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Shivaji Raje – The Founder of Idea of Swaraj

Monday,20 February 2023 01:47 PM IST


Anupama Nair

Our great Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the Amrit Mahotsav or celebration of  India’s 75th year of Independence. We will be celebrating this event till 2022. I am going to write a feature on all those great men and women who fought against foreign invasion not just against the British. Today I am going to write about the greatest sons of Bharat Ma – Hindu Hridaya Samrat, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. From him I learnt about the importance of Swaraj and Swadharm and “freedom is the birthright of all beings in the world and should never be taken for granted”. His life inspired many nationalists to fight for our Independence, and finally we are free today.

Shivaji Bhonsle, also known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, was a great warrior king and a member of the Bhonsle clan. Shivaji carved out an “enclave from the declining Adilshahi Sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire”.

Shivaji was born in the hill-fort city of  Shivneri, in Poona District on February 19, 1630 to Shahaji Bhonsle and Jija Bai. Shivaji was named after a local deity -- the goddess Shivai. Shivaji's father was a Maratha general who served the Deccan Sultanates.  At the time of Shivaji's birth, power in Deccan was shared by three Islamic sultanates: Bijapur, Ahmenagar and Golconda. Shivaji’s guru was Dadaji Konddeo.

It was his brave mother Jija Bai, who made her great son Chhatrapati. Right from his childhood, Jija mata would tell him about the lives of Shri Ram, Maruti, Shri Krishna and also stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana to make him pious and patriotic. Thus, she molded him into an ideal ruler by sowing seeds of devotion to the idea of Swaraj and Swadharma. She was not only a mother to Shivaji, but also a source of inspiration to her son.

She had a strong faith that she was blessed by Devi Bhavani and Bhagwan Mahadev. She always backed her great husband Shahaji Bhosle and her son fearlessly and resolutely. When her husband or son would be in perilous situations, she would ardently pray to Bhavani Mata night and day, for their protection and safe return. She was loved and respected by all her family members and was looked upon as the support system in the family

Many of Shivaji's comrades, and later a number of his soldiers, came from the Maval region, including Yesaji Kank, Suryaji Kakade, Baji Pasalkar, Baji Deshpande and Tanaji Malusare. Shivaji traveled the hills and forests of the Sahyadri Hills  with his friends, gaining skills and familiarity with the land that would prove useful in his military career. In 1639, Shahaji was stationed at Bangalore, which was conquered from the Nayaks who had taken control after the disintegration of the Vijaynagara Empire. Shivaji was taken to Bangalore where he, his elder brother Sambhaji, and his half-brother Ekoji were further formally trained. He married Sai Bai, from the prominent Nimbalkar family in 1640. As early as 1645, the teenage Shivaji expressed his concept for Hindavi Swarajya (Indian self-rule), in a letter.

The kingdom of Bijapur under Adil Shah was a great enemy of Shivaji. In 1655, he collected a band of followers, to seize Bijapur’s weaker  outposts. His daring and military skill, combined with his harshness toward the “oppressors of the Hindus”, won him much admiration. When the Sultan of Bijapur in 1659 sent an army of 20,000 under Afẕal Khan to defeat him, Shivaji, pretending to be intimidated, enticed the force deep into difficult mountain terrain.  Earlier, Afzal Khan had killed Jija’s elder son, Sambhaji Raje in a military expedition of Kanakagiri by firing a cannon deceitfully. Later Afzal Khan set his sights on capturing Shivaji Maharaj. In this endeavor, he was unstoppable, burning fields and inhumanly murdering people, as he headed swiftly towards Raigad. In this situation, if Shivaji Maharaj was to clash with Afzal Khan’s army, the Maratha army’s defeat was inevitable, and  if Shivaji was to meet Afzal Khan to sign a treaty, he would certainly not return. So, Shivaji’s sardars and his learned ministers advised him to move to a safe place, away from Afzal Khan. But, Jija Bai ordered Shivaji to meet Afzal Khan and slay him and display the Maratha valor to the world. And Shivaji killed Afzal Khan with tiger claws.

Meanwhile, some troops that had been previously positioned, swooped down on the unwary Bijapur army and defeated it. Overnight, Shivaji had become a “daunting warlord, possessing the horses, the guns, and the ammunition of the Bijapur army”.

After defeating the army of Bijapur, Shivaji's army marched towards Konkan and Kolhapur. They seized the Panhala Fort, and defeated again the army of Bijapur under Rustam Zaman and Fazl Khan in 1659. In 1660, Adilshah sent his general Siddi Jauhar to attack Shivaji's southern border, in alliance with the Mughals who planned to attack from the north. At that time, Shivaji was living in Panhala Fort with his forces. Siddi Jauhar's army attacked Panhala, cutting off all supply routes to the fort. For the bombardment of the Panhala Fort, Siddi Jauhar had earlier, purchased grenades from the English East India Company at Rajapur to increase his efficiency, and also hired some English artillerymen to assist him in his war with Shivaji. The betrayal angered Shivaji, who retaliated by plundering the English factory at Rajapur and captured four men, who were released after some months. When Shivaji Maharaj was trapped for four months when Siddi Jauhar had besieged Panhala fort, Jija had shouldered the responsibility of Swaraj till Shivaji escaped from the besieged fort. Jija Bai led the Marathas who were fighting Shaista Khan thus protecting the idea of Swaraj.

