Shivaji IV

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Shivaji IV (5 April 1863 – 25 December 1883) of the Bhonsle dynasty, was a Raja of Kolhapur from 1871 to 1883. A distant relation of the main family line, he was born as Shrimant Narayanrao Dinkarrao Bhonsle, and was adopted at the age of eight by the widow of Rajaram I. Owing to his youth, he reigned under a regency until he had attained his majority. In 1875, he was presented with a sword of honour by the future Edward VII, and on New Year's Day, 1877, was knighted with the title of Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (KCSI), at the age of 13, the youngest knight ever of that honour. Later that same year, he also became the youngest recipient of the Empress of India Medal.

Alleged madness, "The Kolhapur Affair"[edit]

By 1882, Sir Shivaji IV had become insane - at least, so it was strongly asserted - and was placed under the "protection" of the British Government, with a Regent appointed for the state, the Karbhari Mahadeo Barve.

This aroused a considerable controversy. British officials and doctors reiterated that Shivaji IV was suffering from an incurable ‘madness’. This official version received support from English newspapers such as the Times of India and the Bombay Gazette.

However, this was strongly disputed by some Indian-owned newspapers such as Induprakash, Mahratta and Kesari - the later two, in English and Marathi respectively, founded shortly before by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a prominent leader of the Indian Independence movement.

In the Kesari there was a public questioning of the diagnosis, treatment and mental state of the Chhatrapati. The Kesari, then under the editorship of Agarkar, and the Mahratta under Tilak, argued that Shivaji IV was not ‘mad’ and the little instability in his mental state was caused by the maltreatment given to him by the servants and officials appointed to take care of him.

They especially accused Mahadeo Barve, the British-appointed Regent of Kolhapur, of complicity in a conspiracy to make Shivaji IV mad. Letters published in the Kesari and Mahratta, allegedly written by Mahadeo Barve to his subordinate officials, indicated his involvement along with some British officials and native servants in a plot to poison Shivaji IV.

To clear himself of the charges, Mahadeo Barve filed a defamation case against Tilak and Agarkar. The trial which followed brought into the public sphere the private life of Shivaji IV and the ill treatment meted out to him by British officials .

The Kesari published the verbatim account of the High Court trial drama, which in its editors' opinion exposed to public scrutiny the barbarous attitude of the British officers towards Shivaji IV. On 16 July 1882 the jury found Tilak and Agarkar guilty on the charge of slander against Mahadeo Barve and sentenced them to four months’ imprisonment at the Dongri jail in Bombay.

Even during the trial, Kesari published articles which questioned the physical control of British officers over the body of Shivaji IV and expressed fears regarding danger to Shivaji IV’s life from officers appointed to protect him. In spite of such accusations the British Government did not remove Shivaji IV from the custody of these officers.

Death and aftermath[edit]

Eventually, Shivaji IV died . The whole episode became famous as the Kolhapur Prakaran (affair). Removed to Ahmednagar, Sir Shivaji IV died a year later on December 25, 1883 at the age of 20, "in a scuffle with", or "due to beating received from", a British soldier appointed to take care of him - a Private Lloyd Passingham. He was succeeded by Shahaji II, as he had left no heir. [1].

The manner of his death was widely regarded as a vindication of the accusations made by the Indian nationalists, in spite of the court ruling against them, the whole issue being a landmark in the development of the Indian Independence Movement.



Shivaji IV
Bhonsle dynasty (Kolhapur line)
Born: 5 April 1863 Died: 25 December 1883
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rajaram I
(as Raja of Kolhapur)
Raja of Kolhapur
Succeeded by
Shahaji II