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Letter from Shivaji to Aurangzeb on Jiziya

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Krishna Kumar
Krishna Kumarhttp://krishnakrwrites.com
Writes about Indian History with context and analysis. Focus: British occupation period of India. Author: Rapid Reads-India and Investigating Indian History series. Available now : 1942-When the British Rule in India was Threatened Coming Next : Ten Months to freedom Also writes a newsletter.Free Subscription. krishnaKwrites.substack.com

When Jizya was reimposed in 1679, Shivaji wrote a letter to Aurangzeb. Selected parts of the letter are below as taken from The Mughal Throne, a book by Abraham Eraly @2004 Edition. Page 403-404.

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a brave warrior and military strategist. However, what is not commonly known is that he had excellent penmanship. Highlights are mine.The letter is quoted as per source above.

“This firm and constant well wisher Shivaji, after rendering thanks for the grace of God and the favors of the emperor.. begs to inform you majesty that … he is ever ready to perform, to the fullest extent possible and proper, everything that duty as a servant and gratitude demand of him.

So, with a view of rendering good service and earning the imperial favor, I submit the following words in a spirit of devotion to the public welfare; it has recently come to my ears that, on the ground of the war with me, having exhausted your wealth and emptied the imperial treasury, your majesty has ordered that money under the Jizya should be collected from the Hindus and the imperial needs supplied with it.

But in your majesty’s reign, many of the forts and provinces have gone out of your possession, and the rest will soon will do so too, because there will be no slackness on my part in ruining and devastating them. Your peasants are downtrodden, the yield of every village has declined, in the place on one lakh of rupees, only one thousand, and in the place of a thousand only 10 are collected, that too with difficulty. When poverty and beggary have made their home in the palaces of the emperor and princes, the conditions of the grandees and officers can be easily imagined. 

It is a reign in which the army is in the ferment, the merchants complain, the Muslims cry, the Hindus are grilled; most men lack bread at night and in the daytime, inflame their own cheeks by slapping them in anguish. How can the royal spirit permit you to add the hardship of Jiziya to the grievous state of things? The infamy will quickly spread from west to east and become recorded in books of history that the emperor of Hindustan, coveting the beggars bowls, takes Jiziya from brahmins and Jains, yogis, sanyasis, bairagis, pauper, mendicants, ruined wretches and famine stricken- that valor is show by attacks on the wallets of beggars- that dashed down the name and honor of the Timurids.

In a strict justice, the jiziya is not at all lawful. From the political point of view, it can be allowed only if a beautiful woman wearing gold ornaments can pass from one country to another without fear or molestation. But in these days even the cities are being plundered, what shall I say of the open country? Apart from it’s injustice this imposition of the jiziya is an innovation in India and inexpedient. If you imagine piety to consist in oppressing the people and terrorizing the Hindus, you ought first to levy jiziya from Rana Raj Singh who is the head of the Hindus. Then it will not be very difficult to collect it from me as I am at your service but to oppress ants and flies is far from displaying valor and spirit. I wonder at the strange fidelity of your officers that they neglect to tell you of the true state of things but cover a blazing fire with straw.

May the sun of your royalty continue to shine above the horizon of greatness.

The above is taken from: Abraham Eraly, The Mughal Throne @2004 page 403-404) 

Note:

Jizya was not the only tax that Hindus had to pay. Most Oppressive was KHARAJ, which could take away up to 66% of earnings. It was a significant tax right from Akbar’s time.

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Krishna Kumar
Krishna Kumarhttp://krishnakrwrites.com
Writes about Indian History with context and analysis. Focus: British occupation period of India. Author: Rapid Reads-India and Investigating Indian History series. Available now : 1942-When the British Rule in India was Threatened Coming Next : Ten Months to freedom Also writes a newsletter.Free Subscription. krishnaKwrites.substack.com
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