"...I am not so sure that world unification is an unmixed blessing. It has the side effect of shrinking the psychological space in which we live. A few hundred years ago large areas of the map were blank, leaving the imagination free to fill them with strange peoples and animals. Even Queen Victoria, who, it is said, tried to taste every fruit grown in the British Empire, never had a chance to try a mango or a durian. Now we can fly anywhere, and we buy mangoes in our local supermarkets. This is not my idea of utopia. Wouldn't it be more exciting to eat a mango if it could be done nowhere but in India? What is the good of getting somewhere quickly if it is no different from the place one has left?..."
('Five and a Half Utopias', The Atlantic, January 2000)
"Hindustan is a country of few charms. Its people have no good looks; of social intercourse, paying and receiving visits there is none; of genius and capacity none; of manners none; in handicraft and work, there is no form or symmetry, method or quality. There are no good horses, no good dogs, no grapes, musk melons or first-rate fruits, no ice or cold water, nor bread or cooked food in bazaars; no hamams, no colleges, no torches or candlesticks,"
Maybe but what about mangoes, Mr. Babur-Sir?...Did you eat any good mangoes when you were here?
The question that has bothered me for the past few years is : Did Shivaji-maharaj (1630-1680) eat good, Maharashtra-grown mangoes?
I mean not necessarily Alphonso and Payari variety on which I have gorged on whenever I have been able to live in Maharashtra during the Mango-months (May and June).
The best years of course were when I lived in Miraj c 1961-1981 where my father, stretching his limited resources, really pampered us with the best of mangoes..Devgad, Ratnagiri...every year. Experience of eating such quality mangoes in those numbers was - please note Dr. Weinberg- like living in utopia- "mango utopia".
Coming back to the original question: most people of Maharashtra DO NOT bother about such things when it comes to Shivaji.
Whenever Shivaji is mentioned, it is always about battles, army, navy, administration, forts and also caste based politics, his memorial in the Arabian sea...
But for me, 'mango question' is very important. And my guess is Shivaji did NOT eat good mangoes that were grown in Maharashtra.
One of my favourite Marathi books has been 'Peshwekalin Maharashtra' by Vasudev Krushna Bhave, 1936 ('पेशवेकालीन महाराष्ट्र', वासुदेव कृष्ण भावे). I keep reading it from time to time and it always gives.
Mr. Bhave writes
"शाहू महाराजांपूर्वी महाराष्ट्रात नाव घेण्याजोग्या फुलबागा व फळबागा अगदी विरळा होत्या; त्यांजकडे लक्ष पुरविण्यास पूर्वीच्या महाराजांना स्वारस्य नव्हते… शाहूमहाराजांनी महाराष्ट्रास रानटी स्थितीतून सुसंकृत स्थितीत उद्योग केवढा चालवला होता..."
"Before Shahu-maharaj there were very few flower-gardens and fruit-gardens worth their names in Maharashta; earlier rulers had no interest in paying attention to them...So busy was Shahu-maharaj taking Maharashtra from barbaric to civilized society..."
Mr. Bhave argues that since Shahu-maharaj (1682- 1749) had lived in the custody of the Mughals (but as a prince) he had tasted the best of flowers and fruits.
Penelope Hobhouse writes on "The Babur Nama" By Zahir al-Din Babur, edited by Dilip Hiro:
"(Babur) was a great warrior and commander – descended from both Tamburlaine and Genghis Khan – but also with a wonderful eye for nature and landscape. It’s rare to combine warfare and gardening. In The Babur Nama he describes the country in Fergana in Uzbekistan where he grew up, for example, noting the topography and the plants, even though he left when he was only 12. He describes the Judas tree in bloom, and planting willows around a pond and spotting wild tulips in the fields up above Kabul.