Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur Province

by Oct 4, 2023


In Bhagavat Gita, Krishna said, rather than blindly following outdated traditions, one should follow moral principles understanding their duties. So, Dharma needs to be updated with time.

In India, the social system is divided using traditions like casteism. He made efforts to bring equality among people of society. Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj was the 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 sides of Brahmin priests.

This event can depict that to what extent society is 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 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 a detailed account of Shahu Maharaj. Biography can be long, but it is in detail information. So make sure you bookmark this page for future reference. It would help you revisit the page whenever necessary.

Painting of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj at New Shahu Palace Museum of Kolhapur
Painting of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj at New Shahu Palace Museum of Kolhapur

Brief Information of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj

Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj was known as the popular King or Chhatrapati of the princely state of Kolhapur.
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
1894 CE – 1922 CE
Mother: Smt. Radhabai, Father: Jaisingrao Ghatge
Total Lifespan
48 years
Date of Death
May 6, 1922 CE
Place of Date


Picture of Shahu Maharaj Sitting in Royal Attire Outside the Palace with his Servant Staff
Shahu Maharaj Sitting in Royal Attire Outside the Palace with his Servant Staff

Shivaji IV was believed to have reigned from 1863 to 1883 CE. He ruled as Maharaja on the Maratha throne of Kolhapur. But because he died in his early life, there was no direct descendant to the throne.

Hence, the wife of Shivaji IV, named Anandibai, adopted Yashwantrao. Then at the time of coronation, she renamed him Shahuji.

So, Shahu IV became the king of the throne of Kolhapur. After the separation of the Maratha kingdom, Tarabai founded the Kolhapur throne in 1710. She made her son Shivaji II the first Maharaja of Kolhapur province.

People of Kolhapur called them Chhatrapati. But people widely accepted that the title of Chhatrapati should only belong to the successors of Shivaji Maharaj.

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 to is Shahu II, which is also popular as Rajarshi 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 considers 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 means “Royal Saint”.

Read the popular freedom fighters in India who contributed to the independence struggle.

Family of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj

Genealogy of Kolhapur Maharajas
Genealogy of Kolhapur Maharajas

In the 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 was 3 years old 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. Sir Stuart Fraser taught him in matters of administration.

However, he was not from the royal family, but he had strong leadership ability.

After Maharaja of Kolhapur Shivaji IV died, Anandibai adopted Yashwantrao when he was 10 years old.

Picture of Shahu Maharaj sitting on a chair
Picture of Shahu Maharaj Sitting on a Chair


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 source, Maharaja Shahu made the decision to adopt two sons. Fatehsingh I Bhonsle and Rajaram II were given the names of the adopted sons.

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 after the year 1892 CE.


Photograph of 19-year-old Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur meeting British Residents and their Staff in year 1894 CE
Photograph of 19-year-old Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur meeting British Residents and their Staff in year 1894 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 is considered to be 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 were 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 independence, Shahu Maharaj made primary education compulsory and free. He also enforced this law in Kolhapur. 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 helped boarding schools and 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 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 was surprised by the generous nature of the king. He was inspired by seeing the vision of King Shahu Maharaj in the Education field. His companionship inspired him a lot to take major initiatives in the education field.

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

The teachings of the Mahatma Phule greatly inspired Shahu Maharaj, the King of Kolhapur. So after Phule passed away he carried out 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 the plague in 1897-1898, including in Kolhapur.

Therefore, in the lack of strong leadership stopped the functioning of the Satyashodhak Samaj. After the Vedokta case, Shahu Maharaj gave a fresh sense of hope to the Satyashodhak Samaj.

Even though we don’t have specific examples of Shahu Maharaj openly supporting Phule. He followed and upheld his ideas and legacy.

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 would 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.

Industrial Development

He effectively set up wide-ranging markets to drive the growth of industries. Shahu Maharaj established the famous Jaggery market in India at Kolhapur in the year 1895.

Encouragement by Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj to the Sports Sector

Kusti (Wrestling)

Indian Wrestlers beginning their Wrestling Match
Indian Wrestlers beginning their Wrestling Match

He encouraged younger 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.

Photograph of the Maharaja of Kolhapur watching a Wrestling match with his Officers in crowd
Photograph of the Maharaja of Kolhapur watching a wrestling match with his officers in crowd

Keshavrao Bhosale Theater

At his time, there was no platform for theater artists. By the way, there was no 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

Old fashioned construction of Radhanagari dam, Kolhapur
Old fashioned construction of Radhanagari dam, Kolhapur

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?

On July 26, 1902, he issued a decree reserving 50% of government jobs for backward classes. The Vedokta case is also the reason behind this decision to some extent.

London Tour of Shahuji Maharaj

In the coronation of Edward VII, Shahu Maharaj had visited London in the year 1902. Shahu Maharaj examined their education, industrial development, irrigation, and communication systems.

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 would not be treated fairly until they get rid of the oppression from the upper castes.

In this Vedokta affair, Shahuji Maharaj faced the opposition 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.

Britannica states that the practice of Purdah began in Persian Muslim culture. Motive behind this practice was to keep women away from the eyes of the public.

In the 7th century, the Arabic victory in Iraq made Arabians 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.

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.

New Shahu Palace at Kolhapur
New Shahu Palace at Kolhapur


Rajarshi Shahuji Maharaj Statue at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi
Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj Statue

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?

Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj was the Chhatrapati of the princely state of Kolhapur. He is also recognized as Shahu IV, Shahuji Maharaj. Rajarshi was the title given by Kurmi Kshatriya Sabha of Kanpur in 1919.

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 descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji, was childless. Therefore, wife of Shivaji IV, Anandibai had adopted Yashwantrao and was 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?

Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur was coronated at the Royal Palace of Kolhapur. After establishment of Kolhapur throne with consent of Shahu Maharaj of Satara.

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 birthdate 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 was renamed Shahu at the time of coronation.

What is Rajashree Shahu Maharaj scholarship?

After understanding the problems of students from economically weaker backgrounds. The Government of Maharashtra is supporting higher education for needy students.

Image Credits

1. Painting of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj at New Shahu Palace Museum of Kolhapur, Featured Image Credit: Devare & Co. : Bombay, Source: The British Library (Public Domain)

2. Shahu Maharaj Sitting in Royal Attire Outside the Palace with his Servant Staff, Image Credit: Wikimedia, Source: The British Library (Public Domain)

3. Genealogy of Kolhapur Maharajas, Image Credit: George Robert Aberigh-Mackay, Source: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

4. Picture of Shahu Maharaj Sitting on a Chair, Image Credit: Wikimedia, Source: The British Library (Public Domain)

5. Photograph of 19-year-old Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur meeting British Residents and their Staff in the year 1894 CE, Image Credits: Wikimedia (Public Domain)

6. Indian Wrestlers fighting in Wrestling Match, Inspired by: Prasannare

7. Photograph of the Maharaja of Kolhapur watching a wrestling match with his officers in the crowd, Image Credit: Wikimedia (Public Domain)

8. Old-fashioned construction of Radhanagari Dam, Inspired by: MaharashtraTourism

9. Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj statue, Maharashtra Sadan, New Delhi, Image Credit: आशीष भटनागर

About the Author

Author at HistoricNation

Ashish Salunke

Ashish is a skilled biographer and content writer specialized in crafting captivating historical narratives. Through HistoricNation, he skillfully merged his IT expertise with the art of storytelling.

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