People pay homage to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj at his memorial in Vadhu, Pune(SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO)
People pay homage to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj at his memorial in Vadhu, Pune(SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO)

Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s death anniversary draws thousands of devotees

Cultural affairs and education minister Vinod Tawde took the opportunity to address the issue of the pending bridge over the confluence to connect Tulapur with Vadhu
By Shalaka Shinde | Hindustan Times, Pune
UPDATED ON MAR 18, 2018 12:10 AM IST

Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s 329th death anniversary brought thousands of devotees to the same area in Pune district on Saturday where three months ago the Bhima-Koregaon violence caused unrest. Sambhaji Maharaj was a Maratha ruler and son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Bhima-Koregaon is located in the middle of two regions - Tulapur and Vadhu - divided by the confluence of Bhima, Bhama and Indrayani rivers.

While the memorial in Vadhu - which is home to the mortal remains of Sambhaji Maharaj - receives more visitors, this year, Tulapur saw a tangible increase in the crowd, according to the sarpanch of Tulapur Ganesh Pujari. “The number of people has definitely increased compared to last year,” said Pujari. Pujari believed that the number of visitors has increased by thousands.

Vinod Tawde draws huge crowd

Cultural affairs and education minister Vinod Tawde reiterated chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s statement of withdrawing all cases filed in the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon voilence even as Suvez Haque, superintendent of Pune rural police looked on.

Tawde also took the opportunity to address the issue of the pending bridge over the confluence to connect Tulapur with Vadhu.

He spoke about introduction of more chapters on the administration skills of Sambhaji Mahraj in the school history syllabus. As the crowd cheered him, Tawde spoke about having a discussion with the chief minister in order to build a museum commemorating Sambhaji Maharaj and grant it the status of a pilgrimage.

Authorities well prepared

The police had set up posts in the area three days before the event.

Tawde who was escorted by the SP himself, spoke at both the memorials during events organised jointly by the Pune Zilla Parishad and the respective panchayats of Vadhu and Tulapur.

The presence of police as well as police help centre at regular intervals along the road leading to the memorials was accompanied by fire engines, medical assistance and water for the devotees. A palanquin procession which started from Pandharpur arrived at Tulapur and then headed to Vadhu. A series of spirited speeches by a local youth, by a child and a powada narrated the story of the torture Sambhaji Maharaj was subjected to before being beheaded and thrown in the confluence.

His mortal remains were recovered from across the river in Vadhu and cremated by farmers including a Dalit farmer Govind Mahar Gaikwad. Gaikwad’s memorial was built close to Sambhaji Maharaj’s memorial in Vadhu. Devotees arrived at the two memorials on two as well as four-wheelers with saffron flags as well as barefoot runners carrying flambeaus. No acts of violence were reported from the area.

People management

While the authorities were better prepared compared to the Bhima-Koregaon battle anniversary, the crowd benefitting from it was not as prepared or responsible. Volunteers distributed bottles of water and bananas among devotees arriving on vehicles as well as foot. However, empty plastic bottles, banana peels were seen strewn all over the place.

The devotees were also provided with food at both the places. However, while vehicles were allowed until the very entrance of the memorial in Tulapur, people had to walk in scorching heat for over two kilometres to reach the memorial in Vadhu. However, Tawde, member of parliament (MP) Adhalrao Patil and SP Haque’s vehicles, among other “VIPs” were allowed to enter.

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