In Bhagavat Gita, Krishna said, rather than blindly following outdated traditions, one should follow moral principles understanding duties. So, Dharma needs to be updated with time.
In India social system is divided using traditions like casteism. He made efforts to bring equality among people of society. Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj was first one who tried to give justice to backward and lower-class people, along with untouchables.
Even after being a king, he faced events like Vedokta controversy. In this controversy, Brahmin priests refused to perform Vedic rites for Shahu Maharaj. High priest of Kolhapur, Shankaracharya Abhinava Shankara Bharti and even great leaders like Lokmanya Tilak took side of Brahmin priests.
This event can depict that to what extent society divided based on caste system. Shahu Maharaj saw the injustice done by the upper class to the lower class. Being the king himself, he had to face caste discrimination in the society.
In such a society, what would be the condition of a common people, we can only imagine. In such a time, he did the great work of giving justice to the unjust people.
In this biography, I provided the detailed account of Shahu Maharaj. Biography can be long, but as its in detail information that not present anywhere on internet. So make sure you bookmark this page for future reference. It would help you revisiting the page whenever necessary.
Brief Information of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj
Name before adoption
Yashwantrao Jaisingrao Ghatge
Date of Birth
June 26, 1874 CE
Place of Birth
Laxmi Vilas Palace, Kagal Taluka, Kolhapur District, Central Provinces (present Maharashtra)
Administrative matters from Sir Stuart Fraser and formal education at Rajkumar College, Rajkot. (1885-1889)
1894 CE – 1922 CE
Mother: Smt. Radhabai, Father: Jaisingrao Ghatge
Date of Death
May 6, 1922
Place of Date
Shivaji IV was believed to be reigned from 1863 to 1883 CE. He ruled as Maharaja on the Maratha throne of Kolhapur. But because he died in his early life, so there was no direct descendent to the throne. Hence, the wife of Shivaji IV, named Anandibai, adopted Yashwantrao. Then at the time of coronation, she renamed him as Shahuji.
So, Shahu IV became the king of the throne of Kolhapur. After the separation of the Maratha kingdom, Tarabai founded Kolhapur throne in 1710. She made her son Shivaji II the first Maharaja of Kolhapur province.
In this article, I am talking about Shahu IV, which was popularly known as Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj.
As there were four different Shahu Maharaj happened, which confuses people a lot. The king here I am referring is Shahu II which is also popular as Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj. To avoid confusion, you can check the list of Shahu Maharaj
There were many kings in history, but without following the caste discrimination, the only king who brought people closer together. He was none other than Shahu Maharaj, who consider humanity as the primary factor.
Shahu Maharaj believed that,
Inheritance came not from the father, but inheritance has to be achieved by self capability.
He believed as,
The well-being of society means the welfare of myself.
We know Shahu Maharaj with the title “Rajarshi” which also meant as “Royal Saint”.
Read the popular freedom fighters in India who contribute in independence struggle.
Family of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj
In childhood of Shahuji Maharaj, his name was “Yashwantrao”. He was born in the Ghatge family of Kagal village.
His father was the head of the village and his mother was a princess from the Mudhol family. When Yashwantrao of 3 years, his mother passed away on March 20, 1877 CE.
His father took responsibility for his education. Shahuji completed his formal education at Dharwad and also Rajkumar College, Rajkot in Kolhapur. He learned of administrative matters from Sir Stuart Fraser.
However, he was not from the royal family, but he had strong leadership ability.
After the death of Shivaji IV on the throne of Kolhapur, Anandibai had adopted Yashwantrao when he was only 10 years old.
Shahu Maharaj was married to Laxmibai Khanvilkar in the year 1891. Father of Laxmibai, named Gunajirao Khanvilkar, was from Baroda.
Shahu Maharaj had four children. His sons were Shivaji and Rajaram, and the daughters were Radhabai and Aaubai.
According to HistoryFiles, he also adopted Fatehsinh I Bhonsle and Rajaram II in 1745 CE. But the adoption year mentioned in the source is before the Birth of Shahu Maharaj. So even if he adopted two sons, then it might be in the year 1845 CE.
