The Natural New Year

In the month of March-April we ring in the New Year as per Indian calendars. We use the word “calendars” because India has a variety of calendars, some are lunar based, some are based on the Sun, some are luni-solar and some are Jovian i.e. Jupiter based.

The calendars in India follow both the Sun and moon. They are essentially Luni Solar and use the Zodiac as the months. Some parts of India use the Sun and Stars of the Zodiac as the marker, i.e. Sauramanam, while some other parts use the moon and the Zodiac as the marker and the months start based on the phase of the moon and the Zodiac being transited by the Sun i.e. Chandramanam.

States such as Karnataka, Andhra, Maharashtra and few others, which follow the Chandramana calendar celebrate – Ugadi and Gudi Padava, as their New Year respectively, based on the day after the New Moon.

While others who follow the Sauramana calendar, i.e states such as Tamil Nadu – Puduvarsham, Kerala – Vishu, Punjab- Baisaki, Assam – Bohali Bihu, Sri Lanka etc. celebrate the New Year typically on April 14th / 15th as the day when Sun transits into Aries Zodiac.

60 YEAR CALENDAR CYCLE – MANAVA YUGA

In any case, most of India also follows an overall Jovian system or Jupiter based system wherein years are counted in cycles of 60 years. i.e. 60 years have different names and once 60 years have passed, the 61st year gets the same name as the first year in the 60 year cycle.

This 60 year cycle is called a Manava Yuga.

Why a 60 year calendar?

While the Earth revolves the Sun in one year, Jupiter revolves around the Sun in 12 years and Saturn revolves around the Sun in 20 years. The lowest common denominator, i.e. the earliest time when both Jupiter and Saturn can meet at the same position, with respect to the Sun, Moon and Earth, is 60 years. Hence this 60 year cycle.  The sixty year calendar cycle repeats itself and each of these years has a name, which is said to denote some qualitative aspect of the year.

The 60 year cycle is also called as Manava Yuga, because a person’s prime life is considered to be 60 years. It is called Yuga, because, it is an alignment. An alignment of man on Earth, the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn. As we have seen before, Yuga, comes from Jug or Yog which means union as in Yoga which is a union of body and mind.

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60 Year Alignment Cycle

YUGADI

Yug means an alignment of the astral bodies; which in turn denotes a period of time and Adi is the beginning. Thus Yugadi, also popularly spelt as Ugadi, is the start of a period of time or Yuga. Yuga or alignment here is the yearly alignment of the Earth’s equator with the Sun, the Moon and the Zodiac of Chaitra. This is why this New Year festival is called a Yugadi.

VISHU

In the Sauramana calendar, the movement of the sun is used as the base. The equinox is when the Sun is exactly over the equator. After this day the Sun moves towards the northern hemisphere.

This point has therefore been used as the starting point for a year by those who used the Sun as the basis for the calendar.

The Indian word for equator is Visvadrutta Rekha meaning that which splits the world into 2 halves. The word Vishu thus denotes equal and the New Year festival in Kerala is called Vishu, when the sun is at the equal position in its annual transit.

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A few thousand years ago, when this type of calendarical system was probably formed, we had the occurrence of equinox on April 14th. Today the equinox occurs on March 21st. Here there is a difference of 21 days between March 21st and April 14th.

This difference is due to the precision of equinox, where we must adjust 1 day in every 72 years. Such adjustments were done until 1500 years ago or more during the period of Varahamihira in 530 CE, post which it was not paid attention to, due to which this  gap has occurred.

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Varahamihira, 530 CE

 

Calendar Reform

When India attained its independence, a Calendar Reform Committee was constituted with the renowned Astrophysicist, Dr. Meghanand Saha as its Head. This committee studied all these calendars, understood the nature-based aspect of these calendars of India and suggested that the Indian calendar should start on March 21st  keeping in mind the precession of equinox factor that has occurred since the last calibration of the calendar. This calendar, with the year starting from March 21st has now been accepted and used for all official, government records.

