HISTORY OF THE CHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ MUSEUM
FACT is a non-profit Trust which was started in 2005 by François Gautier, an OCI. Being a French author and journalist, who has been covering India and South Asia for the last 35 years, all throughout my reporting years, he noticed that most western correspondents were projecting the problems, warts and shortcomings of India – & never its positive sides. Hence when he got a journalism prize (Natchiketa Award of excellence in journalism) from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he used the prize money to mount a series of conferences & exhibitions highlighting the magnificence of India and the threats to its sovereignty.
The first FACT exhibition dealt with the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus, four hundred thousand of them having become refuges in their own country. After this exhibition was shown successfully in Delhi’s Habitat Centre, Mumbai and Bangalore, it was displayed in Poland, Germany, Israel, England, Holland in 2007. Furthermore, it was brought to the US Congress in July 2008, leading to a bipartisan resolution on the Human Rights of the Kashmiri Pandits in the US Congress . Another exhibition on the persecution of Hindus, Christians and Buddhists in Bangladesh was inaugurated in Mumbai on 18th November 2006 by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. A path-breaking project on “Aurangzeb as he was according to his own firmans“ was then shown in Delhi’s Habitat Centre and was inaugurated by L.K. Advani and Dr Karan Sigh. This was followed by numerous other exhibitions, on Maharana Pratap, Ahilyabai, Dara Shikoh, etc (see timeline attached), which are now permanently housed in the Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, Pune. These exhibitions have been curated by Prof. V.S. Bhatnagar, former Professor, Department of History, University of Rajasthan and former Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The exhibitions, separately titled “Aurangzeb, as he was according to Mughal records” and “Dara Shikoh, the forgotten prince of Islam”, are based on Akhbarats, original edicts in Persian issued by Aurangzeb, preserved at the Bikaner Museum, Rajasthan and other Historical texts. The Shivaji Maharaj exhibition was inaugurated in Mumbai in 2008 by Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar & Shri Narendra Modi, then CM Gujarat.
Many films were also made by FACT, such as on the condition of Brahmans and Other Upper Castes, Naxalites, testimonies of survivors of 9/11, etc. and they are being screened on a permanent basis inn the Museum.
The Museum, whose address is: Shivaji Museum of Indian History, Shinde Road, Ahead of Marathwada College, Wadgaon, Pune 47, is 12 minutes from the airport. Today we have 14 Pavilions, each with a unique permanent exhibition, a Bharat Mata temple dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj, a library and a video room. The Museum is open from 9 to 6PM and entrance is free.
The Vision of FACT
Is simple: present Indian History as it happened – not as it has been written by the British and blindly taken up as it was in 1947. Highlight Human Rights abuses in South Asia and promote Indian culture.
FACT is a non-commercial trust, which is striving to preserve India’s cultural inheritance which is being eroded today, has also made one of its tasks to revive the art of 17th century miniature painting. Professor Bhatnagar researched unpainted scenes of many remarkable characters, such as Alybai of Indore or Maharana Pratap, and commissioned seven Jaipur miniature painters to recreate these scenes. Each painting, which is signed and dated, has been checked for artistic excellence by Dr Sumendhra of the Lalit Kala Academy Jaipur, and for historical accuracy to the last detail by Prof Bhatnagar. These exhibitions have now been shown all over India and in many parts of the world and have won great acclaim for their excellence in reviving an ancient art, while portraying Indian History as it
FACT would like to build a world class Museum on the lines of what is done in the West, where Indian youth will learn about their history, the good and bad, with an overall impression that Indian History is glorious ancient and sacred. The future Museum (plan attached), will cost appr. 15 crore rupees. This Museum of 100.000 square feet, will house 70 exhibitions and state of the arts research and archives facilities. It is scheduled to open in 2021. Our achitect, Sheetal Harpale of Pune, has designed a wonderful building in the shape of a swastika, and it will be on par with any Museum in the world. Thus we appeal to your generosity, this is a unique project, but extremely difficult, as History has remained a taboo subject in India, though it has been distorted first by the British and then by Marxist historians for their own purpose. Our patrons are the Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mr Gadkari, Mr Uday Thackeray and French senator Jean-François Poncet.
Financial & legal Details
FACT is a registered Trust and has US, UK and Indian tax exemption, as well as FCRA. Donations in Indian rupees can be made at the following account:
Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT)
Account No: 14451450000035. IFSC code: HDFC0001445
Bank Address: HDFC Bank Ltd., Narsinh Centre, Apte Road, Deccan Gymkana, Shivaji Nagar, Pune 4.
Why I am building a Museum of Indian History in Pune
I had just completed my 18th year and I was living in Paris, France, the city of my birth, when I heard that a caravan of cars was driving from paris to Pondicherry. I had never heard of India, and had no interest in spirituality but something in me pushed me to go. It took us 6 weeks to cross ten countries and had many adventures, and we reached Delhi, in late september,
It spent my first night in India the delhi branch of the sri Aurobindo ashram.It was evening by the time we reached w reached the ashram, which in those days, there were still amongst fields. It was sunset and very peaceful. I had with me a book of Sri Aurobindo, called the Life divine, which I had never managed to read. I climbed on one if the vans with which we had come. It was a very beautiful sunset as you often see in India. I opened the book and read a few lines. Suddenly I had a strong spiritual experience, a feeling of intense peace and joy and in a few seconds an intuition of the worlds that were opening to me, also an immediate knowledge that I would live in India for the rest of my life.
This is believe was an experience of Mother India. As many yogis have said, India is not just a piece of land, it is the living Shakti, a body that, in spite of so many assaults over the centuries, as the Hindu Tolerance exhibition has shown, still radiates knowledge and power to whomsoever opens to it. My first guru was Mother India and to Her I dedicate this shrine and our Museum.
