Shivaji the great was brave like a lion. He was past master in guerrilla warfare. He was unsurpassed in undertaking diplomatic moves. He had plans to establish swaraj all over India.
Once Shivaji made a deep dent into the south along with his army. A huge territory from south came under the command of the Marathas. After finalising the administrative set up there Shivaji and his army started their return journey to their capital in Maharashtra.
A group comprising of selected soldiers formed the advance party. It was then the practice with such party to proceed well ahead on the route to clear the way, make full arrangement for the night halt of the king and his army, three days in advance and march further.
The strong fort at Yadvad situated near Belgaum, Karnataka and the surrounding villages were selected by the advance party for the night halt of Shivaji and his army. This area was under the command of Sultan of Bijapur. A Hindu lady with surname Desai was in charge of the fort and the territory. She was a 26 years old widow having a small male child who was two years old. The earlier chief of the area was her husband. However, the husband was killed by the enemy in the fierce battle one year back. The lady now in charge was brave like a tigeress. So the Sultan put the lady in command of the territory after the death of her husband.
The advance party of the Maratha army waged a fierce battle with the lady chief to bring the fort and the territory, under their command. The lady showed exemplary valour and did not surrender. The party then made some form of an understanding with Mughal sardar from the nearby territory and with his help the party captured the brave lady chief and brought her area of command under their control.
Soon Shivaji and his army arrived in Yadvad. The soldiers who had captured the territory brought the lady chief before Shivaji. Her hands were tied with rope. She was whining and she looked like valour incarnate.
Shivaji was surprised and displeased over the presentation of the captive. The soldiers then narrated the story of her tough resistance and their own valour in overpowering her.
?Remove the ropes tied to her arms. Let her have a seat with full respect,? ordered Shivaji.
After she was freed, Shivaji asked the lady politely to submit her statement.
The lady chief said with humility and restraint, ?Now I am a captured prisoner. Sir, you are free to punish me as you like. But before I face my fate, I have got a humble submission to be placed before you.?
?Please feel free. Say everything you have in mind,? said Shivaji.
The lady then said, ?My fate is certain. I must embrace the capital punishment. But before being hanged I would like to present before you my two year old child.?
And so saying she put her own two year old son at the feet of Shivaji and said, ?This is a piece of my soul. Let it no remain orphan. You be his mama (maternal uncle) and bring him so that I can breathe my last peacefully.?
Shivaji was stunned far a while. He ordered a cup of milk for the child. The milk was brought forthwith. Shivaji folded his legs, put the baby thereon and fed the milk to the baby with his own hands.
Shivaji became serious. His eyebrows were raised. He then turned to the soldiers who had imprisoned the lady and said, ?Marvellous achievement! I don'tknow in what way I should honour you!?
Raising his eyes, which were almost emitting fire, Shivaji said, ?I really feel ashamed to call myself your leader. Don'tyou feel ashamed fighting with a lady and touching her body??
Shivaji ordered his soldiers to free the lady and return to her whatever was captured.
Shivaji then made all the arrangement for her return with a saree, coconut and all other articles of honour with which a brother sends home his own sister.
Those soldiers who had imprisoned the lady were compelled to carry the lady'spalanquin on their shoulders.
In the fort at Yadvad there is still a sculpture showing Shivaji the great feeding milk to the little boy and the lady looking at him with great devotion. That sculpture was got prepared by the freed lady chief.
Little friends, Shivaji was a pious king. When the news of his death reached the ears of emperor Aurangzeb, a tyrant Muslim ruler and rank enemy of Shivaji, Aurangzeb became serious for a while. He raised his eyes to sky and prayed Allah for blessings to Shivaji. When his courtiers asked him why he was beseeching divine blessing for his enemy, the emperor Aurangzeb said, ?He is the only brother of my wives. It was Siva (Shivaji) alone who treated all the ladies in the world except his own wives, as mothers and sisters?.
Such was a noble king Shivaji. He had a place of honour in the heart of his enemies also.