Wednesday December 19, 2018

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj: A warrior who helped revive Hindu culture

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By Sanket Jain

The fire which is burnt in a young child’s mind is never an outcome of the good things, rather the path of struggle and the days of darkness make one establish their mighty clan, which stands in good stead for hundreds of years leaving behind the legacy.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj one of the finest rulers who made a valiant effort to establish the Maratha clan is a perfect embodiment of vitality. Most of the people are unaware of the great ideas, which were implemented for the first time by Shivaji Maharaj and most of them exist till date.

Where students have just heard of the names of Ramayana and Mahabharatha, Shivaji studied them carefully and was inspired by them to initiate the process of a change, which would leave everyone star struck. Usually at the age of 16, students take the courage to visit a hilly fort and trek for the first time in their life. Shivaji Maharaj captured the fort of Torna, which was under the clutches of the Bijapur kingdom just at the age of 16. This is how his life began!

Shivaji Maharaj built one of the finest economic systems of that period. Rawlinson quoted,

“Like the great warriors-Napoleon is a conspicuous example-Shivaji   was also a great administrator, for the qualities which go to make a capable general are those which are required by the successful organizer and statesman.”

Economic system and revenue

At that point of time, all the officers were given Jagirs (feudal land grant). Shivaji was the first to drop that practice and he started paying all the officers in cash, which turned out to be one of the best decisions. In order to avoid the practice of corruption, he divided the kingdom into 4 parts, and each part had a Viceroy. All of these provinces had a number of sub divisions called pranths.

The Zamindars and the Deshmukhs used to levy taxes on the farmers, Shivaji gave up this practice. The Government dealt with the cultivators directly and the land was measured using a rod called the Kathi.

Tolerance to all religions

Shivaji Maharaj is considered to be a Hindu and Maratha ruler, which is quite different from the reality. There were many Muslim officers in his army and he never had any ill feeling towards any religion. On the other hand, some of his enemies were Hindus. Rustam-I- Zamani of Rajapur was a close friend of Shivaji and he punished Doroji one of his generals who captured Rajapur. He was the one who helped revive all the good things in Hindu culture and abolished most of the bad aspects.

Father of Indian Navy

Despite having some of the best kingdoms, Indian rulers never built a navy of their own. Shivaji Maharaj was the first to build a navy and owing to it, he is known as the father of Indian Navy. He established a naval force with cannons mounted on the ships. The fort of Sindhudurg is a perfect paragon of the naval intelligence that he possessed. After the possession of 8 to 9 forts in Deccan, he started trading with the foreign merchants.

Honoring women and mercy to the prisoners of war

Shivaji is one of the very few rulers who treated both men and women equally. His rule could be defined as the term of approbation for women. Maratha army captured many forts and towns, but all the women were sent back safe with honor.

The prisoners of war were treated with respect by Shivaji Maharaj. He welcomed the people who were ready to join the Maratha army and never judged anyone on the basis of their heritage and culture.

Patriotism and Nationalism

Shivaji was not an egocentric with an over inflated sense of expansion of his kingdom. Like Chanakya, Shivaji too dreamt of a united India. He was perfectly fine with the other kings and opposed the foreign rulers. Shivaji was the one who wiped away Mughals who ruled the nation for many decades. Chatrasal Bundela was inspired by Shivaji Maharaj, and Bundela created his own kingdom in Rajasthan.

Efficient governance

The governing council of Shivaji Maharaj was divided into 8 parts.

Peshwa– He looked after the welfare of all the states.

Amatya– He looked after the finance of the kingdom and was responsible for all the taxes and their proper collection.

Wakia Nawis– He used to keep a track of the events that happened in the courts and in the meetings.

Samant– He was responsible for all the foreign affairs and was responsible for taking care of the foreign guests and ambassadors.

Sachiv– He ensured that all the orders were implemented carefully and in right earnest.

Pandit Rao– He was the overall religious head and looked after the religious ceremonies in the kingdom.

Nyayadish– He was responsible for civil and military justice.

Senapati– He recruited the officers for the Maratha army and was responsible for maintaining all of them.

These are just a few points about Shivaji Maharaj.  Disguised in the shadows of a Maratha or a Hindu ruler, Shivaji Maharaj was far more than what we perceive him. He was never judgmental about any religion and always respected all the people.

His life inspired thousand of rulers, but we should ask ourselves one question:

Can we look beyond the biases and judgments we create for any particular ruler? The answer and the life of Shivaji Maharaj will drop you down in the dream below.

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Angola Fossils Bring A New But Familiar Ocean in View

These fossils are the patrimony of Angola, these are their heritage, and for us to be able to bring them to the Smithsonian and ultimately back to Angola.

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Angola Fossils
This full-size fossil reconstruction of a sea turtle from the prehistoric South Atlantic looks very similar to the giant sea turtles which still swim in our oceans today. VOA

Some may be familiar with mythical sea monsters. For example, Scotland’s infamous Loch Ness Monster “Nessie,” and Giganto — fictional beasts of comic book fame. But millions of years ago, real-life sea monsters lived and thrived in what we now call the South Atlantic Ocean.

