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The Dawn of Indian Resistance

Maharaj had established an independent kingdom by displaying such spectacular, thrilling, breathtaking, and world-moving prowess.

By: Niranjan Deshpande

New Delhi: As the opening scene unfolds in a recently released, and very popular movie ‘PawanKhind’, Chhatrapati Shivaji is shown sitting at GhodKhind with his prince Sambhaji and the father-son duo look pensive. Sambhajiraje curiously asks Shivajiraje, “Aabasaheb, why did we come here in between all the preparations of the coronation ceremony?” Maharajreplies, “Shambhuraje, this is the place where three hundred Bandal soldiers laid down their lives to save my life. Each of them became a brick in the edifice of this Swarajya. This is the place where my beloved Bajiprabhu Deshpande laid down his life yearning to hear three cannon shots from atop Vishalgad indicating I have reached there safe. This is the sacred place which was witness to that herculean stand of more than 12 hours which saved your father from certain death or capture.”

Today, on the occasion of three-hundred-and-forty-eighth anniversary of ShivajiMaharaj’s coronation ceremony, one can’t help but wonder, what was going through Shivajiraje’s mind while ascending that throne, while building it, while preparing for the ceremony? Would he have remembered each and every one of his beloved lost colleagues? Would he have re-lived through those pensive moments before the meeting with Afzal Khan? Would he have thought about the pressure he had faced while being stuck atop Panhalgad surrounded by SiddiJohar’s army? Would he have experienced exhilarating excitement that he must have felt at the time of attack on Shaistakhan’s camp in Pune? All of his life must have flown past his eyes in a flash. And finally, his eyes would have come to rest on the idol of AadishaktiTuljabhawani, behind the throne, determined, focused, steady!

It was a moment of the culmination of lifelong struggle with the Sultanate forces – four of them on all four sides. It was a dream come true for the common people of Maharashtra. It was the fresh breath of independence. Our king, our throne, our parasol, our capital, our standard, our banner, our cavalry, our infantry, our navy and our kingdom, Swarajya! Say it again with me, and tell me you don’t feel a swelling of pride rising in your chest, whoever you are, wherever you are! Our king, our throne, Swarajya!

Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation ceremony

It was a turning point in the lives of common people of Maharashtra. Hereafter, they never looked back. Their horses kept making the rounds of all holy rivers of Hindustan and reached up to the River Attock beyond Peshawar. The ascension of ShivajiMaharaj to the sovereign throne atop Raigad was a psychological threshold. It was the dawn of a new era. Before it, people would respect ShivajiMaharaj, but haltingly, diffidently. They would still not believe that there could be an independent Maratha kingdom. The coronation changed this. It gave the people confidence that their kingdom was here to stay.

For all of ShivajiMaharaj’s life, he and his colleagues had wrought an extraordinary revolution on the face of the earth, through their incomparable prowess, singular capability, infinite sacrifice, supernatural loyalty, excellent enterprise, and towering ambition. They had actually created a whole new world. The Sultans had made Maharashtra into a paltry slave for three-hundred-and-fifty years after destroying the sovereign anointed Yadav kings of Devagiri. The brave and intelligent Narasimhas of Maharashtra had been rendered into a pitiful condition of helplessly serving these Sultans. Marathas were rendered cheap, trashy, debased kafirs! An animal who had been born for rendering all kinds of service to the Sultans! There was no respect accorded to the Maratha language, religion, their wives, or their own bodies and lives. Nobody had thought in their wildest dreams that someone could change this situation, and would re-establish a sovereign, prosperous Swarajya of the Marathas. Maratha Swarajya? – Purely laughable, and suicidal idea which would bring utter destruction onto oneself! Forget that, it would be ‘sinful’ even! Because a revolt against a Sultan, was a revolt against the person who fed you, a revolt against God Himself! But Maharaj had completely overturned this world. Maharaj had become a refuge for religion, temples, language, culture, women, and livestock. The lives of all these began being spent happily in independence. Such a huge miracle! Maharaj had raised up such a storm of strength and cleverness, that the imperial insignia of Adilshah and arrogant Delhi Emperor had been upturned and torn away! What could compare with such prowess? Aurangzeb had become a lunatic. Seeing that even after using every bit of his skill, all arms and armaments, requests, allurements, treachery, strength, attacks, counterattacks, all kinds of experiments, the radiant sun of Shivajiraje’s success, fame, and prowess had gone on to grow in its brilliance, Aurangzeb had become akin to the demon Kamsa.

