Gaga Bhatt – Myths around the coronation of Shivaji

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Gaga Bhatt , also known as Vishweshwara Pandit was the highest priest of Banaras and the great author of multiple books of the 17th and 18th century. He was widely popular as the presided priest who performed the religious ceremony for the consecration of Shivaji Maharaj.

Coronation of Shivaji Maharaj was one of the most memorable and historical events of Indian history which has significant importance in Hindu tradition ( cultural, political and national) .

 A man before possessing the throne of a king, has to go through the Coronation ceremony which eventually gives them power to give his judgement socially. This ceremony gives them the right of punishment for all kinds of offences or ill-doing.

It was not the land or property but the power and discretion that was offered through such a ceremony for maintaining law and order in the country so that the society might lead a regulated life in common with all tranquility possible.

To punish the wrong-doers(  including Brahmins ) , Shivaji needed power to implement on a large scale and it was possible through the coronation ceremony. 

Gaga Bhatt, on his own free-will, offered his help to Shivaji to coronate him for the interest of Hindavi Swaraj. As a true and great jurist of the time, he had keenly watched the destructive effect on the Hindu society as against the perpetual subordination of his religion and Society to the Islamic culture and rule.

Gaga Bhatt was born in 1600 AD (it was presumed,as no primary source of his exact date of birth available  ) to Dinkarbhatt and belonged to Vishwamitra Gotra, Gadhi vansha and Bhatt family, having goddess Bhavani of Kolhapur as his family deity . The earliest lineage of the family is known from Nagapasha. 

His great grandfather Narayan Bhatt was widely renowned for his learning and knowledge. He was the one who was responsible for getting the temple of Kashi Vishweshwar rebuilt after its destruction by Muslim invaders and also for devising a special procedure for renovating a Shivling in the new temple. This prayoga is still alive and used on such Ling Pratishtha occasions . Narayan Bhatt was widely known as Jagatguru. He died sometime after 1575.

The whole Bhatt family of Gaga Bhatt and he too had left behind , a very valuable treasure to Maharashtra and India in the form of authoritative treatises in Sanskrit on all shastras and subjects of learning.

The earliest mention of his name was when he , with other learned Brahmins in Kashi, gave their decision upon the rights of a Shende Golak family according to Brahmin Varnashramdharm held in about 1640 AD. 

Another time, we see his signature on a Sampati Patra in regard to a similar dispute  ” Chitalebhatta Prakarana ” among the brahmins about their religious rights.

He had written “ Shokavartik “ on the request of Shivaji Maharaj . He also wrote “ Samayanaya “ at the request of Sambhajai Maharaj in 1681 AD . Besides this , he had written many manuscripts : Apastambpadhati , Asouchdipika , tuladanaprayoga , Prayogsar , Sapindyavichar , Mimamsakumanjali , Rakagam , Shrishivrajabhishekprayoga , etc . 

It is saddened to notice that most of the writers or authors of the Maratha narratives of the 18th and 19th century had spread the wrong interpretation of the coronation ceremony, as only a religious function designed to merely raised the status of Shivaji from Shudra to Kshatriya. 

A huge misconception has been floated by misguided beings that Shivaji was entirely hated by the Brahmins for his Shudra caste and that’s why he was consecrated to raise his caste ( Varna ) status. The truth is far beyond this narration. This narrative was deliberately fabricated by those who had their self-interest in pushing such thoughts in the mind of Indians. 

The coronation ceremony was completely misinterpreted even in the Dutch records( 13 October 1674 AD ) , as due to ignorance and wrongly informed by the masses. The foreign invaders of that period didn’t have an inch of knowledge about the Hindu Shastra so , in case of Dharmic ceremony, their records didn’t give the right interpretation of the logic and the reasons behind the rituals. 

Henry Oxindon, in his dispatch mentioned about Shivaji’s coronation but as a foreigner, he didn’t really understand the actual meaning behind the coronation. 

In 1663 AD, Gaga Bhatt came to Deccan and along with Anantadeo Bhatt, visited Rajapur Sangameshwar side. He was popular all over India for his in-depth knowledge of Shatras and decision making ability. 

So , there he was invited by Shivaji Maharaj to decide upon the rights of Shanavi or Saraswat Brahmin community to end the local dispute among the Brahmin community of the Konkan. There, he realised the valorous act of Shivaji Maharaj for protecting the country from invaders. Gaga Bhatt, through his poetry , praised the immense works of Shivaji. 

Shivaji Maharaj often used to refer disputes of Dharmashastra to Gaga Bhatt in Kashi. The decision of Gaga Bhatt regarding to  C.K.Prabhu community sometimes between 1669 -1672 is quoted by Raghunath Bhatt Panditaral in his orders for the execution of the decision.

Gaga Bhatt in 1673 AD, visited his native Paithan in Deccan (south) to pay his homage to the shrine of the family goddess Bhavani in Kolhapur. When he arrived at Nashik( till then conquered by Shivaji) , his arrival was duly intimated by his officers to Shivaji and Shivaji immediately, as was customary in those days ,sent Pandits to receive and invite him to the capital. There, he suggested Shivaji Maharaj to go through the consecration of himself . 

