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Tamil Nadu - Thanjavur Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Prince still rules people's hearts

Olympia Shilpa Gerald

Photo:M_Moorthy

Babaji Raja Bhonsle.

THANJAVUR: Self-effacement, humility and warmth are not the qualities that one often associates with royalty. But that is precisely what sets the Senior Prince of Thanjavur apart.

With an imposing name like Babaji Rajah Bhonsle Chattrapathi, the man in flesh dispels the regal, forbidding image of royalty. Absolutely down-to-earth, unpretentious, with a welcoming smile and mellow tones, he captures princely responsibilities succinctly. “It is like running in a rally. For now, the baton has now come to me. I just have to pass it on to the next generation safely. ”

The 13th descendant of the Maratha kings of Thanjavur, Babaji is the hereditary trustee of the Palace devasthanam with 88 temples under his fold. Forced to inherit at 16 due to the untimely death of his father, the schoolboy prince found on his hands, what he describes as a ‘sinking ship'. “The situation was pretty grim. The administration of the temples was in bad state. There were so many unpaid bills and pending salaries.”But the Prince took up the reins after qualifying himself with a degree in civil engineering at SASTRA College, Thanjavur. More than 70 temples have been consecrated after he assumed responsibility. Yet, he gives himself very little credit but attributes it to Divine Providence and public support. “I am more of a facilitator between the government and people, encouraging philanthropic activities and government help to serve society.”

Not many, even royalty can lay claim to a 1000 year-old marvel like the Brahadeeshwarar, which is one among the 88 temples. His role, as he puts it, is bridging the ASI and HR and CE by mediating the spiritual and preservation activities of the temple.

He strongly advocates promoting the welfare of tenants who occupy temple lands and believes that Chatrams created by the Marathas could be put to better use if they are converted to cultural centres generating employment for towns in the vicinity of ThanjavurAs the Convenor of INTACH, Thanjavur Chapter, Babaji has donned the mantle of custodian of art and culture, just like his forefathers. Conservation is his priority while he is passionate about promoting tourism.

“Around 3,000- 5,000 tourists visit the Big Temple daily. But such a number is not translated into economic figures. We have not tapped the tourism potential completely. If tourists are urged to spend a night instead of briefly halting in the town, the economy is bound to soar.”To promote the Palce as a tourist interest, he stresses on the need for a permanent maintenance fund and an integrated administration committee. Babaji is techno-savvy and is the promoter of an e-publishing unit town he has set up with friends.

He concludes with a candid confession, “My position and my personality are a complete mismatch. I can do a hundred things silently. But put me on a stage and I feel like a fish out of water.”

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