THEN CAME SHIVAJI
The Hindus had fought valiantly against both the Turco-Afghan and Turco-Mongol barbarians who did their best to subjugate the Hindu infidels by extracting jizya from them, destroying temples, enslaving and raping Hindu women etc. For the most part, however, Hindus had merely been fighting to survive and to preserve their traditions rather than going out for the kill and liberating their lands totally. Here comes another twist in the tale. This time it’s a good one for us pagans.
The turning point in Hindu history came with the rise of Shivaji Bhonsle who took a pledge along with his friends at Raireshwar to liberate India from the Mlecchas (Turks) and establish Hindavi Swarajya (Hindu self-rule).
Shivaji had been raised by his mother Jijabai who instilled Dharmic values in him. Shivaji’s father Shahaji Bhonsle was a general in the army of Adil Shah of Bijapur. Though mostly absent from Shivaji’s early life, Shahaji deeply cared for the well being of both Shivaji and Jijabai. Many historians believe that ‘Hindavi Swarajya’ was actually the dream of Shahaji. Shahaji called himself a Sisodia Rajput in a letter to Adil Shah.
Shivaji revolted against the despotic rule of Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur. To quell Shivaji, the mother of the Sultan – Badi Begum sent a Bijapuri general – Afzal Khan to kill Shivaji. Afzal Khan set out with a large army of ten thousand soldiers. In a bid to force Shivaji to come out in open, he detoured to desecrate Hindu sacred places, including Pandharpur, the most important pilgrimage site in Maharashtra. He also captured Tuljapur, where his Adilshahi forces razed the statue of the Bhavani. He then called Shivaji for a meeting at Pratapgad to which Shivaji agreed. According to Marathi folklore, Bhavani Herself appeared before Shivaji prior to the battle and promised him victory over the Mleccha.
The confrontation resulted in a battle which was won by the Marathas despite being heavily outnumbered by the Bijapur army.
Afzal Khan had no plans to negotiate and had already planned to kill Shivaji. Having anticipated this deceit, Shivaji was fully prepared for the upcoming assault. Shivaji wore an armor that shielded him from the attack of Afzal Khan and tore Afzal Khan’s back with his weapon called ‘Baagh Nakh’. Afzal Khan was later executed by a Maratha soldier when the Bijapuri soldiers tried to carry him away to safety. The confrontation resulted in a battle which was won by the Marathas despite being heavily outnumbered by the Bijapur army. This victory made Shivaji a legendary figure amongst the Marathi people.
Furious, the Sultan sent an army to avenge the defeat at Pratapgad. The Marathas led by Shivaji attacked this army and defeated it near Kolhapur. In response to this, the Sultan of Bijapur sent his general Siddi Jauhar who allied with the Mughals and laid siege to the fort of Panhala where Shivaji was encamped. Shivaji managed to escape though and his general Bajiprabhu Deshpande stayed back with 300 soldiers in a last stand battle against the forces of Bijapur. Bajiprabhu sacrificed his life so that Shivaji could escape.
The Marathas came in direct conflict with the Mughals when Badi Begum requested Aurangzeb for his help. Aurangzeb responded to this request by sending his maternal uncle Shaista Khan to defeat Shivaji. Shaista Khan commanded a mighty army of one and a half lakh soldiers along with a powerful artillery. Shaista Khan captured Pune and took up residence in Shivaji’s own palace- Lal Mahal.
Jai Singh was possibly the ablest general of Aurangazeb and managed to defeat Shivaji.
Shivaji and band of some 200 followers infiltrated Pune, using a wedding procession as cover. They overcame the palace guards, breached the wall, and entered Shaista Khan’s quarters, killing all Mughals. Shaista Khan managed to escape having lost a thumb in the attack. Aurangzeb transferred him to Bengal as a form of punishment for this embarrassment.
