The triumvirate of Lokmanya Tilak, Lala Lajpatrai and Bipin Chandra Pal is generally regarded as the intellectual fountainhead of revolutionaries during the Indian Freedom Struggle. The majority of the revolutionaries came from the three provinces represented by them, namely Maharashtra (then Bombay Province), Bengal, and Punjab. It is interesting to note that all three were greatly influenced by the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji and contributed in their own way in taking his legacy to the masses. 

At the forefront of this was of course Lokmanya Tilak himself, who made the Shiv Jayanti festival popular not just in Maharashtra but in other parts of the country as well, notably in Bengal, with the support of Bipin Chandra Pal. In fact, such was the popularity of Chhatrapati Shivaji in pre-independence Bengal that at the subcontinent level, it stood second only to Maharashtra. Chhatrapati Shivaji’s popularity in Bengal goes back to the nineteenth century, but it was Tilak who took it to the masses by presiding over a Shiv Jayanti celebration in 1906.

A contemporary of Tilak named Sakharam Deuskar, who taught in nearby Deogarh (now in Bihar), wrote a 20-page booklet on Chhatrapati Shivaji, which was distributed freely at the Shiv Jayanti event. Tilak’s efforts among others greatly influenced revolutionary organisations such as Anushilan Samiti which carried a large number of biographies of Chhatrapati Shivaji alongside copies of the Bhagvad Gita. 

Another place where Tilak spread the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji through Shiv Jayanti was the United Provinces, or the state of Uttar Pradesh of today. While the region itself was no stranger to Shivaji (what with Kavi Bhushan hailing from it) the nationalistic fervour associated with Chhatrapati Shivaji began to grow only around 1900.

Newspapers such as Kalidas were launched after this visit and poets such as Radha Krishna Mishra kept up the interest in Chhatrapati Shivaji. In 1907, Shiv Jayanti celebrations were organised at Benares with great enthusiasm, but a speech by one Sundar Lal was determined to be seditious by the British Government and the Benares Shiv Jayanti celebrations were brought to an abrupt end. However, the seed had been sown, and the event saw pamphlets such as Jugantar and Swadhin Bharat (popularly associated with the Bengali revolutionaries) finding their way into many hands in the city of Benares.

The first time Tilak organised Shiv Jayanti celebrations in Bengal (in 1906), Bengali leader Bipin Chandra Pal was present with him. In fact, it was he who, along with Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, had decided to organise this festival and invited Lokmanya Tilak. Although Shiv Jayanti was already being celebrated in Bengal prior to 1906, it consisted mainly of intellectual meets and speeches. Tilak took the festival to the masses by organizing a small utsav for worshipping goddess Bhavani for three days, and also installing a statue of Sant Ramdas in the mandap. 
Pal spoke in glowing terms about Shivaji, saying “Shivaji was a Hindu. He symbolized the religio-political ideals of Hindu people. In honouring Shivaji, we honour that ideal”.

Further, Bipin Chandra Pal sought a Bengali equivalent of Shivaji i.e. someone who had fought invaders and found him in Pratipaditya of Jessore. Although the similarities between Shivaji and Pratipaditya can be well debated now, and indeed were even back then, the underlying theme to be stressed was of a warrior who fought the invaders with a sword in hand. Drawing a parallel with Bhavani, he promoted the worship of Kali with great enthusiasm.

Punjab Kesari Lala Lajpatrai was also greatly influenced by the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji. He published a book on the life of the great warrior king in 1896. Interestingly, this book was in Urdu and published in Lahore. It was the first book on Shivaji to be published in an Indian language other than Marathi! The book itself was a short biography, touching upon the major events of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s life. Of course, it was written at a time when much of the twentieth century research on the great persona was yet to happen. In the entire book, the preface was the most interesting, for here, it was not the retelling of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s story, but Lala Lajpat Rai, the freedom fighter, speaking. He made a point about how children were made to read Shakespeare and Milton but had little knowledge of the great ancestors, of their own country; lines which are, unfortunately, still largely relevant in our social science
disciplines and circles even today.

Lala Lajpatrai paid rich tributes to Chhatrapati Shivaji saying that had he been born in their age he would have proved to be superior than the best of European administrators and generals; his acumen had no parallel in the then India. Lala Lajpatrai exhorted India’s youth people to follow Chhatrapati Shivaji’s ideals. Interestingly, he wrote biographies of the Italian revolutionaries Girabaldi and Mazzini at the same time.

Thus, the trio of Lal Bal and Pal was influenced by Chhatrapati Shivaji. Lala Lajpatrai was the first to take Shivaji’s legacy beyond the borders of Maharashtra while Lokmanya Tilak popularised the Shiv Jayanti celebrations across various provinces, most notably in Bengal, with the strong support of Bipin Chandra Pal. 

Together, Lal-Bal-Pal played a crucial role in reviving the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji, one of India’s most legendary figures, who continues to inspire Indian youth even today.

Aneesh Gokhale

Aneesh Gokhale is author, ‘Sahyadris to Hindukush’, a historical novel on the rise of the Maratha empire, and ‘Brahmaputra – Story of Lachit Barphukan’.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.


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