As Bharat aspires to embark on a trajectory from Swaraj to Suraj, civilisational ideals espoused by Shivaji are of immense utility and importance
Shivaji was the symbol of resurgent Hindu nationalism, drawing inspiration from the old classics, courageous, and possessing high qualities of leadership. He built up the Marathas as a strong united fighting group, gave them a nationalist background, and made them a formidable power which broke up the Mughal Empire. He died in 1680, but the Maratha power continued to grow till it dominated India. — Jawaharlal Nehru in Discovery of India
Notwithstanding the praise, Nehru — to put the record straight — was never a great admirer of Shivaji, though he had praised the Maratha king for his democratic and inclusive approaches while putting in place the military and political system based on Bharatheeya ethos. Nehru considered Shivaji a “misguided patriot” who had used “religion” to knit together a formidable force against the mighty Mughals in their heydays. In Nehruvian scheme of things, Mughal emperor Akbar, with a questionable legacy and antecedents, stood shoulders above Shivaji in terms of vision and contribution to the evolution of our Indian nationhood. In his view, Shivaji was a parochial military adventurer whose strategy of mixing “religion and nationalism” did bring about cohesiveness and strength in Bharat but led to “ultimate weakness and insufficiency”. According to Nehru, “the national sentiment” of the Marathas was “largely confined to the Marathi-speaking area”. The problem with Nehru’s observation is that he had used a Western prism to analyse Shivaji and the Indian reality. That is why the Nehruvian secularism that he and his followers tried to graft onto the nation and its psyche runs counter to the very essence of our national selfhood, and everything that Shivaji stood for. Taking a cue from the Nehruvian ideas, the Marxist historians not only populated the pages of history textbooks with the fake grandeur of the Mughal kings but relegated the likes of Shivaji to the margins.
Marxist historians who try to make a saint out of Aurangzeb and other Muslim tyrants should know how Shivaji’s Haindavi Swaraj treated minorities and women. Although he fought several battles with Islamic sultanates of the Mughals, the Qutubshahi and the Adilshahi, he never harboured any ill-will against the Muslim people. Several Muslims were inducted into key positions in the administration and military.
“There was not a single instance during Shivaji’s reign when any women belonging to minority community had to suffer even minimal harassment or persecution. Quite to the contrary, whenever women captured by the Adilshahi, Qutubshahi or Mughal sultanates for their lustful enjoyment used to fall into the Maratha hands after any military campaign, Shivaji immediately would set them free and send them back to their respective homes with full honour. One cannot find even a single instance of this kind in the 300-year-long history of the Mughal Empire in India. Women captured in battle by the Mughals would either be thrown into slavery in the royal harms or be given away forcibly in marriage to someone else,” writes Anil Madhav Dave in his book Shivaji & Suraj: An Iconic leader & Good Governance.
After Shivaji conquered Surat, he saw to it that the security of Christians there was taken care of. “He deployed security guards for their security and gave them his personal word to assure them of their safety and security,” writes French traveller Francois Bernier.
Shivaji’s contribution to arousing the spirit of national selfhood was visible to all incisive observers and historians. Swami Vivekananda says, “Is there a greater hero, a greater saint, a greater bhakta and a greater king than Shivaji? Shivaji was the embodiment of a born ruler of men as typified in our great Epics. He was the real son of India representing the true consciousness of the nation. It was he who showed what the future of India is going to be sooner or later, a group of independent units under one umbrella as it were, under one supreme imperial suzerainty.”
The British were aware of the power of the idea on which Shivaji had built up the Haindavi Swaraj. Warren Hastings writes: “The Marathas possess, alone of all the people of Hindustan and Deccan, a principle of national attachment, which is strongly impressed on the minds of all individuals of the nation, and would probably unite their chiefs, as in one common cause, if any great danger were to threaten the general state.”
Relevance of Shivaji’s Swaraj
After Independence, Bharat had the option to follow Shivaji’s Swaraj and rebuild our nation on the civilizational foundations. But those who took the reins of power chose to take a different route. Our departure from our national ethos and slavish adoption of imported ideas has led us to social, intellectual, and economic deprivation.
On the relevance of Shivaji’s ideals today, RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat states, “The study of the fundamental and lasting aspects of this socio-political revolution brought about by Shivaji holds great relevance and utility even today. It was a polity meant not merely to rule over a people or act as their benefactor, but one crafted keeping in view the needs of their balanced material uplift as well as spiritual advancement. It was truly people-oriented and fair, robust in its enterprise for result, self-dependent, transparent, holistic and disciplined.”
Bharat was great not only in thought and philosophy but also in action. It has the potential to flower again as the centre of culture and prosperity. To achieve this, we need to recapture our history whille leading the nation on the basis of our national selfhood. To take Bharat from Swaraj to Suraj, we need to rekindle the ideals that guided Shivaji in establishing Haindavi Swaraj.