CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI - THE KING WHO CARED FOR HIS PEOPLE Part 3

  • By Uday S. Kulkarni
  • March 30, 2018
  • @MulaMutha
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Coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

 

Continued from Chhatrapati Shivaji - The King Who Cared For His People Part 2

The ‘phoney’ peace that prevailed after Chhatrapati Shivaji escaped from Agra and returned to his capital at Rajgad was fully utilised in toning up his administration and strengthening his forts. Characteristically, we have no indication from available documents what the raja was contemplating. In July 1669 the English write of ‘Shivaji being very quiet, not offering to molest the king’s country’. 

In September 1669, Aurangzeb embarked on the second phase of his policy of destroying important temples of the ‘infidels’ and ordered the destruction of the Kashi Vishwanath temple built in the previous century by Raja Man Singh. The destruction was done in a haphazard manner and to this day relics of the old temple are visible. Aurangzeb’s son Muazzam was the Viceroy in the Deccan and the Emperor was suspicious of his ‘friendship’ with Shivaji. The first strike was when Aurangzeb sent an order to arrest two Maratha ministers in Aurangabad. Muazzam heard the order was on its way and quietly asked the two – Pratap rao Gujar and Niraji pant – to leave before it reaches him. Constant war had depleted the Mughal treasury and the Deccan forces had been reduced. These disbanded soldiery took service with Shivaji. Another mean measure that offended Shivaji was the deduction of one lakh rupees from the jagir allotted to him in Varhad. The die was cast.

‘Take the forts’, is the cryptic order Shivaji gave his chiefs is all we get from the Sabhasad bakhar written a few decades later. The first strike was the imposing fort of Sinhagad that stood between Rajgad and Pune. On 4th February 1670, Tanaji Malusare who was the head of a thousand ‘mavala’ soldiers, devised a daring plan to take Sinhagad at night. Using ropes, and choosing a stiff unguarded cliff to the west of the fort, some two to three hundred men accompanied Tanaji and surprised the Rajput guard of the fort’s havaldar Udebhan Rathod. A ferocious slaughter is said to have taken place among the defenders before Tanaji and Udebhan confronted each other. Tanaji lost his shield and took the sword blows on his left hand. Soon both were dead. Seeing Tanaji dead, the Marathas panicked and began to rush for the rope ladders. It is then that Tanaji’s younger brother managed to cut down the guards at the Kalyan gate of the fort and rushed in with reinforcements. The battle was renewed and the fort taken before daylight. The capture of Sinhagad was followed by the taking of other forts like Purandar and places like Kalyan and Bhiwandi. The Jedhe shakavali says Shivaji had taken many forts by June including Lohagad. 

In October 1670, Shivaji compounded the insults inflicted on the Mughals by his second attack on Surat. With 15000 horse, Shivaji struck on 3 October and save the European factories was in occupation of the whole town. For three days, at leisure, the city was denuded of its wealth. Attempts to attack the English were foiled by the garrison. However, when Shivaji himself appeared before the fort, the English sent him gifts of cloth and weapons with two men to wait on him. Then, as he had come, Shivaji left warning them to pay an indemnity annually failing which he would come again. It was later found that a sum of sixty-six lakhs was taken from Surat. This second attack on Surat destroyed the commerce of the city and it is no coincidence that the English moved to Mumbai shortly afterwards.

There were more battles, near Nashik, at Chandore, in Khandesh and Varhad. Mughal resistance was nearly absent except at Dindori. It was at this time that the Bundela prince Chhatra Sal met Shivaji asking to serve under him. Shivaji wisely counselled him to fight for his own people and sent him back. In succeeding years Shivaji managed to wrest more forts from the Mughals in Pune, Nashik, Baglana and the Konkan. The war with the Mughals and Bijapur went on through the years 1673 and 1674, with Shivaji’s men cutting off and capturing forts and towns. The English President Gerald Aungier wrote, ‘Shivaji bears himself manfully against all his enemies’. 