Celebrate with knowledge

This knowledge of calendrical system should help us realize the wholistic, scientific and nature-based concepts behind calendars of India and the festival of New Year.

Ugadi – A Natural New Year

Ugadi is the New Year in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. In Maharashtra it is also known as Gudi Padva. This is celebrated on the first day after the new moon, which occurs closest to the vernal equinox. Since it is based on the moon it marks the New Year in a Chandramana calendar. Chandra is for moon and mana for measure.

Close on heels to this, is the observance of the New Year by the other communities of the land following the Sauramana calendar, the calendar that measures the movement of the sun.

In Kerala it is celebrated as Vishu, where first thing in the morning the family members are taken by the mother, to view VishuKani, an arrangement of flowers, fruits and a mirror – the first set of objects to be viewed on the start of a New Year.

In Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Puththandu, New Year or Varuda Pirappu, birthof a new year. In Sri Lanka, the same day is celebrated as the Sinhala New Year, Aluth Avurudda.

In Orissa, it is celebrated as Bisuba, again coming from the root word Bisu or Vishu. In Nepal it is celebrated as Biska. In Bengal it is celebrated as Nabo Barsho.

In Assam it is Bohag, Rangali Bihu.

In Punjab, the New Year is welcomed as Baisakhi.

Vishu, Bisuba, Biska, Bihu, all come from the same root word Vishu which stands for equinoxAn equinox is when the Sun is exactly over the equator and the day and night are equal.

The Indian word for equator is VisvadruttaRekha, meaning that which splits the world into two halves.

The word Vishu thus denotes equal and a sense of balance.

This point of balance of the sun, in its annual transit, served as an ideal point to start a New Year. It was an ideal time to take a reckoning of the skies and balance oneself, one’s accounts, one’s life, one’s relations and one’s goals before embarking on the next year.

Across the land of India and also in most ancient civilizations this period, window of balanced time, came to be celebrated as the start of the new calendar year.

It was the equinox, the sun being on the equator and crossing over to the northern hemisphere.  So this was the right time for the start of a New Year across the world in the Northern Hemisphere.

This New Year celebration was based on the movement of the sun.

It was celebrated not only in different parts of India, but in Persia too, as Nowroz and also in different parts of Europe in the pre-medieval days.

This shows that the people then lived in consonance with nature.

What is interesting to note here is the use of the term Ugadi for this New Year.

Adi is start, beginning. So Yuga Adi or Ugadi, denotes start of a Yuga.

Even though it denotes the start of a New Year it is not called Varsha Adi but is instead called Yuga Adi. How does one come to terms with this term, since Yuga is usually correlated with a large span of time, whereas we are only moving into the next year?

Yuga is just not a long period of time as is generally thought to be.

The word Yuga means alignment, like in Yoga which aligns body, mind and breath. Yuga is an alignment of astral bodies.

There are many such conjunctions, alignments that keep happening in the sky as the earth, moon and planets keep revolving around the sun, day in and day out.

Each of these alignments occur at varying frequencies ranging from 1 year to 5 years to 60 years to 360 years to 26000 years to 4,32,000 years.

Each of these alignments occur periodically and unfailingly.

Each of these alignments serve as a means to track time at different scales.

Each of these alignments is called a Yuga.

Yuga thus is a generic time unit. Depending on the scale, it denotes different alignments and different periods of time.

In the case of the New Year, a conjunction of the earth, sun and moon coming in alignment near the vernal equinox every year – a perfectly balanced point in the earth-sun-moon system, was deemed by our ancient, knowledgeable people as an apt milestone to usher in a New Day, a New Year and new hopes.

yugadi

Earth, Moon and Sun in alignment near vernal Equinox – Ugadi

This day has come to stay and be celebrated as Yuga Adi or Ugadi.

