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Durable Link to this BlogSunday, April 20, 2008

Shivaji and Karnataka

Shivaji and Karnataka

When politically motivated bad blood erupts in Karnataka and Maharashtra, my mind goes back to olden times, when lot of good things happended between the two regions. Varkari tradition and Vitthala worship as also Kannada origion or ancestry of Shivaji the Great, have been discussed on this website. Few more happenings could be remembered in this context.

Shahaji Bhosle, father of Shivaji spent nearly 27 years of the latter part of his life in Karnataka only (1637-1664 CE). He was in service of Adil Shahis of Bijapur and helped Mohammad Adilshah ( 1626-1656) in conquering small chieftains of the adjacent region of Karnataka. Slowly he carved an independent principality for himself when he died in 1664 CE. His Samadhi is at Hodigere near Chennagiri in Shimoga district.

Vitthala, the titular deity of Maharashtra has his presence throughout Karnataka as well, thanks to Krishnadevaraya the emperor of Vijayanagara (1509-1529) and saint poet Purandaradasa who popularized Vitthala worship. Tradition speaks of a Vijayanagara King carrying the Vitthala image from Pandharpur to the Royal capital (Hampi) where a magnificent temple was built for "Vijaya Vitthala" by Krishna Devaraya. Bhanudasa, the Marathi saint is said to have brought it back to Pandharpur.

Krishnadevaraya"s court attracted scholars from all regions. One such distinguished pundit was Rameshvara Bhatta from Paithan (Maharashtra) which was home of learning from very ancient times. He belonged to Gadi family, which later migrated to Kashi or Banaras. Gaga Bhatta, a scion of this family was the officiating priest at Shivaji"s coronation who established Shivaji"s Kshatriya heritage overcoming all objections of conservatives.

The glorious tradition of Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565 CE) was still fresh in people"s mind when Shivaji stayed in Karnataka between 1640-42 CE. It is possible that he dreamt of bringing back that glory which had ended less than a century back.

When Shivaji established his independent Kingdom, he adopted the coinage of Vijayanagara. The imperial coin was hon (honnu in Kannada) instead of the Rupee, which was known in the greater part of India.

He granted one hundred villages two sons of Sri Ranga Raya, the last nominal "Emperor" of Vijayanagara.

Late professor G.S. Dikshit has drawn a parallel of Shivaji with Kanthirava Narasaja which is surprisingly similar. Kanthirava Narasaraj (1638-1659) of Mysore was 15 years senior to Shivaji but died young at the age the 44. Both the rulers were religious, benevolent, both fought the common enemy, Bijapur. Shivaji had goddess Bhavani"s blessings and Kanthirava, had full faith in Chamundeshvari. Both were adept at military strategy and caught imagination of their subjects. One is tempted to conclude that Shivaji the Great was very much influenced by the living tradition of Vijayanagara Empire and Kanthirava Narasaraj"s reign.

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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