Shivaji: The Many Dreams for a Maratha King, 1818 – 2003



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Shivaji was a seventeenth-century warrior who embodied personal resistance and political agency as he battled to establish a Maratha polity. Consequently, in recent times, he has been used to inspire various political designs, social aims, and cultural programs as a reminder of agency. What do these reminders represent? What does Shivaji mean? This paper aims to historicize the historical Shivaji so we may learn about ourselves and dreams as a function of the past. I will examine five historical works that span modern history writing on the Maratha king. I begin with the colonial historian, James Grant Duff, next, the first Indian to counter Grant Duffï¾’s negative portrayal, Mahadev Govind Ranade, then to a lower caste historian, K.A. Keluskar, who leveraged Shivaji for his nonbrahmin movement. Finally, I end the colonial period with Jadunath Sarkar, who sought to temper the passions of identity politics. The paper concludes by considering the contemporary historian, James Laine, to ponder on the role of the modern, Western historian in the treacherous road of Indian history writing. Modern historiography fashioned an inter-textual tradition in which there was not a singular work that determined the conversation on Shivaji, evincing rippling textures in the dreams of their authors. While launching from the same epistemological platform, they aimed the story at different political constellations, sometimes close together, other times far apart, but still in the same bounded night sky.