I was stunned on reading ?Shivaji was born a shudra, but he became famous as a kshatriya after his coronation in 1674 ?? in an article on edit page of a leading daily recently. Let'schurn the pages of history.
?Janmanaa jaayate shudro vratbandhanaad dwij uchyate? connotes that everyone is born shudra and it is only by thread ceremony that one is called dwija – Brahmana, Kshatriya or Vaish. Right to Gayatri mantra is conferred by thread ceremony, which needs to be performed between the age of 5 and 8.
?There was great scarcity of conductors of samskars in western Maharashtra in the beginning of the seventeenth century. In many parts the marriage ceremonies were performed even without recitation of Vedic mantras.? (V.C. Bedre Shivaraajyaabhisheka Sohalaa, Shivaraaja-mudraa, 1). Shivaji emerged in an age of political turmoil. He was born in the Shivneri fort, abode of neither his paternal grandfather nor the maternal one. When he was 4 or 5, Mughals abducted his mother and he had to roam in hiding to evade them. ?With the death of Maloji in 1605 A.D., affairs of the family were managed by his brother Vithoji, until Maloji'sson Shahaji who had been borne in 1599 A.D. came of age. Shahaji'smother hailed from the Nimbalkar family of Phaltans while his wife Jijabai was the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhavrao of Sindhkhed. Shahaji had all the advantages of a noble birth, good connection and a good status as a chief under Malik Amber. Shahaji and his cousins distinguished themselves under Malik Ambar in the battle of Bhatwadi (October 1624). (Setumadhavrao Pagadi, ?Chhatrapati Shivaji?, 8). Shivaji'sfather Shahaji became indifferent to his mother as he had married another lady. ?Shivaji was a kshatriya, i.e. of the warrior caste. Of that there was no doubt. But for long the rites (samskars) attached to the twice-born castes had not been performed by the class to which Shivaji belonged.? (ibid. pp. 237-238).
The question of Shivaji'sgenealogy cropped up just before his coronaion. ?The king'sgenealogy was then traced and it was found that he was the descendant of the pure kshatriya family of Sisodia which had come from the north and settled in the south; and as the kshatriyas of the north were allowed the rite of using the sacred thread, Gagabhat performed the thread ceremony of the king at a holy place and thus made him a pure kshatriya.? (Sabhasad, 82. Mankar'stranslation, adapted).
?The first event was to be thread ceremony! Whose thread ceremony? Maharaj?s! His thread ceremony had not taken place. During the three and half centuries of Sultani chaos, many learned scientific-cultural rituals had disappeared. Maharaj'sBhonsale family was true kshatriya (marital race)! Naik-Nimbalkar alias Pawar, Jadhavrao, Shirke, Mohite, Gaikwad and such original kshatriyas and royal distinguished families had marital relations with Bhonsales and were having till date. Though they were entitled to Vedas and Vedic rituals, these had disappeared over time. Now it was decided to perform all these rituals scientifically. First thread ceremony. (Baba Saheb Purandare, Maharaj, 126).
?After many solemn rites, and every observance of the Shasters which could make the ceremony reverenced by Hindoos, Shivaji, at a propitious moment was enthroned at Raigarh on the 6th June.? (James Grant Duff, A History of the Mahrattas, Vol I, 191)
In Shrimadbhagawadgita, valour, aura, patience, shrewdness, non-retreat in the battle, charity and the instinct of lordship have been termed as the natural acts of a kshatriya. (18/43). Shivaji is an IDEAL of all of these acts. Etymologically, ?kshataat traayat iti kshatriya? i.e. one who protects his subjects from all sorts of discomforts is a kshatriya. Shivaji was born to protect his subjects only.
In his tribute to Shivaji, Samarth Guru Ramdas says, ?He is like a firm, huge mountain of determination, a support to most people, always resolute, an ascetic among riches. ? He is the master of men, horses, elephants, forts; he is the lord of the lands and the seas; and he is backed by the lord of the gods and the prime force behind this universe. He is victorious, famous, powerful, blessed, full of merit and morality, an understanding king. He is well-behaved, thoughtful, philanthropic, virtuous and knowingly noble towards all. He is patient, generous, handsome, brave, active and has reduced other kings to insignificance by alertness.? (translated from the letter in Marathi to Sambhaji, son of Shivaji).
Shivaji'scontemporary Aungier, the second Governor of Bombay in 1672 compares him with Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Hannibal. (English Records on Shivaji, II. No. 270). French traveler (1672-74) Abb? Carr? comparing him with the great king of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus says, ?A conqueror, who had all the qualities of a great general and above all a clearness of resolution and an unusual activity that almost always prove decisive in affairs of war. ? To this quickness of movement he added, like Julius Caesar, a clemency and bounty that won him the hearts of those his arms had worsted.? (S.N. Sen, Foreign Biographies of Shivaji, 203)
Robert Orme, official historian of the East India Company who came to Calcutta in 1742, records, ?Shivaji possessed all the qualities of a commander. ?In personal activities he exceeded all the generals of whom there is record. ? He met every emergency of peril howsoever sudden and extreme with instant discernment and unshaken fortitude. (Historical Fragments, pp. 93-94: Bal Krishna, Shivaji the Great, Vol. II, Part II, 12).
Sir E. Sullivan writes: ?He (Shivaji) possessed every quality requisite for success in the disturbed age in which he lived: cautious and wily in council, he was fierce and daring in action; he possessed an endurance that made him remarkable even amongst his hardy subjects, and an energy and decision that would in any age have raised him to distinctions.? (Warriors and Statesmen of India, 384).
James Grant Duff, the nineteenth century historian of Marathas, views Shivaji'sgenius with wonder and admiration: ?Whether planning the capture of a fort, or the conquest of a distant country, heading an attack or conducting a retreat, regulating the discipline to be observed amongst a hundred horse, or laying down arrangements for governing a county; we view his talents with admiration, and his genius with wonder. For a popular leader his frugality was a remarkable feature in his character; and the richest plunder never made him deviate from the rules laid down for its appropriation. (A History of the Mahrattas, Vol. I, 296).
(The writer is recipient of two National Awards for two of his Hindi books on TV Broadcasting. He has written a screenplay ?Maharaj Chhatrapati Shivaji?, for Hollywood. E-mails: [email protected])