In the battle at Umrani in 1673, the error Commander in chief Pratap rao Gujar committed in letting off Bahlol Khan of Bijapur met with the strongest censure from his king and in early 1674, this Commander in chief tried to vindicate his reputation against the same enemy, perishing in the attempt. In April 1674, Hambir rao Mohite was appointed the new Commander. At about this time, there was a withdrawal of Mughal Generals and armies from the Deccan due to a fresh threat in the north west. The time was right for Shivaji to declare himself an independent king with the prefix ‘Chhatrapati’. A grand coronation was held at his new capital Raigad in the Konkan in June 1674. He ruled over a compact kingdom from Phonda and northern parts of the Carnatic in the south to the forts around Nashik. Baglana, north Konkan. Soon the coastal regions of Karwar were also annexed to his kingdom.

The Chhatrapati was coronated at Raigad as a declaration that a new independent Hindu king had assumed charge, there was no subterfuge anymore of being a vassal of the Mughal Emperor. This also elevated him above the rest of the Maratha jagirdars who had so far refused to recognise his pre-eminent status. Gaga Bhat of Benaras, considered the most learned in all the shastras was specially summoned to perform the ceremonies. It is said nearly a hundred thousand men were hosted at the fort of Raigad. The lifelong ambition of Jijau, Shivaji’s old mother, of seeing her son as the king was fulfilled. She died just twelve days later.

The wars in the years 1673 to 1675 and the expense on his coronation had consumed a large part of his treasure. The house of Bijapur was in hopeless decline. Looking ahead, Shivaji planned a daring attack far from his homeland in the Bijapur Carnatic on the east coast. Part of it was already under his step brother Venkoji and the rest under two other rulers. The Maratha king resolved in early 1677 to set out for the south after placing his ministers in charge in Maharashtra. In this, he was aided by the shrewd Qutbshahi minister Madanna who advised his sultan to invite Shivaji for the conquest of the rich east coast and provide him every help in this enterprise. Madanna’s real intentions it is said was to restore the Hindu kingdoms in the south that had been taken by the Afghan adventurer Sher Khan. A happy confluence of thought between Madanna and Chhatrapati Shivaji himself thus brought about the attack on the eastern Carnatic. Another factor was Raghunath Hanmante, who was for long a regent to Venkoji. However, when Venkoji threw off his advice, Hanmante travelled to the west, met Shivaji and urged him to attack the south. 

With the Mughals still occupied in the north west and Bijapur in disarray, Shivaji came to terms with the Mughal Viceroy and taking an army of fifty thousand men who were all told to maintain peace in the Qutbshahi, he made an entry into the city of Hyderabad. Accompanying him were a galaxy of stars in the army as well as administrative heads. A magnificent welcome in the court where the sultan heard the Maratha king spell-bound for many hours before heaping many costly gifts on him. In addition to defraying the expenses, the Qutbshahi artillery and a force of five thousand men were also sent with Shivaji. From here, passing through the Shiv shrine at Shri Shailya, where he spent nearly ten days (and at one stage had to be persuaded to proceed onwards by his ministers as he was immersed in his devotions) Shivaji descended to the eastern coast and captured the fort of Ginjee, then the strongest fort in the south from Nasir Muhammad Khan. Immediately he strengthened the fort by building strong walls and bastions so that it was considered invincible at the time. Leaving a part of his army to take the strong fort of Vellore, he marched south. In June 1677 he was on his way to deal with Sher Khan Lodi.

Meanwhile, the Qutbshah discovered that the fort of Ginjee was to be retained by Shivaji – and he stopped the flow of money to the army. Shivaji therefore raised the money from many of the rich landlords and polygars of the place. Sher Khan, based near Trichy, came out to face Shivaji with an army of four thousand horsemen and saw the Maratha king with his army of six thousand strong cavalry. Just as Sher Khan ordered an attack, he saw that the task was hopeless and ordered a full retreat. Chasing Sher Khan from place to place, the Marathas pushed him into the forest where he lost his horses and elephants to the pursuing Maratha army. In ten days Sher Khan had lost his forts and sent feelers to Shivaji asking for terms. 

This brought the Maratha army to the bank of the Coleroon which is the northern most stream of the Cauvery that joins the sea. After subduing the Nayak of Madura, Shivaji at last met his step brother Venkoji of Thanjavur. After a few preliminary days of courtesies, Shivaji demanded a share in his patrimony. No agreement emerged and one day Vyankoji escaped from the camp without leave. ‘Was I going to imprison him?’, Shivaji exclaimed and said he has acted like a child. Eventually Shivaji did not cross the Cauvery but occupied the entire country north of it. It was here that the Dutch envoy Germaine visited his camp and reported, ‘His camp is without any pomp and unencumbered by baggage or women. There are only two tents in it, but of coarse material and very small; one for himself and one for his Prime Minister’. Germaine also reported that Shivaji carries three horses for every two men – a method later adopted by Baji rao Peshwa.

