirao III of Dewas(Senior) and had issue:
    • Vikramsinhrao Puar, who became Maharaja of Dewas(Senior) in 1937 and who later succeeded to the throne of Kolhapur as Shahaji II.
  • Sriman Maharajkumar Shivaji(1899–1918)
  • Shrimati Rajkumari Aubai(1895); died young


The great social reformer Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj died on May 6, 1922. He was succeeded by his eldest son Rajaram III as the Maharaja of Kolhapur. It was unfortunate that the reforms initiated by Chhatrapati Shahu gradually began to cease and fade for the lack of able leadership to carry on the legacy.[12]

Full name and titles

His full official name was: Colonel His Highness Kshatriya-Kulawatasana Sinhasanadhishwar, Shrimant Rajarshi Sir Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj Sahib Bahadur, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO.[citation needed]

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


See also


  1. ^ "Shahu Chhatrapati Biography - Shahu Chhatrapati Life & Profile". Cultural India. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj (Born on 26th June)". MULNIVASI ORGANISER. 6 May 1922. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  3. ^ Vidyadhar, TNN (22 July 2002). "Gov seeks total make-over of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj's image". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  4. ^ "shahu chatrapati".
  5. ^ "Pune's endless identity wars". Indian Express. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  6. ^ Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati Papers: 1900-1905 A.D.: Vedokta controversy. Shahu Research Institute, 1985 - Kolhapur (Princely State).
  7. ^ Today, Nagpur (26 July 1902). "Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj gave reservation to Bahujan Samaj to the tune of 50% on July 26, 1902 for the first time in history of India". Nagpur Today : Nagpur News. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Rare photos, letters to offer a glimpse into Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj's life".
  9. ^ "University intelligence". The Times (36779). London. 28 May 1902. p. 12.
  10. ^ "shahu maharaj".
  11. ^ "shahu maharaj".
  12. ^ "shahu maharaj".

Further reading

Copland, Ian (1973). "The Maharaja of Kolhapur and the Non-Brahmin Movement 1902-10". Modern Asian Studies. 7 (2): 209–225. JSTOR 311776. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)

Shahu of Kolhapur
Bhosale Dynasty (Kolhapur line)
Born: 26 July 1874 Died: 6 May 1922
Regnal titles
Preceded by
(as Raja of Kolhapur)
Maharaja of Kolhapur
Succeeded by
Rajaram III
Preceded by
Shivaji VI
(as Raja of Kolhapur)
Raja of Kolhapur
Succeeded by
(as Maharaja of Kolhapur)

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