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Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosle: The Great Hero

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Shivaji Bhosle, the great Maratha Warrior, also known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosle was born on February 19, 1630, and died on April 3, 1680. He was the founder of Maratha empire in western India in 1664. He is considered a great hero in India, especially in the state of Maharashtra.

Shahaji (Shivaji’s father) was a major player in the Deccan Wars. At that time, Shahaji was a regent for the young Nizam of Ahmednagar. However after sometimes, tired of the unsettled conditions, Shahaji maharaj left Nizamshah’s service and joined the Mughal King Adilshah of Bijapur, who gave him a higher title of ‘Sar Lashkar’.

Later on, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan again attacked the Ahmednagar Kingdom of Nizamshah. At this decisive hour, Shahaji Raje returned to the military service of Nizamshah to help stiffen-up the defenses. In the meantime, an outstanding Maratha sardar Lakhuji Jadavrao was murdered on the order of the Nizamshah, and this was not acceptable to Shahaji Raje, and it prompted him to hoist the banner of independence and set up an independent kingdom.

It was during this disconcerted period only when Shivaji was born. His birth was in an independent country, as declared by his father, Shahaji Raje. Perhaps, that was the most important contributing reason for his life long desire for independence.

Shivaji was born in Shivneri Fort, Junnar, Pune and about 100 kilometres east of Mumbai. He was named Shiva, after the local Goddess Shivai, to whom his mother Jijabai had pleaded for a son. Jijabai had several other sons before Shivaji who did not survive.

Shahaji Raje,Shivaji’s father, endeavored to build on the ruins of the Nizamshahi kingdom of Ahmednagar, but was defeated by a much larger joint force of the Mughals and Adilshah. He was enforced to leave the region around Pune. He was inducted by Adilshah of Bijapur and was offered distant land holdings, at present Bangalore, but he was allowed to keep his old land tenures and holdings in Pune.

Shivaji started his rise to power in what is now the state of Maharashtra in the coastal Deccan Given these circumstances, Shahaji appointed the young Shivaji under the care of his mother Jijabai to administer the Pune holdings. A small council of ministers was appointed to assist and train Shivaji in the administration which included Shamrao Nilkanth, Balkrishna Pant,Raghunath Ballal, Sonopant and Dadoji Konddeo Apart from these ministers, military commanders Kanhoji Jedhe and Baji Pasalkar were also appointed to train Shivaji in martial arts. In 1644, Shahaji had built Lal Mahal in Pune for his wife and his son Shivaji.

Shivaji started his career as an independent young prince of a small kingdom on a mission. Shivaji used the title of king only after Shahaji’s death. His mother made an ineffaceable impression on him with her teachings, with her love for the homeland and its people. He learned much from his father’s failed attempts at political independence, his exceptional military capabilities and achievements; his knowledge of Sanskrit, Hindu ethos, patronage of the arts, his war strategies and peacetime diplomacy. Shivaji was enthused and informed by his family’s vision of independence and freedom.

Furthermore, his mother, having lost her father and brothers in a treacherous plot hatched by the regional king Nizamshah, was opposed to those rulers, due to their scorn and callousness toward the local population. Jijabai thus instilled in Shivaji a natural love for self-determination and an repugnance to external political domination. Her holiness and commitment to indigenous culture and her recounting of tales from the great Indian epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana molded Shivaji’s character and helped him to be unequaled especially in his tolerant attitude towards other religions as well as in his fair and kind treatment of women and non-combatants.

Shahaji’s vision, Jijabai’s and Dadoji’s teachings and motivation, and the able training by military commanders such as Pansambal and BajiPasalkar were the main influences which groomed Shivaji into a valiant and fearless military leader as well as a responsible administrator. Shivaji along with his friends took a blood oath to fight against the Mughal Empire. And young Shivaji, brisk and enthusiastic as he was, wasted no time in setting off on a path of freedom and glory.

At the tender age of 17 Shivaji carried out his first military action by attacking and capturing Torna Fort of the Bijapur kingdom, in 1645. By the year 1647,he had captured Kondana and Rajgad forts and had complete control of the Pune. By 1654 he had captured forts in the Western Ghats and along the Konkan coast. In a bid to incapacitate this move of the Marathas under Shivaji’s able leadership, Adilshah had his father;Shahaji arrested by deceitful means, and he sent one army against Sambhaji, Shivaji’s elder brother at Bangalore and another against Shivaji at Purandhar. However both Shivaji and Shambaji brothers defeated the invading armies securing the release of their father. Thereafter, Afzal Khan, a seasoned commander and a skillful warrior, was then sent to destroy Shivaji, in an effort to put down what was seen by Bijapur as a regional revolt.

Afzal Khan, after leaving Bijapur to confront Shivaji, first defiled the temples of goddess Bhavani in Tuljapur and Pandharpur. The intent was to get a disturbed and shaken Shivaji out in the open to face him in a pitched battle. Instead, Shivaji sent a letter saying he was not at all eager to face Afzal Khan and sought some type of understanding. Shivaji upon vigilantly weighing his options, strategically decided to confront and surprise Afzal Khan under the guise of diplomatic negotiations. A meeting was arranged between Afzal Khan and Shivaji at the foothills of Fort Pratapgad.