Shivaji left capable men behind to hold the Carnatic and administer it well. He received many gifts from the Dutch, the French and the English – from who he obtained many antidotes to poisons. On his return he captured many towns such as Kolar, Bangalore, Sira and Hoskote which had belonged to Shahji raje Bhonsle. In August 1678, Vellore fort surrendered to the Marathas. Venkoji made one last effort to take back the territory north of the Coleroon but after an initial victory over Santaji Bhonsle, lost the battle. A peace was soon declared between the two brothers Shivaji had to face a fresh Mughal threat in his homeland. From here, after an abortive attempt to take Bijapur’s fort by some diplomatic wrangling, he returned to the fort of Panhala in April 1678.

In the remaining two years of his life, Chhatrapati Shivaji made an effort to link up the two branches of his kingdom by conquering the intervening parts. He met partial success north of the Tungabhadra, but with the Mughal General Diler Khan pressing Bijapur, Shivaji began to create a system of dividing his kingdom between his two sons. The crown prince Sambhaji was tutored in administration at Sangameshwar while Rajaram – still very young – left in Raigad. In the midst of this Shivaji was shocked by the sudden departure of Sambhaji to join the Mughals. The cause of this remains unknown to this day. However, in the following year, presumably unhappy in Mughal ranks, Sambhaji came back and his father sent out an advance army to receive him. 

There was some desultory fighting near Bijapur and Aurangabad against the Mughals in the last year of his life, but the final campaign was near Mumbai. The islands of Khanderi and Underi at the mouth of Mumbai harbour had the potential to check the English and Shivaji sent his navy under Mainac Bhandari to capture the island and build a fort on it. This was actively opposed by the English and in October 1679 a fleet of sixty small Maratha ships attacked eight English ships that sought to enforce a siege and land on the island. The ‘Dover’ was captured by the Marathas and finally just one ship ‘Revenge’ survived, chasing off the Maratha attack. The English were forced to call for a truce and the fort was built. However, the twin island of Underi was likewise occupied by the Siddi of Janjira. Underi was finally captured by the Marathas only in 1759.

By December 1679, Shivaji’s health began to fail and in the last week of March 1680 he became seriously ill. The last illness of little less than two weeks ended on Hanuman Jayanti, the full moon of the month of Chaitra. 

Shivaji stands out in the times he lived by his high personal character and morals. Absence of any vice, a high level of spirituality, empathy for his people and a strong sense of justice can all be attributed for his success in forging an independent kingdom spread from Khandesh to the Cauvery in his own lifetime. After his death, his virtues are well encapsulated in Samarth Ramdas’ lines

शिवरायांचे आठवावे रूप। शिवरायांचा आठवावा प्रताप ।
शिवरायांचा आठवावा साक्षेप। भूमंडळी ।।१।।

शिवरायांचे कैसें बोलणें। शिवरायांचे कैसें चालणें ।
शिवरायांची सलगी देणे। कैसी असे ।।२।।

सकल सुखांचा केला त्याग। म्हणोनि साधिजें तो योग ।

राज्यसाधनाची लगबग। कैसीं केली ।।३।।

याहुनी करावें विशेष ।तरीच म्हणवावें पुरुष ।

या उपरीं आता विशेष। काय लिहावे ।।४।।

Roughly translated,

Remember Shivarai’s image, his daring exploits,

His perseverance, on this earth …1

How he spoke, how he behaved

How he endeared himself ….2

Sacrificing all his pleasures he could gain his ambition,

The pain to establish a kingdom, see how it was done ….3

Only when one does more than this, should one be called a man,

More than this, what can I write?.....4

References

1. ‘Shivaji and his times’ by Jadunath Sarkar.

2. ‘Shivaji, his life and times’ by GB Mehendale.

Pictures are from Sachitra Shivcharita published in 1930 by the Raja of Aundh. The painting of the procession is by Raja Bhavanrao pant Pratinidhi and the painting of the coronation is by Rao Bahadur MV Dhurandhar.

To see pictures of Shivaji Temple in Chennai where he visited in 1677.

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