Of course, 2 weeks later in Pondicherry I met the Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s companion – and it was the turning point of my life. Since then, it is my strong belief that Mother India guided me whether to my beautiful wife here, or to His Holiness SSRS, who has uplifted our lives and taught us the meaning of sewa. Often also, I have felt spontaneously at home in some cities in India, as if I knew them from before. Places like Almora in the Himalayas, for instance, where we go every year; or even in Srinagar. I covered Kashmir as a journalist for the largest French political daily in the worst of its unrest, from the late eighties till the Kargil war where I was also present.
I encountered there some of the most dangerous incidents of my life where I acquired, some of which my wife knows about, some of which she does’ntI . It is al so there, I think, where I developed a little bit of fearlessness which has helped me till today. There was only one hotel opened for journalists in those days and it was on the banks of the river Jhelum. curfew was on most of the time but at night I would step out of the hotel and walk on the bund that stops the river Jhelum from overflowing into Srinagar. One could hear gunfire and sometimes even grenades in the distance, yet I could feel the presence of the millions of saints, yogis, avatars and simple people who had prayed and meditated for thousands of years in Kashmir. It seems today like an abstract experience, but on the spot, it was so strong and vivid and I felt that this was the very reason that India should keep Kashmir, for the Mother’s presence is still there in spite of all the strife.
I came to Pune 7 years ago for an Art of Living course in a beautiful Jain temple outside the city.. In the same way I immediately felt at home here.. I knew of course about Shivaji Maharaj, having researched him for my books and being a long standing admirer of him. I had some time after the course and I asked my driver to take me to the main Museum here, which is called Kelkar. I was surprised and shocked to find that there was not a single exhibit on Shivaji. Great men and women who walk this earth and are instruments of God, do most of their work while in their physical body. But when they die, I believe they leave something behind, a presence, a will. This day, the idea of a Museum of true Indian History, dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj started taking shape in my mind. Pune is the ideal place for this Museum: it’s Shivaji Maharaj’s realm, it is central to India and more than anything, Marathas have a stronger national fiber than in other states and I felt the Museum will be better protected here.
All this may sound a bit mystical to you. Yet, having spent the first 18 years of my life in France, I still believe in logic. What is then the purpose of this temple and of this Museum? Firstly, this also is a place of knowledge. People can come to the temple, meditate, pray or do a puja and come down a bit from their into their hearts. Then, they can learn something about the history of their country in these three temporary exhibition halls, while the main Museum, of which you see the foundations on top of the hill, comes-up. Programmes can also happen in our small amphitheater: films made by our foundation FACT, , satsangs can happen, or art of living courses. Some of the Pune youth can come out from this place being a little more knowledgeable about the history of this great civilization that is India. It is a tragedy that the Indian education system produces so many brilliant youth, who are just good for export, as they are not made to learn about their own history, poets, avatars, legends. We will rotate our exhibitions as we have about 15 of them now. we are just finishing For instance a very beautiful miniature painting exhibition on Sufism. It is based on the life of Dara Shukoh, Aurangzeb’s brother… If he had not been beheaded, the whole face of Islam in India and maybe of the world could have changed. But maybe it’s not too late. As for Shivaji, something of Dara’s Sukoh spirit still pervades and strives for the rebirth of true Sufism in India.
We would like to have many Bharat Mata temples such as this one, which would come attached with one exhibition hall, come up, first all over Maharashtra, then in Gujarat and eventually, all over India. It can be dedicated to different heroes and heroins: In Maharashtra for instance, it could also be dedicated to Dr Ambedkar, who is a true son of the soil; in Rajasthan it can be dedicated to Rana Pratap, in Madhya Padesh to Ahylyabai or Rani of Jhansi, in Karanataka to Chennamai, and so on. This would help the revival of the worship of Mother India, which in turn would raise a new generation of Indian youth, more proud of their inheritance
This is a difficult project. Whoever has never attempted to raise money for a Museum should give it a try.. I have met hundreds of potential donors, but when I say that I want to build a Musuem of true Indian History, it wipes off the smile of their faces and they say they have to consult their board haha… This is why we are most grateful to those here who believed in this project and gave the bulk of the funds and also to the dozens of NRI’s who know me through my writings and trusted me with their donations.
Trying to portray Indian History as it happened, not as it has been written, is also a very sensitive task and at nearly every step, we have encountered obstacles sometimes even from our own people. We even are facing threats from some Shivaji group, who objects to Shivaji Maharaj being associated with Mother India or the Vedas. Shivaji was an instrument of god and whoever binds him to a particular caste, or even a particular guru, demeans him and hampers his work, for he was a supra national figure and his qualities of dedication to Mother India, of respect of human rights and honest administration, are needed today. His extraordinary courage in front of adversity, should also be an example to Hindus, who today, at the slightest threat go underground.
.I am grateful to my wife Namrita, who has been such a support, _out of love, as this is not a project she would have taken on her own. Also to the members of our team: Prof V.S. Bhatnagar, who has curated 4 of our exhibitions, Gautam Vig who is one of the few who understands what is meant by Hindu-ness and does something practical to preserve it; Gayatri Chauhan has been a faithful sewa worker since the beginning of FACT. Let me mention too Kukum Naren who has been FACT’s representative in Pune for many years and her ever helpful husband Yatin and Anand Mathur, who was there whenever we needed him. Also Ramesh Raman, who is such a support But most of all let me thank His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who from the very beginning encouraged FACT, inaugurated each of our exhibitions and gave us this land to build a Museum
“A museum should be like a temple because knowledge is sacred”