Why a Frenchman built a Bhavani & Shivaji museum

DNA, 13th February, 2012

The first phase of FACT’s (fact-india.com) Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History has been inaugurated by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mrs Ajit Pawar and Nitin Gadkari. The exquisite Bhavani Bharat temple is one of the only two temples in India dedicated to Mother India (the other is in Haridwar) which Sri Aurobindo and Lokmanya Tilak wanted to build in Maharashtra 100 years ago. The VIPs then inaugurated three exhibitions: a miniature painting exhibition on the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj; an exhibition on Hindu Tolerance Throughout the Ages; and another exhibition that proves scientifically that the famous Aryan invasion never actually happened.

Why does a Frenchman build a Bhavani Bharti temple and museum? I am proud to say I owe a debt to India, because this country has granted me so much, spiritually, professionally and even sentimentally. I was a young boy of 19, living in Paris, the city of my birth, when I heard that a caravan of cars was driving from Paris to Pondicherry. I had never thought about India, and had no interest in spirituality, but something in me pushed me to go. It took us six weeks to cross 10 countries and after many adventures, we reached Delhi.

Right from my first night here, I felt I had come home and that India was a land of vast knowledge, a truth that eludes most westerners, because some of the paradox of the still apparent poverty and filth that blinds them. I had this feeling of being home, of Mother India, in the most unlikely places, even in Srinagar. I covered Kashmir as a journalist for the largest French political daily during the worst period of unrest, from the late eighties till the Kargil War.

There was only one hotel opened for journalists in those days, the Ahdoos on the banks of the river Jhelum. Curfew was on, but at night I would step out of 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 have 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 why India should keep Kashmir. The Bhavani Bharti temple is thus an expression of my gratitude.

This museum is also a place of knowledge. People can learn something about the history of their country while viewing the nearly 20 exhibitions FACT has made, and 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 today produces so many brilliant youth, who are just good for export, as they are not made to learn about their own history. It’s also very sad that most history books describe Shivaji Maharaj as a petty chieftain, or Sri Aurobindo as an extremist.

Some may ask why Pune and dedicate it to Shivaji Maharaj? I came to Pune seven years ago, knowing about Shivaji Maharaj, having researched him for my books and being a long standing admirer. 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! That day, the idea of a Museum of Indian History, dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj started taking shape in my mind. Pune is also the ideal place, as Marathas have a stronger national fibre than in other states and I felt the museum will be better protected here.

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 I want to build a Museum of true Indian History, it wipes off the smile of their faces and they say they have to consult their board, or that they only give to health and education! But is it not time that the History of India, which has been mostly written by the British, or by historians employed by the British, like Max Mueller, be exhibited as it happened?

This is a Rs20 crore project and we need your support. Please pass along the message to your friends. FACT is a registered Trust and has US and Indian tax exemption, as well as FCRA.

Bhavani Bharti temple & Shivaji Maharaj Complex, Shinde Road, off Marathwada Institute, Wadgaon, Pune 47. Open from 9am to 7pm. Entrance free. Aarti in temple morning and evening

The author is the editor in chief of the Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde and the author of The Guru of Joy

The lessons of history

Anjali Jhangiani, Mid Day, 17th January, 2012

Frenchman Francois Gautier has set up a museum that brings out the Vedic point of view of history

"From the integer zero to complex mathematical calculations and even surgical techniques, the contribution of the Vedas is integral to the entire world," claims Francois Gautier, founder of FACT foundation, an organisation that brings attention to forgotten or neglected issues through awareness campaigns, conferences, exhibitions, films and research papers on art, culture, history and human rights abuse.

The organisation has set up a museum in Wadagaon, near Marathwada Mitramandal Institute of Technology, which displays paintings, photographs and films based on themes that cover the spectrum of Indian history, from the Vedas to a peek into the future of India.

Launched on January 14, the museum is akin to an art gallery. Adjacent to the museum, there is a temple dedicated to Mata Bharati and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, as an initiative by FACT to revive the worship of Mother India and get inspired by historic personalities who have contributed to society. Pune-based architect Sheetal Harpale has designed this Sri Yantra temple. Visitors are also welcome for the aarti, which is performed at the temple at the time of opening and closing of the museum.

"Entry to the museum is free for all. The aim is to bring forth historical facts to create an awareness about heritage and history from the Vedic point of view," informs Gautier. Spread across five acres, the museum highlights several dark periods of history such as the Inquisition in Goa by the Portuguese, the Sufi persecution, the Ahmedi persecution, agitation against Buddhism, the prosecution of early Syrian Christians of Kerala and more. The aim behind showcasing the tumultuous episodes is to remind people of the consequences of division and thereby inspire a sense of brotherhood and mutual love for cultures, races and religions.

"Currently, we are displaying exhibitions based on themes revolving around Shivaji Maharaj, Hindu tolerance throughout the ages, Aryan invasion along with 10 rotating exhibitions," says Gautier.

"The rotating exhibitions will feature paintings, photographs and films from our archives at FACT. We have a team of historians in Rajasthan who commission painters to illustrate their research work on different aspects of Indian history. Now, we have displayed exhibitions on topics such as the issue of Naxalites, Kashmiri Pandits, minority communities in Bangladesh and more," he adds.

From 9 am to 6 pm, all seven days of the week. At Wadagaon Shinde, ahead of Marathwada Institute of Technology, Wadagaon, Shinde Road. Call 9970204411