Agra: The year was 1666, and Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji arrived in Agra on the invitation of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. But the meeting didn’t go well. Shivaji is said to have been infuriated by the fact that he was not accorded the protocol worthy of a king, and he left Aurangzeb’s court in a huff.
Aurangzeb subsequently sent Ramsingh, the son of Mirza Raja Jaisingh, to Shivaji with a message, that he should cool down and come to meet him. When Shivaji refused to do so unless he was accorded the protocol of a king, Aurangzeb ordered him to be placed under house arrest.
Shivaji’s subsequent escape in a box of sweets is among the historical events that brook immediate recall.
But it’s his period of captivity in Agra that appears to have inspired the BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh to celebrate Shivaji’s connection with the city.
This month, the Yogi Adityanath-led government in the state came up with a proposal to build a 60-100-foot statue of the Maratha emperor in the Kothi Meena Bazar area of the city. It is believed that it was in a kothi, or mansion, after which Kothi Meena Bazar gets its name, that Shivaji had been kept under house arrest.
A museum dedicated to Shivaji is also being planned in the area.
The announcement of the proposed memorials came after a series of meetings between Union Home Minister Amit Shah and state minister Yogendra Upadhyay, according to media reports.
Sharing details of the proposed memorial with ThePrint, Upadhyay said the large halls of the kothi will be converted into a museum, and events from the Maratha warrior king’s life — which can act as inspiration for others — will be displayed in a light-and-sound show on the Kothi Meena Bazar grounds.
There are also plans for an annual yatra (procession) from Kothi Meena Bazar to Raigad — Shivaji’s capital — every year on 17 August (when Shivaji is believed to have made his escape), Upadhyay added. A descendent of the Maratha warrior king will take the yatra, he said.
Responding to a question, Upadhyay said the route Shivaji took to return from Agra to Raigad should also be researched, as it is believed the Maratha king had visited a temple in Agra and stayed there with his son Sambhaji, disguised as a monk, before making his way to Mathura and then finally to Raigad.
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Where was Shivaji held captive
It was earlier believed that Shivaji had been imprisoned in Agra Fort, and some underground rooms found during an excavation at the fort by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) 12 years ago were claimed to be the ones where he had been kept.
However, historian Raj Kishore Raje told ThePrint over the phone that in response to an RTI filed by him in 2003, the ASI had said there was no evidence to prove this.
The historian also shared copies of the RTI filed and the ASI response.
According to a report published in Hindi media outlet Jagran in 2019, there is ample proof that Shivaji was not detained in Agra Fort, but in a mansion in what is present-day Kothi Meena Bazar.
The mansion itself is disputed property.
According to media reports, while the Vrindavan-based Pathak Vrindavan Trust asserts its right over Kothi Meena Bazar and its 30 bighas of land, the UP government claims it to be evacuee property.
The Administration Of Evacuee Property Act, 1950, defines an evacuee as a person who “on account of the setting up of the Dominions of India and Pakistan or on account of civil disturbances or the fear of such disturbances, leaves or has, on or after the 1st day of March, 1947 , left, any place in a state for any place outside the territories now forming part of India”.
Evacuee property is defined as that “of an evacuee (whether held by him as owner or as a trustee or as a beneficiary or as a tenant or in any other capacity), and includes any property which has been obtained by any person from an evacuee after the 14th day of August, 1947”.
According to a 2021 report on the website for Hindi news outlet Amar Ujala, the Pathak Vrindavan Trust had acquired the property based on an agreement signed by the then-owners on 15 September 1892. However, the British government refused to accept the agreement in 1902 and the mansion was subsequently declared evacuee property.
On appeals filed in a series of court cases thereafter, the then-first additional district judge of Agra had given a decision in favour of the trust on 12 May 1994. After this, the government did not follow up on this case for 10 years, claimed the news report.
In 2003, however, when the trust wanted to construct on the land, the Agra administration reportedly stopped it, after which the trust filed a contempt petition. The case is currently pending in Allahabad High Court, said the report.
A statue here, a museum there
Meanwhile, the announcement of the upcoming statue and museum dedicated to Shivaji is the latest in a series of efforts made by the BJP to honour the Maratha king’s links to Agra.
Last month, Shivaji’s 393rd birth anniversary was celebrated in Agra Fort, attended by Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde and UP CM Yogi Adityanath.
In 2001, a statue of Shivaji was installed in front of Agra Fort. The statue was reportedly unveiled by former deputy Prime Minister and BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani.
According to media reports in 2020, the Adityanath-led BJP government in the state also announced its decision to rename the under-construction ‘Mughal Museum’ in Agra to ‘Shivaji Museum’.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
Also read: Maharashtra Governor writes to Amit Shah, says speech on Shivaji blown ‘out of context’