As the nation debates the practicality of building a Rs 3,600 crore ode to Chattrapati Shivaji, Maharashtra's greatest and most popular warrior hero, the media is once again full of reports about the stagnating conditions of the actual forts constructed by the king that remain in the state.
Is it worth spending Rs 3,600 crore on a project that will possibly endanger the local environment and marine ecosystem?
Shivaji left a large legacy of forts and ramparts, big and small, across Maharashtra. In fact, there are almost 300 structures built by Shivaji in Maharashtra. But most of these once magnanimous structures are now nothing more than dusty and dank spaces made of old stones with little to no information about the structure or its history .
The fort where Shivaji was born, Shivneri Fort in Junnar, less than 100 Kms from present day Pune, is a classic example of such a monument. According to an Indian Express report in 2014, Rs 3.5 crores were spent on repairwork of the fort, but to no end. But a recent report in Times of India states that Shivneri fort continues to be ill lit, broken in spaces, dirty and generally neglected.
Shivaji's fort capital settlement of Rajgarh also faces similar obscurity. The place which was his home for a large part of Shivaji's life, is little more than a garbage pit. The walls of the structures are covered in graffiti and there are no lights.
Several others such as the Arnalla Fort with its European Martello Tower, Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg, face similar fates, with natural forces weakening the 17th century structures and lack of human intervention for restoration, adding to the destruction.
It seems Shivaji, whose names continues to hold sway in the minds of Maharashtrians, has now merely been reduced to an electoral peg that politicians use to sway public emotion. The massive expenditure being incurred on erecting the 309 feet statute of the ruler while ignoring his original legacy is proof of this attitude.
CM Fadnavis has declared that nothing can stop the erection of the statue on the Arabian Sea. Many have argued that this is classic Maharashtrian politics where Shivaji's name has always acted as a political smokescreen for party leaders to quietly sway support before elections.
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