 

Symbolism of Shiva

In Indian tradition, Shiva Tattva, is often represented in a distinct form of Shankara sitting in meditation holding implements such as Damaru and Trishul. He has a mark of vibhuti on His forehead. He wears a snake around His neck. He has a matted hair with Ganga flowing out from these locks. He has a crescent moon on His head as a ‘decoration’. He rides a Bull called Nandi, His Vahana, vehicle.

Is this the real form of Shiva or is it a visual representation with each of these aspects of His form having some significance?

Shankara

Shankara etymologically comes from “Sham karothi ithi Shankara”, meaning, “that which does good”.

Thus the form of Shankara brings to bearing that Shiva, the auspicious and with the potential to manifest all goodness, can only be realized through deep meditation, a state when the sound of OM reverberates through our mind, being and senses.

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Shankara

Watch Bharath Gyan Film on Shankara

 Trishul

 The Trishul as the name itself suggests, is a trident, a spear with 3 spikes to it.

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Trishul

The Trishul of Shiva seems to be conveying the significance of 3 to us.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film Trishul

The 3 Forces of Trinity

 At one level, this Trishul denotes the concept of Trinity in the Universe where the Trinity represent the divine forces of the Universe.

What are these three divine forces of the Universe?

In the ancient Indian texts, the Trinity or the divine forces have been expressed as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva i.e. the creator, preserver and destroyer respectively.

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Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

The Indian Rishi, seer scientists, have expressed that for the Universe to go through its cycles, this Trinity, these 3 divine forces are an essential requisite and it is essential for these 3 forces of the Trinity to work in tandem.

This concept of Trinity has also been discussed by different civilizations in their own variant forms.

The 3 states of Divinity

At another level, the Trishul or trident of Shiva is perhaps to remind us constantly of the 3 states of Shiva namely

Arupa - Formless,

Rupa-Arupa – Formless Form and

Sarupa – With form.

 Watch the Bharath Gyan Film – 3 states of Shiva

The 3 states of Man

 Trishul also denotes the 3 modes of action in mankind and that which

drives these acts. They are;

1. Kayika, physical actions

2. Vaachika, speech

3. Manasika, to do with the mind

These 3 modes of action do find a equivalence in the 3 states of the

divinity as well, for example

  1. Kayika with Sarupa or manifested form

  2. Vaachika with Rupa-Arupa for the formless form

  3. Manasika with Arupa for the formless

It is pertinent to note here that the ancient Greek divinity of Europe,

Poseidon, also had a trident in his hand.

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Damaru

 The other prominent implement in Shiva’s hand is the Damaru.

 The Damaru is a rustic, very ancient variety of hand held drum, with a central bead attached to string which swings and beats on both sides of the drum in an alternating manner.

 What is the significance of this Damaru in Shiva’s hand?

                        5                           6

                               Shiva                                                      Damaru                                                                       

Shiva represents the Cosmic being and the Cosmic power that causes the cycles of creation, dissolution and regeneration which happen in regular rhythmic intervals as the acts of Nature.

The implement that best exemplifies the beat of the rhythm is a drum.

The primeval drum is the Damaru.

As Shiva oversees the rhythmic of dissolution and regeneration, the Damaru best exemplifies the implement most needed by Shiva to keep up this rhythm.

The cosmic rhythmic beat is such that, it causes everything in this Universe to merge in unison with this beat and dissolve back into Shiva. This event is therefore called Pralaya. Thus when Shiva beats His Damaru, He causes the Pralaya or natural dissolution of this Universe.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Damaru

Third Eye-Tryambaka

Tryambaka comes from the roots tri meaning 3 and Ambaka which means eyes.

The name Tryambaka for Shiva thus is said to mean Shiva the 3 eyed.

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3 eyed Shiva

Modern physiology indicates the presence of a gland called the pineal gland in the brain, behind and between the eyebrows which is considered to be the focal point for concentration. The 3rd eye of Shiva is also but a way to remind us to open our eyes and see, experience Shiva in all the three states, Arupa - the Formless state, Rupa Arupa –  the Formless Form state and Rupa - the Formful state.

