THE Maharashtra government’s apathy towards preservation of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s rare ashes has marred the efforts of a Pune-based researchers group. This group is struggling to raise Rs 1 crore to construct a building where the commoners can see the ashes. However, it has received a little help from the government, which has announced to spend Rs 450 crore for a memorial of the Maratha King in the Arabian Sea here.

Bharat Itihaas Sanshodhak Mandal (BISM) possesses Chhatrapati Shivaji’s ashes. They have kept them in their bank’s locker because they do not have a place for their public display. The municipal council of Mahad, near the King’s Capital fort Raigad, has allotted a land to construct a building. However, the work has not kicked off because of cash crunch.

History researcher Pandurang Balkawade said that only three families in the state have Chhatrapati Shivaji’s ashes. “The ashes were found 118 years ago when Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak started work Maharaj’s samadhi (memorial) at Raigad. D B Sule, Mahadev Vadke and Shantaram Avlaskar had taken these ashes to their homes. The British seized the ashes from Sule’s house in 1942 but the other families had preserved the remaining ashes,” he said.

Balkawade said that BISM has planned to erect a memorial at Mahad and keep the ashes there. “We have conceptualised to have a permanent picture gallery on Maharaj’s life in the memorial. There will also be some rooms for visitors. A Mumbai-based architect Rahul Chemburkar has designed the memorial but we don’t have enough money to start the work,” he said.

A Kolhapur-based poet Raju Raut also had some ashes borrowed from the Vadkes. Raut had kept them in his house for a long time. But he immersed the ashes last year out of frustration. “I had communicated on several occasions to the state government regarding preservation of these ashes in a scientific way at Raigad. It did not take cognizance of my plea. So I immersed them to maintain their dignity,” Raut said.

Chhatrapati Shivaji’s 13th descendent Udayanraje Bhosale, a Nationalist Congress Party MP from Satara, too demanded that the state government should come forward to preserve the remaining ashes. “I will take up this issue with the state government,” he said.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has opposed to erect the memorial in Arabian Sea. “The government should spend the money in maintaining Maharaj’s forts which are in dilapidated condition at present instead of spending it on erecting a memorial,” he said.

Cultural Affairs Minister Sanjay Deotale was unavailable for comment.

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