Shivaji died in 1680 AD and Ramdas in 1681. They had achieved much, but much more had yet to be achieved. They two died, but even their death would not kill the movement they had brought into being. It was not based on the narrow and shifting foundation of an individual life. It had struck its roots deep into the life of the nation”. – V D Savarkar, Hindu-Pad-Patshahi OR A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE HINDU EMPIRE OF MAHARASHTRA, B G Paul & Co, Madras, 1925. P. 11
The Coronation of Shivaji Maharaj as Chhatrapati on June 6, 1774, or Jyeshtha Shukla 13 as per the Hindu calendar, was a momentous occasion in the history of Bharat for many reasons. Though celebrating the birth of great historical personalities is a general tradition, there is nothing wrong with that. But, in the case of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Coronation ceremony assumes much more historical and contemporary significance, both from the Swaraj and Suraj point of view.
From the eighth century onwards, there were consistent external aggressions on Bharat. Though there was continuous resistance from the Kings and the society at large, the impact of the brutal onslaught on the national psyche was immeasurable. Of course, there was a glorious period of the Vijayanagar Empire for more than two hundred years from the mid-fourteenth century. The legacy of Raja Krishna Dev Raya could not be sustained later. Raja Shivaji dared to crown himself as an independent ruler fighting against the Mughals, Adilshah of Bijapur and Siddhis of Janjira. He instilled a new confidence in the indigenous population against the invaders, breaking their spell of superiority in terms of arms and administration. The idea of Hindavi Swaraj continued to guide the populace with a national perspective even after the death of Shivaji Maharaj. The same idea of Swaraj, based on the civilisational values of Swadharma (Selfhood), steered our freedom struggle against British rule and still holds a great significance.
The coronation also brought in a new era of strategic vision. With the help of a well-regulated and disciplined military, Shivaji Maharaj evolved his own doctrine of military engagement. The combination of guerrilla tactics, strategic alliances, and building a maritime strength allowed him to leverage the strategic factors like geography, speed, surprise, and focused pinpoint attacks on the larger and more powerful enemies as per the need. In the first half of the eighteenth century, what was later termed as the Maratha Empire, was the strategic march of the same Swaraj for the protection and unification of Bharat under one rule. Liberating the symbols of slavery and mixing the strategy of guerrilla warfare with the multiplication of power through alliances were critical parts of the expeditions from Attock to Cuttack. Reigniting the idea of nationhood and evolving the security strategy for protecting the same is still our national need.
Besides rousing the national consciousness among the common masses, the greatest contribution of Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation was the ideal of people-centric governance. The appointment of Asht-Pradhan (Council of Ministers) and the introduction of the Rayotwari (collecting direct taxes from the farmers) instead of Jahagirdari (Collection through middlemen) were revolutionary steps in that period. He established a competent and futuristic civil rule. Commissioning of the Rajya Vyavahar Kosh (Glossary of State Administration) was one of the most significant steps Shivaji Maharaj adopted to take administration closer to the people. The influence of Turkish and Arabic terminologies in the administrative parlance and Sanskrit-Prakrit originating nomenclatures like Pradhan and Nyayadhish were introduced. When the preference for Bharatiya languages in the administrative and judicial parlance is still debatable, Shivaji’s approach to indigenising terminologies can provide valuable insights.
When we are marching on the path from political independence to intellectual-spiritual selfhood, from Swaraj to Suraj, the ideas emanating from the Hindu Samarajya Divas – such as impersonalised and righteous rule, the importance of strategic vision based on the civilisational wisdom and inspiring the ordinary people for the extraordinary national objectives – should be researched and recontextualised.