Shahu Maharaj selected the responsible persons for the administration and transformed the whole administration.
Seeing the ability of Bhaskarrao Jadhav, Shahuji appointed him to the highest post of “Assistant Sarsubhe.” Also, Shahu Maharaj appointed Annasaheb Lathe as the Prime Minister of his state.
Under the anti-Brahmin movement, Bhaskarrao Jadhav and Annasaheb Latthe opened schools for untouchables.
Social Reforms of Shahu Maharaj
On the date of 2nd April 1894, Shahu Maharaj was enthroned on the throne of Kolhapur. The Kolhapur province considered being the Karveerbhoomi. Shahuji did many social works during his 28-year reign. His work made him so popular among the public.
Shahu Maharaj could not tolerate that the upper caste people doing injustice to the lower caste people. Therefore, he enacted several laws to eliminate casteism and untouchability. He also inspected every function to enforce the laws.
Contribution to Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj in Education field
Shahu Maharaj believed always believed that,
Education is the backbone of every nation.
He also came to know that,
If you want to eliminate poverty, superstition, and ignorance in society, then there is no alternative to education.
For this, the focus of Shahu Maharaj was on ensuring that children of all levels get an education. During his reign, the Kolhapur organization was doing the largest expenditure on primary education.
Made law regarding Primary Education
A few years ago, the rulers of Maharashtra closed schools in tribal areas as an unnecessary expenditure.
Before getting the independence, Shahu Maharaj made primary education compulsory and free. He also enforced this law. Apart from this, parents of children whose children will not attend school were also fined Rs.1. He had made such a law.
When now the field of education is being looked at like a business. Remembered Shahu Maharaj who always helping boarding schools, high schools.
On September 8, 1917 CE, he promulgated a charter to make primary education free and compulsory for all children in Kolhapur. after talking to the British government.
Introduced law to minimize the gap between religions and castes
In the era of Shahu Maharaj, society did not accept marriages between different castes or religions. Girls who wanted to marry outside their caste or religion faced severe criticism.
To address this, Shahu Maharaj introduced a law that legally allowed the registration of such marriages.
However, the law stipulated that the bride must be at least 14 years old and the groom at least 18 years old. He enacted the law on July 12, 1919, a time when child marriages were common.
He had supported widow remarriage and inter-caste marriage. He had also made the laws for this.
Shahu Maharaj had arranged several Maratha-Dhangar marriages for the destruction of casteism in society.
In 1916, he founded the “Deccan Rayat Association” at Nipani for the process of political decision making.
Kind of Funny incident in the palace
Shahuji Maharaj hired an untouchable man to make tea for the courtiers. That man was from a lower-class society. Shahu Maharaj himself was drinking the tea made by that man. Shahu Maharaj also used to make other court members to drink that tea.
Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj helped many leaders and educators
An Incident in the life of Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil
Here, I remembered one incident when Shahu Maharaj allowed Bhaurao Patil was to live and learn in his palace. Bhaurao Patil, surprised with this generous nature of King, also the vision of Shahu Maharaj in the Education field inspired him a lot.
After that, Bhaurao Patil took responsibility for educating poor and vulnerable children in rural areas of society. For this, Bhaurao Patil established “Rayat Shikshan Sanstha” and he also got the title of “Karmaveer.” Shahu Maharaj also helped his organization from time to time.
Contributed to the work of Mahatma Phule
Teachings of the Mahatma Phule greatly inspired Shahu Maharaj, the King of Kolhapur. So After Phule passed away he carried further education mission of Phule.
He took action on subjects like primary education and untouchability. He also aimed to free his subjects from the control of Brahmin priests and dismantle the Brahmin bureaucracy.
Gave new hope to Satyashodhak Samaj
Shahu Maharaj was a part of the Satyashodhak Samaj, a society for social reforms established by Mahatma Phule. After the death of the Jyotirao Phule, natural disasters like plague spread across the country. Indian people faced that plague in 1897-1898 including his Kolhapur.
