Oct 21 2008
|The Character of Shivaji is one of the most enigmatic characters in the history of India. There are people who deify him and put him on the pedestal of god. Few of them are on the way of declaring him as an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Many myths are now associated with him. Many others view that he was a mere local Maratha chieftain who was rebelling against the Mughal Empire and completely overlook the role he played in Hindu revival in India. Many others, who cannot comprehend the pragmatic approach of Shivaji, which was most practical given his humble beginnings, brand him as a mere plunderer and looter and equate him with ordinary dacoits. Between these two poles of emotions, Shivaji, the man, is on the verge of extinction. This is an attempt to resurrect him.In the process of understanding Shivaji, few events need to be understood.In the long list of those events, first one is about his grandfather, Maloji Bhonsale and his great grandfather Babaji Bhonsale. Documents suggest that Maloji was a Jagirdar of Pande-Pedgaon. He inherited substantial part of his jahagir. Shahaji was born in 1602, Maloji died in 1607 in the battle of Indapur. Shahaji was 5 years old when this tragedy struck. Maloji, at the time, was a Bargir serving Lakhuji Jadhav of Sindkhed Raja, a place in central Maharashtra.
Jijabai gave birth to six children. First four did not survive. Fifth and sixth were Sambhaji and Shivaji respectively. Shivaji’s own marital life was not very different from his father. He never gave importance to any of his queens and rarely entertained their interference in politics. He performed all the duties as a husband and kept his wives in as much comfort as possible, but no importance.
Shivaji Maharaj was an able administrator who established a government that included modern concepts such as cabinet (Ashtapradhan mandal), foreign affairs (Dabir) and internal intelligence. Shivaji established an effective civil and military administration. He also built a powerful navy and erected new forts like Sindhudurg and strengthened old ones like Vijaydurg on the west coast. The Maratha navy held its own against the British, Portuguese and Dutch.
Shivaji is well known for his benevolent attitude towards his subjects. He believed that there was a close bond between the state and the citizens. He encouraged all accomplished and competent individuals to participate in the ongoing political/military struggle. He is remembered as a just and welfare-minded king. He brought revolutionary changes in military organisation, fort architecture, society and politics. Shivaji successfully led and marshalled his forces to cope and overcome several major enemy invasions. He was inexorable in expanding the boundaries of his kingdom. His success was driven by his determination to establish a free and independent homeland, and in this goal he was supported by the high level of loyalty, respect and commitment he received from his soldiers, followers and citizens.
He was an innovator and an able commander, he successfully used effective tactics including hit-and-run, strategic expansion of territories and forts, formation of highly mobile light cavalry and infantry units, adaptation of strategic battle plans and formations, whereby he succeeded in out-manoeuvering, time and again, his vastly bigger and determined enemies. Towards the end of his reign he had built up the Maratha forces to be over one hundred thousand strong. He was able to effectively keep the Mughal forces in check and on the defensive while expanding his kingdom southwards to Gingee, Tamil Nadu. Shivaji Maharaj’s kingdom served as a Hindu bulwark against Mughal powers within India. His brilliant strategic and tactical maneuvering on battlefields, acute management and administrative skills helped him to lay the foundations of the future Maratha empire in India.
During his long military career and various campaigns his strong religious and warrior code of ethics, exemplary character and deep seated and uncompromising spiritual values directed him to offer protection to houses of worship, non-combatants, women and children. He always showed respect, defended and protected places of worship of all denominations and religions.
Shivaji was once offered a very beautiful young lady as a war booty, by an uninformed Maratha captain. She was the daughter-in-law of a defeated Muslim Amir (local ruler) of Kalyan, Maharashtra. Shivaji was reported to have told the lady that her beauty was mesmerizing and that if his mother was as beautiful as her, he would have been as handsome as well. He told her to go back to her family in peace, unmolested and under his protection. His behaviour, was noted by those around him, to be always of the highest moral caliber. He unambiguously embodied the virtues and ideals of a true nobleman.
He boldly risked his life, his treasure, his personal well being and that of his family, to openly challenge his immensely larger enemies to defend and achieve freedom and independence for his country. He unflinchingly defied overwhelming odds stacked against him by the mighty Mughal Empire and the regional sultanates. He overcame and succeeded in the face of an unprecedented level of difficulties and challenges posed by his enemies. He did not spend any resources on projects designed for self-aggrandizement or vanity, instead he was propelled by his deeply held sense of Dharma (sacred duty) to his people and country.
Shivaji did not believe in being treated as royalty, in fact he mingled freely with his subjects to spend time with them to maintain a close rapport with them. It is reported that he enjoyed simple meals of crushed onion and ‘bhakris’ – a type of Indian peasant bread with his foot soldiers (mavlas). His character could be termed as ‘down to earth’ and while he took his mission with utmost seriousness he did not seemingly consider his own needs to be above his people’s welfare or their security. As a result of this Shivaji struck a deep chord with his followers and the citizenary. And the high level of admiration and respect he earned from his followers and subjects sets him apart from most other Indian kings or chieftains in the recorded Indian history. Even today he is venerated in India and especially in the state of Maharashtra with awe and admiration and is viewed as a hero of epic proportions.
Source: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj – An Analysis by Manish Zanpure
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