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Junaid Khan’s Debut Film Maharaj, Releasing On Netflix, Is Based On The Maharaj Libel Case of 1862, Know All About The Case

Film Maharaj Superstar Aamir Khan’s son Junaid Khan is making his debut with ‘Maharaj’, which premieres on Netflix on Friday. Even before its release, the film ran into controversy as a section of netizens demanded that the film be banned for offending religious sentiments. Directed by Siddharth P Malhotra and produced by Aditya Chopra under YRF Entertainment, the film is set in pre-independent India and is based on the 1862 Maharaj libel case.

Despite being Junaid Khan’s debut, the film is being released on the streaming platform without any promotion. Apart from a poster featuring Jaideep Ahlawat and Junaid, the makers have not released any teasers or trailers. The poster features the character of Ahlawath with tilak on his forehead and Junaid’s character wearing a coat.

Who is Karsandas Mulji?

The film follows Karsandas Mulji (played by Junaid Khan), a journalist and social reformer who advocated for women’s rights and social reform. A student of Elphinstone College, Mumbai and a follower of scholar Dadabhai Navroji, Mulji wrote about widow remarriage, stood up for the downtrodden and sowed the seeds of reform in society.

What is Maharaj Libel Case of 1862?

In 1861, Mulji, then editor of the Gujarati weekly ‘Satya Prakash’, published a series of articles that shocked the conservative community of Bombay. The articles are aimed at the Pushtimarg Vaishnava sect, especially its revered leaders, the Maharajas. These articles accused Maharajas of sexually abusing female devotees under the guise of religious rituals.

Founded by Vallabhacharya in the early 16th century, Pushtimarg, which literally translates to “nourishing or prosperous path”, centers on the worship of Lord Krishna.

Also Read: Aamir Khan’s son Junaid Khan’s debut film ‘Maharaj’ faces controversies ahead of release, ‘Boycott Netflix’ trends on X

In an article in Satya Prakash dated 21 September 1861 entitled “Hinduono Asal Dharma Ane Halna Pakhandi Mato” (The Primitive Religion of the Hindus and Present Pagan Opinions), he accused the Maharajas of having intercourse with female devotees. Miscellaneous other charges. The article also states that the book of Vallabhacharya’s grandson Gokulnath favors anacharya.

According to The Leaflet, the article highlighted that the sect encouraged men to dedicate their “wives and daughters” to the Maharaj for his pleasure. It expressed strong disapproval of the sect’s practices, accusing them of promoting shamelessness, trickery, dishonesty, fraud, and deceit. It specifically named Jadunathj Maharaj more than once, questioning whether he intended to further deceive the common people and blind the public. The article accused Maharaj of corrupting the wives and daughters of his devotees and leading an immoral and immoral life.

Case against Mulji

This led to the filing of a defamation case against Jadunath Maharaj Mulji, a prominent leader of the Pushtimarg sect, and Nanabhai Rustomji Ranina, the publisher of ‘Satya Prakash’. The pamphlet said the defamation had seriously tarnished Maharaj’s reputation as a Brahmin, a Hindu high priest and a member of the Vallabhacharya sect. This publication brought public slander, defamation and defamation to the Maharaj among the Hindu residents of Bombay, leading people to suspect that he held unorthodox religious views. The case is demanding Rs.2000. 50,000 as compensation from Karsandas and Nanabhoy.

The case attracted so much public interest that it was called “the greatest trial of modern times since the trial of Warren Hastings”.

The trial, which began on January 25, 1862, attracted large crowds to the court, filling the public galleries, eager to witness the case. Mulji found a champion in Thomas Chisholm Anstey, a brilliant but controversial lawyer known for his fierce independence. Sir Littleton Holyoke Bailey represented the Maharaj.

During the trial, thirty-one witnesses were examined for the plaintiff and thirty-three for the defendants, including Jadunath Maharaj, and the defamation case was ultimately dismissed.


On 22 April 1862, Sir Matthew Richard Soss, Chief Justice of the Bombay Supreme Court, ruled that the defendant had engaged in the controversy with the sincere intention of exposing acts which he sincerely believed to be prejudicial to social morals.

Justice Joseph Arnold concluded that the article was not defamatory.

The Leaflet quotes Arnold’s observation, “It is not a question of theology before us! It is a question of ethics. This is the principle advocated by the defendant and his witnesses—that what is morally wrong cannot be theologically right—that practices which destroy the very foundation of morality, involving the violation of eternal and immutable laws of rights, instituted in the name and sanction of religion, must be publicly condemned and exposed, for the general welfare of society and the interest of humanity itself. They condemned – they exposed them. At a risk and cost we cannot adequately measure, these men fought a determined battle against an evil and powerful illusion. They dared to look their voters in the face and declare to the world that their evil was not good and their lie was not true. They were brave and well done in doing so.

Karsandas, who died in 1871, continued his journalistic work, establishing other publications and advocating for social reforms.

Film Maharaj

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