Therefore, in the lack of strong leadership stopped the functioning of the Satyashodhak Samaj. Shahu Maharaj gave new hopes to the Satyashodhak Samaj after happening of the Vedokta case.
Shahu Maharaj helped Ambedkar to pursue education in foreign
Shahu Maharaj was the first who recognized the abilities of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. He also assisted and helped him with the problems encountered in his education.
It will not be a mistake if I called Kolhapur “Motherland of hostels.” He was the first King who started these hostels for every caste of the children.
He set up enormous markets for industrial development. Shahu Maharaj established the famous Jaggery market in India. It was at Kolhapur and established in the year 1895.
Encouragement by Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj to Sports Sector
He encouraged youngers in sports like wrestling, which is called as “Kushti” in Marathi language. He organized many Kushti competitions during his lifetime. Not only he encouraged wrestlers for sport, but also supported them whenever needed.
Shahuji supported wrestler Khasaba Jadhav during his journey. He created a platform for wrestlers with Motibagh Taaleem, Khasbagh Maidan, etc which were identified as huge ground.
Passion of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj for Arts
Shahu Maharaj had always inspired Artists. He had given patronage to many artists, irrespective of caste or religion. He also arranged a theater for theater artists, plays.
Provided patronage to Scholars, Artists, and Wrestlers
He gave patronage too many talented artists like painter Abalal Rehman.
Shahu Maharaj was passionate about wrestling. So, provided patronage and shelter to skilled wrestlers in India.
He built an extensive field for wrestling in Kolhapur. As a result, in Maharashtra, when anyone talks about wrestlers, the name Kolhapur comes to mind.
Keshavrao Bhosale Theater
There were not having any platform for theater artists. By the way, there were not have a Bollywood or any other film industry.
Jokes aside, Shahuji established Keshavrao Bhosale Theater for actors and theater lovers.
Gayan Samaj Deval Club
It was one more vital step of Shahuji to promote music and singing.
Construction of Radhanagari Dam
Shahuji built the first “Radhanagari Dam” in India on 18th February 1907. Helping farmers in irrigation is the motive behind building this huge dam.
Dam is constructed on a large tributary of the Sina river named “Bhogawati river.” After dam construction, he also provided a loan for agricultural developments. It results in rapid growth in the agricultural field.
Shahu Maharaj Provided Reservation for Lower castes
If they oppose him to being chanting the Vedic mantra even though he was a King. Then think about what would be the situation for the common people?
As a result, on July 26, 1902, he issued a decree to reserve 50% reservation for backward classes in government jobs. The Vedokta case is also the reason behind this decision to some extent.
London Tour of Shahuji Maharaj
Ban of Shahu Maharaj on unjust customs
Shahu Maharaj had created the law, according to it, it forbade untouchability in public places. He provided shelter to the wandering tribes.
In the year 1918, the traditionally functional twelve-caste (Bara-Balutedar) system. Shahuji stopped this method in every region.
Shahuji banned the oppressive practice of Devdasi in 1920. He declared in his kingdom nobody would follow these types of practices.
A plague epidemic in the reign of Shahu
Shahuji faced that plague in 1897-1898 in his Kingdom. This pandemic disease rapidly spread in society.
Famous Vedokta Case of Shahu Maharaj
After the Vedokta case happened in 1900, Maharaj learned from this experience. He knew the untouchables will not be treated fairly until they get rid of the oppression from the upper castes.
In this Vedokta affair, Shahuji Maharaj faced the opposition from while chanting the gayatri mantra.
Brahmanical society opposed Shahuji Maharaj while chanting the gayatri mantra in this Vedokta affair.
After this case, Shahu Maharaj received criticism from all the Brahminical communities. Notably, it also included Lokmanya Tilak.
Title by Kurmi Kshatriya Sabha entitled him as Rajarshi
In 1919, the Kurmi Kshatriya Sabha of Kanpur honored the social work of Shahuji and conferred on him the title of “Rajarshi.”
Understanding the real thoughts of Shivaji Maharaj, he shut down the injustice happened in the name of traditions in the society.