  1. Gaga Bhatt , being a great jurist of the time and having been impressed by Shivaji’s abilities during his visit to the Deccan in 1663 naturally felt proud of Shivaji’s achievements for resucitating the Hindu dharma and its Supremacy in their own  land. 
  2. At the same time, he was distressed about the condition in the Hindavi Swaraj arising from the communal disputes referred to him for decision and from the manner in which Shivaji and Sambhaji Maharaj were looked upon by the envious or jealous relatives and selfish Brahmins Sarkarkuns. 
  3. Gaga Bhatt and Shivaji Maharaj both knew it well that Brahmins due to giving their services to the Islamic rule  over a long period of time, had forgotten their own tradition and adopted to the circumstances under that long rule and even served and bowed before them and received favors both in cash and kinds ( clothes) .
  4. some brahmins had become corrupt and didn’t follow the Acharya Dharma as stated in Hindu Shastra . It was important to sideline these brahmins and recruit those who deserved to be celebrated on designated posts. 
  5. Even a large number of Brahmins who felt oppressed to receive orders from Panditraya were inclined to prefer orders directly from Shivaji Maharaj.
  6. Those working in the fighting forces as also subedars and hawaldars were similarly affected by Amataya’s karkuns under the lead of Sonopant Amatya for establishing their superiority on them . 
  7. Some immediate relatives and others had immense hate for Shivaji for his rising status as a remarkable king.
  8. There was only a section of Brahmins who were opposing Shivaji’s consecration and those were the brahmins who were afraid of losing their Prestige and freedom of action under the garb of Brahminhood.
  9. Gaga Bhatt found the powers were not in accordance with the old Hindu Shastra and hence, a consecration strictly adhering to the old Shastra tenets should be gone through to dispel the illusion created. 
  10. So, for the sake of the hindavi Swaraj, he suggested Shivaji to get consecrated according to the old tenets of shastras and tradition of the Aryan culture so that he would exercise all the powers for punishment and control over the whole India including brahmins caste. Shivaji gave his consent and requested him to assist in getting it through. 

 A false narrative is circulated among Indian minds that all Brahmins were opposing the consecration of Shivaji Maharaj as he belonged to the Shudra caste.  If such would have been the case then Gagabhatt who himself was a Brahmin wouldn’t have supported and praised the gallantry act of Shivaji. 

Gaga Bhatt clearly realised the inherent defect in Swarajya. Great author, Sri Jadunath Sarkar, and some others ignored and declined Shivaji’s lineage from rajput ( Sisodia Vansha) but today’s multiple availability of primary sources clearly indicate that Shivaji genuinely belonged to the Kshatriya (rajput clan) Varna . i. e. Shahaji Bhonsle used to write in his correspondence ” he is Rajput ” .

Again, it wasn’t possible of gathering of thousands of brahmins for Dana and Dakshina, for performing Dharmic rituals and becoming the eye-witness without hesitation. 

Narayan Shenavi in his letter of 4th April 1674 , also talks about the invitation of brahmins. 

” To this coronation, he had invited many learned brahmins and will liberally bestow  on them many elephants, Horses and money. “

Gaga Bhatt was entirely opposed to the view that all kshatriyas on account of their deterioration in the observance of some of the 16 Sanskaras for reasons beyond their control , lost their right to call themselves as belonging to the kshatriya varna. 

Nobody could have faced the argument of Gaga Bhatt on the strength of Smriti Shastra and purana Itihaas. He had proved himself before most among these to the pandits and jurists of the time. He was directly responsible for the restoration of the original rights to Saraswat Brahmins and others.

All people without distinction take part in this consecration. Gaga Bhatt and Anantadeo Bhatt for the coronation had drawn up a very detailed procedure. They had indicated in detail all those mantras to be cited by each of the several Vedic schools and branches.

 Gaga Bhatt decided to conduct the coronation in Raigad in March 1674 but the death of Shivaji’s wife ,kashibai ,and at the same time ,the initiation of war due to joint Mughal ( Diller khan) entrance into the territory and to dismantle the objective to lay siege to the Fort of Panhala , postponed the coronation of Shivaji into June. 

  • Gaga Bhatt had performed the ceremony with the assistance of other brahmins. 
  • Fetching water and soil from sacred places of all over India. 
  • More than thousands of brahmins who were well-versed in different Vedas and their various branches to which they belonged, were given facilities for their travel with their wives and children. These brahmins were only required for Dakshina and bhojan. Other brahmins and Society were invited to become the part of the coronation ceremony.
  • A magnificent throne was prepared which had jewels and diamonds in them. According to Hindu Shastra , each diamond and jewel radiates a certain energy which has significant impact on the surrounding . 
  • The construction of home Kund were started . 
  • Arrangements were made to get all the varied materials required for the ceremony. 
  • Before going through such a coronation ceremony, one has to visit and pay homage to the shrine of the family deity and have a blessing from the diety for a successful attainment of the ceremony. Shivaji offered his prayer to goddess Tulaja Bhavani of Pratapgarh.
  • Shivaji had to go through the penances. i. e. , the first Tulapurushdana and second Tuladana.  Tulapurushdana – one has to prepare a golden Idol of Shri Vishnu and after worshipping it was given to brahmins , assisting the ceremony. Tuladana – It means weighing himself in the presence of fire against gold, silver ,copper iron , etc. And also against Sesame,  and other varieties of corn. After completion, giving all weighted things to the brahmins engaged in the ceremony. Oxindon and Dutch mentioned this penances in their writings.
  • To become queen and to recognise their progeny as a true kshatriya, all four surviving wives of Shivaji had to go through a marriage ceremony again with the vedic rituals.
  • Singhasanrohan ceremony was performed by both Gaga Bhatt and Nischal Puri. 

Shivaji, after the completion of the coronation ceremony, orders in his own name allowing all cast and creeds to follow their own practices. 

Another major step taken by him was to combat against the efforts of the Christian missionaries for forceful conversion. He ordered reconversions of all such persons who were forcibly converted and desired to return to the Hindu fold . 

  • Shri Rajyabhishek Prayoga ( Author – By Gaga Bhatt , translated by V.C. Bendre , 1960)
  • The life of Shivaji Maharaj ( Author – N.S. Takakhav , 1921 )

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