Maharaj summary and ending explained

Maharaj follows a fearless journalist and his fight against a religious leader who exploits women. The film is now streaming on Netflix.

Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers

Plot summary

After the death of his mother, Karsan Das, an inquisitive ten-year-old boy, moves to Bombay from Vadaal to live with his uncle’s family. 

Karsan grows up to be a social activist. Inspired by the ideas of Dadabhai Naoroji, Karsan writes for his newspaper, Rast Goftar

Karsan’s meetings, focused on social reform and progress, are attended by other social reformers like himself, such as Seth Gokuldas Tejpal and Sohrabji Ardeshir. 

Back in the 1800s, there were seven Vaishnav havelis in Bombay. In the most significant of them lived Yadunath Maharaj, commonly known as JJ, a godman who was greatly revered by people. 

While Karsan does not have faith in JJ, his fiancée, Kishori, like several others, worships JJ and blindly believes everything he says.

JJ follows an exploitative practice called charan seva. He chooses the women he likes to have sex with him in the name of charan seva. 

Everyone knows what goes on in JJ’s chamber, but no one opposes this practice. In fact, people consider themselves fortunate if a woman from their family is chosen. 

When Kishori is chosen, Karsan discovers that charan seva involves having sex with JJ. He storms into JJ’s chamber to prevent him from taking advantage of Kishori.

However, Kishori refuses to leave with Karsan. She is willing to sleep with JJ, convinced that she is serving God. This leads to Karsan breaking off their engagement. 

Karsan’s refusal to marry Kishori and his radical ideas lead to Bhabhu, the woman who raised him, kicking him out. Karsan is taken in by Tejpal and Ardeshir. 

Kishori soon realizes that Karsan was right about JJ when she witnesses him trying to take advantage of her sister minutes after making her feel special.

Lalvanji, one of the religious leaders at the haveli, tells Karsan that the other leaders are powerless to stop JJ, as he controls the wealth and has become the face of the haveli.

He encourages Karsan to expose JJ. The fact that Kishori takes her own life also motivates him to oppose JJ.

Karsan then decides to write about how JJ exploits women. To do that, he even starts his own newspaper called Satya Prakash

However, JJ’s henchmen find the copies of his newspaper and burn them before they can be sold in the market. 

JJ also closes the haveli, knowing that several people do not eat before offering prayers at the haveli. He will only open the doors after Karsan apologizes to him. 

Karsan refuses to be coerced into apologizing. With Lalvanji’s support, he convinces people to offer prayers to a photograph of God he places outside the haveli. 

Realizing that Karsan will not apologize, JJ has no choice but to open the haveli, but not without ensuring that Karsan’s father disowns him. 

Karsan finds a companion in Viraaj, a woman who hears the speech he gives outside the haveli and starts working for him, even though he cannot pay her. 

Viraaj sets her mind on marrying Karsan, who starts reciprocating her feelings but refuses to marry her because he does not want to be distracted. 

Finally, Karsan manages to get his article exposing JJ to the masses by outwitting JJ’s henchmen. The article damages JJ’s reputation. 

JJ then files a defamation case against Karsan, claiming a huge sum of money that Karsan will never be able to pay. 

Karsan must now prove that everything he has written about JJ in his newspaper is true. As always, Karsan accepts the challenge.

Ending explained:

A reason to fight

Karsan still has Tejpal and Ardeshir’s support. Ardeshir gathers witnesses, who later refuse to testify against JJ when they are threatened on JJ’s orders. 

Before Karsan can write about JJ threatening the witnesses, Tejpal’s press, where Karsan published his newspaper, is burned to the ground by JJ’s henchmen. 

When Karsan starts doubting his reasons for fighting JJ, Viraaj encourages him to fight for all those women who have been wronged by JJ. 

She tells him that she was also sent for JJ’s charan seva when she was sixteen, but she escaped, realizing that what JJ was doing to her was not right. 

She knows that not every girl understands this in time as she did, so she encourages him to ensure that this practice stops.

A new witness

JJ’s wife, disgusted by his actions, decides to help Karsan. She sends him to meet a woman named Leelavati. 

Leelavati was chosen for charan seva and had become pregnant with JJ’s child. JJ had tried to abort her baby, but JJ’s wife had saved Leelavati. 

JJ’s wife had sent her and her brother, Shaamji Damodar, into hiding. The siblings now agree to testify against JJ. 

While Karsan hides them at Tejpal’s bungalow, JJ still finds them. He forces Leelavati to marry his manservant and makes Shaamji disappear before they can appear in court.

The trial

With all the odds stacked in his favor, JJ shows up for the trial, with hundreds of his devotees waiting outside to support him. 

Karsan’s lawyer’s first witness is Dr. Lad, JJ’s personal physician, who reveals that JJ has syphilis and that he has sent many women to him to conduct abortions. 

While JJ’s lawyer tries to find faults in Dr. Lad’s testimony, Karsan’s lawyer requests a medical verification, which is granted. 

Karsan’s lawyer also questions JJ’s manservant to reveal what was done to Leelavati and her brother, accusing JJ of murder, abduction, and tampering with witnesses.

Finally, Karsan is asked to testify. When JJ’s lawyer accuses him of blaming JJ for his personal failures, Karsan tells the court his reasons for fighting JJ. 

Karsan exposes JJ’s wrongdoings by highlighting how he misinterprets religious texts to exploit women and make their families complacent. 

Karsan’s words move the people who have come to see the trial. Bhabhu is also present there, and she is the first one to agree to testify against JJ. 

Several other men and women follow her example and come forward. Thirty-two testimonies are heard over the next seven days. 

On April 22, 1862, the court acquits Karsan of defamation charges and advises that criminal charges be brought against JJ. 

JJ’s followers turn against him and applaud Karsan. Due to this case, practices like charan seva come to an end.

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