Bharateeya culture has survived even after multitudinous onslaughts of sundry invaders. After commendable struggle against them, when Bharat lost it’s freedom, the new rulers thought that their cultural imperialism through ostensive aggression, against native culture would succeed in destroying Bharateeya culture, as Roman and Greek Paganism were destroyed, but lo! they saw a strong backlash.
Marathas from Deccan started a war for “Bharateeya independence” that they termed Swaraj, though in Panipat it appeared that the mission of establishing Maratha supremacy over the entire Bharateeya subcontinent was substantially over, but in just 10 years, Mahadji Scindia resurrected it, he and his successors led a Dharmic resurgence in Bharat and in this article we will get to know more about it.
Scindias were an important pillar of war for Indian independence launched by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, their commitment to inclusivity and secularism, had an intrinsic devotion to the Hindu Dharma. They went on to conquer all the four erstwhile capitals of the Mughal empire, at different points of time, viz. Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Delhi and Lahore.
The biggest Shiva temple in the erstwhile Mughal capital of Shajahanabad or Old Delhi is Gauri Shankar Temple and it was in-fact constructed during Delhi’s Scindia age. As per historian of Delhi Rana Safvi “ Next to the Shri Digambar Jain Mandir is the a beautiful marble temple famous as Gauri Shankar Mandir, also famous as Appa Shankar Mandir because Appa Shankar, a Maratha Brahmin in the service of the Scindhias (Scindias), had this built.”
Sultan of Delhi, Iltutmish had caused wide scale damage to Ujjain, and Aurangzeb continued the war against native culture. But Shrimant Ranojirao Scindia defeated the Mughals and conquered Ujjain, the clouds of slavery dissipated, and in 1732 Scindia established his administration in Ujjain. He found the original Jyotirlinga of Mahakaaleshwara Shiva Temple in a pond called Koti Tirtha, where it was hidden by the faithful to protect it from the Turks.
Scindia ordered his diwan Ramchandra Baba Shenvi to take out the Mahakaaleshwara Jyotirlinga from the Koti Teerth Kund, and reconstruct the Mahakaaleshwara Jyotirlinga temple and install the Jyotirlinga in it with Hindu rituals, before Scindia returns from his Bengal campaign. Ranojirao Scindia’s orders were followed and even later, Maharaja Mahadji Scindia and Madho Rao Scindia I of the Scindia dynasty got this temple repaired.
Scindias got almost all the temples and ghats of Ujjain renovated and reconstructed not just that, they also constructed new temples, like the Gopal temple, in this temple are installed the gates of Somnath Jyotirlinga that were got back to this temple after defeating Afghans stationed in Lahore by Mahadji Scindia.
Among the religious structures Scindias renovated in Ujjain include the Ram Ghat, where Lord Ram performed “Pind-daan” for his father Dashrath. Scindia also ordered that the Simhastha Kumbha Mela should be restarted and Maharani Baizabai Scindia spent her personal money to take care of the Sandipini Ashram the Gurukul where Shri Krishna, Shri Balrama and Shri Sudama studied.
Poet Ramshankar Shukla “Hriday” of Gwalior mentioned in one of his poems, “Jai Mahadji Sinde (Scindia) jai veeron ke bhushan, talwaron ki dharon par bhi kiya jinne Krishna ka gaayan” meaning thereby “Hail Mahadji Scindia hail the pride of brave hearts, who sang about Krishna even in battles.” On 5 April 1770 as a result of Battle of Govardhan, Scindias emerged victorious and took possession of Agra and Mathura from the Mughals. It is said that if Mahadji Scindia hadn’t died in 1794, Mathura would’ve eventually been made the northern Capital of Maratha empire by him!
Scindias conquered Mathura from the Mughals and it was under Scindia rule in Mathura that most of the destructed or ruined temples were rebuilt. Sri Vasudeva and Devaki used to bathe in Potra Kund during their time in Kansa’s prison. It is said that mother Devaki’s clothes were cleaned in this Kunda after the birth of her children. This is also said to be the place where Krishna’s baby clothes were washed by mother Devaki.
It was Mahadji Scindia who had constructed the Potra tank stairs here and his descendants had repaired them. The Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura was constructed by Seth Gokul Das Parikh, the treasurer of then Gwalior State(Scindia) in 1814, with approval and heavy donation from Shrimant Daulatrao Scindia Maharaja of Gwalior, son of the great Mahadji Scindia. From Mathura now let’s move to Kashi.
Kashi’s liberation was an important task that Scindias were very eager to do. The duty of which fell on the able shoulders of Dattaji Rao Scindia the astute and brave commander of Marathas in North India, in the year 1759. But Dattaji Rao Scindia attained martyrdom fighting against Najib-ud-Daula Nawab of Rohilkhand at Burari Ghat in present day Delhi, the passing away of Dattaji did not stop the mission of Scindias to bring Dharmic resurgence in Kashi.
Mahadji Scindia launched a pilgrim passport scheme for his subjects to go on a Darshana to Kashi, and the Raja of Benaras Chet Singh was given refuge to live in Gwalior by Scindia after his ouster from Benaras by British. On the Gyan Wapi well in which original Jyotirlinga of Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga temple was kept as per legends to protect it from invaders, Maharani Baizabai Scindia built a 40 pillar colonnade for pilgrims to rest and eat Prashad. Scindia Ghat, Gai Ghat along with Raja Gwalior Ghat and Yameshwara Ghat have been developed by Scindias in Kashi. While Scindia Devasthan Trust has several temples in Kashi in it’s care even today.
