Shivaji Maharaj

The article is based on reading of The History and Culture of the Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. It has five parts.

On the occasion of Shivaji Jayanti, I dedicate this article to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Guru Gobind Singhji and Maharana Pratap. Where ever possible, I have drawn an analogy between historical and current events related to Marathas. For instance the policy followed by Maharaj Shahu with the Maratha chieftains is similar to what the BJP is pursuing with its allies today.

The article was first written in 2002 and edited in 2017.

1. Rise of the Bhosles

The Bhosles claim descent from the Sisodia Ranas of Chittor and Udaipur and possibly a branch of the family migrated south after Alauddin Khilji devastated Chitor. The three Maratha families associated with the rise of Shivaji are the Yadavas (Y) of Devagiri (Daulatabad), the Bhosle’s of Verul and Nimbalkars of Phaltan. After being subjugated by Akbar, the Yadavas took service with the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar. Thanks to an able organiser Malik Ambar, the Nizams stood up to the Mughal onslaught. In Malik’s struggle were associated Shivaji’s father Shahji and grandfather Maloji. Three generations of the Bhosle’s family fought against three Mughal emperors ie Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.

In 1605, Shahji was married to Jija Bai, daughter of the Yadavas. After crushing the Mughals in 1624, Shahji lost out to Shah Jahan in 1636, was expelled from Maharashtra and had to seek refuge in Bijapur. Subsequently, he spent a lot of time in the regions once ruled by Hindu kings of Vijayanagra, devastated by the Muslims in 1565. During this period, he imbibed the spirit of Hindu independence. Proud of her Kshatriya tradition with clear memories of the splendor of her ancestors and years of suffering, Jijabai developed in Shivaji a spirit of defiance and self assertion. With such parents, it was only natural that their son had to be fired with the spirit of Swaraj.

2. Early Life and Conquests

Shivaji was born in 1627 in the fort of Shivner ie about three hrs drive from Pune. Friends have been to the fort, it is a must visit. Subsequently, Shahji deserted Jijabai and married Tukabai. She gave birth to Ekoji who founded the kingdom of Tanjore later. Hard pressed by the Mughals, Shahji had to flee leaving wife and son to his trusted agent Dadaji Kondadev. The jagirs entrusted to Dadaji by Shahji were the valleys to the west of Pune roughly from Junnar to Wai. Dadaji taught Shivaji the nuances of administration and the art of creating correct impression amongst people.

Shivaji had a persuasive tongue, was alert, never scared to take risks, could judge people at first sight, held secret negotiations with companions on the liberation of Bharat and put an end to the persecution of Hindus. On the other hand his Mother, Jijabai was angry since the Nizam Shah had openly murdered her father and brothers. Poor administration under Muslim govts and violation of women’s honor etc increased the anger. The mothers thoughts and experiences greatly influenced her son, Shivaji. Under the guidance of Dadaji he converted his small jagir into Swarajya, a well knit unit where law and order prevailed, justice quickly rendered and wealth secure.

Shahji was employed by Adil Shah of Bijapur, used to conquer erstwhile regions of the Hindu Vijayanagar kingdom, pour the wealth from Hindu shrines into Muslim coffers. This upset Shivaji and Jijabai. Meanwhile stories of Shivaji activities reached Bijapur, upset Adil Shah. Summoned to Bijapur, Shivaji revealed uncompressing character who punished the wrongdoers irrespective of the consequences. On his return, Shivaji formed an independent state where Hindus would not be persecuted. While the father could not openly support his son, he helped him by deputing some key officials to Maharashtra.

How was money collected by Shivaji? Seven years of efficient management of the Maval jagir began to bear fruit in the form of substantial income. Shivaji used that to maintain an infantry, repair forts and improve administration. With the help of an enthusiast Kanhoji Jedhe, Shivaji acquired possession of the 12 Maval forts, west of Pune; started building a new fort, Raigarh that later became the principal seat of his government.

Shivaji captured important forts around Pune. He had two objects now, to secure the welfare of his people and to have well guarded frontiers that he could hold. He proclaimed his independence by using official papers that ran, “This seal of Shiva, son of Shah, shines forth for the welfare of the people and is meant to command increasing respect from the universe like the first phase of the moon.” This happened around 1648.

By taking Shivaji’s father Shahu as prisoner, Adil Shah managed to wrest the Sinhala fort from Shivaji. By defeating a ally of Adil Shah, Mores of Javli in Mahableshwar range, Shivaji let all know the fate that awaited them if they dared oppose him. A small compact kingdom comprising of Pune and Satara came into shape. To protect the conquest of Javli, he erected a new fort of Pratapgarh near Mahableshwar. Having seen the fort, I say that it is must to see. Like Daulatabad, it is tribute to the grey cells of our ancestors.

