The history of the Great Indian King, Shivaji Maharaj, is not just confined to wars but also is extended up to his tolerance towards humanity, different religions, different views and Freedom of individuals, speech and expression.
In his letter dated back in January, 1660, Goa’s Portuguese viceroy has explained his king back in Portugal how tolerant Maratha king Shivaji is apart from his bravery and how good support he enjoys from all section of the society. He writes, “My lord, Shivaji Maharaj is a very capable leader. He respects all religions though his people are idol worshipper. He enjoys the reputation of being a great strategist, politician and a good ruler”. This part of Portuguese’s letter is an evidence of Chhatrapati having a great vision, religious views, and respect towards all religions. This letter also is an evidence of well being of many religions in medieval India during Shivaji’s reign in Maratha Empire. Shivaji Maharaj himself was an idol worshipper, but never abused any other religion of his era. Despite of being a strong and influential leader, unlike others, he or his officers never enforced his/their religious beliefs on others. This is clearly evident from the views of his enemies. This means that Maharaj also has taught us how to behave with our enemies.
One of the most important of all incidences in Chhatrapati’s life is his encounter with Afzal Khan. Maharaj killed Afzal khan who invaded his territory with cruel ambitions. Chhatrapati was clear in his views that Afzal Khan is his political enemy, and not religious. What he did with Afzal Khan after his death is noted by a member of his court, Krushnaji anant, “Then Raje caught Afzal Khan’s son and his Sardar. He finished all his rage with Afzal khan on Pratapgad, he treated his son like his own, and he funded his living”. This shows how great and soft hearted Shivaji was as a king. Though he killed his enemy, but showered his love to his enemy’s son. His famous quote on this incidence is interesting as well. Maharaj said, “Khan mela, mhanje tyachyasobat tyache shatrutva hi mele”. This means that his enmity with Afzal khan has also finished with his death. Maharaj’s tolerance towards enemy’s family must be an inspiration for today’s world. In recent days, there have been purposeful attempts to divide the communities in India on the basis of their casts and religion for personal gains. Shivaji Maharaj gives a great lesson to all the torch bearers of “intolerant India” of this era.
In February, 1661, a traitor of Maratha Empire, Raibaghin Deshmukh, who supported the Moghuls for the destruction of Maratha’s, was caught by Shivaji Maharaj’s army. However, Shivaji Maharaj forgave her and sent her at safe place. Shivaji Maharaj defeated Kesrisingh and conquered a fort named Prabalgad near Panvel. Later he asked his army to send his mother, wife and kids to their natives and took the entire responsibility of his kids. After getting impressed by Savitri Bai’s bravery, near Belvadi fort, he also forgave her and gave her the entire province he had won from her. Maharaj always respected the ladies of the enemy camp, forgave them and protected them. It was his political ethic to respect and protect Religious books, religious places, women and kids unlike most of his counterparts. This tolerance of Maharaj is an example of humanity in today’s world. This is also evident from the words of Moghul historian Khafi Khan, “Shivaji behaves with women like his mother and sisters”.
In a mosque at Urli and Fursungi, a place near Pune, Kazi Kasam complained to Shivaji Maharaj about the interference of Mukadam ChandKhan in mosque’s daily business. Without delay Maharaj ordered the local Maratha Havaldar, in his letter dated back at 22nd March, 1671, to look into matter and arrest Chandkhan. Maharaj always believed that a person should be never denied his right. Later, at 12th February, 1674, Maharaj wrote a letter to in charge officer of Fursungi to fund the mosque for its daily activities. This incidence sheds light on Shivaji Raje’s political maturity and is a vibrant proof that he meant business in only politics and not in religion. Kutubshah of Deccan province once desired to invite Shivaji Maharaj in his new territories, towards which Shivaji Maharaj replied, “You must not come. I’ll come there myself. After all you are like an elder brother to me”. Maharaj also helped Adilshah of Bijapur with thousand tons of food grains in 1671 when Adilshahi was suffering from serious food shortage. It must be noted that Adilshah was Maharaj’s one of the biggest political enemy.
All these incidences show us how tolerant our beloved king was. His respect towards enemies, women and children is adorable. Shivaji Maharaj taught us of liberty, equality and fraternity back in 17th century, before 300 years of our independence. He was brave and cruel on battlefield against Swarajya’s enemies, but he was also a great human, a torch bearer of humanity beyond politics. The letter from the Portuguese viceroy speaks volumes of the loud and clear message sent by Shivaji Maharaj regarding tolerance towards others to not only his own country but the entire world.
Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the right combination of perfection in politics and the epitome of spiritual values. Tolerance, broad vision, and good governance were his gift to the people of India. Once again today, India is in such a place where it needs leaders like Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, with commitment to its people and a long term vision for the country.
History is not just to enjoy but also to learn, analyze and apply in future. Let’s learn something from our Chhatrapati and be tolerant.