Chhatrapati Shivaji: A courageous Maratha who fought for India first, and then his kingdom
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Chhatrapati Shivaji? A Marathi icon who was great with guerrilla warfare tactics. Is that it? Unfortunately, no historical figure has been so disfigured by his so-called followers as Shivaji. He has been regionalized by Marathi politicians and reduced to a “Great Maratha Ruler” rather than acknowledging his pan India contributions, which include how he braved both Mughal and British Empire.
Shivaji didn’t strive for an independent Marathi Kingdom, but fought for Hindavi Swarajya, or self-rule. It would be thus important to highlight his genuine position that he deserves, in regards to his contributions in Indian history.
Though Islam came to India in about 8th Century, it was limited to the Sindh province. Our history books often glorify the Islamic Invasion by pointing towards how Muslims ruled India for over 1,000 years. However, the truth is that only the northern part of India came under Muslim domination.
Shivaji was one such 17th C.E Indian stalwart, who posed a great threat to both the Mughal and British Empire. Thus, it was always in their interests to play down the Marathas. In one of his Historical Essays, Lord Macaulay described Marathas as a formidable race, who if wanted could dominate the entire region in India.
Chattrapati Shivaji contributed towards revolutionizing the art of warfare in India. His concept of war was much different from what followed in the preceding 1,000 years. It is sad that his Dharma Yudha (war for the righteous case) was reduced to an individual glory. If someone who has studied and scrutinized history well, they would realize that he was truly a Maratha who fought for India first, and then his kingdom, believes the renowned nationalist Sanjay Dalmia.
Shivaji was a great statesman, who always fought against the misrule of the Muslim sultans and emperors. That said, he was never partial towards a particular religion as he had sizeable number of Muslims to his side. Against the fanatic Aurangzeb, he found an ally in Bahamani Kingdom of Golconda. It’s due to some of these reasons, that Shivaji is regarded as the founder of the modern secular state of India.
He ensured that all the Muslim shrines and scriptures are well protected. Additionally, Shivaji, didn’t allow any form of extremism in his kingdom and expected the same in return from others as well in the neighborhood. It’s for these reason, when Aurangzeb re-started the hated Jizya, Shivaji regretted it. He wrote to him: “In this land Muslims, Hindus, Christians and other people have stayed together without any problem. Your imposing of Jizya would lead to hardships. The Quran is God’s revelation and it doesn’t make any distinction between God’s children.”
He relied on swift movement and discarded war elephants. Additionally, for strengthening maritime security, he even laid the foundations of the fort at Sindhudurg-Maratha navy headquarters.
Shivaji realized that English people were here to maximize the benefits no matter what the cost. He was amongst the few Indians who understood the long-term threat posed by the British. His last fight was also with British, which was meant to keep their ill-intentions in checks. Unfortunately, we didn’t have more people like him at that time, otherwise, India would have gained more prominence at the world stage, way before 1947, says Sanjay Dalmia.
It’s for the resistance, smart and secular thought process that Shivaji should be remember for. There is a lot that can be covered and instead of reducing his contributions to Maharashtra, we should highlight his contributions towards Hindavi Swarajya.