STORY OF SHIVAJI BHOSLE
Shivaji Raje Bhosle was born on 19 February 1630, at the hill fort of Shivneri, near Junnar in the Pune district. He belonged to the Bhosle clan who founded the Maratha empire.
Shivaji’s father Shahaji served alongside Malik Ambar, who defended the Deccan region, the first to be done by any Maratha against the Mughals. He always tried to free their kingdom from The Sultanate Of Bijapur as well as wanted to throw out the Mughal rule in India and establish a Swaraj Empire.
His mother Jijabai was a pious and far sighted lady. She is regarded to be the master of Shivaji’s bravery. Shivaji was extremely devoted to his mother who was also very deeply religious. This religious environment had a great influence on Shivaji, and he carefully studied the two great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The morality and spiritual messages of these epics left a great impression on him.
By the age of 16, Shivaji managed to gather a band of fiercely loyal Maratha men and set about conquering nearby lands. Their first triumph was the capture of Torna Fort of the Bijapur Kingdom. By 1647 he had captured Kondana and Rajgad forts and had control of much of the southern Pune region.
Battle of Pratapgarh
In a bid to contain Shivaji, Adil Shah sent Afzal Khan, an experienced veteran general along with an army of 40,000 men to destroy Shivaji. Upon weighing his options carefully as to what action must be taken, Shivaji decided to meet Afzal Khan on his home turf at the base of the Pratapgarh fort insisting that the meeting be an informal one. He sent a letter to Afzal Khan stating that he was eager for it. Afzal agreed.
At the meeting, Afzal Khan stabbed Shivaji in the back when the two embraced each other. Shivaji was well prepared for this and survived the attack, protected by a chain mail armour he was wearing and counter-attacked by slaying Afzal Khan with the wagh nakh (tiger-claws glove). Afzal’s army who were prepared to attack had no idea that their leader had been slain when Shivaji walked out with the decapacitated head of Afzal Khan on his sword. On seeing this the the army surrendered.
Shivaji and Aurangzeb
The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb now identified Shivaji as a major threat to his mighty Mughal Empire. He sent his uncle Shaista Khan with a large army to defeat Shivaji. Shivaji lost a large number of forts and areas to Aurangazeb and was driven out of Pune. But he did not stay defeated for long and soon overthrew Khan and re-established his rule. In a few years he recovered most of his forts.
Shivaji fought a number of battles thereafter, a vast number of them against Aurangazeb. He was even captured on one occasion but managed to plot an ingenious escape plan a few day prior to his execution. He fought a life long battle against foreigners on Indian land and never bowed down to any of them. He built a number of forts in his time and even acquired a large number along the way.
Shivaji’s center of power and growth became the fort of Raigad in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. This place became Shivaji’s capital city. Perched on top of a hill that was split off from the Western Ghats, the fort was virtually inaccessible from three sides. It is said that prizes were given to those who tried innovative methods to reach the top.
Under his rule ‘untouchables’ were given true justice. They were also recruited in the army as well as promoted. Shivaji also laid great importance on Sanskrit. He ensured that Sanskrit was never lost. He replaced Persian words with Sanskrit ones where possible. He brought true justice to those who were wronged. The people of his land loved him and truly worshipped him.
Religion too was given importance. He allowed his people to follow their religion of choice. He also allowed people to convert back to being a Hindu after having converted to Islam under Aurangazeb. He ensured that respect was given to mosques- Muslim places of worship and also to Muslim women. As a result, a large number of Muslims served in his army.
Because of these qualities, Shivaji was able to instill the same passion for revolution against the Mughals in the minds of his people. He inspired his people so much that the Maratha Empire continued to fight the Mughal rule for 27 years after his death. Shivaji breathed his last in 1680, but is fondly remembered for his acts of bravery and kindness towards his people even today. His birthday is celebrated with grand fervour in Maharashtra, amongst Maharashtrians even today.