The third eye is to realize Shiva in His formless Arupa state which is at once vast, terrific and terrifying.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short- Shiva’s 3rd Eye

The Forehead Mark – Vibhuti

Of the 5 primordial elements, the Fire element, Agni, is associated with Shiva. This is exemplified by the story of the Lingodhbhava. Fire acts on anything and everything and reduces it to a state of ash or Bhasma. So Bhasma is a product of Agni or Shiva acting on it. It is considered symbolic of Shiva’s act of destruction for regeneration.

 The word Vibhuti means resplendent or glowing, with extraordinary powers.

 The smearing of the ash or Vibhuti is meant to destroy one’s ego and ignorance and give rise to a new self, glowing with the realization of Shiva.

Moon on head-Chandrasekhara

 The moon weaves a magic in the sky every fortnight.

 Once, the New Moon phase is reached, there is no moon visible from the earth. From there, it grows again and recreates a Full Moon again within the next fortnight as part of a beautiful celestial show of Nature. Shiva as the divinity of regeneration, in His pictorial form, has a very thin crescent moon on His head.

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Chandrasekhara

This thin crescent symbolically depicts the regenerative aspect in the monthly cycle of the moon from the thin remnants of the previous cycle.

Regeneration is also connected with fertility and what is interesting to note here is that, in humans, the women’s fertility cycle of 28 day period exactly coincides with the 28 day cycle of the moon.

The Chandrasekhara or Somasekhara form of Shiva brings out to us the intrinsic correlation between the phases of the moon, fertility and the humans.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Chandrasekhara

Nandi –The Bull

Shiva’s Vahana, Vehicle is the bull called Nandi. A bull is called Rishabha in local language and it is a Pashu. The loose translation for Pashu is animal. But Pashu is also an encompassing term that includes all living beings or bodily forms.

 Shiva as a principle of the Universe can only be realized through subtler means and not in a physical or gross form. Thus Pashu or bodily forms are a stumbling block in the way towards realizing Shiva.

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Nandi, Bull

Only when one is willing to go beyond the bodily level of understanding and hones the subtler senses, can one understand and realize Shiva Shankar and peace.

 Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Nandi

 This Shivaratri, let us imbibe the significance behind Shiva’s visual form as we immerse ourselves in the Shiva Tattva.

[Selective excerpts from the book Understanding Shiva in the Bharath Gyan Series by D.K.Hari and D.K.Hema Hari]

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Also watch the 19 Short Films on ‘Understanding Shiva’ here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9QLcyiVla352leXqBX6smjKtdhJ7ZhOQ

Significance of Shivaratri

Indian thought and practices over time immemorial have commemorated certain days and festivals as ways and means for people to understand, remember and reunite with the Universe and the divinities of the Universe.

These festivals become gateways for people to reach out and be in communion with the divinities.

Shivaratri is one such festival which is a gateway to reach out and understand the divinity called Shiva or Shiva Tattva.

Shivaratri celebrations

 Once we understand the meaning of Shiva Tattva and the celebration of Shivaratri, no doubt, our celebrations and the enjoyment of the Tattva of Shiva will be enhanced manifold. It will make our celebrations more relevant and meaningful.

Ithihasa Purusha-Historical Personages

Among the Indian pantheon of divinities, few are historical and many others are Tattva, principles, essence in nature.

The prominent historical divinities are Rama and Krishna for which reason they are called as Ithihasa Purusha, historical personages and Avathara Purusha, those who came down to this earth, to live with us.

Lord Rama       Lord Krishna

Rama and Krishna – Historical Personages

 

Shiva, a Tattva

In contrast to this, Shiva is not an ithihasa purusha but is a tattva. .

What is Shiva Tattva?

 Shiva

Shiva – A Tattva

Meaning of the term Shiva

 The word Shiva simply means Mangalam, auspicious. Anything that is auspicious is Shiva. This auspiciousness which is all pervading throughout the universe, is a constant presence during the lifetime of this universe, before the creation of the universe and continues to be so after the dissolution of this world, this solar system, this galaxy and this entire universe.

