Let’s salute the legendary Maratha King Shivaji on his birth anniversary-Puri
Jaswant Singh Puri/ February 19,2023
Chhatrapati Shivaji Jayanti is celebrated each year on 19th February to remember and praise Shivaji’s courage, warfare tactics and administrative skills. Shivaji was born on 19th February,1630 at Shivneri Fort in Pune district. He was born to Shahaji Bhonsle, a Maratha general and Jijabai, a pious woman whose moral and religious traits left an indelible influence on him. The parents named their son Shivaji after local goddess Shivai.
Shivaji was the creator of the Maratha region and he exhibited his skill and talent to unite the Maratha Chiefs of Mayal, Konkan and Desh regions. His military and civil administration proved successful to carve out a small kingdom by defeating the alien powers. Shivaji also gained a lot of knowledge from his father’s unsuccessful attempts to gain power. He was inspired by his father’s military tactics, peacetime diplomacy and also possessed the knowledge of Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures. Shivaji grew into a fearless military leader and learnt expertise and training from commanders like Gomaji Naik and Baji Pasalkar. Young Shivaji was full of initiative, energy and enthusiasm and he was successful in inspiring local youth to follow his idealistic pursuits. He captured Torna Fort of Bijapur at the age of 17 only. He overpowered the forts of Kondana and Raigad by 1647. The Western ghats along the Konkan Coast were also captured by 1654.
Shivaji is known as the father of Indian Navy as he was the first to realize the necessity and significance of having a naval force. He established a navy force on the coastline to defend the Konkan side of Maharashtra. Shivaji was called the ‘Mountain Rat’ because of his awareness of the geography of his region. He gained expertise and skill in guerilla tactics like raiding, ambushing and surprise attacks on his enemies. When the Maratha state was at a decline during his growing years, he challenged the Mughal Rule and the Deccan Sultanates. His skirmishes with Aurangzeb were well known. Aurangzeb was never able to overpower him.
Adilshah wanted to curb the rising power of Shivaji. Adilshah arrested Shahaji, the father of Shivaji and sent army against Shivaji and his elder brother Sambaji. Afzal Khan was also sent to destroy Shivaji. But Shivaji stabbed Afzal Khan with his skilful tactics. Ultimately, the armies were routed in 1659 and Shivaji was turned into a hero of the Marathas. He successfully pushed back the Mughals and the Sultanate rulers from his homeland. He was able to rebuild his empire. He also expanded his empire to Tamil Nadu and Karnatka. He was also victorious in the Maratha war of Independence. Shivaji was formally crowned as Chhatrapati in 1674 at Raigad Fort and came to be known as Chhatrapati Shivaji.
Shivaji carved out a triumph from the declining Adilshahi Sultanate of Bijapur. In 1870, social reformer Jyotirao Phule initiated the celebration of Shiva Jayanti in Pune in 1670 which is known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Jayanti.
The year 2023 marks the 393rd anniversary of the birth of Shivaji. Shivaji fought many battles like the battle of Pratapgad in 1659, Battle of Pawan Khind in 1660, Sacking of Surat in 1664, Battle of Prandar in 1665, Battle of Sinhagad in 1670, Battle of Kalyan and the Battle of Sangamner. The treaty of Purander was signed between Shivaji and Raja Jai Singh I.
Shivaji being a sound and skilled administrator, most of his administrative reforms were inspired from Malik Amber reforms in Ahmednagar. The king was the Supreme Head of state who was assisted by a group of eight ministers called Ashtapradhan. The Peshwa, known as the Mukhya Pradhan headed the advisory council of Shivaji.
Shivaji abolished the Jagirdari system. Changes were brought out in the position of revenue officials called Deshmuhks, Deshpandes, Patils and Kulkarnis.
Shivaji also organized an efficient army. The army consisted of Infantry (Mavali Foot Soldiers), Cavalry (Horse Riders) and Equipment Holders.
Shivaji’s birth anniversary is celebrated with pomp and show. It is a way to pay homage to the brave, courageous, skilful and diplomatic leader in history. He was born to be a natural leader and fighter. He promoted the use of Marathi and Sanskrit. The 210 metre statue of Shivaji in Mumbai is taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York. Shivaji left this world on 3rd April,1680 at Rajgarh.A quote from Shivaji is given below:
“When you are enthusiastic, the mountain also looks like a clay pile.”
Note: This article is dedicated to Smt. Alka Puri wife of Dr. Ajit Singh Puri and mother of Jaswant Singh Puri.
(The views expressed are personal)