February 19 marks the birthday anniversary of Shivaji Bhonsale, better known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. One of the most progressive rulers in the history of India, Shivaji carved a niche for himself with his leadership skills, establishing the heritage of his Maratha background. Shivaji was born to be a fighter and natural leader. Tales of his valiance are innumerable and stories of his victories countless. To commemorate the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, let’s go through some lesser-known facts about his life:
1. Shivaji maintained peaceful relations with Mughals. His royal army included 66,000 Muslims from a cavalry of 1,50,000. In fact, he even offered his help to Aurangzeb in conquering Bijapur. Things backfired and in retaliation, Mughals raided Shivaji’s territory.
2. Shivaji’s encounter with Afzal Khan is legendary. Arrangements of a meeting called by Shivaji implied they could each meet with one sword and one follower. Shivaji knew Afzal would attack as he suspected foul play. He attacked Afzal with a tiger’s claw (Bagh Nakh) he hid in his left sleeve. This was a huge win.
3. Under Shivaji’s rule, dishonor of women was not tolerated. Women of captured territories in his rule were left unharmed, unlike other rulers of the time. His troopers were instructed against harming a single woman if they raided villages and these ladies were sent back with honor. Violating a woman’s rights would meet with severe punishment.
4. His father left him 2,000 men, which he converted to 10,000 soldiers. Shivaji understood the significance of a good army and improvised warfare strategies. He seeked the assistance of his intelligence to devise tactics like guerrilla warfare.
5. His name is derived from a regional deity by the name of Shivai, unlike what most people believe is Lord Shiva.
6. Shivaji was the father of the Indian Navy and realized that a naval fleet was required to protect India from foreign invaders. He was prudent enough to establish a navy and forts at the coastline to protect the Konkan side of Maharashtra.
7. Shivaji was a secular monarch, but he never compromised his own religious roots. He tried reviving the positive aspects of Hinduism and even married his own daughter to a converted Hindu. Sakhubai married her first-cousin Mahadji.
8. Above all, Shivaji was considered as the Jaanta Raja, or the Knowing King. He was a benevolent ruler and showed mercy to his opponents who surrendered. He would also offer them a place in his own army.