Mumbai’s international airport and railway station will get another name change, with ‘Maharaj’ being slipped in to adequately describe the iconic Maratha king. While the airport would now be called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, the railway station will become Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. Maharaj, which translates to ‘great king’, would therefore convey the power the ruler wielded. It would also be more respectful, the Maharashtra cabinet thinks.
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In history, Shivaji Bhonsle has been revered as a great Maratha ruler – a Hindu warrior king known for his secular thinking, his political foresightedness and strategic prowess. He was given the royal title of Chhatrapati, meaning ’emperor’. In Maharashtra, however, there seems to be a heightened preoccupation with him. In 1996, the name Victoria Terminus was scrapped and replaced with Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Mumbai’s airport was formerly known as Sahar International Airport. It was renamed in 1999. Last year, the Shiv Sena pressed on building a six-feet tall statue of the Maharata king outside the airport in Mumbai. In September 2015, prior to receiving an official unveiling permission, the Shiv Sena took the onus of ‘forcibly’ unveiling the statue. The party claimed it took the step to safeguard the “pride of Maharashtra”, since there was a delay in having an opening ceremony. In 2000, the Prince of Wales Museum’s name was dropped and replaced with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.
There is also the Chhratrapati Shivaji Monument project under construction, dictated by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, which is projected to be completed by 2019. The project encompasses the building of a mammoth, larger-than-life size sculpture of Shivaji, which will be located 3.5 kms into the Arabian sea. The 192-meter tall statue of the 15th century ruler will show him riding a horse with a sword in tow. The two thousand crore project is also feature a lavish auditorium with a multi-cuisine food court.
While many argue that public sites, roads, museums and airports named after historic figures are important – they are only important to a superficial extent. The fact that numerous public sites are named after Chhatrapati Shivaji sufficiently conveys his significant stature. It is unlikely that the insertion of ‘Maharaj’ will instill in people an increased sense of respect for the idolised ruler as the Maharashtra cabinet wants.
Also, it is about time governments realised that changing the name of a public site has inconsequential impact on people, especially if the facility or road is unable to rise to their expectations as users. Running a government with efficacy by focusing on issues of far greater importance promise a stronger, more positive impact on people.
Since this move comes a month before the 2017 Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation (civic body) elections, some see this move as a political move taken to appeal to the working class by echoing deep-rooted Maharashtrain sentiments.
Governments in India have been known to change, alter, scrap names according to their whim. In New Delhi, Aurangzeb Road was renamed Dr Abdul Kalam Road, on the pretext that Aurangzeb was a ruthless Mughal emperor who should not be remembered. There were also discussions whether Akbar’s name (also a great Mughal emperor) should be dropped from the eponymous road. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had suggested the name of Maharana Pratap Road as a substitute, highlighting that Maharana Pratap, the 14th century ruler Mewar (in north-western India), was the embodiment of secularism. The decision to change Akbar’s name, however, was dismissed in the fear that it might trigger communal discord.