Did you know Shivaji, was the first Indian king who built a strong navy? When Shivaji became the master of a long coastal strip, he undertook, the construction of a Navy. Shivaji realized that the one who had a navy, became the master of the sea. To protect his own territory from Siddi's attacks, to protect the merchant ships and ports in order to secure and enhance revenue incomes derived from maritime trade and customs duty, he concentrated on building the Navy. There were four hundred ships of various kinds in the Navy. They most famous battleships were Gurab, Galbat and Pal.

Shivaji’s greatness and love for Swaraj reached the ears of the cruelest Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who wanted to add the parts of Maratha Empire to his own. For expansion of  his idea of  Swaraj, conflict with the Mughals was inevitable. Aurangzeb chose Shaista khan, to be the Viceroy of the Deccan, ordering him to invade and annex Shivaji dominions. Shaista khan left Ahmednagar in 1660 and arrived in Pune. He decided to capture the fort of Chakan to obtain supplies. Though the killedar of the fort of Chakan, Firangoji Narsala offered a strong resistance to Shaista khan’s army, the Mughals captured the fort of Chakan. Shaista khan captured Swaraj's territories Pune and Supe and set up a camp at Lal Mahal in Pune.

The Mughal army began to destroy the regions around Pune. Shaista Khan adopted the strategy to occupy as much of Shivaji Maharaj’s territories as possible. Forces were dispatched to invade the Konkan region below the Ghats, Kalyan and Bhiwandi were captured by the Mughal army. Shaista Khan appointed Kartalab Khan on an expedition to the North Konkan. Shivaji defeated Kartalab Khan in Umbarkhind. He left Netoji Palkar to defend the North Konkan and he himself marched southwards and captured Dabhol, Chiplun, Sangameshwar, Rajapur, Palavani and Shringarpur.

Even after two years, Shaista Khan still would not think of leaving Pune. Shivaji Maharaj devised a bold plan, to drive away Shaista Khan. He raided Lal Mahal and in this raid, Shaista Khan lost his fingers. He was forced to leave Pune and shifted his camp to Aurangabad. The successful attack on Shaista khan resulted in the people believing the capabilities of Shivaji.

In three years’, time, Shaista Khan had ravaged the territories of the Swaraj. It was necessary to make up this loss. Surat was the richest and most prosperous port of the Mughal Empire on the west coast. Europeans i.e., the British, the Dutch and the French all had their factories there. Shivaji then devised a plan of attack on Surat. The Subedar of Surat could not put up any resistance to the Maratha army. Shivaji Maharaj obtained enormous wealth from Surat. The Surat campaign was a stunning blow to emperor Aurangzeb’s prestige. Shivaji then built  forts Suvarnadurg,  Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg. He also built a fort named Padmadurg on a small island near Rajpuri in order to counter the power of the Mughals.

With a view to crush growing power of Shivaji Maharaj, Aurangzeb sent Jai Singh of Ambar, an experienced and powerful Mughal Sardar. Jai Singh's strategy was to isolate Shivaji Maharaj from his neighboring powers so that he would get neither help nor support from them, to prevent him from breaking out into the Mughal territory, to devastate his homeland and capture his forts. As per this strategy he was trying to provoke the Adilshahi against Shivaji Maharaj. Jai Singh was concurrently instigating local rulers in the Karnataka against the Adilshah, so that the latter would be unable to help Shivaji. Jai Singh requested the Europeans to start a naval campaign against Shivaji. He also drew up a plan of capturing the forts in possession of Shivaji. Jai Singh and Diler Khan led siege to the fort of Purandar. Mughal forces were sent to various parts of Swaraj to devastate the territories. Shivaji tried hard to resist the Mughals. When the Mughals put the fort of Purandar under siege, Murarbaji Deshpande fought with the greatest courage and died a hero’s death.

Shivaji realized that in the conflict with the Mughals, his subjects had to face great losses. He began talks for a treaty with Jai Singh. A treaty between Jai Singh and Shivaji was signed in June 1665 which is known as ‘Treaty of Purandar’. In accordance with the terms of the treaty, he had to cede twenty-three forts and adjacent areas yielding a revenue of Rs four lakh to the Mughals. He also assured the Mughals of help against the Adilshahi.

Jai Singh, soon compelled Shivaji undertake  a journey to visit Aurangzeb’s court at Agra in order to be formally accepted as a vassal of the Mughals. In Agra, hundreds of miles from their homeland, Shivaji and his son were placed under house arrest, where they lived under the threat of execution.

