A Giant Killer:
Shivaji, the ‘little great man’ was a giant killer. Shivaji killed Afzal Khan, the reputed general of several successful battles he fought on behalf of the Bijapur state; defeated the famous general and governor of Shayista Khan, sent by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, humbled Aurangzeb by escaping from his custody and by crippling his power in the Deccan.
In words of Aurangzeb himself, “My armies have been employed against him for nineteen years and nevertheless his (Shivaji’s) state has always been increasing.”
The mighty Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, ruling over a vast empire in Indian had to eat a humble pie at the hands of Shivaji.
Reasons for encounters with the Mughals:
Aurangzeb was greatly alarmed at the growing power of Shivaji and his victory over Afzal Khan. He was an imperialist and he could not tolerate any challenge to his power. Moreover he was a bigot Sunni and on the other hand Shivaji wanted to protect Hinduism and enhance his power.
Thus the conflict between the two was inevitable:
(1) Defeat of Shayista Khan (1659-63):
Aurangzeb directed Shayista Khan, Governor of the Deccan to take action against Shivaji. Shayista Khan captured several forts including Poona and made it his headquarters. Shivaji was waiting for a suitable opportunity. Rainy season started. Shivaji disguised himself in a marriage party which actually consisted of a strong and faithful troop of Maratha soldiers and made a surprise attack at Shaiyasta Khan at his palace at Poona. Shaiysta Khan lost his fingers but was successful in running away. Shivaji killed his sons and some Mughal soldiers. After some time Shivaji captured Poona.
(2) Attack at Surat (1664):
Shivaji, emboldened by his success at Poona, launched a terrible attack on the Mughal port of Surat and got enormous wealth from this place.
(3) Treaty of Purander (1665):
Aurangzeb deputed Raja Jai Singh, one of his ablest commanders and diplomats to take strong action against Shivaji. Jai Singh captured several forts and Shivaji was forced to sign a peace treat) in 1665.
The treaty contained the following terms:
1. Shivaji surrendered twenty-three of his forts and territory yielding an-annual revenue of four lakhs of hun.
2. Shivaji was left with only twelve forts and territory which yielded annual revenue of one lakh of hun.
3. Shivaji accepted the suzerainty of the Mughuls but, instead of personal attendance at the court, deputed his son, Shambhuji with 5,000 horse at the Mughul-court.
4. Shivaji agreed to support the Mughuls against Bijapur. Another term was added to the treaty afterwards by which:
5. Shivaji agreed to pay forty lakhs of hurts to the Mughuls in thirteen years provided the territory of Konkan which yielded annual revenue of four lakhs of huns’ and the territory of Balaghat which was in the possession of Bijapur and yielded an annual income of five lakhs of ‘huns’ were assigned to him. The treaty was a great diplomatic success of Raja Jai Singh. Shivaji personally handed over the key of Sinhgarh fort to Jai Singh’s son and joined Jai Singh with his force in the war on Bijapur.
(4) Shivaji’s visit to Agra. Jai Singh persuaded Shivaji to visit Aurangzeb’s court by holding out very high hopes to him. He also took upon personal responsibility for his safety at Agra, the capital of the Mughal empire. According to some historians, Shivaji agreed to go to Agra for having personal knowledge about Aurangzeb and his sources of strength.
The Prime Minister, Asad Khan led Shivaji and his son to the emperor’s presence. Both offered the customary nazar. Then both were taken back and asked to stand in the third row of nobles. Noticing this insult, Shivaji burst out in a sort of open defiance complaining the breach of the terms. Aurangzeb was enraged. Shivaji was sent to a new residence, more secluded where he could be killed without a public scandal.
Shivaji thought of a plan to escape. He pretended to be ill and started sending outside baskets of sweets for distribution among the Brahmans and the poor. These baskets were checked for sometime by the guards but later on watch on the sweets baskets were relaxed.
Shivaji took advantage of this and he and his son went out in two baskets. It is said that he had bribed a few Mughal officers not to check all the sweets baskets. Afterwards he disguised himself as a Sanyasi (hermit) and reached Maharashtra after twenty-five days. During this period he visited Mathura, Allahabad, Banaras, Gondwana and Golkunda on the way. In 1668 peace was again restored with Aurangzeb and Shivaji. During 1668-69, Shivaji occupied himself with the reorganisation of his internal administration.
(5) Again struggle with the Mughals. After a brief respite, hostilities between Shivaji and Aurangzeb again started. This time Shivaji was able to recover all the forts and territory that he had to surrender in terms of Treaty of Purandhar in 1665. Shivaji plundered Surat again in 1670. Between 1670 and 1674, the Marathas got success everywhere. The Mughal power in the Deccan was crippled. He also snatched away several forts from Bijapur.
Coronation of Shivaji:
In 1674, Shivaji held his coronation according to Vedic rites. The coronation ceremony was performed by Vishweshwar Alias Gaga Bhatt, a renowned Pandit of Banaras. He assumed the title of Chhatrapati and Gau-Brahamana Prrati Palak (Protector of Brahmans and cows). With the coronation, Shivaji became an independent ruler. Shivaji made Raigarh as his capital. Proclaimed ideal of establishing an independent Hindu kingdom.
Second, some of the nobles like Raja Jai Singh and Jaswant Singh of Aurangzeb’s court had a soft corner for Shivaji.
Third, when Aurangzeb imposed Jizya on the Hindus, Shivaji was the only Hindu ruler who protested against it and wrote a letter to Aurangzeb against Jizya. Thus the Rajput chiefs considered to be the champions of Hinduism did not show enthusiasm to fight against Shivaji, who was championing the cause of Hinduism.
Fourth, saints like Ram Das and Tukaram preached for the revival of Hinduism and their followers rendered great help to Shivaji for this cause.
Fifth, Shivaji had instructed his soldiers not to destroy any mosque or to be disrespectful to Quran or to Muslim women and children. Therefore, the Muslims were not unhappy with him.
Sixth, from time to time, Shivaji could get help from the Sultans of Deccan in his fight against the Mughals.
Seventh, Shivaji proved to be more diplomatic than the commanders of Aurangzeb and the Sultan of Bijapur.
Eighth, Shivaji’s character and personality paid him dividends.
Lastly, the geographical conditions of Maharashtra made it possible for him to resort to guerilla warfare and take the enemy by surprise.