Shivaji Exhibition preview

24 02 2008

A Hero for Modern India :


Is there a greater hero, a greater saint, a greater bhakta and a greater king than Shivaji? Shivaji was the very embodiment of a born ruler of men as typified in our great Epics. He was the type of the real son of India representing the true consciousness of the nation. It was he who showed what the future of India is going to be sooner or later, a group of independent units under one umbrella as it were, under one supreme imperial suzerainty. Swami Vivekananda

This exhibition will show the unique place of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the history of India, at a time when Hindus were experiencing great oppression and humiliation : they were being killed, their wives and children taken in slavery, their temples were being broken, and they were being discriminated against in various forms, such as in the matter of charging custom duties, restrictions on their fairs and festivals, their dismissal from government posts, large-scale conversions as a part of openly declared policy of the Mughal State, imposition of the religious tax Jiziya for being a Hindu.. These discriminatory acts were then going almost unchallenged, although the Hindus formed more than 90% of the country at that time.

Shivaji, who was endowed with talents of the highest order and a clear vision, was the only one who stood-up to the injustice. He had also an inspiring and endearing personalitywhich spontaneously commanded respect, loyalty and the highest sacrifices from his devoted soldiery and peasants. To create his Swarajya, a bold mission, inspired by the highest ideals imbibed by him from his mother and the saints of Maharasthra, he had to rouse the sleeping conscience of the Hindus, and show them that it was possible to successfully defy the Mughal power, cast off foreign domination and win freedom from the rule of the Muslim powers.

He had however to contend with Aurangzeb, one of the ablest, but also the most cruel of all Mughal Emperors. In the present exhibition attempt has been made to present, through paintings, sketches, line drawings and contemporary documents, the unique role that Chhatrapati Shivaji has played not only in the history of India, but also in the preservation of Her culture and spirituality, as he stood against the enemy that wanted to erase it forever from this land. It is, thanks to Shivaji, for instance, that West and South India could retain their identities. Indeed, Marathis and Tamils alike, owe to the great Shivaji and the sacrifices of his men, the enduring wholesomeness of their traditions – social, cultural and religious – whereas the same cannot be said about the North of India. Indeed, except for some parts of the non-Kashmir Himalayas, the rest of India had to bear the rules and directions of the Shariat, which had evolved in far off Arabia during 7th and 8th centuries, and was sought to be imposed in the 17th century with all its inherent vehemence, by an Emperor entirely committed to its principles and philosophy.

This exhibition is relevant today because Shivaji embodied all the qualities that politicians should possess in 21st century India, but do not always have: he was just, firm and stood for the weak; he was an honest and able administrator; he confronted the enemy and was not cowed into submission; he was devoted to Mother India who appeared to him as Bhavani (Exhibit no 5); he was ruthless with his enemies, but spared women, children and his own people ; he would go to both Muslim and Hindu saints and endowed mosques as well as temples.

This wonderful show on India’s eternal hero is brought to Mumbai by FACT, an organization, which is non-political, non-religious and non-affiliated to any group.

Let the spirit of Shivaji float on India again and deliver Her from Her present enemies.

Shivaji was born on 10th April 1627, to Sahaji and his wife, Jijabai, in the Shivneri Fort, situated almost 60 km to the north of Pune. He was named as Shiva, after the local Goddess Shivai, to whom his mother Jijabai had prayed for a son. After being defeated by the combined forces of the Mughals and Adil Shah, Sahaji was offered a jagir near the present-day Bangalore. However, he was allowed to keep his holdings in Pune. So, Sahaji left his son Shivaji to manage the Pune holdings, under the care of his mother Jijabai.

With a small council of ministers, Shivaji began managing his estate. His ministers included Shamrao Nilkanth as Peshwa, Balkrishna Pant as Muzumdar, Raghunath Ballal as Sabnis and Sonopant as Dabir. At the same time, Kanhoji Jedhe and Baji Pasalkar were appointed to look after Shivaji’s training. In the year 1644, Shivaji undertook full administrative responsibilities of his estate. Thus was started his career as an independent young prince of a small kingdom. His mother, Jijabai, was instrumental in instilling in Shivaji’s mind a love for independence and distaste for external political domination.

At the age of 16, he took a pledge to establish a sovereign Hindu state. Soon after, he performed his first heroic, when he seized the Torna fort of Adil Shihi kingdom of Bijapur kingdom. By 1647, he had gained control over Kondana and Rajgad forts, with complete power of the Pune region. With time, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj secured the forts in the Western Ghats as well as those along the Konkan coast. Shivaji also fought against the army of Adilshah at Purandhar. In November 1659, he fought the battle of Pratapgarh and defeated Afzal Khan. Immediately after this success, King Shivaji occupied the area stretching upto the Panhala fort.

