The Bahujan Samaj owes a deep debt of gratitude to the Bahujan Revolutionary CHHATRAPATI SHAHU MAHARAJ who was the ruler of Kolhapur state in Maharashtra from 1884 to 1922. He was born on 26/6/1874. Maharaj of Kolhapur wanted to exterminate the stifling and strangulating structures of caste system and untouchability which are the immoral institutions created by the brahminical class. By undertaking the responsibilities of the “Satya Sodhak Samaj movement” which was started by RASTRAPITHA JOTIBA PHULE, Shahu Maharaj toiled untiringly to uplift the Bahujan Samaj. He cautioned the Bahujan Samaj by showing the flagrant injustice happened to them by the despotic rule carried by the brahminical gluttons who seized hegemony in every sphere. Shahu Maharaj proposed communal representation and he viewed it as one of the weapon of liberation for the Bahujan Samaj. Writing to Lord Sydenham, Ex- Governor of Bombay in 1918, he said “the principle that majorities have no need of separate representation doesn’t hold good in a province where a selfish minority is likely to get the power, which is sure to be used to hold the majority (Bahujan Samaj) in perpetual vassalage.” Shahu Maharaj instigated many programs in order to liberate the Bahujan Samaj from the cloak of brahminical hegemony. The programs are as follows:
• Initiated hostels & boarding houses in the name of HOSTEL MOVEMENT
• Started a scheme called “SCHEME OF MORAL & MATERIAL PROGRESS”
• Imposed compulsory & free education for all
• Gave special encouragement to female education and provided various educational facilities to backward class students
• Followed a policy of encouraging the establishment of libraries in different places and adopted measures to improve higher education
• Implemented 50% reservations for backward classes and issued an order on 26/7/1902
Shahu Maharaj was a successor of Jotiba Phule; he was a product of movement led by Phule called Satya Sodhak Samaj movement. Shahu Maharaj was completely under the spell of Jotiba Phule. In the year 1882, Phule made a demand of free and compulsory education for everyone along with proportionate representation in government jobs to Hunter commission and as a successor of Phule, Shahu Maharaj implemented 50% reservations in his state in the year 1902 where some of the scholars refer this implementation as the first official instance (Government Order) providing for reservation for depressed classes in India.
Dr. Ambedkar too got financial assistance for his higher education and his fort nightly paper “Mook Nayak”. Later, on March 21, 1920, Dr. Ambedkar presided over a conference of the untouchables at Mangaon in the Kolhapur state, it was attended by Shahu Maharaj and there he declared “you (Bahujan Samaj) have found your savior in Ambedkar. I am confident that he will break your shackles. Not only that, a time will come when, so whispers my conscience, Ambedkar will shine as a front rank leader of all India fame & appeal.” Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, who got influenced by the Shahu Maharaj’s policies, implemented seventy per cent reservation for all the deprived groups in Mysore princely state. Later, Dadasaheb Kanshiram too applauded the contributions done by Shahu Maharaj and he rejuvenated the legacy of Shahu Maharaj.
Hence, it’s the right time for us to elevate the torch of knowledge in involving and investing our abilities and commitment through the slogan and practice of pay back to our Bahujan Samaj in order to annihilate the rapacious brahminical conspiracies which de- moralized and de- humanized the Bahujan Samaj.
Shri Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj (also known as Rajashri Shahu) (26 June 1874-6 May 1922) was the first Maharaja of the Indian princely state of Kolhapur between 1884 and 1922.
First king in India who implemented Reservation Policy ( Provided 50% Reservation in his state, on 26 July 1902) Revolutionary Legal Reforms. Appealed for caste-free India and abolition of untouchability. Pioneer of Student Hostel Movement for Bahujan Samaj. De-recognized Brahmanical supremacy and Religious bureaucracy of Brahmins. Greatest supporter and sympathizer of Dr. Ambedkar movement. The Pillar of Social Democracy.
Shahu was born on 26 June 1874 as Yeshwantrao Ghatge, eldest son of Appasaheb Ghatge, chief of Kagal (senior) by his wife Radhabai, a daughter of the Raja of Mudhol in present-day Karnataka. He was adopted by Anandibai, widow of Raja Shivaji IV, in March 1884. Several generations of inter-marriage had ensured that Shahu’s family was connected intimately with the ruling dynasty of Kolhapur, which is apparently what rendered him a suitable candidate for adoption, despite his not being a male-line member of the Bhonsle dynasty. A council of regency was appointed by the British government of India to oversee affairs of state during Shahu’s minority. Shahu was invested with ruling powers upon coming of age in 1894. There is one college named Rajaram college built by Shahu Maharaja
Shahu Maharaj is credited with doing much to further the lot of the lower castes, and indeed this assessment is warranted. He did much to make education and employment available to all: he not only subsidized education in his state, eventually providing free education to all, but also opened several hostels in Kolhapur for students hailing from many different non-brahmin communities, thereby facilitating the education of the rural and low-caste indigent. He also ensured suitable employment for students thus educated, thereby creating one of the earliest Affirmative action programs in history. Many of these measures were effected in the year 1902.
The Maharaj came in cotact with Dr B.R. Ambedkar when they were introduced by Dattoba Pawar and Dittoba Dalvi (artist) and their association lost till the sudden end of shahu Ji Maharaj in 1922. Sahu Ji was greatly impressed by his revolutionary ideas. He met Dr B.R. Ambedkar a number of times during 1917-1921. When Dr Ambedkar expressed his desire to start a fortnightly newspaper to bring about an awakening among Depressed Class Sahu Ji Maharaj denoted Rs2,500.00 for this noble cause. Dr Ambedkar started “ Mooknayak” (Leader of the Dumb) on 31st January ,1920. Also when Dr Ambedkar faced financial problems in completion of his for studies in September 1921. Sahu Ji sent Rs750.00 with assurance to Dr Ambedkar that he can write for any such help to him any time. Again Sahu Ji Maharaj sent a cheque worth Rs1500.00 to Dr Ambedkar at his London address on 5th October 1921. When Mooknayak landed in financial distressed Shahu Ji Maharaj pulled it out by donating Rs750.00 in January 1921and Rs1000.00 on 21st Febuary,1921. The first conference of untouchables was organized under leadership of Shahu Ji Maharaj (21-22 March) 1920 at Mangaon Kohlapur , Dr Ambedkar was Chairman. The Maharaja told the gathering that they had found a leader in Dr Ambedkar who will work for their amelioration.
Shahu’s other initiatives included restricting Child marriage in his state and the encouragement of intercaste marriage and widow remarriage. He long patronized the Satya Shodhak Samaj. Under the influence of these social-reform movements, Shahu arranged for several non-brahmin youths to be trained to function as priests, in defiance of timeless convention which reserved the priesthood for those of the brahmin caste. However, he faced opposition from many including Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Chhatrapati Shahu was very fond of wrestling and encouraged it in his kingdom. Many wrestlers from all over India came to Kolhapur as wrestling enjoyed royal patronage in Kolhapur.
The Indian postal department has issued a stamp dedicated to Shahu. On the first-issue citation, the government of India hails Shahu as “A social revolutionary, a true democrat, a visionary, a patron of the theatre, music and sports.