Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

Shivaji made positive that his troopers revered the sanctity of mosques and the Quran Sharif to make sure that his combat in opposition to the Mughals didn’t grow to be combat in opposition to Islam, explains Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

As we have fun the delivery anniversary of Shivaji the Great on February 19, it’s time to mirror on his many-faceted persona.

Above all, he was a statesman akin to was not born in India for a protracted, very long time.

On April 27, 1645, an occasion that befell on a distant excessive plateau in the Sahyadri mountains modified the course of Indian historical past.

On that day, 16-year-old Shivaji with a dozen associates took an oath to determine ‘Hindavi Swarajya’ (Indian Self-Rule) at the Raireshwar temple, 80 km south west of Pune.

Nearly 250 years later, Rabindranath Tagore was to put in writing:

Just a few distant centuries in the past, on a nondescript day
I can barely think about
Upon what craggy hilltop, inside a dense sunless forest
Lightning-like, throughout your brow, there flashed
The thought from above-
With a singular spiritual thread, this torn up, fragmented
Bharata, I shall bind in One.’
(Shivaji Utsav, written in 1904; Translation by Dr Monish R Chatterji, University of Dayton).


Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

IMAGE: Shivaji’s portrait in the British Library. All Photographs: Kind courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Shivaji the Great is justly celebrated for his navy achievements like killing Afzal Khan in private fight, main a commando raid on the Mughal garrison in Pune and his daring escape from Agra.

But his achievements in the discipline of diplomacy and realpolitik are usually not so well-known.

In the seventeenth century, he practiced nice statesmanship to create a ‘Hindavi Swarajya’ and efficiently take care of a two-front state of affairs.

As Shivaji embarked upon his marketing campaign to determine ‘Swarajya’ (self-rule) he confronted menace on two fronts.

In the South, the highly effective Sultanate of Bijapur was an instantaneous menace whereas the far better menace of Mughal/Rajput combines lurked in the North.

Two years earlier than he routed Afzal Khan in the battle of Pratapgad in 1657, he opened negotiations with the then) Prince Aurangzeb who was the governor of the Deccan.

In the preliminary levels, as he snatched territory from V=Bijapur, he adroitly exploited the Sunni-Mughal antipathy to the Shia sultanates of Bijapur and made positive of the neutrality of Mughal/Rajput mix whereas he decimated the Bijapur sultanate.

After having achieved a decisive victory over the Bijapur forces, in 1664 as Aurangzeb despatched a big power to take care of th Marathas, Shivaji signed a truce with Bijapur and helped them test the Mughal/Rajput empire.

After he tried to work out peace with the Mughals, he anticipated the Mughal invasion from the north. To take care of this he shifted the centre of gravity of his kingdom from the Deccan plateau to the Konkan coast.

The terrain — a rugged coastal space — was unsuitable for motion of the Mughal adversary’s heavy weapons, cavalry and struggle elephants.

In this latter interval of his reign, he used his sources to construct a strong navy and constructed many sea forts, an space the place the Mughals have been weak.

He additionally stitched an alliance with the Bahamani sultanate in the south and created a Southern Coalition.

Portuguese information of the interval additionally point out that Shivaji had deliberate an alternate capital in the deep South (Tamil Nadu) at Jinji, practically 1,000 km away from Raigad, his capital in Maharashtra.

Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

IMAGE: An early twentieth century portray of Shivaji combating Afzal Khan.

Shivaji’s best success was that whereas he fought the misrule of the Muslim sultans and emperors, he gained over sizeable numbers of Muslims to his facet.

In this sense, Shivaji might be rightly referred to as the founder of the trendy secular state of India.

He ensured that in his area Muslim shrines and folks have been effectively protected and handled equally.

Even modern Muslim historians grudgingly admit this truth.

Kafi Khan, the Mughal court docket historian, rejoiced when Shivaji died: ‘The Kafir has gone to hell,’ he wrote. But he admitted that Shivaji handled the Quran Sharif with respect and by no means touched mosques.

Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

IMAGE: A statue of younger Shivaji together with his mom Jijabai put in at the Shivneri fort.

Aurangzeb had revived the hated jizya — a tax that needed to be paid by non-Muslims. Shivaji’s strategy to the query of faith comes out clearly in his letter to Aurangzeb.

In a regretful tone, Shivaji wrote, ‘In this land, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and different individuals have stayed collectively with none drawback. Your personal great-grandfather, Akbar, was well-known for his tolerance and equity to all faiths. Your imposing of this tax will result in horrible hardships for poor individuals and your empire is not going to survive.’

‘The Quran is God’s revelation and it doesn’t make a distinction between god’s youngsters. In the mosque the Muslims give azaan and Hindus ring bells of their temples, so what’s the distinction?’

To guarantee peace, he made positive that his troopers revered the sanctity of mosques and the Quran Sharif to make sure that his combat in opposition to the Mughals didn’t grow to be combat in opposition to Islam.

Aurangzeb, who presided over the Mughal/Rajput empire, flouted each norm that Shivaji adopted.

When Aurangzeb personally moved south to combat the Marathas, half his Mughal/Rajput military was left in the north to combat the Sikh and Jat revolts.

