The story of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the paintings of M.V Dhurandhar

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a man of great valour, a charismatic leader and the founder of the Maratha Empire. Countless stories of his wit, administrative abilities, resourcefulness and bravery have been told through novels, comics, plays, ballads, songs, and visual art and have inspired generations.

Interestingly, unlike usual practice in royal courts, Shivaji did not employ artists or painters. Yet, in visual art itself there are numerous depictions of Shivaji – in miniatures, sculptures as well as modern art. In the 19th century painter, M.V Dhurandhar’s works, there are several watercolour paintings featuring Shivaji Maharaj.

According to the Bhau Daji Lad Museum that exhibited these works in 2018 as part of an exhibition:

These are illustrations from books commissioned by Balasaheb Pantapratinidi, Raja of Aundh. These works resulted from the numerous trips Dhurandhar made with Purshottam Mawji, who wrote a history of Shivaji Maharaj’s military and its role during warfare.

Source

In the study of Indian art history, painters of 19th and 20th century Bombay hold a special place. Amongst them, M.V Dhurandhar was one of the foremost and most significant artists, maintaining a fine balance between academic realism and popular commercial art. He studied at the Sir J. J. School of Art between 1890 and 1895 and went on to become its first Indian director (1919 -1935). Particularly skilled with watercolours, Dhurandhar was an illustrator and portraitist of great repute. His well-known works included a series on the city of Bombay and its people, scenes from Hindu mythology as well as a series on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

In a series of paintings featuring Shivaji Maharaj, M.V Dhurandhar captures the valour, aura and a humanitarian side of the Maratha King.  

Shivaji, the great Maratha warrior king, (named after the goddess Shivai) was born to Shahaji Bhosale & Jijabai at a time when power in Deccan was shared by three sultanates: Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golkonda. Shahaji Bhosale served as a general in the Deccan Sultanate and maintained his own small kingdom in Pune even as he was stationed at different locations. Shivaji grew up in Pune under the care of his mother. Over the subsequent years, he helmed the reign of the Maratha Empire. He established a competent and progressive civil rule with well-structured administrative organisations. Shivaji’s military forces expanded the Maratha sphere of influence, capturing and building forts, and forming a Maratha navy.

Here are some paintings depicting key moments from the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Let’s take a look! 

(Swipe to read & see the paintings / use the arrow keys)

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Arunesh Varade
Arunesh Varade
Art enthusiast. On a pursuit to discover and learn more about Indian culture and heritage.

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