Anand Pai, the legendary founder of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), had great love for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Though after his time, particularly in the last two years, the ACK has changed direction and has almost become woke, exhibiting even subtle anti-Hindu behaviour.
The old titles on Shivaji Maharaj, and Shivaji-related issues are a testimony to the heart of the ACK founder, and shows the values the memory of Shivaji Maharaj had imprinted on the famous ‘Uncle Pai’.
In the very introduction, the love for Shivaji Maharaj that the editorial team has is well shown. "Even the zeal of such fighting races as the Rajputs had been suppressed by centuries of slavery under Mughal rule," we are informed.
They had become puppets holding posts of honour under their royal masters.
"During such a period, Shivaji was born. He was the son of an incredibly brave father and wise and loving mother. These two and a teacher named Dadoji were the moulding influences on Shivaji's character. The boy showed an uncommon understanding of the happenings around him. The wicked deeds of the ruling class made him angry and restless. The flame of freedom burnt in the little boy's heart. He collected around him a band of devoted followers and as they grew up they swore to throw off the yoke of alien rule."
That was the introductory note given for this classic. One can feel the love 'Uncle Pai' had for Shivaji Maharaj in those lines.
Every panel in this issue has been carefully and lovingly crafted. Little Shivaji learns archery and horse riding from Dadoji.
He learns the epics and Dharma from his mother Jijabai. Then he ponders why his father should fight other people's battles and then he asks his mother what his own Dharma would be.
The temple destruction Afzal Khan indulges in is shown. His slaying by Shivaji Maharaj is shown quite vividly.
Then when Afzal Khan's head is taken by the soldiers, Shivaji Maharaj is shown ordering "Bury it along with his boy with full honours" and one of the generals thinking "what a noble man! He doesn't wish to dishonour a fallen enemy."
The utmost care with which the Shivaji issue of ACK can be seen in the way it depicts the Maratha raid on Surat.
The panel informs us "For four days he 'sacked' the city". The word 'sacked' is given within single inverted commas. The panel also shows Shivaji Maharaj ordering his soldiers not to trouble the poor and "above all do not harass the women".
The comic book ends with the coronation of Shivaji Maharaj. And it informs the young reader through one of the persons attending the coronation "As long as freedom is cherished, his name will shine and inspire millions".
Script: B R .Bhagwat
Illustrations: Pratap Mulick
Cover Art: Pratap Mulick
The panels of the comics starts with a young Shivaji and his companions taking oath in the Shiva-Raireshwar temple. We see the boy Tanaji taking this oath before the Shivaling "I, Tanaji Malusare, shall not rest till freedom is ours".
In the following panels, we see Tanaji helping Shivaji Maharaj capture the strategic forts.
ACK shows how Shivaji Maharaj tells Tanaji to spare Shaista Khan when Khan's wife begs Shivaji Maharaj to spare her husband.
Shivaji Maharaj stops Tanaji from killing him because "regard for women is our culture".
Jijabai, mother of Shivaji Maharaj, gets upset because Kondana Fort had gone into the hands of enemies.
She plays a game of dice with Shivaji Maharaj and wins. She asks as a victor Shivaji Maharaj to capture Kondana Fort.
The fort was difficult to climb. Further, it was guarded by a fierce elephant. Only Tanaji could accomplish the task. Though the next day was his son's wedding, Tanaji rushes for the mission.
"Wedding can wait. My duty to my leader and country comes first."
With the help of Yeshwanti the iguana the Maratha soldiers enter through the steep cliff side. When the iguana fails, first the fellow soldiers consider it as bad omen.
But Tanaji says, "death perhaps but defeat never" and they climb. It was an unbelievable mission.
The soldiers tackle the elephant. In the fierce battle, Tanaji becomes a Balidani. The Simha of Shivaji Tanaji is dead. The fort is named Simhagad and the ACK ends with a full page picture of the monument built for Tanaji by Shivaji Maharaj - the 'Virasana'.
Script: Meena Talim
Illustrations: V B Halbe
Cover Illustration: Pratap Mulick
Though this issue is about Chhatrasal, who established an independent Hindu state in Bundelkhand, it shows Chhatrasal coming to Shivaji Maharaj for advice.
After Chhatrasal gets insulted at the Mughal court he comes to Shivaji Maharaj.
But Shivaji Maharaj already knew what happened at the Mughal court.
Chhatrasal is awe-struck by Shivaji Maharaj's intelligence network. When he reveals Shivaji Maharaj his aim to gain independence, Shivaji Maharaj asks him to work intelligently.
Chhatrasal sees the picture of Samarth Ramdas and understands the importance of having a spiritual guru for his mission.
Shivaji Maharaj gives his own sword to young Chhatrasal.