The battle of Kolhapur took place in December 1659. In the battle, Shivaji crushed the army of Bijapuri general, Rustam-ji-zaman. In 1660, Siddi Johar’s huge and daunting army attacked him at Panhala fort. Shivaji managed to escape from the fort (Exhibit no 8). However, he soon launched an attack on Siddi Johar. The result was the surrender of Panhala and a truce between Shivaji and Adilshah. After the death of Adilshah, Aurangzeb attacked Golconda and Bijapur. Shivaji used guerilla-style tactics and captured more and more of the Bijapuri and Mughal territories. However, by 1663, he had lost most of his conquests to the Mughal army.

In the next few years, Shivaji again started seizing forts belonging to both Mughals as well as those of Bijapur. Aurangzeb sent Jai Singh, his Hindu general, to subdue Shivaji. Shivaji thought it wise to conclude a treaty with Jai Singh at Purander in 1665 (Exhibit no 14) and also agreed to visit Agra. However, in 1666, he made a daring escape (Exhibit no 25) from Agra and lay low for the next few years. But in January 1670, Shivaji launched an attack on Mughal garrisons in Maharashtra. Within a period of six months, he won back most of his lost empire. The period of 1670 to 1674 was spent by Shivaji Maharaj in expanding his empire at the cost of the Mughals.

The heroic deeds of Shivaji cannot be all recounted here, as on numerous occasions, he set before others examples of courage and resourcefulness, such as his dangerous encounter with Afzal Khan in1659 (Exhibit no 7), or in his night attack on Shaista Khan in Pune in 1663 (Exhibit no 23). One could also speak of self-respec,t such as by his proud and dignified conduct at Agra in the proudest Court of that time, of nobility, such as restoring to honourable freedom a captured young beautiful Muslim lady brought as booty (Exhibit no 43), of great vision, such as in building a chain of mountain and sea forts (Exhibit no 58), of humility when in the company of saints like Tuka Ram (Exhibit no 62) and Samarth Swami Ram Das (Exhibit no 65), of extraordinary administrative ability which found expression in his sound civil and military institutions, and of a truly good Hindu ruler in whose kingdom subjects belonging to all religions had freedom and honour.

Shivaji’s Karnataka campaign of 1677, his grand reception in Hyderabad, occupation of Jinji fort (Exhibit no 48) and his presence at Vellore, adoption of the title of Chhatrapati by him after the coronation ceremony in 1674, use of Sanskrit terms for the designation of officials, his attempt to secure for his people the same advantage on the high seas as enjoyed by the Europeans, and the fact that he was the only Hindu ruler who not only could successfully defy the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb but also found a large independent Kingdom by his own courage and ability despite all odds, and left behind him noble examples and traditions which serve as source of inspiration and guidance even today.

In June 1674 at the Raigad fort, he was given the title of Kshatriya Kulavantas Simhasanadheeshwar Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The end of 1676 saw Shivaji commencing attacks in the southern parts of India. Shivaji breathed his last on 3rd April 1680 in the Raigad fort, the capital for Maratha Empire. He was succeeded by his elder son, Sambhaji.

The legacy that he left is astounding. He raised a strong army and navy, constructed and repaired forts, used guerrilla warfare tactics, developed a strong intelligence network, gave equal treatment to the people from all religions and castes based on merit, and functioned like a seasoned Statesman and General. He appointed ministers with specific functions such as Internal security, Foreign affairs, Finance, Law and Justice, Religious matters, Defence etc.

He introduced systems in revenue collection and warned the officials against harassment of subjects. He thought ahead of times and was a true visionary. In his private life, his moral virtues were exceptionally high. His thoughts and deeds were inspired by the teachings of his mother Jijabai, teacher Dadaji Konddev, great saints like Dnyaneshwar & Tukaram and the valiancy and ideals of the Lords Rama and Krishna.

The tiny kingdom established by Chhatrapati Shivaji known as “Hindavi Swaraja” (Sovereign Hindu state) grew and spread beyond Attock in Northwest India (now in Pakistan) and beyond Cuttack in East India in course of time, to become the strongest power in India. After the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji & his son Sambhaji, their prime ministers or ‘the Peshwas’ became the defacto rulers. The Peshwas and the Maratha Sardars (Chieftans) like Shindes of Gwalior, Gaekwads of Baroda & Holkars of Indore contributed to the growth of the Maratha Confederacy.

We hope that you will enjoy this exhibition and that it will remain with you, your family and children as a source of inspiration, as an example to follow in your daily life, of courage, daring, forthrightness, dedication to your motherland, spirit of seva, that India may rise again, under the leadership of one who would incarnate in himself the virtues of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and thus truly become THE SHIVAJI OF MODERN INDIA.