Shivaji Jayanti in Maharashtra Date in the current year: February 19, 2024

Shivaji Jayanti in Maharashtra Shivaji Jayanti, also known as Shiv Jayanti, is a festival and public holiday observed in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It commemorates the birth anniversary of Shivaji, an Indian warrior-king who overthrew Muslim rulers and founded the Maratha Empire that included present-day Maharashtra and some neighboring territories.

Scholars disagree on Shivaji’s date of birth, but it is generally considered that he was born on February 19, 1627 or 1630. His father, Shahaji, was a renowned general who served the Deccan sultanates, namely Ahmandagar and Bijapur, and later the Mughal Empire.

In 1655, Shivaji raised a Marathi rebellion against the Sultan of Bijapur. Instead of a centralized army, he formed mobile detachments of mounted lancers who successfully raided Bijapur cities, towns and forts. Some years later, he initiated a conflict with the Mughals in order to gain access to the sea.

By the early 1670s, Shivaji had conquered vast territories, but in the absence of a formal title he couldn’t be considered their rightful ruler. A royal title would solidify his power, as well as prevent other Maratha rulers from challenging him. Besides, coronation would make Shivaji the first Hindu leader in the region that had been dominated by Muslims for centuries.

At first, Brahmins of Shivaji’s court refused to crown him since he didn’t belong to the varna of warriors (kshatriya), despite the fact that his father was a general. His ancestors were farmers, making him of the shudra varna, and he had never had the sacred thread ceremony that marks one’s belonging to an upper varna. So Shivaji found a Brahmin who confirmed that there had been kshatriya among Shivaji’s ancestors and performed the sacred thread ceremony.

Shivaji’s coronation took place on June 6, 1674. It marked the foundation of the first Hindu state in the region ruled exclusively by Muslims. Shivaji ruled the Maratha Empire until his death in 1680. The empire continued to exist for more than 130 years after his death and was conquered by the British in 1818.

The tradition of celebrating Shivaji’s birthday was born in the late 19th century. In 1869, activist, social reformer, thinker and author Jyotirao Phule wrote his interpretation of Shivaji’s biography, portraying him as a hero. He sought to use Shivaji’s image to undermine the domination of Brahmins and to uplift the lower castes. Over the next decades, Shivaji became a symbol of the fight against the caste system and the Indian independence movement.

In 1895, nationalist leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak organized the first celebration of Shivaji’s birth anniversary. He emphasized Shivaji’s role as a heroic fighter against oppressors. Although this was an evident parallel with the Indian independence movement, Tilak claimed that he simply wanted to celebrate a great hero, so the colonial authorities couldn’t do anything about it. In the 20th century, the celebration of Shivaji’s birthday was promoted by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a famous lawyer, politician and social reformer who campaigned to end social discrimination of the untouchables.

Today, there are statues and monuments dedicated to Shivaji in almost every city and town in Maharashtra, and his birthday is an official holiday in the state.

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