Later, when Chhatrasal is old and Mughals attack him again with a huge army, the comics depict how the Maratha Hindu confederacy under Bajirao Peshwa comes to his help.
The letter that Chhatrasal writes to Bajirao is given.
It invokes the imagery of Gajendra caught by the crocodile calling for Vishnu: "As the elephant was overpowered by the crocodile, so are the Bundelas losing out today. Save us, Baji Rao."
And Baji Rao declares that the Bundelas would not lose as long as Baji Rao lives.
Script and narrative : Dr H K Devsare
Illustrations: Pratap Mulick
Cover art: C M Vitankar.
‘Baji Rao I’ (1974)
Though this comics issue is not about Shivaji Maharaj, it is about the way the Hindu Swarajya he planted had evolved. It starts in the year 1718 with Balaji Vishwanath, the Peshwa, accompanied by his son Baji Rao, using diplomacy to control the Mughals in Delhi.
As the father and son return, the son says: "The Nizam inwardly hates us father".
The father replies "Yes. Some day you will have to fight him."
Soon Baji Rao becomes the Peshwa. With his trusted lieutinents Holkar and Shinde, he very strategically moves to weaken the Mughal empire.
Mughal Nizam uses the jealousy Marathas have against Baji Rao and even ropes in Sambhaji the cousin of Maratha emperor Shahu. But despite all diversions and treachery, Baji Rao subdues Nizam and extracts a lot of advantage from him for Hindavi Swarajya.
Particularly interesting is the way he tackles the rivalry with his own people. He hesitates to fight and pleads with the rival Marathas to save their arms and ammunition for the enemies.
Finally, he defeats the Mughals decisively and the dream of Hindavi Swarajya that has power through out India — the dream of Shivaji Maharaj is realised.
With these words the last panel ends: "Far ahead of his times Baji Rao was disliked by many. But his patriotism was so great, none dared criticize him openly. ..." Reminds you of someone we have today?
Script: B R Bhagwat
Illustrations: V B Halbe
The ACK issue on the Maharashtra Bhakti saint Tukaram also depicts a few panels showing Chatrapati Shivaji.
Shivaji Maharaj requests Tukaram to do recitation at the temple in Poona where Shivaji used to worship as a child.
The Mughals come to know the presence of Shivaji Maharaj, unarmed and without any guards. They surround the temple. But they are deluded by an illusory Shivaji Maharaj that emerges from the deity of the temple while the real Shivaji Maharaj is unharmed, and returns safely after the worship performance of Thukaram.
Script: Kamala Chandrakant
Illustration: Prabhakar Khanolkar
Covert art: Prabhakar Khanolkar
'Ahilyabai Holkar' (1975)
This Amar Chitra Katha tells the story of an eight-year-old girl who became a powerful and just ruler of Central India.
She belongs to a later generation of the confederacy created by Shivaji Maharaj.
Despite her heavy personal tragedies of the loss of her husband, son and father-in-law, and despite treacherous and trying circumstances, she faced all the problems that life could give her, and yet emerge as a great ruler protecting the independence of her motherland from the then colonising powers. She also took care of her subjects like her own children.
This Amar Chitra Katha informs the young readers that even her enemies respected her. The book ends with the line: "In many parts of India you will find monuments to Ahilya's generosity and piousness."
Script: Meena Ranade
Illustrations and Cover Art: P B Kavadi
‘Samarth Ramdas’ (1980)
The cover art (C M Vitankar) itself shows Shivaji Maharaj touching the feet of Samarth Ramdas and in the background is the statue of Hanuman. Inside, the panels show Ramdas wishing for a leader worthy of leading the freedom movement.
Then he meets and observes the young Shivaji growing steadily in his valour and resolve to free the nation.
When Ramdas comes to know of young Shivaji's oath then he thinks of Shivaji as the morning star of India.
The meeting of Shivaji Maharaj and Ramdas at Masur is described and then onward Ramdas provides spiritual strength to Shivaji Maharaj.
He asks Shivaji Maharaj to adorn himself not with rich clothes and jewels but with discretion and wisdom.
The book describes an incident where Ramdas tests Shivaji Maharaj by making himself sick.
To cure Ramdas the milk of the tigress is needed. Shivaji Maharaj obtains it. Ramdas blesses him and gives him cryptic things — coconut, sand, horse dung and pebbles.
Shivaji Maharaj understands that along with his blessing Ramdas wants him to expand his territory, raise a strong horse force and also capture forts.
The comics also shows Shivaji Maharaj giving his empire to Ramdas and Ramdas in turn makes Shivaji Maharaj the trustee-ruler and makes saffron flag the flag of Shivaji's Swarajya.
Though Ramdas could not attend the coronation, Shivaji Maharaj paid rich tributes to Ramdas at fort near Satara.
