BENGALURU: On 10th January, 1966, French explorer and linguist Jean de Thevenot landed in Surat, after embarking from the port of Basra on the ship Hopewell. De Thevenot spent several months in Mughal India
, and then made his way further south, to what are present-day Andhra, Telengana and Karnataka. During his travels through the Deccan, he met with a rising local ruler. He recorded his impressions of the meeting in his journal, with the words, “The Rajah is small and tawny with quick eyes which indicate abundance of spirit.” Later on, the chaplain of Bombay, John L’Escaliot, would describe this remarkable man as “of an excellent proportion, active in exercise, and whenever he speaks, he seems to smile; (with) a quick and piercing eye”.
The man with the “quick eyes” was none other than Shivaji, then lord of the Bhonsle warrior clan, the man who would go on to become the founder of the mighty Maratha empire. Today, of course, is his birth anniversary (his 387th, if we go by the generally accepted date – there are other accounts where his year of birth has been given as 1627), and there will be great celebrations of the Maratha icon in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, the core of his empire.
But Shivaji had a significant connection to Bengaluru as well. He spent some of his childhood here, but details of the period are limited and sketchy.Historical records say that he came to Bengaluru as a 12-year-old with his mother Jijabai to meet his father Shahaji Raje, who then ruled Bengaluru. According to city historian and author Maya Jayapal, Shahaji summoned Jijabai and their second son to Bengaluru. “Shivaji lived in Bengaluru for some time between 1640 and 1642 and took a liking to the city,” she says.
“Shivaji stayed in Bengaluru for a few years and his wedding took place in between. He liked the place and wanted to stay on for longer,” says city historian Suresh Moona, citing recordings from the Bengaluru Darshana, a city chronicle.
In 1973, well-known historian Sir Jadunath Sircar wrote a book titled Shivaji and his Times. In it, he records Jijabai’s letter to her husband Shahaji, where she tells him that the 12-year-old Shivaji, has gone long past marriageable age for a Maratha nobleman. The letter may have been the trigger for Shahaji asking Jijabai to Bengaluru, bringing their son with her. Shivaji duly arrived in Bengaluru around 1640, accompanied by Jijabai and Dadaji Konddeo, the head of Kondana fort and Shivaji’s guardian.They came to Shahaji’s Bengaluru palace, where he was residing with his second wife Tuka Bai and son Vyankoji (aka Ekoji), writes Sircar.
Sircar also provides details of Shiva ji’s wedding to Saibai Nimbalkar of Phaltan in Bengaluru, after which Shahaji bestowed him with powers to rule Pune.He sent the couple back in 1642 along with four handpicked administrators Shyamraj Nilkanth Ranjhekar as chancellor, Balkrishna Hanumante as accounts general, Sonaji Pant as secretary and Raghunath Ballal Korde as paymaster.
DV Kalauvkar, a retired school teacher who lives in Indira Nagar, has been researching the Maratha Empire since 1999. According to him, Shivaji’s first wedding to Saibai took place at Lal Mahal in Pune in the absence of his father. “Shahaji summoned the couple with Jijabai, and the wedding ceremony was conducted again in Bengaluru at Shahaji’s palace,” says the 72-year-old researcher.
The exact location of the palace where Shahaji lived and governed Bengaluru remains disputed with historical records providing little information. The Karnataka State Gazetteer of Bangalore District (Urban) edited by the late Karnataka historian Suryanath U Kamath speaks of a Gaurimahal Palace in the present-day Chickpet area where Shahaji is believed to have lived. This is also supposed to be the place where Shivaji and his elder brother Shambhaji spent some years of their childhood.
Historian M Fazlul Hasan in his famous book Bangalore Through The Centuries describes a Gowri Vilasa Hall in the city where Shahaji lived and conducted court. Hasan quotes a poem – a Sanskrit champu – called Radha Madhava Vilasa, which the poet, Jayarama Pandye, is said to have read to Shivaji and Shahaji at the Hall.
Hasan speculates that the Gowri Vilasa Hall was perhaps inside the old palace built by Kempe gowda, built at what is now the dilapidated Mohan buildings (built in 1909) and the defunct Vijayalakshmi theatre building in Chickpet stand.
Another link between the Marathas and Bengaluru is explored in Bengaluru to Bangalore by Annaswamy TV. According to Annaswamy, Shahaji repaired Kempegowda’s fort, reinforcing its four towers and nine gates. He too, places the fort in the Chickpet area.
SHIVAJI MEMORIAL IN SADASHIV NAGAR
In Sadashivnagar still stands the 14ft tall and six ft wide bronze statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji on a two-storey fortress like structure. Unveiled on January 10, 1993 by then Maharashtra Chief Minister Sharad Pawar alongside his Karnataka counterpart M Veerappa Moily, the statue was the subject of protests by linguistic groups and it took over a decade for the statue to be unveiled to the public after it was originally commissioned in 1983.
SHIVAJI THEATRE ON JC ROAD
A landmark cinema hall in the Garden City, the Shivaji theatre near the Town Hall was unveiled by Sir Mirza Ismail, then Diwan of Mysore, in 1940. Former Bangalore city mayor and Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce President KM Naganna took the hall on lease from its Marathi owners and operated the place till the early 1980s. The theatre building with the statue of Shivaji displayed prominently on top was partly demolished in the late 80s and has been used as a warehouse ever since. But the statue still stands on the dilapidated structure and can be seen as you pass the busy JC Road.