Many historians both foreign and Indian have a penchant for denying India and Indians their true and legitimate history, dismissing and distancing Indian heroes from the public eye.
No ordinary mortal in spite of their best efforts can deny the greatness upon whom destiny and divine forces have bestowed magnificence and blessings.
One such great Indian leader, is Shivaji Bhonsle. (1630 -1680). Commonly known as Chhatrapati Shivaji. He is the founder not only of the Maratha Empire, but also the architect of an India, free from foreign rule.
Shivaji can easily be considered amongst the greatest social, political and military rulers that India has seen in past 2000 years. Shivaji is an excellent role model, for evolving a noble, just, modern, pluralistic, secular, tolerant, spiritual and strong India, based on core Indian values.
Around C.E. 1645, at an age of 15 years, Shivaji first expressed his concept for Hindavi Swarajya (Indian self-rule). Barring two Indian Rulers, Shivaji's battles were with foreigners only.
Had it not been for the genius and lion heart of Shivaji, India and Indians irrespective of whether they are Hindus or Muslims, would have today been the slaves of Turks, Mongols, Persians, Afghans and Europeans.
Shivaji's fearlessness, ferocity, swiftness and cunning coupled with his intelligence, military capabilities, and leadership terrified his enemies and inspired his people.
Shivaji was neither naive nor misguided, he was a realist. In war he gave his enemies no quarter. Yet he embraced all those who submitted and came over to his side.
Unlike foreign invaders Shivaji was not just a warrior king. Being a warrior in itself maybe an admirable quality, but to be, politically, socially, militarily and culturally a great, caring, just and noble ruler is to be called Shivaji. He was feared and even grudgingly admired by his enemies.
Unlike the foreigners who invaded and ruled India, Shivaji made sure that civilians irrespective of religion, particularly women and children were never intentionally harmed. Places of worship, particularly mosques and churches were never desecrated.
Under Shivaji's rule. women were never allowed to be dishonoured.
Once, the Bijapur governor Mulla Ahmed's very beautiful daughter in law was taken captive by one of Shivaji's Sardar Abaji Sondev after his victory over the fort in Kalyan. Abaji sent her to Shivaji in Poona as a gift.
Shivaji not only reprimanded the Sardar, but after due apologies and bestowing full honour upon the young lady, sent her back to her home in Bijapur with an escort.
Shivaji is the among the first modern Indian ruler who understood the power of having a powerful navy. At its peak it is believed that the Marathas had nearly 640 ships and number of coastal forts.
Inspired by the valiant Shivaji, subsequent generations of Marathas grew from strength to strength to reach their zenith in C.E. 1759. At that time they ruled from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Panjab in the north, and from Gujarat in the west to Odissa in the East.
The Marathas also occupied the throne of India in Delhi for several decades.
Shivaji employed both Hindus and Muslims in his administration, court, military, navy, etc. They were all granted the same rights, authorities and privileges. The Muslim subjects not only prospered but felt more safe and respected under this great ruler than under Muslim rulers.
To live and die for such a leader and what he stood for was considered a great honour.
19th February is the birth anniversary of Shivaji, who is named after Shivai Devi the guardian goddess of Shivneri. There is much we can learn from the life and times of Shivaji and his magnificent and noble character. He is an inspiration not only to Indians of all faiths but to people all across the world.
Studying, Shivaji's life story and achievements never fails to instil confidence, pride, and humility. His life, reveals, not only a man of great character, but also a genius on military matters, statecraft, strategy, planning, execution etc. and founding of a more noble humanity.
Many of us who claim to be his inheritors, bask in his glory, if only we also lived by his ideals.
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