Maharaj had established an independent kingdom by displaying such spectacular, thrilling, breathtaking, and world-moving prowess. But! Our own people did not think of ‘ShivajiBhosale’ as a ‘Master of Lands’, ‘Leader of Men’, or ‘King’. They used to think, he was a son of just another sardar.

Badshah and his sardars and subedars would nurse fear about Maharaj. In their hearts they had accepted Maharaj’s sovereign authority. But still, they had not come to calling Maharaj’sSwarajya as an independent ‘kingdom’. And they were not ready to accept Maharaj as an independent ‘king’. These imperial people would feel, that he was a professional ruffian, who had ‘perfected’ the art of thievery, robber, and armed slaughter. Marathas whose generations had served the Badshah as sardars would envy Maharaj. ‘Who was this Shivaji? His grandfathers and great-grandfathers were pure peasants. Just the day before yesterday, these Bhosales had been granted the status of sardars in the decline of Nizamshahi. This Shivaji was actually a treacherous thankless rebel who had taken the opportunity to revolt against the Badshah who fed him! Armies are not built by gathering such ruffians together. Kingdoms are not built by capturing ten-twenty forts, fortresses, and ten vessels-full of the sea; and Kings are not made by using your own seals and stamps sitting at home. Who would call this Shivaji an independent king? Those Patil-Kulkarnis in his Swarajya should call him King, even King of Kings! We won’t!’

Such was the view of the enemy, and even that of our own people serving the enemy. Since Maharaj was not an authorized enthroned king, even the people of Swarajya would feel, that this was not a ‘true kingdom’. They felt, ‘the documents bearing details of their own land, property, and any grants, should bear the approving seal of the Badshah. Because this Swarajya had been formed just a few days back. If it is destroyed tomorrow, then what would be the guarantee of their property, houses, and watans? Shivaji is a good king. The happiness of his kingdom is not found anywhere else. The king is religious. But he is not the real ‘king’!’ The subjects of Swarajya had still not seen the sovereignty of their Swarajya. And due to this, many times the subjects would feel doubts about who was their real king? What was loyalty to the king? What was treason? Because Swarajya was still ‘unauthorised’. It was still in a sort of a transition period. So it was natural to feel distrust about the perpetuity of the kingdom.

Maharaj used to get continuously reminded about all these things. Maharaj always used to feel, that he had established this Swarajya through such huge efforts, at times bleeding himself, but the people’s hearts were still wavering; external people and rulers considered them only hooligans; they assumed he was a son of just another sardar who had become powerful; and this was not correct from the point of view of Swarajya’s stability and welfare. Maharaj did not nurse a greed for people calling him King or King of Kings, but he wanted the necessary acceptance for the prestige of Swarajya. The treaties and agreements entered into with other rulers, ought to be done through a universally accepted, sovereign position; Maratha Swarajya was a governing institution replete with the scriptural rules, righteous policies, culturally wealthy and constitutionally bounded; this kingdom wasnot some stealthy encampment of brutish robbers; Swarajya’s army was not some gang of robbers or Swarajya’s navy was not some convoy of pirates. This Swarajya was the home of genteel and righteous richness, blessed by Gods, benevolent, high-cultured, ambitious, resolute, Rajalakshmi (Goddess of Empire) equally powerful in all eight arms of government; this truth ought to reveal itself to our own as well as external people; this Swarajya was not dewdrops on lotus leaves. Maharaj kept constantly striving to ensure that his subjects should feel confident, that this kingdom would go on growing day-by-day like the new moon’s crescent; be worshipped by the whole world; and would last till the sun and the moon.

Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation ceremony

Did this mean that his own people did not understand enough the value of this extraordinary life and Maharaj’s whole life’s work? No no! Never that! The wise amongst his people had definitely realized Maharaj’s real capability. The thought leaders were indeed realizing this wonderful brilliance. Seeing the surprisingly brave acts of Maharaj’s prowess and tact, hearing about his noble deeds, would render not only Marathi hearts, but even wider Indian hearts attracted and desirous of wanting more. Especially those somehow surviving in the north under Aurangzeb’s greenish and ugly rule, were automatically developing a degree of respect and appreciation towards Maharaj. He would be the topic of discussion everywhere. Seeing his thrilling life-story the ambition of youth like Chhatrasal had been ignited. With this resolve, ‘I will also achieve independence’, he had raised a standard of revolt in Bundelkhand, right in front of Delhi-Agra.

Through all this, Maharaj’s advisors realized that this small, but potentially hazardous, niggle in the minds of his subjects had to be removed immediately. Maharaj had to become an ‘authorised’, ‘consecrated’, ‘enthroned’ king. They made him realise, ‘Islamic emperors sat on a throne, held an imperial parasol over their heads, and ran the empire, and he himself, having defeated four other empires, having maintained seventy-five thousand cavalry, infantry, and forts, still did not have a throne! This wasn’t right.’ Such a mighty man hadn’t been born in many centuries. He had performed work equivalent to the great Indian kings of ancient times. He had re-established high-culture in the land of Gods which had been uprooted and destroyed by the incessant Sultanate attacks. He had cleaned up the courtyards, re-installed deities in their sancta, planted sacred tulasi in traditional Vrindavans, tied cows in the stables, lit traditional lamps in the homes. He had raised the esteem of Hindu way of life. He had ensured nobody nursed any grievances about the injustices of the past. He had encouraged everyone to think about welfare, speak about welfare. And most of all, he had destroyed slavery. He had created Swarajya (our own rule), Dharmarajya (rule of the righteous path), Ramarajya (rule equivalent of Lord Ram), and Shivarajya (rule of Lord Shiva). And the ruler of such a kingdom did not have a throne! Did not have the imperial insignia of a Chhatra (parasol)! Such a huge flaw! In those days, without these insignia – parasol, throne, stamps, seals – a kingdom could not be considered complete! Unless Shivajiraje was coronated, the world would not have realised the importance of his epoch-making work.

And hence a coronation was necessary. Such sweet thought! Sweeter than elixir! Maharaj to be coronated! Coronation! Parasol! Throne! Imperial Court! Such a great idea! The throne of the Marathas! A Chhatrapati of the Marathas! Maratha King of Kings, and enthroned! In fact, our very own Emperor!

On the auspicious day of 6th June 1674, thirteenth day of the waxing moon fortnight in the month of Jyeshtha, amongst the citizens who had gathered to see their dream come true, Maharaj was to ascend our very own throne. But in all the crowd that had gathered, Maharaj’s beloved TanhajiMalusare was nowhere to be seen! Another one of his childhood friend, SuryajiKakde was also missing! Bajiprabhu was not present to pay his obeisance to Maharaj, Murarbaji, BajiPasalkar, Prataprao Gujar, and so many other beloved friends were absent. The cynosure of their eyes, Shivajiraja was ascending the throne in all imperial insignia, and nobody was present to witness it! What must have gone through Maharaj’s mind – overwhelming thankfulness!

Thousands of youth had laid down their lives on the battlefield. Thousands of women had sacrificed their blessed matrimony. So many mothers have lost their sons. But Swarajya had been born. Throne had appeared. And it was through immense renunciation shown by the Maratha people. The King was an extremely sympathetic, discerning man. He knew, that the throne he was ascending today had under each one of its steps the sacrificial oblations offered unceasingly by his brothers; by countless mothers and sisters who had renounced their own households in favour of the kingdom. He was a loving brother to them all, a son, a friend, a younger brother-in-law, and now he was going to assume the mantle of dutiful ‘king’ for them all!

This was the golden sunrise of the Indian resistance against foreign invasion! A thousand lives can be sacrificed to witness it! We are surely lucky to have had ShivajiMaharaj enthroned this day in our hoary past. Let us resolve this independence is given the importance it deserves and welcome the glorious future bearing in our hearts, a recognition of the immense debt that we owe to ShivajiMaharaj’s generation!