Thus this Shiva, auspiciousness is the very life of the universe. Not just the life we see around us in a very limited perspective of life in humans, animals or plants but the very concept of life itself.

The meaning for Shiva as auspiciousness is evident from the following examples.

The traditional way of wishing “Goodbye” was through a phrase “Shivaasthe Panthaanaha” meaning “Let your ways be auspicious”. Ways here, meaning your paths, your deeds and ways of life.

Namaste

 Shivaasthe Panthaanaha

The term “Shiva” also has a much larger connotation which includes

  • having the potential,

  • being capable of,

  • boding well,

  • being favourable, promising.

All of these meanings of Shiva are also attributed to the Indian term “Mangalam”, which also has a similar all encompassing meaning of denoting the potential to manifest something good.

Shiva-Shava

From a metaphysical perspective, Shiva can be split as sha+ee+va where

  • sha stands for Shareeram, body,

  • ee stands for eeshwari, life giving energy and

  • va stands for vayu or motion.

Thus Shiva represents the body with life and motion.

If the “ee” is removed from Shiva, it gets reduced to sha+va or shava.

Shava means a lifeless body.

Anything with Shiva is with life and anything without Shiva is Shava or without life.

Here we see that while Shava is motionless or lifeless, Shiva is with the potential of life.

Making this potential manifest as matter, life and the cosmos, is Shakti the energy tattva, the female counterpart of Shiva. Without Shakti, Shiva stays as the potential. It is Shakti that triggers Shiva into manifesting as life.

This body is composed of many cells. It is the Preeti, the forces of attraction which keep the cells together to produce a body with life or with Prana. When this Preeti is gone, the cells disintegrate and Prana goes away from the body and the body is considered to be dead.

Thus Shiva along with Shakti together go to produce the universe as we can and cannot see it.

So, Shiva is auspicious, Shiva is potential and Shiva is Life. Shiva is all encompassing – the universal soul or consciousnss, Chaitanya. Realizing this Shiva Tattva leads to Ananda, bliss.

Understanding Night, Ratri

This Creation resonates with a rhythm or a natural heartbeat. Every object in this Creation has its own cycle or rhythm, in which it rises to a peak and ebbs to a low. This low is called the night, ratri.

The word Ratri means comfort giver”. It is derived from the root word “ram” meaning “to be content”, “to give contentment”.

3 Levels of Activities

Ratri is that which gives one comfort or rest from the 3 types of activities namely:

Kayika or bodily actions,

Vachika or speech

Manasika or thoughts.

A person is afflicted physically, mentally and spiritually by 3 types of agents, namely

  • Adhyatmika – pertaining to the self, the Atma

  • Adhi Bhauthika – pertaining to the elements of Nature, the Bhuta

  • Adhi Daivika – pertaining to the cosmic, the Divya

 During night, as man sleeps and gets regenerated, all 3 types of actions are subdued and mind is completely at rest, free from all types of afflictions.

 Hence night is called ratri or the comfort giver.

 Ratri

 What a beautiful way to form a word such that its very formation implies its meaning and function.

It is during the ratri or night of any being, that the being gets rejuvenated and refreshed for its next cycle or day.

The Natural Rhythm

For man, this natural rhythm is daily day and night. Every night, the body gets regenerated and refreshed for the next day. The old cells are discarded and get replaced with new cells every day. Blood in the body is purified and circulated every day. New blood cells are born each day. This is Nithya Pralaya or daily Pralaya.

What is a Pralaya?

Pralaya

Only when there is dissolution of the old, can there be scope for regeneration of the new.

There is a continuous cycle of dissolution and regeneration going on in the Universe.

The process of dissolution is called Pralaya. Pralaya is limitedly understood as waters or fire engulfing everything.

