What was Shahu Maharaj’s historic 1902 reservation order?

Bust of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj
Bust of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, who was the king of the princely state of Kolhapur from 1894 to 1922, was known for his democratic ideals and progressive policies. Shahu Maharaj also actively supported the post-Phule Satyashodhak and non-Brahmin movement in Maharashtra. He had supported Dr B R Ambedkar monetarily when the young Ambedkar had launched his first fortnightly publication Mooknayak in 1920.

On July 26, 1902, Shahu Maharaj gave a historic order to reserve 50% government jobs for lower castes in his princely state of Kolhapur. This was one of the earliest instances of reservation for lower castes as a matter of state policy. The order reads, “His Highness orders that, of all the seats that go vacant from the date of this proclamation, 50% should be filled with the backward classes.”

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Below is the complete translation of the order by Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj as published in the volume Rajarshi Shahu Gaurva Granth (p 1077) by the Maharashtra government.

Proclamation of reserved seats for Backward Castes

The Kolhapur State Gazette

Currently in the Kolhapur princely state, steps have been taken to educate the people of all varnas and to encourage them towards education. However, looking at the condition of the underprivileged, the government feels sorry that these efforts haven’t had the kind of success that was expected.

After thinking carefully about the subject, the government has reached the conclusion that there aren’t enough opportunities available after completing one’s higher education.

As a solution for this and to encourage the backward classes (varnas) of the government’s subjects to opt for higher education, His Highness has decided that a higher portion of the princely state’s employment opportunities should be kept aside for these classes.

In this regard, His Highness orders that, of all the seats that go vacant from the date of this proclamation, 50% should be filled with the backward classes. In all the offices where backward class employees number less than 50%, all the next appointments should go to the backward classes.

After the publication of this order, the chiefs of each department should send a tri-monthly report of all the appointments (in their departments) to His Highness.

Note – The backward classes should be understood as all classes except Brahmin, Prabhu, Shenvi, Parsi and other advanced classes.

On the orders of His Highness,
Nagesh Pandurang Bhide,
Personal secretary

Rajarshi Shahu Gaurva Granth (p 1077)

Below is the Marathi original.



  1. छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज के हिंदवी स्वराज्य 1645-1749 से चौथखोर पेशवाई 1749-1818 ने गद्दारी की, मराठो का पानीपत1761 करवाया,1818में महार मावलो ने 12भाई पेशवाई का अंत किया।
    राजर्षी शाहु छत्रपती ने ‘स्वराज्य’ को महात्मा फुले के सत्यशोधक आंदोलन से डाँ अंबेडकर के ‘संविधान’ तक पहुचाया

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