As popular Marathi serial ‘Swarajyarakshak Sambhaji’, aired on Zee Marathi¸ was gearing up for its final episode last month, when senior Shiv Sena leader and former minister Arjun Khotkar demanded that events following the arrest of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj should not be aired.
Khotkar opined history never remains hidden but the betrayal of Chhatrapati Sambhaji and the torture he faced at the hands of Mughal emperor Aurangazeb is something which his fans would not be able to watch. In addition, he believed, airing these events would disturb ‘social harmony’ in the state. Khotkar has also demanded intervention from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray requesting him to ensure that episodes after Sambhaji Maharaj’s arrest aren’t aired.
There were also speculations that the serial would come to a pre-mature end due to political pressure, a claim which Dr. Amol Kolhe, NCP leader and lead actor playing the role of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, refuted.
Keeping these controversies aside, one of the most important things to remember is that Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj is probably the lone Maratha Chhatrapati whom historians have treated with disdain and painted him in colours far from true. This serial has sought to undo many of those injustices and brought forth the true character of Chhatrapati to the fore. Considering that the serial has been by and large just and fair in its characterisation, it would be unfortunate if it were not to show ‘how Chhatrapati gave up his life to protect Hindu Dharma’.
Betrayed by his own brother-in-law Ganoji Shirke, Chattrapati Sambhaji Raje and his trusted aide Kavi Kalash were caught by the Mughals. Aurangzeb offered to release Chhatrapati Sambhu Raje if 1) he accepted to become a Mughal Vassal after handing over Maratha kingdom to him 2) returned all wealth looted from Mughals and 3) converted to Islam. Chhatrapati straightaway refused to hand over his kingdom and give up his religion. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje said that no matter what Aurangzeb did, he would never give up his religion and he would not just choose death over conversion but even be reborn as a Hindu.
The Islamic fundamentalist that Aurangzeb was, he subjected both Chhatrapati and Kavi Kalash to inhumane torture. Their nails were plucked out, chilli powder thrown into their eyes and finally hot burning iron rods were used to blind him, but even after this he refused to give up. What comes next is not for the faint hearted. If blinding Chattrapati Sambhaji wasn’t bad enough, one by one his fingers, feet and hand were chopped, hair pulled out and when even this failed; Aurangzeb ordered them to be skinned alive, slowly and torturously. This whole episode went on for 40 days. Every evening Aurangzeb would walk in and ask the same three questions but Chhatrapati Sambhaji refused to yield. At the end of 40 days, Aurangzeb gave up and ordered that Chhatrapati Sambhu Raje and Kavi Kalash be cut to pieces and thrown in the river.
If Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj lived for Hindu Dharma then Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj gave up his life for it at the young age of 31. Bharat, today, has unfortunately forgotten him and his contribution towards ‘Dharma Raksha’. We have grown so accustomed to burying inconvenient history and distorting events to fit our modern notions of political correctness, that we don’t even realize that forgetting history does not make you immune from the consequences of lessons that history imparts.
Ultimately, the serial managed to withstand these ‘secular’ pressures and the brutal killing of Sambhaji Maharaj at the hands of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was truthfully depicted. The final episode ends with scenes of a broken Aurangzeb lying on his deathbed after a failed Deccan campaign which broke the back of the Mughal empire.
On 5 March, the Maharashtra government gave its nod to rename Aurangabad Airport as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Airport.
(Featured Image Source: MarathiStars.com)
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