Claim: Audrey Truschke has claimed that Shivaji was shudra by birth and bribed a Brahmin Gagabhatta to “become” Kshatriya.
This is a colonial-era myth that also portrays Brahmins/Hinduism in a bad light. Let us begin. Did Gagabhatta invent a fake lineage for Shivaji Maharaja in 1674? A lineage for Shivaji going back to Sisodiya Rajputs?
Let us look at the contemporary primary sources.
- Shivaji Maharaja’s father Shahaji wrote a letter to Adil Shah of Bijapur. In this letter, Shahaji says “We are Rajputs”. This letter was written 18 years before Gagabhatta. If Gagabhatta fabricated the Rajput claim of Shivaji, why did Shivaji’s father also call himself a Rajput?
- Shivaji & his ancestors have also considered themselves Kshatriyas and claimed descent from the house of Mewar.
Further, Audrey says that Rajputs viewed Shivaji Maharaj as “uncouth”. That this somehow undermines Hindu identity. Is this generalization true? Let us see what the primary sources have to say: When Shivaji Maharaja visited Agra in 1666, he made quite an impression.
A Rajput Chief Maha Singh Shekhawat said - “Shivaji is very clever, he speaks the right word on the subject. Shivaji is a good, genuine Rajput” - Letter from 1666. Published in “House of Shivaji”(JSarkar). Note that this letter was written in 1666. This was 8 years before Gagabhatta and coronation. If Gagabhatta fabricated the Kshatriya claim of Shivaji, how did (at least some) Rajputs refer to Shivaji Maharaja as a fellow Rajput? That too 8 years before Gagabhatta?
The Sisodiya lineage of Shivaji Maharaja was also accepted by the Bards of Rajputana. The Mewari bard folk songs were published by GH Trevor in 1894 as Rhymes of Rajputana. According to these bardic songs, Shivaji was a descendant of a Rana of Mewar. According to this bardic song of Mewar, one of the descendants of Rana survived Khilji’s sack of Chittor. Because of the foreign yoke, this son was exiled to Deccan. He was the ancestor of Shivaji Maharaja who founded the Sattara throne. This Sattara throne “overturned Delhi”. The historicity of this Bardic tale can well be questioned. But that is not of our concern here. If anything, this tells us that even Rajputana bards accepted Shivaji Sisodiya lineage by the 18th century.
Shivaji wrote a letter to Aurangzeb protesting against the imposition of Jizya. In this letter, he dares Aurangzeb to collect Jizya from Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar. Shivaji refers to Maharana as “Head of Hindus”.
In 1828, Pratap Singh Bhosale, the last Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire, sent a Brahmin Shivanandashatri to Udaipur to enquire about their genealogy. The Rana of Udaipur received the Brahman. He also provided the genealogy tracing Shivaji Bhonsale to the Sisodiya Rajputs. What does this tell us? This tells us that even later Maharanas of Mewar and their genealogies were in agreement with the Sisodiya claim of Shivaji Maharaja.
Gagabhatta was renowned as “Vedonarayana”. He was the greatest Vedic scholar of the age. The above makes it amply clear that Gagabhatta did not fabricate any lineage. There is zero evidence that he took any bribe. Demonizing Brahmans is a constant colonial Indologist trope.
This board is displayed at the Samadhi Sthal of Maharana Pratap at Chavand (Rajasthan). It gives the details of the Mewar genealogy according to their tradition. It clearly mentions Shivaji Maharaja in its family tree. This board can also be found in Udaipur palace.
Shivaji’s caste has been used for politics in the past. Phule wrote a book named Shetkaryaca Asud( cultivator’s whip). He claimed Shiva was a Shudra. He also said Shivaji was illiterate. Shivaji fell under the influence of the “cunning” Samarth Ramdas & considered himself Kshatriya. This trope is used even today among some circles of the Sambhaji Brigade. Some Indologists also parrot this line. Ironically, Audrey shares the same line of thinking. Shivaji Maharaj is one of India’s greatest kings. His caste identity does not matter to us. But a very false anti-Hindu narrative based on Shivaji’s caste has been created by Phule & his followers. Dangerous hate politics played. Hence, it is essential to counter this with facts.