South Atlantic Ocean basin

As the continents of South America and Africa separated millions of years ago, scientists say a fantastic array of ferocious predators and other lifeforms colonized the newly formed body of water off the coast of Angola.

That diverse collection of marine reptiles included mosasaurs (aquatic lizards), plesiosaurs (which exhibited broad flat bodies, large paddlelike limbs, and typically a long flexible neck and small head), and the more familiar giant sea turtles.

But a catastrophic asteroid that hit earth 66 million years ago wiped most of them out, according to scientists.

Today, thanks to a project called Projecto PaleoAngola among Angolan, American, Portuguese and Dutch researchers, paleontologists have been able to visit the coastal cliffs of Angola to excavate and study what remains of these giant animals.

“We knew that there were fossils there, we just didn’t know how good they would be,” says Louis Jacobs, collaborating curator and professor emeritus of paleontology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

“Nobody had been there, so this was a vast, unknown terrain and we wanted to get there.”

A 72-million year-old ecosystem

What the team of paleontologists discovered was a treasure trove, giving them an unprecedented look into a strange yet familiar ecosystem.

In addition to mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and sea turtles, there were fossilized remains of a variety of fish and other marine life forms.

Angola, fossils
Modern cliffs of coastal Angola where Projecto PaleoAngola paleontologists excavate fossils of life that once lived in Angola’s ancient seas. VOA

While mosasaurs have been known to exist on all continents and are relatively common in certain places, this particular sample is the largest collection of southern hemisphere mosasaurs known, according to the paleontologists.

“It’s certainly the best locality for these kinds of animals in sub-Saharan Africa and it could be one of the best in the world,” Jacobs said.

Rediscovering a lost world

Eleven authentic fossils from Angola’s ancient seas, full-size reconstructions of a mosasaur and an ancient sea turtle are on display for the first time in a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, titled “Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas.”

There are also 3-D scanned replicas of mosasaur skulls, and photo-murals and video vignettes transport visitors to field sites along Angola’s modern rugged coast, where Projecto PaleoAngola scientists unearthed the fossil remains from this lost world.

 

Angola, fosiils
The seafaring lizard Prognathodon kianda was a top predator in the Cretaceous waters. Scientists named this species after Kianda, the ruler of the ocean in Angolan mythology. VOA

 

Jacobs, who was part of a team of scientists and students at SMU that helped prepare the fossils for the Smithsonian exhibit, says any visitor “can look and see and compare how the ecosystem and its animals of the cretaceous of 72 million years ago are similar to ecosystems today in the same general areas.”

“The species are different, but the ecological jobs of the species are very similar,” he added.

Giant lizards

Michael Polcyn, senior research fellow at SMU, pointed out an example in the exhibit.

Standing in front of a fossil skull and partial skeleton of a mosasaur, he described the reptile as an “optimized fish eater.”

“You see the long narrow snout, the interlocking teeth — this would be similar to what you would see in the ocean today, in a dolphin for instance,” he said.

He gestured to a graphic posted on the display case depicting a rough toothed dolphin which it described as “the analog for the animal in the modern ecosystem.”

Angola Fossils
An artist’s rendering of Angola’s Cretaceous seas 72 million years ago, dominated by many species of large, carnivorous marine reptiles. VOA

Shell-crushing mosasaur

Another great example of diversity within that ancient ecosystem is the hardshell-eating mosasaur, Polcyn said, which preyed on large oysters which were almost a meter (three feet) across.

“They were really big, so to crack an oyster three feet across you needed the dentition and the musculature to do that, and that’s what you see here in these very strange mushroom-shaped teeth that you see in this animal,” Polcyn explained.

Within the same ecosystem was another example of a top predator, the Prognathodon kianda. Its full-scale skeleton on display in the museum is almost eight meters long.

In addition to top predators like the monster-like mosasaur, the exhibit also includes fossils of gentler creatures; small fish and an ancient giant sea turtle.

“We have a snapshot of this moment in time 72 million years ago that has preserved all of these animals that were living together in one place,” Polcyn said.

Angola Fossils
This mosasaur fossil skull shows how its mushroom-shaped teeth were optimized to crack hard-shell prey like giant oysters. VOA

The big dig

Jacobs says the fossil find in Angola was a big deal for a number of reasons:

“First of all because it’s going into a country that never really had a heritage of fossils,” he said. “It basically was unknown at the level that we are opening it up.”

“Fossils,” he says, “instill a sense of pride in what’s in the country, and it provides something to use for education, and it builds science. And the way it builds science is because every country has fossils, so every country has something to offer, so every country is a piece of the puzzle and the Angola piece is now there.”

Michael Polcyn agrees that unearthing this cache of ancient fossils has been a huge breakthrough on a number of fronts.

Also Read: New Artifacts Found in Cairo, Egypt: Archaeologists

“From a purely scientific point of view it gives us an incredible window into an ecosystem 72 million years ago that is relatively complete,” he says. “From a very human point of view this really shows the people of Angola, and the people of the world, what incredible resources we have in our natural environments.”

And lastly, he says, “These fossils are the patrimony of Angola, these are their heritage, and for us to be able to bring them to the Smithsonian and ultimately back to Angola, on a very personal level, is a thrill for us.” (VOA)