An Uzbek general – Kartalab Khan was sent to defeat Shivaji at Umberkhind but the Marathas managed to defeat him too. Furious, Shivaji decided to sack the Mughal city of Surat as a form of retaliation. Shivaji was until then derogatorily referred to as a ‘mountain rat’ by Aurangzeb. However, the plunder of a prosperous port city by the mountain rat terrified Aurangzeb and forced him to send the king of Amber- Jai Singh to quell Shivaji. Jai Singh was possibly the ablest general of Aurangzeb and managed to defeat Shivaji, forcing him to sign the treaty of Purandar wherein Shivaji was forced to give up many of his forts to the Mughals. In a letter to Jai Singh, Shivaji spoke about his desire to free Hindustan from the Turks and establish Hindavi Swarajya.
Shivaji wrote, “I have heard that thou hast come to make battle upon me and to subjugate the Deccan. Thou desirest in this world to make thy face glow with blood drawn from the hearts and the eyes of the Hindus. If thou hadst come of thy own accord to conquer the Deccan, my eyes and my head could have been laid on earth for thee to tread upon. I would have marched with my whole force at the stirrup of thy horse and would have yielded up to thee the country from one end to the other. But thou hast, in fact, come to conquer at the instance of Aurangzeb and under the instigation of those who desire to destroy the Hindu.
I do not know how I shall deal with thee. If I join thee, there is no manliness in it. For, brave men are not time servers. The lion pursues not the policy of the fox. Or, if I lift up the sword and an axe, then the Hindus on both sides will suffer. The greater sorrow is that my sword, which thirsts’for the blood of the Mussalmans, should be drawn from the scabbard for some other purpose. Had the Turks had come to fight this battle, then indeed the prey would have come to the lion in its lair. For, they are Rakshasas in the guise of men devoid of justice and religion, and sinful. When supremacy could not be secured by Afzal Khan, and Shaista Khan proved no better. Thou art engaged to fight me because he (Aurangzeb) himself is not fit to bear battle with me. He desires that no strong persons should be left surviving among the Hindus in this world. How canst thou feel proud at the mercy of that mean man?
So that, from one end of the Deccan to the other, I may wipe out the name and every vestige of Mahomedanism.
Dost thou know how the services of Joharsing were rewarded? Dost thou know by what means he desired to bring calamities to Prince Chhatrasal? Dost thou know what calamities that sinful man has left inflicted on other Hindus also? This is not the time for fighting between ourselves since a grave danger faces the Hindus. Our children, our country, our wealth, our God, our temples and our holy worshippers. The most strenuous efforts should be made at this time to protect Hindus, Hindustan and the Hindu Religion. Polish thy sword and thy intellect and prove thyself a Turk to the Turks. If thou joinest hands with Jaswantsing and divestest thy heart of the layers of trickery. And if thou bringest about’ unity with the Raj Rana (of Mewar), then indeed there is hope for great things. Do you all rush and fight from all sides; tramp down that serpent under the rock. So that he may for some time l occupy himself with ruminating on the consequences of his own actions, and may not further entangle the Deccan in his meshes. And I may in the meantime with the aid of these and other heroes make away with the other two Sultans (of Bijapur and Golkonda). So that I may rain the shower of swords from the thundering clouds of my army on the Mussalmans. So that, from one end of the Deccan to the other, I may wipe out the name and every vestige of Mahomedanism. Thereafter, with the assistance of wise statesmen and the army, like the river swirling and foaming as it emerges from the mountains of the Deccan, I may come out into the plains. And forthwith present myself for service with you, and then after that hear you render your accounts. And then we — four — may again inaugurate a grim war and devote the battlefield to it. And then the tide of our armies may be made to reach the crumbling walls of Delhi. So that nothing may be left of the Aurang (throne) or the Zeb (lust), so that nothing may remain of the sword of his tyranny or the net of his policy of duplicity or dissimulation.”
Shivaji was invited to the court of Aurangzeb for the birthday celebrations of the Mughal emperor. Jai Singh convinced Shivaji to go and even put him under the protection of his son Ram Singh. Shivaji was deliberately insulted by Aurangzeb at the court and was made to stand behind many petty mansabdars, several of them had even been defeated by him in the past. This made Shivaji angry and he stormed out of the court in protest against this treatment.
Shivaji was immediately placed under arrest.
To be continued…