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Thursday, December 9, 2010

CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ - The greatest son India ever had.


Shivaji Bhosle (19 February 1630 – 3 April 1680), with the royal title Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a Maratha king from the Bhosle dynasty who founded the Maratha empire. Shivaji led a resistance to free the Marathas from Sultanate of Bijapur, and establish the rule of the Hindus ("Hindavi Swarajya"). He created an independent Maratha kingdom with Raigad as its capital, and fought against the Mughals to defend his kingdom successfully. He was crowned as Chhatrapati of the Maratha Kingdom in 1674.
He achieved the re-establishment of Maratha rule on their homeland after being ruled and dominated by various Muslim dynasties for few hundred years. He established a competent and progressive civil rule with the help of well regulated and disciplined military and well structured administrative organizations. The prevalent practices of treating women as war booty, destruction of religious monuments, slavery and forceful religious conversions were firmly opposed under his administration. Shivaji was a religious Hindu, and showed respect toward other religions. He also innovated rules of military engagement of that era. He pioneered "Shiva sutra" or Ganimi Kava(guerrilla tactics), which leveraged strategic factors like demographics, speed, surprise and focused attack to defeat his bigger and more powerful enemies.

Early life

Shivaji's father Shahaji Bhosale was the chieftain of a hardy band of warrior class mercenaries that served the Deccan Sultanates. His mother was Jijabai, the daughter of Lakhujirao Jadhav of Sindkhed. During the period of Shivaji's birth, the power in Deccan was shared by three Islamic Sultanates - Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golconda. Shahaji kept changing his loyalty between the Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar, Adil Shah of Bijapur and the Mughals, but always kept his jagir (fiefdom) at Pune and his small army with him. Gomaji Naik Pansambal, a trusted master of state-Craft, was deputed by Lakhuji Yadavrao (Jadhav) to look after Jijabai. He remained with Jijabai and Shivaji throughout his life. He also was a master of sword. But most importantly, he advised Shivaji in making certain crucial decisions which had far reaching effects on the character of the Maratha empire.
Shivaji was extremely devoted to his mother Jijabai. Jijabai led a deeply religious, near ascetic life in virtual isolation. This religious environment had a profound influence on Shivaji. He carefully studied the two great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, by listening to recitations and story-tellings. The morality and spiritual messages of the epics made a great impression on him. He was deeply interested in religious teachings, and sought the company of Hindu and Sufi (a Muslim sect) saints throughout his life.
When Shivaji was a novice, a troop of Pathans - Afghan mercenaries - had approached Shivaji requesting enlistment in his service. Shivaji was hesitant, but Gomaji advised him to accept them into the service. This resulted in the secular character of the Maratha armed forces. All the communities enjoyed respect and fair treatment in his kingdom. Gomaji also taught the art of swordsmanship to Shivaji, and especially the effective use of lance, the characteristic Maratha weapon.
Shivaji drew his earliest trusted comrades and a large number of his soldiers from this region, including Yesaji Kank, Baji Pasalkar andTanaji Malusare. In the company of his Maval comrades, a young Shivaji wandered over the hills and forests of the Sahyadri range, hardening himself and acquiring first-hand knowledge of the land. By 1639, he commanded a hardy and loyal band of officers and soldiers.

Rule


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 BritishPortuguese 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's approach to leadership was that of a champion for his people, he sought independence and self rule for his Vatan (Homeland). The Maratha's respected and looked up to his high ideals and noble character and were unwavering in their dedication to achieving these goals. Their loyalty and determination helped Shivaji to withstand, to cope and to finally overcome succeeding waves of, well co-ordinated and unrelenting enemy attacks and invasions spanning several decades. An example of this is how readily his men like Baji Prabhu Despande and others volunteered to face even the likelihood of certain death at Ghod Khind to help Shivaji continue the fight of independence - eliciting such heroism from followers cannot be mandated, it can only be inspired by, purity of character, noble and awe inspiring leadership and a truly shared vision for homeland.
He was also 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 highly 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 Jinji, 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.
Character
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.
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 unrelentingly 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.
A Maratha folklore tells of an event when Shivaji was presented a beautiful Muslim princess (daughter of amir of Kalyan, Maharashtra) as a trophy by one of his captains. Shivaji was reported to have told this lady that if his mother was as strikingly beautiful as she was, perhaps he would have been handsome as well. He wished her well and allowed her to return to her family unharmed and under his protection. In that instance, the true nobility of his character was plainly revealed to all that were present there.

Military



  • A standing army belonging to the state called paga;

Shivaji's genius is most evident in his military organisation, which lasted till the demise of the Maratha empire. He was one of the pioneers of commando actions, "Ganimi Kava" a term used for such a warfare, (though the term "commando" is modern). His Mavala army's war cry was 'Har Har Mahadev' (Hail Lord Shiva). Shivaji was responsible for many significant changes in military organization. These include -

  • All war horses belonged to the state; responsibility for their upkeep rested on the Sovereign.
  • Creation of part time soldiers from peasants who worked for eight months in their fields and supported four months in war for which they were paid.
  • Highly mobile and light infantry and cavalry were his innovations and they excelled in commando tactics;
  • The introduction of a centralized intelligence department, (Bahirjee Naik was the foremost spy who provided Shivaji with enemy information in all of Shivaji's campaigns, Vishwas Nana Dighe played an important role during the Battle of Pratapgad, and Vishwasrao Musekar provided important intelligence during the siege of Panhala)
  • A potent and effective navy.
  • Introduction of field craft viz. Guerrilla warfare, commando actions, swift flanking attacks;
  • Innovation of weapons and firepower, innovative use of traditional weapons like tiger claw or 'Vaghnakh'. 'Vita' was a weapon invented by Shivaji ;
  • Militarisation of almost the entire society, including all classes, with the entire peasant population of settlements and villages near forts actively involved in their defence.
Shivaji realized the importance of having a secure coastline and protecting the western Konkan coastline from the attacks of Siddi’s fleet. His strategy was to build a strong navy to protect and bolster his kingdom, he was also concerned about the growing dominance of foreign British India naval forces in Indian waters and actively sought to resist it. For this very reason he is also referred to as the “Father of Indian Navy”.


