Collapsed road on the way to Shivneri Fort
Collapsed road on the way to Shivneri Fort

Mumbai: History books have been tweaked, railway stations have been renamed and statues are being erected as the Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj becomes an iconic personality to draw inspirations from, for most Maharashtrians today. Minister for School Education Vinod Tawde announced recently that the BJP-led government will now ensure history books will focus only on Maratha history scrapping most chapters on Moghul dynasties.

It seems all political parties are capitalising on Shivaji’s name to gain support but the irony is that the very birth place of the founder of Maratha  empire — Shivneri Fort — is in a shambles. The hill where Shivenri Fort is located at Junnar in Pune district has eroded and so also the Shivai temple inside.

Speaking to the Free Press Journal, a senior trustee of the temple said people throng to Shivneri with cars lining up for over a kilometre. But for a long time water was leaking from the temple roof till he did some water-proofing work a forthnight ago. “Right now it is 90 percent fine. Yes, there is still seepage but it has decreased. The problem is that the soil of the mountain is loose and the soil erosion over time has taken a toll,” he said.

Shivneri Fort is the birthplace of Shivaji. He has been named after goddess Shivai whose idol has been naturally formed. The temple is in a cave in the middle of the hill. Unfortunately, when tourists visit to know more of their favourite Maratha king, there is little or no information given.

“Notice boards of no videography and photography are more prominent. Sadly, no information like which year Shivaji Maharaj was born, that he got the name from Shivai Devi and reason for two idols here are available. There should some sort of respect and education to those who come here,” another trustee said.

The fort and the temple come under the forest department which has completely ignored them. The trustees and the villagers feel the disdain shown by the government is doing more harm to Shivaji’s image. “The toilets stink and are dirty as there is no water. The surrounding  area is like a public urinal. The water cooler has no water. Cars are parked for a kilometre and nobody to guard,” he said.

Shiv Sena MP and party spokesperson Sanjay Raut said they have been raising the issue of neglected forts of Shivaji. “Our party chief Uddhav Thackeray has taken photographs of the 350 forts, to educate the next generation but the government has not taken it seriously.”

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