The comics dedicates one third of the issue to Ramdas guiding Shivaji Maharaj. In Shivaji Maharaj’s mission is the fulfilment of the vision of Ramdas.
Script: Subas L Desai
Illustrations: V B Halbe
Cover art: C M Vitankar
This issue deals mainly with the childhood of Sambhaji which was tough and how he grew up experiencing hardships while his mother had died when he was two and his step mother wanted his own son Rajaram to become the crown prince.
The comics deals with the palace intrigues and how circumstances force Sambhaji to make a tactical alliance with the Mughals which in turn breaks the heart of Shivaji Maharaj.
However, Sambhaji soon realises the real nature of Mughals and returns to his father.
Following the death of Shivaji Maharaj, again the palace intrigues continue but Sambhaji tackles them all and becomes the king — continuing the fight of his father.
The comics ends with his coronation and shows the seal of Sambhaji —indicating that the ideals of Shivaji Maharaj were not lost.
Script: Sanjivani Kher and team
Illustrations: Dilip Kadam
‘Tales of Shivaji’ (1982)
The tales narrated here are: Hira the milkmaid story, Shivaji Maharaj's encounter with the Rani of Belevadi and the story ‘the Gift’.
The first story is about Hira, whose love for seeing her infant child made her climb down one of the steepest sides of the Raigadh Fort.
Until then, climbing that side of the fort was considered as humanly impossible.
But when the simple milk selling woman showed how the determination for a purpose could make the impossible possible, Shivaji Maharaj erected fortifications and installed guards that side.
The last panel of the story informs the young reader: "Shivaji and Hira were no longer alive. But Hira Burz the watchtower built by Shivaji and named after Hira can be seen in Raigadh to this day."
The second story is about Rani of Belevadi who fought against the Marathas after her husband died in the battlefield. She was defeated by the Marathas. And she was angry because Shivaji Maharaj had not thought about the freedom of Belevadi.
The final panels show Shivaji Maharaj meets the Rani and addresses her as mother.
Then he regrets that he cannot give back her dead husband and similarly he cannot give back the freedom because she never lost it.
Then he says that he has something to ask of her. Then he bows before her and says "your forgiveness mother".
Rani reveals to Shivaji Maharaj her initial anger and bitterness, though once she had admired Shivaji Maharaj. Then she says that his words had removed the bitter anger and she blesses him.
The third story ‘The Gift’ is set in the background of the conquest of Kalyan fort by the Marathas.
Abaji Mahadev the commander in chief of the Kalyan fort had captured the daughter-in-law of Mulla Ahmed an official who had run away. Her beauty is well known.
Now Abaji Mahadev offered her to Shivaji Maharaj as ‘the gift’.
"Is not she beautiful? Wouldn’t you love to have her?" Abaji asks Shivaji Maharaj. The comics panels show Shivaji Maharaj getting up from the throne and move towards the girl.
Then he tells that he "would love to have her" and in the next panel he completes the sentence "as my sister".
Then he thanks Abaji Mahadev for finding him such a beautiful sister. The girl is escorted back to her house with expensive gifts from Shivaji Maharaj.
In each story, the main character is a woman — a determined mother, a widowed and angry queen and a captured beautiful woman from the enemy camp.
In each, Shivaji Maharaj shows how a person should conduct himself.
This issue again deserves a special place in imparting civilisational values to children, the civilisational values which were personified by Shivaji Maharaj.
Script: Subba Rao
Illustrations: Dilip Kadam
‘Chennamma of Keladi’ (1988)
This ACK is about Chennamma, the queen of Keladi, who became the ruler after her husband died.
She ruled wisely and benevolently for more than a quarter of century.
The ACK title byline introduces as the "queen who defied Aurangazeb".
Chennamma fought against the Bijapur army. But it was her principled stand to protect Rajaram the son of Shivaji Maharaj which brought her confrontation with formidable Mughal forces.
Despite the military superiority of the Mughals, she would not give up on the son of the founder of Hindavi Swarajya.
Her army fought bravely, inflicting heavy losses on the Mughal army.
Meanwhile, Rajaram reached the impregnable fort of Chenji and then Aurangazeb called for a ceasefire.
The ACK clearly brings out the deeper feeling of Swarajya among the other chieftains which Shivaji Maharaj had ignited, transcending linguistic barriers and narrow territorial interests.
Script: Gayatri M Dutt
Illustration: Souren Roy
Thus did 'Uncle Pai', the visionary, give the children of 1970s and then on the stories of Hindavi Swaraj — the least taught but the most important and perhaps the most valiant part of the history of India from seventeenth century to the beginning of the modern era.
Read more articles related to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his coronation here.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!