Shri Samarth Ramdas (1608-1681)
Size: 19.9 x 14.9 in (50.5 x 37.8 cm)
Date of printing: early 1880s
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the very first large format (20 x 15 in) chromolithographs printed by Chiplunkar before hisdeath, were quietly but deliberately militant. Their first prints, and major commercial successes, were thus designed to support anti-British Marathi nationalism.
When the Chitrashala Press published this masterpiece, Maratha freedom fighters were relying on the writings of poet Samarth Ramdas to build their anti-colonial struggle. This powerful sage of the 17th century had been the spiritual (and partially mythical) master of the great Shivaji, liberator of the Hindu nation and founder of the Maratha Empire. He was a supporter of the muscular and conquering faith of the monkey God Hanuman. Here, the artist gives Ramdas a strong image of simplicity and primitive strength.
This image illustrates the intention fostered by Tilak and his companions to harden their struggle against the colonial power. They admired Ramdas because he rejected the peaceful religious practices of bhakti, which he found “too feminine” in favor of “more virile” violent actions. These were inspired by the inordinate force given to the great fighting ape Hanuman by his father, the god of the wind Vayu.