He didn’t try to keep away from a two-front struggle. He adopted a coverage of spiritual intolerance, destroyed the Mathura and Kashi temples and imposed jizya on Hindus.

Aurangzeb additionally embarked upon a marketing campaign of forcible conversions to Islam in lots of areas together with the Kashmir valley.

By the time he died in 1707, a defeated and pissed off emperor, Aurangzeb had destroyed the Mughal empire.

Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

IMAGE: A twentieth century depiction of Shivaji on the option to Purandar. Photograph: M V Dhurandhar/Wikimedia Commons

Shivaji was one of the only a few Indian rulers of the seventeenth century who foresaw the menace the English posed to India.

‘The English are not any strange merchants and cash lenders. Behind them stands a strong kingdom. They are so intelligent that they’ll steal from below your toes, however you wouldn’t realise. Be extraordinarily cautious whereas coping with them,’ Shivaji wrote to his officer in the Konkan.

The English usually offered shelter to the Siddi of Janjira in Bombay. The Siddi had by this time switched his alliance to the Mughals.

The British, with business pursuits in Surat, have been inclined to maintain the Mughals in good humour.

The Siddi took full benefit of this case and launched a number of raids on Maratha territory utilizing his energy at sea.

When confronted with the Maratha naval menace his ships took shelter in Bombay harbour that had by now grow to be the fundamental English base on the western coast.

Shivaji realised that the solely manner he might test overseas powers and the Siddi was by establishing robust forts on the coast to blockade Bombay.

Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

IMAGE: Shivaji at Aurangzeb’s darbar. Photograph: M V Dhurandhar/Wikimedia Commons

In April 1672, Shivaji meant to occupy the small island of Khanderi, south of Bombay. The island instructions the approaches to Bombay harbour and by occupying it Shivaji thought of checking the English.

After cautious preparation, work on the constructing of the fort began in September of the identical yr.

Daulat Khan and Mainayak Bhandari, Shivaji’s principal naval officers, have been in cost of the work.

The English claimed the island was half of the Bombay group of islands and belonged to them.

The Siddi and the English threatened to launch a joint operation in opposition to the Marathas.

Shivaji at the time was concerned in an expedition to the south and the Marathas briefly deserted the undertaking.

Seven years later, when Shivaji discovered time to concentrate to this space, work on fortifying the island was resumed.

To convey efficient stress on the English, Shivaji determined to menace the Bombay harbour itself with a land menace.

He assembled a 4,000 robust power in the neighborhood of Kalyan to assault Bombay. But he wanted permission from the Portuguese for passage by way of Sashti which the Portuguese refused.

With the reminiscences of Shivaji’s devastating assault on Surat recent of their minds, there was panic in Bombay.

Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

IMAGE: The Maratha empire in 1680.

Khanderi is a small island positioned 10 miles to the south of Bombay and is 3 miles from the mainland.

On September 2, 1779, the Maratha navy landed a power of 500 males on Khanderi to start out work on the fortifications.

Two hundred members of this power have been workmen whereas the relaxation have been troopers. The English determined to starve the garrison into submission by launching a blockade of the island.

Four giant ships have been despatched from Bombay for this process. The Marathas, below cowl of evening, despatched provisions to the garrison in small ships.

On September 19, the English tried to land on the island, however the alert defenders foiled the try.

Later in October, extra ships joined the blockade and it began having some impact. The blockade continued for greater than three months.

In December the English despatched a message to the garrison asking them to give up. Shivaji had given strict directions to his males to combat to the final.

In January 1680, Shivaji took motion in opposition to the English manufacturing facility at Rajapur and imprisoned the Englishmen there.

This pressured the English to open negotiations on January 8, 1680. The negotiations resulted in a treaty between the Marathas and the English and on January 30, the blockade of Khanderi was withdrawn.

The Maratha base at Khanderi was to be a supply of fixed bother to the British in the future. It was an awesome defensive victory for the Marathas.

Shivaji: Founder of the Indian secular State

IMAGE: The statue of Shivaji reverse the Gateway of India.

Shivaji died lower than two months after this conflict. It is important that the final main battle of his was a naval engagement in opposition to the English.

Had he lived he would have given better weight to the constructing of the navy and focused on the coastal areas.

The Marathas had begun commerce with Muscat and Mochi; the fundamental commodity being salt.

Shivaji additionally tried to determine a monopoly in the betel nut commerce. He was eyeing the profitable commerce in spices.

Shivaji’s dying gave a very completely different route to Indian historical past because it was a sign for the formidable Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to return South to complete off the conquest that had eluded earlier Mughal emperors.

In the life and dying wrestle in opposition to the Mughal empire, the Marathas had no time to spare for the menace posed by the English and for the subsequent 70 years, there was relative peace between the two.

The English did not take a lot benefit of the weak place of the Marathas as a really in a position seaman, Kanhoji Angrey, had taken cost of the Maratha navy by then. He quickly constructed up his energy to such an extent that the English reluctantly paid him taxes and his ‘go’ was wanted for a protected passage in the western sea.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) studied Maratha historical past as the First General Palit Military History Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
Colonel Athale is the writer of Maratha Struggle for Empire.
This column relies on extracts from his forthcoming ebook Story of the Mighty Marathas and their Empire.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/

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