Vision and Strategy for Women Empowerment
Even after being a king, he went through tyrannic situations of casteism. He thought educating non-brahmins will help in their liberation. He also enforced laws to uproot the traditional thought process.
Rajarshi Shahu was the first who started the change in thoughts of society and gave a respectful position to women. He encouraged ideas of Mahatma Phule after his death.
At the end, he concluded that education is only a medium to improve the life of Bahujan Samaj. That was the reason he made primary education free and compulsory.
According to the book, The Review of Education in Bombay State (1855-1965), the status and economic situation of women in society was at low-level in Kolhapur.
Traditional Tyrannic Practices in Society
- Except women from royal lineage, most women were not used to consider in property rights.
- Child marriages became a tradition from long time.
- Polygamy (Multi-wives) allowed and assumed as essential for wealth and higher class people.
- Women didn’t allow to work outside the house. Society had disrespected any women who used to do a job. Also, such women assumed from lower-standard.
Condition of women in society
Society used to suppress the voice of women under moral code. Also, society followed unwritten laws like ban on window remarriage, divorce and separation.
According to Britannica, Persian Muslim culture began Purdah practice. Motive behind this practice was to keep women away from eyes of public.
In the 7th century, the Arabic victory in Iraq made Arabians to follow Purdah practice. During the Muslim invasion in North India, it also influenced Hindu upper castes.
In some regions, it became the identity of Purdah practicing people to differentiate from lower-caste.
In overall society was discriminative for women. Society restricted the lives of women to the house. People had deeply rooted thought that women made only for hearth and child.
Also, women did not get a chance to make their identity. They were stuck and restricted to family life and house. Shahu Maharaj implemented policies to empower women. So women can get education for their transformation.
As a result, Shahuji implemented and started the implementation of the education policy. According to Shahuji, till now lack of education caused heavy losses to the state.
The last years of life were so did about Shahu Maharaj. Because his son “Shivaji” had died in an accident. He had diabetes and its nature deteriorated. Then, on May 6, 1922, he died of a heart attack in Mumbai at 48 years.
Who is the Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj?
What is the relation between Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj?
There is no direct blood relation between Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj. Shivaji IV, who was a descendent of Chhatrapati Shivaji, was childless. Therefore, wife of Shivaji IV, Anandibai had adopted Yashwantrao and renamed at time of coronation as Shahu.
What is the full name of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj?
Yeshwantrao Jaisingrao Ghatge was the full name of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj. He was born in Ghatge family and later he was adopted by queen Anandibai Bhosale. So after administrative study, he became the Chhatrapati of Kolhapur province.
Was Shahu Maharaj adopted son of Shivaji IV?
After the unexpected death of Shivaji IV on December 25, 1883. Widow Queen Anandibai adopted Yeshwantrao, who belongs to the Ghatge Maratha family. Yashwantrao was 10 years old at the time of adoption. During the coronation ceremony, he was renamed as Shahu Maharaj.
Where did the coronation of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj take place?
In which year was the title “Rajarshi” conferred on Chhatrapati Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj?
Shahuji Maharaj, or Shahu IV, was the first revolutionary who came forward and provided a reservation for Dalit and Backward class.
His social reforms and contributions were priceless to us. Hence, during the annual session of Kshatriya Kurmi Samaj, people entitled him with “Rajarshi” at Kanpur in 1920.
What is the birth date of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj?
Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj was born on June 26, 1874.
Who adopted Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj?
After the death of Shivaji IV, who was the husband of Queen Anandibai Bhosale. Widow Queen of Kolhapur adopted the Yashwantrao Ghatge.
The age of Yashwantrao was 10 years at that time. After that, he renamed as Shahu at the time of coronation.
What is Rajashree Shahu Maharaj scholarship?
After understanding the problems of students from economically weaker backgrounds. Government of Maharashtra is supporting the higher education for needy students.
Old fashioned construction of Radhanagari Dam, Inspired by: MaharashtraTourism
Indian Wrestlers fighting in Wrestling Match, Inspired by: Prasannare