by Dr Shyam Kelavkar - Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj

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by Dr Shyam Kelavkar

Rajashri Chatrapati Shri Shahu Maharaja... according to me the most knowledgeable royalty of his time  and an enigmatic personality who was has and forever more will be acclaimed; but  not in this novel way that Mr. Mandar Vaidya is trying to bring forth!! Imagine  my surprise when I was asked to write not about this great personality as an historical landmark but as a person and the way his actions shaped my family’s  existence in Kolhapur! Thrilled as I am to be able to write this article so am I  burdened with the added responsibility to convey facts and not in any way  subject this magnanimous personality to any ridicule due to my immaturity. It is  High time that someone took up an endeavor to bring forth a different facet of  the life of this shrewd visionary of his time! It is truly a matter of utter  shame that there is no proper information portal about Chhatrapati Shahu  Maharaja’s life and thought, that there is a dearth in understanding the  undercurrents to this deep personality!

In spite of the British Raj this  maharaja was able to achieve so much not because of his position or lineage but  because of the wise and politically right decisions taken by him.

At the  mere age of 24 I cannot expect myself to understand this personality nor do I  wish to pass judgment about any acts and reforms this great visionary has done,  all I am here to do is to share is the intricate and deep relation my family The  'Kelavkars' have shared with His Highness.

Which brings us to the basics,  who is writing this article? so an introduction before we continue and a brief  glimpse about what actually am I going to talk about....

I am Dr. Shyam  Pralhad Kelavkar the fourth generation doctor in our family, our family that has  its history as ‘Zamindars’ of Dholpur, many members of my elder generation have  had a deep relationship with The Chhatrapati and I'll take you through the story  chronologically.

My great great grandfather was a doctor practicing in  Mumbai (then Bombay) at Wasai, Dr. Krishnajee Dadajee Kelavkar due to an  unfortunate infection he contracted while treating a patient he secluded himself  from the society, and the family faced very hard times, During this time his  wife my Great great grandmother Mrs. Rakhmabai (Radhabai) Krishnajee Kelavkar  got herself a degree in teaching from ‘The Female Training Institute, Poona’.  And as fate would have it she was appointed as the personal teacher to Princess  Anandibai the then wife of Prince Shivaji, by his father His Highness Chatrapati  Shahu Maharaja and this marked the coming of the Kelavkar family to the princely  state of Kolhapur around the year 1880. Sadly due to the untimely demise of the  Prince the Princess lost all interest in education and there was no need for  further services of Mrs. Rakhmabai. But luckily she got appointed as the First  Hindu Lady Teacher and then First Hindu Lady Superintendent of ‘The Female  Training Institute, Kolhapur. Headed by Miss. Little, the then Superintendent of  the Institute.

Now I'll take a moment to show you how the Chhatrapati  achieved all the political, financial and social need of the time, while on the  same hand taking care of the employee he had so requested for teaching from the  British Raj...this in itself being the reason why our family settled in  Kolhapur

The time was when Kolhapur Gaadi was being criticized by all the  social reformers in Pune for lack of female staffing in the Durbar, the time was  when the gaadi bore a heavy burden of Rupees 450 for the pay of Miss. Little,  the time was when a employee so demanded by the Chhatrapati was rendered jobless  as the Princess's denied education....

The solution amazing and yet so  simple was just to employ Mrs. Rakhmabai as the Lady Superintendent and thus he  achieved,

A crisp answer to all criticism faced by the Gaddi by social  reformers.

Securing a place for Kolhapur in female empowerment campaign  and setting a watermark for further reform.

Reducing the financial load  on the gaadi by paying the new superintendent a salary of just Rs.55, which  later got an increment of Rs.30 and a traveling allowance of Rs.15 as against  the Rs.450 given to Miss. Little.

Gaining the services of a loyal  educated subject by granting her a pay, which not only sustained a family, but  also averted the financial crises and social humility.

And the master  stroke of it all increasing the female literacy of Kolhapur State by making  available a Hindu female teacher who the locale gladly accepted and related too,  readily sending the female sex to attend classes....

This superficially  subtle act of hiring my Great Great grandmother not only settled our family but  gave the family unparalleled fame and respect in the state and further  strengthened the drive for education in the family.