Next Shivaji captured Kalyan and the Shah’s treasure moving from there to Bijapur. Presented with a Muslim women as a trophy of the war, Shivaji refused and reprimanded his subordinates for thinking wickedly (compare it with Alauddin Khilji’s approach). Having captured North Konkan, he turned South by constructing a series of naval forts at Suvarnadurg, Vijaydurg, Sindhudurg and Kolaba and created a powerful navy with shipbuilding yards and arsenals for trade and defence. (Foresight na, while the Muslims entered India thru Khyber, the Christians came through the sea, he was probably aware of the European threat).

The widowed queen of Adil Shah vowed to crush Shivaji and deputed an intrepid soldier Afzal Khan. Leaving Bijapur in 1659, Khan came down heavily on Shivaji’s territories destroying what ever came his way. Unable to take Khan head-on, Shivaji moved into Pratapgarh. After several round of discussions, Khan agreed to meet Shivaji below the fort in a specially erected tent. Khan possessed a powerful body and was confident of overcoming the slim Maratha. Shivaji took all precautions by wearing chains under his vest, a metal cap over his skull, a long white coat covering a daggar in one hand and claws in another. As Khan sought to embrace him and stab Shivaji with a daggar, he used the claws to rip Khan’s bowels. Subsequently, the Marathas took on Afzal Khan’s armies and sent them packing.

Quoting from Chanakya’s Arthashastra “A king shall have his agents in the courts of the enemy, the ally, the Middle and the Neutral kings to spy on the Kings as well as their high officials. (1.12.20). Miraculous results can be achieved by practicing the methods of subversion (13.1.21). It is better to adopt such policies as would enable one to survive and live to fight another day. ( 7.15.13-20,12.1.1-9 ). The last verse was ably followed by Shri Bhutto in 1972 when he conned Indira Gandhi into signing the Simla Agreement. Fought back have they not! What on earth is the low intensity war all about?

Now compare this with Shri Vajpayee’s Lahore yatra. Caught in by the hype over the India – Pak bhai bhai, perhaps with some subtle hints to the army, he goaded them to let their guard down. Does anybody at all, least of all a PM, expect a country whose reason for existence is hatred for Bharat, fought three wars, is out to balkhanise our country, going to be taken in by his visit. What Chanakya would have done is to propose friendship but kept the armed forces on alert. Look at Shivaji. In view of Afzal Khan’s animosity towards him, being on weak wicket, he agreed to meet him, a la Lahore, embraced Khan but was alert and prepared for any eventuality.

3. Clash with the Mughals

Shayista Khan was nominated by Aurangzib to crush Shivaji. Unable to take the full might of the Mughal empire, for nearly three years, Shivaji became a homeless wanderer. When in adversity, ingenuity saves you. With the help of secret agents, Shivaji obtained minute details of the Khan’s camp and arranged a surprise attack at night. With about fifty followers, he entered the Khan’s harem on the evening of April 15, 1663. After midnight, Shivaji and his men attacked the inmates and hacked people indiscriminately. In the confusion, Khan escaped loosing his forefinger. This incident proved eminently successful for Shivaji. Khan was transferred to Bengal and the danger was averted.

In 1664, Shivaji ransacked Surat to collect money for his war efforts. The plunder must have been app Rs 1 cr. Shivaji took care not to inflict any unwanton cruelty on innocent habitants. Hearing that the Mughal armies were coming, Shivaji returned with as much booty as he could carry. He went straight to Raigarh Fort and used money to fortify it. Shivaji's sacking of Surat was the severest blow to Aurangzib and a direct affront to his power/prestige.

Shivaji submits to Jay Singh. Aurangzeb placed his new expedition under Jay Singh (JS) who arrived in Pune in March 1665. Shivaji was busy fighting Bijapur, therafter led a huge naval expedition to the Malabar coast. While offering devotions to the deity of Gokaran in Karwar he learnt of the attack by JS. Unable to bear the brunt of JS’s attack, Shivaji sued for peace and signed a treaty on June 12 surrendering the important forts and agreed to serve the emperor loyally and cooperate in J Singh’s war against Bijapur.

The above paras indicate that Shivaji was a student of Chanakya. He made able use of spies to overcome his enemies. When pushed into a corner, he was practical enough to sue for peace and live to fight for another day. It also indicates the absence of an overriding ego.

