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The reasons why I believe epic battles are just a small part of Shivaji Maharaj’s Legacy

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“Shivaji’s political ideals were such that we might accept them even today without any change. He aimed at giving his subjects peace, universal toleration, equal opportunities for all castes and creeds, a beneficent, active and pure system of administration, a navy for promoting trade and a trained militia for guarding the homeland.. All this national expansion proceeded from the initial energy of one man. Shivaji was the central power-house of the new Maharashtra..He was not only the maker of Maratha nation, but also the greatest constructive genius of medieval India. States fall, empires break up, dynasties become extinct, but the memory of a true ‘hero as King’ like Shivaji, remains an imperishable historical legacy for the entire human race”.

– Jadunath Sarkar

I pay obeisance to this legendary king on his 390th Birth Anniversary.

Unfortunately, Shivaji Maharaj is only known for his epic battles by the Hindu Right. Not that it is wrong per se, because the society tends to highlights those specific qualities of their leaders which they themselves wish to emulate. Thus, Shivaji Maharaj becomes a symbol of the Hindu resistance against the Islamist marauders. But I believe remembering Shivaji Maharaj only for his battles would be like remembering Narendra Modi only for his speeches! No doubt that he is the best orator, but then it would be a grave injustice to the great leader to not acknowledge the other equally inspiring facets of his life. Here I would discuss some of the other equally important facets of Shivaji Maharaj’s life.

Discipline

We Indians are not known for our discipline, but Maharaj was an exception. The then Swarajya had a rule for not letting people enter the forts after sun down for security reasons. This rule was to be strictly followed no matter who the person be.

To check whether the rule is being followed Maharaj disguised as a Maratha Sardar and tried to enter one of his forts. The gate keeper of the fort was a 17-18 year old boy named Savlya Tandel. He stopped the approaching Sardar citing the rules and asked him to return. The Sardar insisted on going in no matter what. There is a legendary poem in Marathi about this incident where Savlya says to the Sardar ‘Khabardar jar taach maaruni yaal pudhe, chindhadya udvil rai rai evadhya’. A mere soldiers is saying to a Sardar that if you come ahead even an inch I will cut you to pieces. Realising that the soldier wouldn’t let him in Maharaj removed his disguise and showed the soldier that he is the same Shivaji Maharaj on whose order he is guarding the fort.

The best part of the story is that, Savlya didn’t move from his position even then and said, ‘Nobody can break Shivaji Maharaj’s rules not even Shivaji Maharaj himself’! Shivaji Maharaj had to stay for the night in the village below the fort. Savlya was rewarded handsomely for his insistence on following his duty.
This was the kind of discipline which helped the Marathas fight the Mughals for almost 30 years straight after the death of Maharaj and bury Aurangzeb here in Maharashtra in the end!

Social Justice

Savlya Tandel in the story above is form the Dalit community. His caste didn’t become a barrier in him becoming a soldier for the Maratha army.

The army in the fort of Purandar was predominantly from the Mahar caste i.e. Dalit and they were fighting under an exceptionally brave Sardar, Murar Baji, who was a Kayastha Brahman.They fought Diler Khan in the historic siege of Purandar.

The capital of the Maratha empire was Raigad. Shivaji Maharaj’s mother used to live below Raigad in a village called Pachad, this village is predominantly Dalits. And the women used to fetch water from the same well which Maharaj and his mother used to use. It is called ‘ Takkyachi Vihar’ i.e. the well with the pillow. Because Maharaj used to put a pillow next to it and discuss matters of the village with the womenfolk, whenever he had some time on his hand.

Women were held in high esteem in the time of Shivaji Maharaj. Infact, his daughter-in-law Tara Rani took the mantle in her own hands when her husband Rajaram lost his life, and continued the war against Aurangzeb!

Religious Policy

“Shivaji had always striven to maintain the honour of the people in his territories … and was careful to maintain the honour of women and children of Muhammadans when they fell into his hands. His injunctions on this point were very strict..”

– Khafi Khan, a contemporary Historian in Muntakhab-ul-Lubab

When Afzal Khan came to capture Maharaj he desecrated the temples of Pandharpur and Tuljapur he also forced the temple priests to eat cow meat. This was less out of religious fanaticism and more a military tactic to anger Maharaj, and bring him to the plains. Afzal Khan continued the bloodshed for almost 3 years, Inspite of this not a single Masjid was touched in the entire Maratha Empire or a single Muslim was harrased!

Shahistakhan was in Pune to capture Shivaji Maharaj on Mughal orders. Maharaj raided his camp at night and in the ensuing fight cut Shahistakhan’s 3 fingers. But after this raid Aurangzeb’s sister’s daughter was nowhere to be found. Aurangzeb’s sister thought that Maharaj must have kidnapped her. During the Agra visit she reminded Aurangzeb of this his niece. Aurangzeb said, ‘Shivaji capable of anything but he will definitely never lay his hands on a woman’.

Reconversions

The Kashmiri Pandits who were being forcefully converted to Islam by the Mughals and wanted to return to their original faith. The then Kashi’s Sankaracharya denied this saying that there is nothing called ‘becoming a Hindu’ so we cannot take you back!

Shivaji Maharaj ignored this and reconverted the people who were forcefully converted to Islam and Christianity in Maharashtra. Netaji Palkar, a high ranking Sardar, had a fight with Maharaj and went to serve Aurangzeb. Just to make sure that this is not a ploy by the wily Shivaji, Aurangzeb asked him to convert to Islam. After almost 7 years Netaji realised his folly and returned back to Maharaj. He wanted to become a Hindu again so Maharaj reconverted him to Hinduism.

The Goan Missionaries were converting people enmasse in Konkan and Goa. Shivaji Maharaj sent a letter asking them to stop. They didn’t listen. Shivaji Maharaj caught four of the missionaries and converted them to the Hindu faith.

The Shivaji Marg

The simple definition of Shivaji Marg is ‘Respect everyone, appease no one’. Do create a Hindu Empire but without the vengefulness of its counterparts. The patience to wait at times years in search of an opportune time to attack. To bow down and lay low if the situation demands for sometime, but make sure you neither forgive nor forget the one who made you bow down. To have the levelheadedness and the policy to get into a battle for only one reason and that is to WIN. Never ever eulogise martyrdom, it is only for the people who cannot think about the long term. Remember that it is as important to win on the negotiation table as on the battlefield. That there are no permanent enemies in politics and it is of prime importance to identify the immediate danger first.

In the end I bow down to the Great King who has been an inspiration to some of the all time great leaders of India like Tilak, Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Savarkar, Hedgewar and our beloved PM. May Aai Bhawani give us the strength and perseverance to make a Shivaji out of our present leader.

Jai Hind..!!
Jai Shivray..!!!

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