The next generations  to come in contact with His Highness were none other than the children of Mrs.  Rakhmabai,
Dr. Miss. Krishnabai  Krishnajee Kelavkar
Bar. Shamrao Krishnajee Kelavkar
Mr.  Yashwantrao Krishnajee Kelavkar
Dr. Miss.  Krishnabai Krishnajee Kelavkar (my great grand aunt)

She was the
  • First Lady Student of  Fergusson College, Pune
  • First Hindu Lady L.M & S  (England)
  • First practicing lady doctor of Chatrapati Pramilla Raje  Hospital, Kolhapur (then His Highness Albert Memorial Hospital,  Kolhapur)
  • Kaiser-I-Hind (silver) for Distinguished Public  Service
She was the
  • First Lady Student of  Fergusson College, Pune
  • First Hindu Lady L.M & S  (England)
  • First practicing lady doctor of Chatrapati Pramilla Raje  Hospital, Kolhapur (then His Highness Albert Memorial Hospital,  Kolhapur)
  • Kaiser-I-Hind (silver) for Distinguished Public  Service

How come such a lady with such a glorious career come and settle  down in Kolhapur and serve the citizens here is again because of the brilliance  of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaja.

After completing the M.B.B.S equivalent  degree from Grant Medical College Dr. Krishnabai needed to go to England to  pursue her further education, this was certainly not a cheap affair then and by  securing a Scholarship from his highness was she able to do the same. For this  favor the Maharaja asked her that she must serve the citizens of Kolhapur as her  scholarship was nothing but the taxes collected from the citizens, to which she  gladly consented.

Now again the sheer genius of this decision Kolhapur  got a fully qualified L.M. & S upon her return.

The health system of  Kolhapur greatly improved so much so that from 1903 to 1923 there is no other  mention in the field of health other than Dr. Krishnabai in the entire  state,

Again the ruler gained the unquestioning loyalty of the family and  won hearts of one and all!

To clarify not only did he teach Dr.  Krishnabai but made a job available for her, which again sustained our family  and helped Miss. Krishnabai establish her practice as a clinician in the then  male dominated society. For the record after the demise of the ruler of hearts  Dr. Krishnabai started full-fledged private practice and the hospital she  started still stands and serves the citizens of Kolhapur under the able guidance  of my father Dr. Pralhad Prabhakar Kelavkar.

Mr. Yashwantrao Krishnajee Kelavkar (my great grand  uncle)

This mans life story is very  short as he demised at an very early age of 25 but he too has contributed to the  citizens of Kolhapur and as it is now obvious he too was helped in this by His.  Highness Chatrapati Shahu Maharaja by donating generously the land and part of  the ‘Junna Raj Wada’ the Citadel of the Karveer Gaadi to establish a  school!

He started a boy’s school along with a few eminent personalities  then named 'Vidhyapeeth' which to this day stands near the Famous Mahalaxmi  (Ambabai) Temple and caters to the youth of Kolhapur enriching their minds since  its foundation. Even today Yashwantrao’s birthday 19th January is celebrated as  'Kelavkar Day' here.

This honor could not have been possible without His  Highnesses help right from securing the land to aiding in the  construction

This incident again shows the progressiveness of Chhatrapati  Shahu Maharaja in aiding to establish schools for the development of his  citizens and state alike

Bar.  Shamrao Krishnajee Kelavkar (my great grand father)

This individual had independently completed his  Bar. From England and had set up his practice in England. As the family at that  point of time did not have any heir, he was called back to his home town. Now  being a through Englishman he came to Kolhapur not in service to His Highness  but the British Raj. There are a few incidents I'd like to share

In a  time when grain was not available in Kolhapur Chatrapati Shahu Maharaja was  extremely troubled and the only way to secure grains was through the Bombay  Regency, it was here that they first met and my great grand father secured all  the grains needed for His Highness this transcended the royal-subject  relationship to that akin of friendship.

Later he joined as the Minister  for Town Planning in Shahu Maharaja’s Court and held the dual posts of the Gaadi  and the Regency Council

The most significant contribution is the  establishment of Sykes Law College in Kolhapur by Bar. Shamrao which also  contributed to catapult the state in education Ranking. Where he was the funder  and first Principal.

But the work of Shamrao extended into the reign of  Raja Ram Maharaja and hence he has been dealth with at the concluding segment of  this article…

Everything I have written has documented proof no part of  the factual data displayed here is a flight of ideas or imagination. I have done  my utmost best to show the extent and the circumstances which made us cross  paths and walk along this mammoth personality, aiding and realizing destinies.  Those were truly golden times for the family and as you now very well must have  understood the entire family are indebted to The Chhatrapati in more ways than  one. To this day we remain and evermore shall remain humble servants of The  Royal Family.

I was expected to write an article about the relationship  of my family with Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaja, but still if there are any queries  I'll gladly answer them on my website Here you'll also find the entire family history of Kelavkars with special books featuring the lives of the above-mentioned Personalities in detail. With this I bid you all adieu, Jai Hind! Jai  Maharashtra!
-Dr. Shyam Pralhad Kelavkar

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