Rest of Uttar Pradesh
It was on 27th March 1785 that Scindia’s flag was unfurled on the second throne city of the Mughal Emperors Agra. As per historian Jadunath Sarkar “Agra had been the real capital Scindia’s North India dominions.” There is a historic Siddhi Vinayak temple of Lord Ganesha in Gokulpura, Raja ki Mandi area of Agra city Maharaja Mahadji Scindia renovated the temple. At that time he also planted a Peepal tree in the temple. Local people say that it was Mahadji Scindia who started the Ganesh Shobhayatra with great fanfare from the temple on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi under the royal patronage.
This procession continued till 1860. With the expansion of the Scindia state, Mahadji Scindia had issued a charter (sanad) of eight annas per day to the Maratha government in Agra, for the upkeep and regular expenses of the temple. This heritage is still safe with the priest of the temple. Several temples were also built in Rohilkhand of Uttar Pradesh during the Scindia supremacy in Western Uttar Pradesh.
Mahadji Scindia came to Prayagraj to take Shah Alam the Mughal emperor with him to be put in the Red Fort of Delhi as a puppet in the hand of Scindias, and a virtual prisoner kept in poverty, and as per some historical evidences, he had developed the Sangam where the Kumbha Mela takes place, during his stay at Allahabad now renamed as Prayagraj. Later Maharani Baizabai Scindia had done some works for renovation of Sangam ghats and temples at Allahabad, she constructed the Veni Madhav Temple located at Bai Ka Bagh, a locality named after her in Prayagraj.
Temples in Badrinath, Kedarnath, Joshimath and Devprayag were renovated by Maharaja Daulatrao Scindia. As per the book “Urbanization in The Garhwal Himalayas a Geographical Interpretation” by Surendranath Singh A powerful earthquake that shook the entire Uttarkhand on the night of 8 September 1803 proved to be disastrous and damaged the towns extensively.
About 80 per cent of the structures of Srinagar, the capital, were declared unfit for residential purposes. Heavy downpour and landslips which accompanied the earthquake increased the intensity of destruction. At Badrinath, Kedarnath, Joshimath and Devprayag, towns and temples, were also destroyed, which became heaps of debris. Later the temples at these places were renovated by the Gwalior Ruler, Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia.
Gwalior Princely State
In Gwalior the Koteshwar Mahadeva temple was once established as a place of worship by the Tomara kings of Gwalior in the Gwalior fort, the temple was later destroyed during the reign of Aurangzeb, and it’s Shivlinga was thrown down from the fort. However, it is said the Shivlinga was protected by serpents and remained buried in the rubble for almost 150 years and that Saint Dev Maharaj had a dream in which he saw the Shivlinga protected by serpents and was ordered by Lord Shiva to build a temple around it.
Following his vision, Maharaj Jayaji Rao Scindia removed the debris and established the Shivlinga in a grand temple, which is now known as Koteshwar Mahadev Temple. From Achaleshwara Temple to the Bhelsa Wali Mata Temple, many Jayeshwara temples and other temples in several parts of erstwhile Gwalior state were established by Scindias during their rule till 1947.
Maharashtra is from where Scindias started their struggle for Swaraj. Maharashtra’s first Saint of the Bhakti movement was Saint Dhyaneshwar (1275-1296) he took Samadhi in at a place called Alandi, in 1778 Alandi was granted to Maharaja Mahadji Scindia by Chatrapati of Satara. For two decades after that, the Scindia family were the main sponsors of various renovations of the temple. In the 1820s, Haibatraobuva Arphalkar, a courtier of the Scindia of Gwalior, started the modern Palkhi tradition of carrying the paduka (sandals) of Dnyaneshwar to Pandharpur during the annual Wari. Haibatraobuva was laid to rest under the first step of the temple complex per his will.
Shri Jyotiba is known as King of Deccan, his temple is located in Kolhapur and he is the family deity of the Scindias. Jyotiba Scindia I, Jyotiba Ranojirao Scindia II and Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia have been named after him. The present temple was constructed by Shrimant Ranojirao Scindia in 1730 AD the Yamai temple and Jamadagni tank were also constructed by him. The Kedareshwar temple in the complex was constructed in 1808 by Maharaja Daulatrao Scindia. In Jalna one of the attractions is Anandi Swami Temple, which was built by Mahadji Scindia. It is believed to be about 250 years old and hosts a grand annual fair on the eve of Ashadi Ekadashi.
Mahadji Scindia became the de facto ruler of Champaner-Pavagad, Panchmahal and Bharuch in Gujarat, he built 226 steps to reach the temple of Mahakali Mata on top of the Pavagad hill, got this temple renovated and then to ensure that no invader attacks this temple again, he installed Scindia garrison in Pavagad, and deployed a large number of soldiers in the security of this temple. By 1860, the Scindia Maharajas got an opportunity to serve the people of Pavagadh. Mahadji also contributed in the reconstruction of the Somnath temple in Gujarat along with Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, Peshwa of Pune and the Bhonsle of Nagpur.
There are so many more temples that this one dynasty Scindias, renovated, repaired or built that it will fill up volumes if we go into details. At a time when Bharat was tied in chains of slavery Scindias emerged as liberators and led a Dharmic resurgence in Bharat. Today the Honourable Prime Minister of Bharat has decided to carry forward this Dharmic resurgence that the Scindias and Ahilyabai Holkar led, and the works done by the Honourable Prime Minister in this direction are clearly visible.
Author: Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami,
Head Scindia Research Centre, Gwalior.