Infact there are 4 types of Pralaya defined in ancient Indian texts, they being,

  • Nithya Pralaya, daily Pralaya

  • Naimitika Pralaya, occasional Pralaya

  • Avantara Pralaya, seasonal Pralaya

  • Maha Pralaya, the great Pralaya

Laya means to merge or dissolve into. Music that makes one forget everything and makes one blend with the music is said to have Layam. It is also a rhythm.

The prefix Pra denotes special as in Prakrithi which is primordial or ultimate Nature. Pralaya thus simply means the rhythmic, special dissolution or merging back into ultimate natural form.

Shiva, being the potential to manifest, is the divinity for dissolution and regeneration. Hence the time one readies for rejuvenation and regeneration that comes with a Pralaya, is associated with Shiva as Shivaratri.

Observing Shivaratri

Not so commonly known is the monthly celebration of Shivaratri, which falls on the Krishnapaksha Chaturdasi every month or the night preceding the New Moon.

Maha Shivaratri or the Great Shivaratri is celebrated annually on the Krishnapaksha Chaturdasi night. i.e. the night preceding the New Moon, in the penultimate month of the year, the month of Magha or the month of Masi in Tamil calendar, which typically occurs in the month of February – March these days.

History of Shivaratri

Rishi Kahola Kaushitaki in his Kaushitaki Brahmana records that Maha Shivaratri was celebrated even during the Mahabharatha times, i.e. 5100 years ago.

Appreciating Shivaratri

In cosmology, when the entire Creation starts contracting, it is expressed as the start of the night of Brahma and the final collapse is called the Maha Pralaya. This Maha Pralaya then leads to the start of the next cycle of Creation and is thus a regeneration of the entire Srishti, Creation.

The interim state between a dissolution and a regeneration is a period of both serenity and tranquility when all bodies are calm and preparing for regeneration. Following this tranquility is the joy and celebration which comes with having been regenerated and refreshed.

Change through celebration

The change that comes with dissolution can primarily be accepted in two ways,

  1. With pain

  2. With celebration

 When there is resistance to a change, there is pain. Where there is willful acceptance, there is no pain. When we understand and willingly accept that a dissolution is only for a regeneration, the dissolution or change ceases to cause pain.

Shivaratri is an occasion that makes us aware of the need to change along with the ever changing cosmos and to renew our cosmic connect.

It is a window to prepare ourselves to accept the change, to let go of the past, to make way for the new and the rejuvenation that comes forth.

It is a celebration to welcome the change, the rejuvenation.

Therefore for time immemorial our ancestors have given this night of regeneration, a feeling of serenity through fasting and praying and have followed it with celebration through singing.

Shivaratri

 Shivaratri

Every Shivaratri, let us connect with this Shiva Tattva and get rejuvenated to face the coming phases of our lives.

More information on these aspects of Shiva is available in our book, “Understanding Shiva”, and a film, “Understanding Shiva” which are a part of the Bharath Gyan Series.

understanding shiva book

understanding shiva film

Understanding Shiva – “Book and Film”

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Paying Tributes to a Maratha Hero

February ushers in Shivaji Jayanthi on the 19th of this month. It is a day observed by the state Government of Maharashtra to mark the birthday of a boy born about 400 years ago.

A boy, who would grow up to establish the Maratha empire and become its ruler as Chatrapathi Shivaji.

shivaji

 Chatrapathi Shivaji

Born Shivaji Raje Bhosle, Shivaji made significant contributions not only to the Maratha empire but also to the destiny of the rest of India.

Named Shivaji after the deity Shivaidevi, a form of Goddess Durga, an embodiment of courage, strength and fearlessness, Shivaji, true to his name, fearlessly strode the path that would eventually liberate the land from the oppressive rule of the Mughals and their vassals in different parts of India.

The legends of Shivaji, his conquests, the Guerilla warfare that he popularized, the ploys he adopted to outwit the Mughals, are all well known and well documented.

A popular statement made by many is that,

the British took over the political control of India from the Mughals”.

Little known to many is the ground reality, corroborated by British Maps themselves.