Having advised Shivaji to visit Agra, Jay Singh convinced Aurangzeb on the futility of fighting Shivaji and suggested that he be made an ally. Undecided to go or not to go, Shivaji thought that a visit would enable him to obtain a first hand impression about the inherent strength of the empire and make it feasible for him to carry out his dream of a Hindu padshahi. Shivaji left for Agra on 5/3/1666.

Having reached Agra, Shivaji made his way to the durbar. After paying his respects to Aurangzeb, Shivaji was asked to stand in the third row of the nobles. Upset, Shivaji complained of a breach of the terms of the agreement upon. Shivaji left his place and moved to a corner, vehemently protesting and created a scene unprecedented in the court. Aurangzeb asked the durbar to be closed and asked Shivaji to be taken away after which a strict guard was kept on Shivaji. It was decided to shift Shivaji to a new residence. For nearly three months, he remained captive. On 19/8/ he and his son squeezed themselves in two separate baskets of sweetmeats and were carried away.

He surfaced on 12/9/ at Raigarh. It was the most thrilling exploit of all his wonderful deeds which added a halo to his personality, made him an all India figure. Shivaji spent the next year or two reorganizing his resources. The new Mughal governor Muazzam adopted a policy of conciliation. Aurangzeb conferred the title of Raja on Shivaji and his son Shambuji was sent to the Mughal camp at Aurangabad. Golconda and Bijapur too made peace with Shivaji by paying him annual chauth. Thus, Shivaji was accepted as the ruler of Maharashtra.

4. Fanatism + Karnataka

A Fresh Wave of Fanatism: Shivaji was quiet for the next two years. In April 1669, Aurangzeb issued orders to destroy the sacred temples of Mathura and Kashi and construct mosques in their place. All Hindu ceremonies and fairs were banned. Upset with Aurangzeb’s actions, Shivaji took revenge by plundering a number of towns under Mughal control. He plundered Surat for three days in 1670. This continued for three years.

In 1671, Shivaji fought a war with the Mughals for the conquest of Saler on the Gujarat/ Madhya Pradesh border. Shivaji captured the fort in 1671. His PM Moropant Pingle earned a unique name for valor. A renewed war with Bijapur put Shivaji under strain but what it brought out was the true Maratha character – a spirit of sacrifice and cooperation, a sense of national unity which made Maratha’s a respected name throughout India. This was Shivaji’s greatest achievement. I have often wondered who inspired Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Veer Savarkar. Was it Shivaji?

The Coronation happened in 1674. He appointed eight ministers. Shivaji appears to have borrowed his departmental division from ancient Hindu scriptures. Shivaji was an autocrat and allowed no independent powers to his ministers.

The Last venture Karnatak - With all the splendor assumed by Shivaji, his actual domain was hardly more than 200 hundred square miles in length and even less in breadth. The Siddis of Janjira and the Portuguese were his constant enemies. While the North was under Maratha rule, the South remained free for his ambition. The south was loosely held by the states of Bijapur and Golconda. With the death of the kings of these two states around 1672, confusion prevailed.

In Golconda, two Hindu ministers managed the administration ably and made common cause with Shivaji for the uplift and regeneration of the Hindu empire. Unfortunately, Shivaji’s brother, the ruler of Tanjore, Ekoji was against him and collaborated with the Muslims against Shivaji. His PM Raghunath Pant’s disagreed with him and resigned to join hands with Shivaji.

Shivaji left Raigarh in 1677, having earlier dispatched strong parties to subjugate Muslim chiefs who were against his scheme of bringing South India under Hindu rule. An agreement was reached with the Sultan of Haidarbad for jointly resisting Mughal advances. He went to Gingee and captured Vellore after a years effort. On his return to Raigarh, Shivaji seized most of Ejoki’s possessions in the Mysore plateau. Ekojis wife brought reconciliation between the two brothers.

The biggest benefit of the Karnataka conquest was that when Aurangzeb invaded the Maratha lands, Shivaji’s son, Rajaram found a hospitable area in Gingee and the Mughal threat was warded off. In 1679, Aurangzeb reimposed Jaziya on all Hindus inviting the ire of Rajputs and Shivaji. Unfortunately, Shivaji did not live long enough to fight Aurangzeb. He passed away in April1680 from an attack of fever.

5. Bottom Line + Rajaram

Bottom line, Shivaji set an eg of inate Hindu capacity and left a name which would continue to fire the spirit of man and shine forth as ideal for ages yet unborn.