Forts of Shivaji

Shivaji constructed a chain of 300 or more forts running over a thousand kilometres across the rugged Western Ghats. Each were placed under three officers of equal status lest a single traitor be bribed/tempted to deliver it to the enemy. The officers (Sabnis, Havladar, Sarnobhat) acted jointly and provided mutual checks balance. Shivaji had control of 360 forts when he died.

Religion

Shivaji was a devout Hindu and he respected all religions within the region. Shivaji Maharaj had great respect for Warkari saints like Tukaram and Sufi Muslim pir Shaikh Yacub Baba Avaliya of Konkan. He also visited Mouni Maharaj at Patgaon (Bhudargad Taluka near Gargoti) in Kolhapur district.
Maharaj and Samarth Ramdas are said to have first met in 1674. Shivaji said to have requested Ramdas to shift his residence to a fort named Parali & establish his permanent monastery there. The fort was subsequently renamed Sajjangad. Shivaji frequently visited Ramdas to seek his blessings & advice regarding religious issues.
Shivaji allowed his subjects freedom of religion and opposed forced conversion. The first thing Shivaji did after a conquest was to promulgate protection of mosques and Muslim tombs.
He commanded the respect and fealty of the Muslims under his command by his fair treatment of his friends as well as enemies. Kafi Khan, the Mughal historian and Bernier, a French traveler, spoke highly of his religious policy. He also brought back converts like Netaji Palkar and Bajaji in to Hinduism. He prohibited slavery in his kingdom. Shivaji Maharaj applied a humane and liberal policy to the women of his state. There are many instances in folklore which describe Shivaji's respect for women, irrespective of their religion, nationality, or creed.
Shivaji's sentiments of inclusivity and tolerance of other religions can be seen in an admonishing letter to Aurangzeb, in which he wrote:
Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines. If it is a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of Him. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for Him alone.

Legacy

Because of his struggle against an imperial power, Shivaji became an icon of freedom fighters in the Indian independence struggle that followed two centuries later. He is remembered as a just and wise king and his rule is called one of the six golden ages in Indian history. School texts in India describe Shivaji Maharaj's rule as heroic, exemplary and inspiring and he is considered the founder of the modern Marathi nation; his policies were instrumental in forging a distinct Maharashtrian identity and infusing it with strong martial and moral traditions.
A regional sectarian political party, the Shiv Sena, claims to draw inspiration from Shivaji Maharaj. The World Heritage site of Victoria Terminus and Sahar International Airport in Mumbai were renamed Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport respectively in Shivaji Maharaj's honour, as have many public buildings and spaces in recent years. The School of Naval Engineering of the Indian Navy is named as INS Shivaji.
Shivaji was the greatest Hindu king that India had produced within the last thousand years; one who was the very incarnation of lord Siva, about whom prophecies were given out long before he was born; and his advent was eagerly expected by all the great souls and saints of Maharashtra as the deliverer of the Hindus from the hands of the Mlecchas, and as one who succeeded in the reestablishment of Dharma which had been trampled under foot by the depredations of the devastating hordes of the Moghals.
—Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda also said the following: "Shivaji was one of the greatest national saviours who emancipated our society and our Dharma when they were faced with the threat of total destruction. He was a peerless hero, a pious and God-fearing king and verily a manifestation of all the virtues of a born leader of men described in our ancient scriptures. He also embodied the deathless spirit of our land and stood as the light of hope for our future."

Accounts of contemporary foreign travellers

Many foreign travellers who visited India during Shivaji Maharaj's time wrote about him.
  • Abbe Carre was a French traveller who visited India around 1670; his account was published as Voyage des Indes Orientales mêlé de plusieurs histories curieuses at Paris in 1699. Some quotes:
"Hardly had he won a battle or taken to town in one end of the kingdom than he was at the other extremity causing havoc everywhere and surprising important places. To this quickness of movement he added, like Julius Caesar, a clemency and bounty that won him the hearts of those his arms had worsted." "In his courage and rapidity he does not ill resemble the king of Sweden,Gustavus Adolphus."
  • The French traveller Francois Bernier wrote in his Travels in Mughal India:
"I forgot to mention that during pillage of Sourate, Seva-ji, the Holy Seva-ji! Respected the habitation of the reverend father Ambrose, the Capuchin missionary. 'The Frankish Padres are good men', he said 'and shall not be attacked.' He spared also the house of a deceased Delale or Gentile broker, of the Dutch, because assured that he had been very charitable while alive."
  • Cosme da Guarda says in "Life of the Celebrated Sevaji":
Such was the good treatment Shivaji accorded to people and such was the honesty with which he observed the capitulations that none looked upon him without a feeling of love and confidence. By his people he was exceedingly loved. Both in matters of reward and punishment he was so impartial that while he lived he made no exception for any person; no merit was left unrewarded, no offence went unpunished; and this he did with so much care and attention that he specially charged his governors to inform him in writing of the conduct of his soldiers, mentioning in particular those who had distinguished themselves, and he would at once order their promotion, either in rank or in pay, according to their merit. He was naturally loved by all men of valor and good conduct."




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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