Ground reality

After Shivaji and his forces had dealt a decisive blow to the Mughal forces, the Mughal empire, along with many of their vassals had disintegrated. In their place, the Maratha rule and the Maratha confederacy of Peshwa, local kings and heads of principalities, started ruling different parts of India.

It was a confederacy because while there were many Peshwa ruling in their respective localities, they shared the ideals, principals, goals and the rule of law of the Marathas.

All this is borne out as a fact when we see the British map of 1780, during the times of Robert Clive, where it shows the Maratha Empire covering pretty much, most portions of present day India – Central, North and South India.

It stretched from Tamil Nadu in South India to Peshawar in the north, in modern day Pakistan and upto Bengal in the east.

BritishMapOfIndia1780

British Map of India, 1780 – Maratha Empire is the Region in Yellow

The Naval force that the Marathas created under the able leadership of Kanhoji Angre, helped guard the Konkan coast for nearly a century and kept the colonial powers at bay. The colonial powers could only function as minor trading posts in the Konkan coast and become colonial powers in this region only after they managed to defeat the Naval forces of the Marathas.

 kanhoji-angre

Statue of Kanhoji Angre in Alibag, Maharashtra

The Maratha Power

Shivaji had personally marched through much of Karnataka, central parts of Andhraand visited even Madras, which was a fledgling town then, primarily a British trading post operating out of Fort St.George.

During this visit to Madras, the British sent him gifts, honorariums, which in the local language  is called “Kappam”, twice within a month, to his camping site near the Kalikambal temple, which formed the entry point to Madras then. They did this as a good will gesture requesting him not attack their trading post saying that they were only peaceful traders.

Fort_St._George,_Chennai

Fort St. George, Old Madras

This corroborates the point that it was indeed the Marathas, who were in power when the British arrived in India.

If Shivaji had then gone ahead, attacked and decimated this fledgling trading post, then the history of India would have taken on a different turn.

The Maratha Effect

Many years later, Anqetil DuPerron, a French orientalist and linguist, who had visited India and stayed here for 7 years between 1755 and 1761, quotes a traveller as,

“When I entered the country of the Maharattas, I thought myself in the midst of simplicity and happiness of the golden age … misery was unknown … the people were cheerful, vigorous and in high health.”

Anqetil du Perron

Anqetil DuPerron

This statement of DuPerron highlights to us that not only had Shivaji and his lineage of Marathas, conquered the lands they did, but were administering them in a sustainable manner with the welfare of the people in mind.

Barring a few parts of India, it was the Maratha Confederacy which was in power after the Mughals. It was a campaign, initiated and given a form by Chatrapathi Shivaji, that brought India together as a cohesive unit after the Mughals and before the British.

Then how could the British have taken over India from such a powerful empire?

While it was a period of resurgence in India, which applied a healing balm to many a wounds that had been inflicted by the various foreign invasions and their oppressive rule, sadly this period of resurgence was shortlived.

The defeated Mughals started joining hands with the Afghans and the Nawabs to counter the expansion of the Maratha empire and started pushing the Marathas back.

Also, the individual rulers in the Maratha Confederacy, whose autonomy had grown over the years, soon started fighting amongst themselves due to jealousy and thirst for power.

It was by dethroning these individual, infighting rulers in the Maratha Confederacy in the 1800s, through bribe, deception, trade, threat, treachery and force, that the comparatively smaller in size, but devious British force, weakened the confederacy and gained monopoly over India – literally every inch of it.

All the unification brought about by Shivaji and his followers, had gone to vain. This is an excellent lesson on how,

“United we stand, divided we fall.”

The word “Maratha” today conjures up an image of present day Maharashtra alone, for the present generations. It invokes a picture of pleasant, simple, sincere and hardworking locals, popularly termed as “Marathi Manus” these days.

The contribution of Shivaji and the Marathas, towards the unification of India before the British and in the development of a spirit of fearlessness in the Indians, which helped them later to resist the British and eventually gain Independence, cannot be acknowledged enough. Anything said will only be an understatement!