Quote from J.N. Sarkar’s book House of Shivaji. Did Shivaji aim for a Hindu empire ? Shivaji realized that religious freedom cannot be obtained without political control. Subsequent to his visit to Agra, he was convinced about the hollowness of the empire and thereafter exerted himself to bring India under Hindu control. If he had lived longer he might have just deposed Aurangzeb, a fact emphasized by his son Shambhuji in a letter to Ram Singh. This kingdom belongs to the Gods and the Hindus.

Mahaji Sindia felt he had achieved some of the glory when he captured Delhi in 1784. Having said that Shivaji never hated Muslims. A number of them were his trusted aides. Shivaji’s heroics inspired Guru Gobind Singh to create a national awakening in Punjab.

Shivaji’s administrative measures were a marvel of that time - He prohibited the granting of land in lieu of military service. Unlike the Marathas’s Shivaji created innovation in every branch of administration. Shivaji spent heavily on repair of forts. Many western authors treat Shivaji as a plunderer, rebel. When a person is trying to free his country of foreign domination he is bound to be rebel till he wins. Shivaji plundered but never harassed innocents unlike the Mughals.

Shivaji’s plunder was more in the nature of a modern levy. The French envoy, German who visited Shivaji near Tanjore said, “The camp of Shivaji was without women, pomp, no baggage, just two tents”. Aurangzeb wrote on Shivaji “He was a great captain and the only one who had the magnanimity to raise a new kingdom while I have been endeavoring to destroy the ancient sovergeinities of India. My armies have been employed against him for nearly 19 yrs and yet his State keeps increasing”.

According to J Sarkar, “Shivaji called the Maratha race to a new life. He raised them into an independent self reliant people conscious of their oneness and high destiny and his precious legacy was the spirit that he breathed into the race. Shivaji has shown that the tree of Hinduism is not dead and that can rise from beneath the seemingly crushing load of centuries of political bondage.”

How did Shivaji compare with Maharaj Ranjit Singh of Punjab?

While Shivaji’s legacy survived nearly hundred years after he died, Punjab came under British rule within a decade of Ranjit Singh’s (RS) death. RS never crossed swords with the British because he knew it was a battle he could not win. Although he defeated the Afghans, unified Punjab and the hill states of the north, he never took on his biggest adversary the British.

Ranjit Singh lacked Shivaji’s moral character. “He passed from war to wine and from learning to hunting with breathless rapidity.” The absence of any organized system of administration did not provide stability to the new kingdom unlike the Asht-pradhans instituted by Shivaji. If RS had joined hands with the Marathas, the history of Bharat might have been different.

Aurangzeb failed to gauge the real strength of the Marathas. He allowed Shivaji to grow, did not capitalize on the times when he had an upper hand, allowed him to escape from Agra etc. After the death of Shambuji, in the absence of a Central Maratha authority, local Maratha chieftains like Dhana Jadhav and Santaji Ghorpade inflicted heavy losses on the Mughals by their guerilla tactics. While Aurangzeb captured the Deccan it was not possible to man every nook and corner of the country allowing the Marathas to have a field day.

Shivaji’s son Shambuji was, interested in the good things in life, captured by the Mughals in 1689 and put to death in the same year while his son Shahu was taken prisoner. Shivaji’s other son, Rajaram became king then. Unable to stand the Mughal onslaught, he fled to Gingee referred to above. The fort was captured by the Marathas’s in 1698 but Rajaram fled to Vellore and then to Vishalgarh eventually making Satara as the seat of the King. Rajaram’s flight to Gingee gives one more evidence of the great political foresight of Shivaji. By establishing a long list of fortified possessions from Konkan to Tanjore via Bangalore, Vellore he formed a new line of defence to be utilized when the need arose.

Rajarams’s reign was an eventful one paving the way for the future greatness of the Marathas. Credit goes to his wise councilors and brave generals. A significant change in military administration by him was the system of granting lands to the military commanders in lieu of cash as followed by Shivaji. This single change was greatly responsible for the expansion and the fall of the Maratha empire. Rajaram died in 1700 to be succeeded by his 4 yr old son Shivaji III whose mother was Tarabai. A capable administrator, she inspired valor amongst her followers, guided military operations moving to different forts.

And so ended the reign of Shivaji and Rajaram. Shivaji laid the foundations for the Maratha empire and the Peshwas capitalized on his efforts.

Also read
1. On Shambhuji
2. Pratapgarh Fort
3. Raigarh Fort
4. Lohagarh Fort
5. Maratha dominance in the 18th century
6. Shivaji and the rebirth of a nation

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