Maharashtrians will celebrate the 389th Birthday of Chhatrapati Shivaji on February 19, paying tribute to one of the greatest heroes in Indian history.
Known for his bravery and benevolence, Shivaji has left a great legacy which Maharashtrians observe with pride and honour.
‘Shivaji Jayanti’ may not be observed in New Zealand in noticeable scale, but it is a day of great pride and joy throughout Maharashtra and those of us who have lived and worked in this great State, will remember the majestic scale in which it is celebrated.
Born on 19th February 1627 in Shivneri Fort, 60 kms north of Pune, he was named after ‘Shivai,’ a local Goddess, to whom his mother prayed for a son. Shahaji Bhosle, his father, was the chief of the Bijapur Kingdom.
His mother had a great influence on him as he was introduced to Indian epics of Mahabharata, Ramayana and other holy books. Shivaji gained knowledge from his father’s unsuccessful attempts to gain power. He was inspired by his father’s military tactics, peacetime diplomacy and learnt Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures.
Shivaji grew into a fearless military leader with training from commanders such as Gomaji Naik and Baji Pasalkar.
The young Shivaji was motivated, enthusiastic and energetic. In his early days, he was successful in inspiring local youths to follow his idealistic pursuits.
When he was 17 years old, he attacked and captured Torna Fort of Bijapur and by 1647, took control of Kondana and Raigad Forts. The Western Ghats along the Konkan Coast were also under his control by 1654.
In order to sabotage Shivaji’s rise to power, Adilshah arrested Shahji by deceitful means and had armies sent against Shivaji and his elder brother Sambaji.
To suppress Shivaji’s control on the Bijapur kingdom, military leader Afzal Khan was sent to destroy him. However, with his cunning tricks, Shivaji successfully stabbed Afzal Khan. Eventually Bijapur’s armies were routed in the famous battle of Pratapgarh in 1659 and Shivaji turned into a hero of the Marathas.
Now, under the confident leadership of Shivaji, the Marthas successfully pushed back the Mughals and the sultanate kingdoms from his homeland.
Shivaji also fought with the Mughals, he attacked the army which was led by Shaista Khan under the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He extended his Empire towards South to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. In order to regain one of his forts, Kondana, he appointed his most-trusted general Tanaji Malusare. The battle that followed between the Marathas and the Mughals came to be known as the ‘Maratha War of Independence,’ in which the Marathas were successful in regaining the control of the Fort.
The Grand Emperor
Shivaji was formally crowned as a Chhatrapati in 1674 at Raigad Fort. He died in 1680 but is still known for his courage and intelligence. He established the foundation for a Hindu empire which lasted for over two centuries.
Shivaji will always be a source of inspiration and pride for generations for his courage and military acumen.
Photo Caption: The portrait of Chhatrapati Shivaji housed in the British Museum