(This story was originally published on 30 December 2016. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Shivaji’s death anniversary.)
Chhatrapati Shivaji formed the genesis of the Maratha empire in the 17th century. While fighting with Mughals in the north and Adilshah as well as Nizam in the Deccan, the Maratha warrior had built several hundred forts.
The Quint decided to check up on the status of forts built or renovated by the Maratha warrior king. Although the government of Maharashtra announced its plans to splurge Rs 3,600 crore on building a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the middle of Arabian Sea, most of Shivaji’s forts are in a deplorable condition and some of them lack essential facilities for tourists.
The Quint has come across seven shocking facts and revelations, which will leave history lovers furious.
1. No Toilets or Drinking Water
After over 155 years of its existence and after 70 years of freedom, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which controls important forts built by Shivaji, has not been able to provide basic facilities like toilet or drinking water at popular forts like Raigad and Sindhudurg, which are visited by an average of 5 lakh tourists every year.
Modi ji, I request you to do only one thing. Forts in Maharashtra are under the siege of archeological department in Delhi. One needs to go to Delhi to get even a small job done. Hand them over to the state government. We are capable of taking care of our forts.Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena Chief (on 26 December)
2. 'Yes, We Neglected Forts,' Says ASI
In a shocking, yet candid, admission, the ASI officer in-charge of Mumbai Circle (which covers all major forts of Shivaji) told The Quint that the ASI is indeed responsible for the condition of forts and lack of amenities.
Earlier, we had only one circle in Maharashtra, which was based in Aurangabad. So, we could not take care of all the forts. And we didn’t even have sufficient staff or budget. So, forts got neglected. Then, we set up Mumbai circle in 2005 and Nagpur circle in 2015 to take better care. But still, only 100 employees are working in Mumbai circle and 250 positions are lying vacant. So, we can’t take proper care of monuments. The recruitment process is on and my vision is to provide basic facilities to all tourists.Dr VS Badiger, Superintending Archaeologist
3. Rs 3,600 Cr for Statue, Rs 60 Cr for Forts
In the 2016-17 Budget, the state government allotted Rs 60 crore for the conservation of forts. This is a mere 1.66 percent of the amount the government is planning to spend on the new statue.
However, in June 2016, CM Fadnavis announced plans to spend Rs 500 crore on Raigad alone. The Rs 9 crore that has been released from this amount has been stuck in procedural delays at the ASI – the only agency that can carry out work at Raigad.
4. How Many Forts in Maharashtra? No One Knows
Among the states, Maharashtra reportedly has the highest number of forts. But how many forts are there? Well, nobody knows the exact number.
Most historians (and there are plenty) vaguely say there are “around 500 forts”.
Historian Pramod Mande, who claims to have documented all forts of Maharashtra, puts the number at 424. Online searches throw up a figure of 370. But if you go by the government records, there are only 82 forts protected by either central or state archaeology departments.
5. Who Owns These Forts?
The ASI, an agency controlled by the Union government, controls 42 of the important forts. These include Shivneri, where Shivaji was born as well as his capital of Raigad fort.
The state archaeological department controls 40 other forts. The remaining forts are are either controlled by the revenue department, which knows little about archaeology or are privately owned.
This means that most forts are at the mercy of those who know nothing about conservation. What’s more, there is no record of the ownership of some forts.
6. Raigad Not Even Mapped Properly
Most forts in Maharashtra fall in two different categories. By geographical classification, they are ‘hilltop forts’ by geographical classification. They are also ‘destroyed forts’ as the British systematically destroyed and burned down all important forts in the Deccan after they defeated Marathas in 1818.
The job of the ASI is to conserve, repair and renovate. In order to carry this out, they need authentic and detailed mapping of the landscape, but even that has not been done, say experts.
The ruins of these forts are not studied properly by authorities. For restoration, advanced GPS tools are available, but the government doesn’t want to spend on it. You’ll be startled to know that Raigad, which deserves to be a world heritage site, wasn’t even mapped properly.Sonal Chitnis, Conservation Architect
7. Emotional ‘Bhakts’ Make Conservation Difficult
The politics of Maharashtra revolves around Shivaji and it’s an extremely touchy issue. Remember when the entire Bhandarkar institute was ransacked in Pune after American academic James Lane wrote controversial comments about Shivaji’s mother? Lane may have erred, but such ‘shiv-bhakti’ can come at odds with historical research and conservation.
A researcher had to face the wrath of Shivaji’s followers after he published a study about Raigad, which wasn’t in line with the traditional narration of the fort. So, historians are, at times, scared about stating facts which go against public sentiments. This restricts the scope of conservation, which demands hard evidence.
There are many problems. First of all, no government is serious about forts. Then, ASI people don’t respond properly. And then, our own people are emotional about it. We’ve divided Shivaji is various groups. If one group tries to give some evidence or do something, others will oppose it.Pandurang Balkawade, Historian; Convener, Forts Committee set up by State Govt