However, Shivaji pretended  to be ill and, as a form of penance, began to send out enormous baskets filled with sweets to be distributed among the poor. On August 17, 1666, he and his son hid in these baskets and managed to escape. “His escape, possibly the most thrilling episode in a life filled with high drama, was to change the course of Indian history”. His followers welcomed him back as their leader, and within two years he not only had won back all the lost territory but had expanded his domain. He collected tribute from Mughal regions and plundered their rich cities, and he reorganized the army and instituted reforms for the welfare of his subjects.

Before proceeding to Agra, Shivaji Maharaj entrusted Swaraj in the safe hands of his mother. Shivaji Maharaj’s imprisonment by Aurangzeb did not deter her. Mughals from South, armies of Adilshah and Kutubshah, British and Portuguese invaders in Konkan and Gomantak (Goa) and vast army of Siddi Jauhar in Murud Janjira, all had trained their greedy eyes on the Maratha ideal of Swaraj. Jija Bai, who was very old, protected her people from these enemies for more than eight months. Beyond this, she accomplished completion of Sindudurg fort, recaptured a fort from the enemies, attended to problems of the subjects and showed her efficiency in governing the people as an able ruler.

It would be true to say Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s idea “Swarajya is my birthright”, was inspired by Jija Mata and Shivaji.

The founding of the Maratha Swaraj involved a relentless struggle for over thirty years. Shivaji realized that now it was necessary for Swaraj to win general recognition as a sovereign, independent state. For legal recognition to the Swaraj, a formal coronation was necessary. On 6th June 1674, Shivaji Maharaj was coronated in Raigad by Gaga Bhatt, a learned pandit  from Banaras. Maharaj ascended the throne of the Swaraj. He now became the Chhatrapati of the Swaraj. As a symbol of sovereignty, Shivaji Maharaj instituted a new era commencing from the date of his coronation known as Rajyabhisheka shaka. Shivaji Maharaj thus became the founder of a new era. On the occasion of the coronation, special coins were minted -- a gold coin called hon and a copper coin called shivrai with the legend Shri Raja Shiva Chhatrapati inscribed on them. After, that all the royal correspondence carried the words, 'Kshatriyakulaawatansa Shri Raja Shiva Chhatrapati'.

After the coronation Shivaji marched to conquer Phonda near Goa and captured it in 1675. Then the Marathas captured Ankola and Shiveshwar which was followed by annexation of Kolhapur. After that Shivaji got the title ‘Dakshin Digvijay’. Chhatrapati Shivaji then planned to attack and conquer the province of Adilshahi in Karnataka. He undertook Karnataka expedition in 1677, as Karnataka was famous for its riches. At the same time, it was not well defended by Adilshah. Chhatrapati Shivaji then went to Golkonda to meet the Qutubshah. He entered into a treaty of friendship with him. Then he captured Jinjee and proceeded to Vellore. The city withstood a long siege. Later, he conquered Bangalore, Hoskote, certain other forts such as those at Vellore and also some parts of the Adilshahi kingdom. Permanent annexation in the south increased his strength and most importantly he was successful in executing his plan of defense which would help him to resist the armies of Aurangzeb in future. For administration of the newly conquered province Shivaji made excellent arrangements. He appointed Raghunath Narayan Hanamante, the chief officer to look after these newly conquered territories. After accomplishing the mission of the south, Shivaji Maharaj returned to Swaraj.


Shivaji then decided to fortify the island of Khanderi, as it was a key position because it was located near Mumbai. The British then decided to lay a regular siege to the island. In this naval conflict the English had to withdraw their fleet. This brought to an end to the naval conflict between Shivaji and the British.


The greatest achievement of Shivaji was to inculcate the spirit of independence in his people. Shivaji Maharaj’s personality and message are as relevant today as they were in the past. “Shivaji breathed new life into a moribund race that for centuries had resigned itself to abject serfdom and led them against Aurangzeb, a powerful Mughal ruler. Above all, in a place and age stained by religious savagery, he was one of the few rulers who practiced true religious tolerance”.


Now I am going to talk about the comments made about Shivaji.

“Ya Allah, you gave me an enemy, fearless and upright, please keep your doors to heaven open for him because the world's best and large-hearted warrior is coming to you.”

-Aurangzeb (After Shivaji's death, while reading Namaz)

“That day Shivaji just didn't chop of my fingers but also chopped off my pride. I fear to meet him even in my dreams”.

--Shahista Khan.

“Netaji, your country does not require any Hitler to throw out the British. All you need to teach is Shivaji's history”.

-Adolf Hitler

“Had Shivaji been born in England, we would not only have ruled earth but the whole Universe”.

-Lord Mountbatten

“Had Shivaji lived for another ten years, the British would not have seen the face of India”.

-- A British Governor

“If India needs to be made independent then there is only one way out, ‘Fight like Shivaji’”.


“Shivaji is just not a name, it is an energy source for Indian youth, which can be used to make India free”.

- Swami Vivekananda.

From these comments we need to realize that to make India the next Superpower Shivaji’s rule and his greatness needs to be inculcated in our History curriculum. Then only will Swaraj exist. Vande Mataram


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