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Is not Shivaji a National Hero ?

Hero-worship is a feeling deeply implanted in human nature and our political aspirations need all the strength, which the worship of a Swadeshi hero is likely to inspire into our minds. For this purpose Shivaji is the only hero to be found in the Indian history. He was born at a time when the whole nation required relief from misrule and by his self -sacrifice and courage he proved to the world that India was not a country forsaken by Providence.

No one ever dreams that every incident in Shivaji's life is to be copied by any one at present. It is the spirit, which actuated Shivaji in his doings that is held forth as the proper ideal to be kept constantly in view by the rising generation. We do not think that the Anglo-Indian writers will object to England worshipping Nelson Or France worshipping the great Napoleon on the ground that such national festivals would alienate the sympathies of either nation from the other, or would make the existence of amicable relations between the two nations an impossibility in future. And yet the same advice is administered to us in a patronising tone by these Anglo-Indian critics, being unmindful of the fact that we have now become sufficiently acquainted with their tactics to take their word for gospel truth.The Shivaji festival is not celebrated to alienate or even to irritate the Mahomedans.Times are changed, the Mahomedans and the Hindus stand in the same boat or on the same platform so far as the political condition of the people is concerned. Can we not both of us derive some inspiration from the life of Shivaji under these circumstances? That is the real question at issue; and if this can be answered in affirmative it matters little that Shivaji was born in Maharashtra.

We are not against the festival being started in honour of Akbar or any other hero from old Indian history. Such festivals will have their own worth; but that of Shivaji has a peculiar value of its own for the whole country, and it is the duty of everyone to see that the characteristic of the festival is not ignored or misrepresented. Every hero, be he Indian or European, acts according to the spirit of his times; and we must therefore judge of his individual acts by the standard prevalent in his time. If this principle be accepted we can find nothing in Shivaji's life to which one can take exception. His life clearly shows that Indian races do not so soon lose the vitality, which gives them able leaders at critical times. That is the lesson, which the Mohamedans and the Hindus have to learn from the history of the great Maharatta chief; and the Shivaji festival is intended to emphasise the same lesson. It is a sheer misrepresentation to suppose that the worship of Shivaji includes invocations to fight either with the Mahomedans or with the Government. It was only in conformity with the political circumstances of the country at the time that Shivaji was born in Maharashtra. But a future leader may be born anywhere in India and who knows, may even be Mahomedan. That is the right view of the question, and we do not think that the Anglo-Indian writers can succeed in diverting our attention from it.

Excerpts from The Maharatta of 24th June, 1906.

Festivals like these prove an incentive to the legitimate ambitions of a people with great historic past. They serve to impart courage, such courage an appreciation of heroes securing their salvation against odds. They are an antidote to vague despair. They serve like manure to the seeds of enthusiasm and the spirit of nationality. Malice or wickedness is never the keynote, or even the minor note, of those who come together on occasion like these."

Extract from the speech of Lokmanya Tilak
Delivered in Marathi on 25th June, 1907.

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