Shivaji, armed himself with a weapon called tiger claw and armor prior to the meeting. Afzal Khan attempted to stab Shivaji in the back with a dagger as they embraced at the onset of their meeting. Shivaji was unscathed due to the armor he wore under his clothes, and he counter attacked Afzal Khan with the tiger claw, spilled his blood and entrailed on the ground. Thereupon Afzal Khan’s deputy, Krishnaji and his bodyguard Sayyed Banda attacked Shivaji with swords but Jiva, Shivaji’s personal bodyguard fatally struck them down with a ‘medieval weapon) Afzal Khan managed to trip up out of the tent to get help but was immediately slain by Shivaji’s associate Sambhaji, before he could alert his commanders or raise an alarm.

To counter the loss at Pratapgad and to defeat the newly emerging Maratha power, another army, was sent against Shivaji, commanded by renowned Bijapur’s general Rustemjaman. With cavalry of five thousand Marathas, Shivaji attacked them near Kolhapur in the year 1659. In a swift movement, Shivaji led a full frontal attack at the center of the enemy forces while other two portions of his cavalry attacked the flanks. This battle last for several hours and at the end Bijapuri forces were soundly defeated and Rustemjaman ignominiously fled the battlefield.

. This great and absolute victory made Shivaji a hero of Maratha folklore and a legendary figure among his people. The large amount of captured weapons, horses, armor and other materials helped to strengthen the embryonic and emerging Maratha army.

In 1660, Adil Shah, sent Siddi Johar to put down Shivaji once again. He ordered his large army north to Kolhapur, Maharashtra to face and defeat Shivaji once and for all. At that time Shivaji was camped at the fort Panhala with a small part of his army, near Kolhapur, on the borders of his dominion. Siddi Johar’s army camped near Panhala, cutting off supply routes to the fort. Shivaji, decided to escape to a nearby fort Vishaalgad, where he could regroup his soldiers to fight a decisive battle.

Shivaji sent few misleading messages to Siddi Johar indicating that he was willing to negotiate and was looking for accommodation, understanding and mercy. With this news Adilshahi soldiers relaxed, and Shivaji escaped under the cover of a very stormy night.

In 1660, Aurangzeb sent his maternal uncle Shaista Khan, with a huge army to defeat Shivaji. He was an experienced commander who had defeated Shahaji in the same region in the year 1636. Within three years Shivaji had lost most of his invasions to a relentless attack by Shaista Khan and his army numbering over one lac. Shaista Khan, detained Pune and the nearby fort of Chakan. Although he held Pune for almost one year, he had little additional success. He had set up his residence at Lal Mahal, Shivaji’s palace, in the city of Pune.

Shaista Khan kept the security in Pune very stiff. Shivaji planned a daring attack on Shaista Khan amidst that tight security. In April 1663, a wedding party had obtained special permission for a procession. Under the guise of this procession; Shivaji planned an attack using the wedding party as cover. The Marathas disguised themselves as the bridegroom’s procession and entered the city of Pune. Shivaji, having spent much of his youth in Pune, knew his way around the city and his own palace of Lal Mahal.

After overpowering and slaying the palace guards, the Marathas broke into the mansion by breaking through a wall. Shivaji confronted Shaista Khan and severed Shaista Khan’s fingers with his sword as he fled through an open window. Shaista Khan narrowly escaped death; lost not only his son but many of his guards and soldiers in the raid.

Within twenty-four hours of this courageous attack, Shaista Khan left Pune and headed North towards Agra. An angered Aurangzeb transferred him to distant Bengal as a punishment for bringing humiliation to the Mughals with his very personal and ignoble defeat in Pune.

In 1666, Aurangzeb on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday ceremony, summoned Shivaji to Agra, along with his six years old son Sambhaji, Aurangzeb’s plan was to send Shivaji to Khandahar, to consolidate the Mughal empire’s north-western frontier. However in the court, Aurangzeb made Shivaji stand behind military commanders of his court. Shivaji took offense to this seeming abuse and stormed out of court and was promptly placed under house arrest, under the watch of Fulad Khan of Agra.

From his spies, Shivaji came to know that Aurangzeb planned to shift him to Raja Vitthaldas’s Haveli and then to possibly kill him or send him to fight in the Afghan frontier. As a result he planned his escape. The entire plan of escape is by far the unsurpassed example of analysis, planning and execution ever found in history. He pretended almost fatal sickness and requested to send most of his contingent back to Deccan. Thereafter, on his request, he was allowed to send daily shipments of sweets and gifts to saints and temples in Agra as offerings for getting well.

After several days and weeks of sending out boxes containing sweets, Shivaji hid himself in one of the boxes and managed to escape. Sambhaji, his six years old son had been smuggled out a couple of days earlier. Shivaji and his son fled to the Deccan disguised as holy men) Some people claim that after the escape, rumours of Sambhaji’s death were intentionally spread by Shivaji himself in order to deceive the Mughals and to protect Sambhaji.

In January 1670, Shivaji launched a major, multi-pronged assault on Mughal garrisons in Maharashtra. Within six months he had regained most of his old territory and more. From 1670 to 1674 Shivaji extended his kingdom to include major portions of Maharashtra and far in to the south including parts of modern-day Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Shivaji was formally crowned Chhatrapati on June 6, 1674 at Raigad fort, and given the title Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Pandit Gaga Bhatt, a renowned Brahmin from Varanasi, officially presided over the ceremony declaring that Shivaji’s lineage was bonafide and recognized Kshatriya.

However on the 3rd April in the year 1680, Shivaji died at 12 noon at Raigad, after running a fever for three weeks. It is said that he died due to contracting a disease called as Bloody Flux. The funeral ceremony was arranged in Raigad in presence of his son Rajaram, and wife Soyarabai. After Shivaji’s death, his elder son Sambhaji fought for control of the kingdom. After a brief struggle Sambhaji was crowned as the king.


Source by Chouhan Rajul

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