The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has drawn up plans for a grand ceremony to start construction (bhoomipujan) for the mid-sea Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial on December 24, visibly demonstrating its support to the restless Maratha community across the state.
Just like during the Maratha warrior king’s coronation at Raigad Fort, the state government plans to bring water from all major rivers of Maharashtra for the ceremony, to be conducted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Besides water, the government also plans to bring soil, bricks and stones from all places across the state, and other parts of the country that were significant in the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
Shiv Sangram leader Vinayak Mete, who the government has appointed as the head of a committee overlooking the project, said, “Just like during the coronation (of King Shivaji), when water from seven rivers was brought to perform the ceremony, we are also planning to bring holy water from Maharashtra’s main rivers. We have identified 16 locations within Maharashtra and three locations outside the state to bring water, stones, bricks, and soil for the Prime Minister to perform the bhoomipujan and jalpujan for the project.”
The locations within Maharashtra are Shivneri, Raigad, Sindhudurg, Panhala, Shikhar Shingnapur, Tuljapur, Sindkhedraja, Karhad, Jejuri, Rajgad, Pratapgad, Dehu-Alandi, Ramtek, Verul, Prakasha and Nashik. From outside Maharashtra, the state government plans to procure material from Agra in Uttar Pradesh, where the Maratha emperor met Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and made a historic getaway, Thanjavur — the Maratha kingdom’s base in Tamil Nadu, and Srisailam, where Chhatrapati Shivaji meditated.
The state’s ambitious plans for the bhoomipujan are especially significant considering the recent unrest among the Maratha community, which constitutes 33% of Maharashtra’s population. King Shivaji is an icon for the community. Lakhs of members from the community took to the streets in organised silent protests, demanding reservations in government jobs and education, and a review of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, alleging its misuse. While the protesters claimed that they were not against any one particular political party, the BJP, being the ruling party, felt the strongest of shock waves.
The grandiose bhoomipujan plans are also noteworthy for the BJP-Shiv Sena government, considering a clutch of municipal corporations across the state such as Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Thane, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Amravati and so on are headed to polls next year.
Maratha organisations were in the process of planning the Mumbai chapter of their massive protests, which would have worked against the ruling parties so close to civic polls . Instead, with the bhoomipujan plans, members of the community will now march on the streets of the state capital, along with the government carrying the cauldrons of materials to the project site.
Mete said, “Groups will leave the various centres, from where the water, bricks and so on are to be brought on December 22. We have made arrangements for all these people to stay in places such as Navi Mumbai, Panvel, Thane, Vasai-Virar and so on. They will proceed to the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue near the Eastern Freeway on 23rd, where Mumbai’s guardian ministers will formally welcome the groups.”
From Chembur, Mete said, the cauldrons will be offloaded in a decorated vehicle, which will make its way to the Gateway of India in a procession . The materials will be mixed in one large container for Modi to conduct the bhoomipujan.
The project is to come up on a rocky outcrop of 15.96 hectare in the sea at a distance of 1.2 kilometres from Rajbhavan, 3.6 kilometres from Girgaum chowpatty, and 2.6 kilometres from Nariman Point. The memorial is touted to be the world’s tallest at 210m, with a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in an equestrian pose, elements of Maratha architecture, a library, auditorium, aquarium, viewing galleries and so on.