In the era of governance deficit that affects the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor in India, the statecraft of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Kingdom, who ruled around 350 years is relevant. The textbooks of India don’t talk much about the statecraft of Shivaji. Rather they focus on his defeat at the hands of the Mughals, which is half truth. To discuss this issue, a national conference titlled “Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Statecraft: Lessons for Modern India” was organised from December 24 to December 25, 2022, in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh, to discuss these issues. The conference was attended by more than 85 delegates in Srisailam at the Sree Shivaji Sphoorti Kendra. Shivaji visited this place during his southern expedition and prayed to Goddess Bhawani.
“Chhatrapati Shivaji learned from history and not lived in history”, said Shri Sunil Ambekar, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), while delivering the keynote address for the conference. “After fighting the Adilshahi regime, Shivaji changed the entire governance system”, said Shri Sunil Ambekar.
Drawing a parallel with post-independence India, where colonial institutions took years to change, Shri Ambekar stressed that learning the statecraft of Shivaji is pertinent so that colonial mindsets are discarded.
Calling for an international centre for studying Chhatrapati Shivaji at Srisailam, Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, said global community requires learning from the governance principles applied by Shivaji that helped in expanding the Maratha empire. As a result, the Maratha empire ruled successfully for years in India. He provided a deep sense of trusteeship in his statecraft following the principles of Upbhogshunya Swamy, a person who did not draw benefits from the power held by him\her. Shivaji mastered the art of equity, military excellence, fair revenue systems favourable to farmers and common people but never meant it to be a freebee, Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe added.
Shivaji’s administrative skills
This session focused on Chhatrapati Shivaji’s administration and the system of civil service for public administration of the Maratha Kingdom.
Girish Joshi from Bhopal, spoke on the public system delivery of Chhatrapati Shivaji. He said that the objective of Shivaji’s rule was to deliver effective service to the people. Chhatrapati had Shivaji said that it was a divine service and that he was only a means to implement Bhagwan’s will to restore Sanatan values and faith. He was a king who ‘did’ rather than just sermonised. He had a transparent system for reducing economic losses. He took care of the old, the sick and the disabled. There was no nepotism. There was justice and no relaxation in punishment because of any high post held, and above all, fair and just governance for all.
N. Ksheerasagar of Samskruti Adhyayan Kendra, spoke on the system of land measurement and record management of Shivaji. He began by pointing out how Chhatrapati Shivaji rationalised land measurement by introducing State-certified standard-length rods as a measurement of length to estimate land holdings accurately. He quoted from Chanakya’s Arthasastra to show how this was a part of the duties of a King, which was implemented by Shivaji. This measure helped in correctly determining the tax liability of the farmers in association with other land parameters like soil quality and rainfall etc.
Shivaji’s regime was not secular, a narrative coyly promoted by some brand of History, but oriented towards a ‘Haindvi Swarajya’. His army was far less expensive with high fighting to non-fighting men’s ratio, much lighter and more mobile and suited well to his core strength. He also issued a ‘Rajamudra’ in Sanskrit, a recently adopted version by our Navy
— Dr. S.L. Bapat, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), Pune
The Mughal/Adil Shahi Army had a strength of 10,000 with the emperor, 30,000 assigned to subas/forts-weapon matchlocks, and Shihabandi a paramilitary force-policing jobs. The artillery was mainly used in forts-projectiles/shot up to 100 kg, siege artillery to shoot up to 50 kg and field artillery. The army was well organised- planning was done minutely, could form various battle formations, was flexible, and plans were executed audaciously. Units were permanent and had better teamwork. As warfare was of extreme mobility, artillery was not considered an essential arm. Also, Marathas lacked the facilities for the production of artillery. The principal source of equipment remained European settlements, especially the French. The French had supplied Shivaji Maharaj with 88 guns, 3000 mounds of ammunition. The British also have had supplied him with some guns. — Brig. Hemant Mahajan
Sridhar Throat, a historian from Pune, spoke on ‘Tax Reforms implemented by Chhatrapati Shivaji. He summed up the significant reforms introduced by Shivaji, which drastically altered the quality of the State financing system. Shivaji started with almost nil in his coffers, but due to transparent system he introduced Rs. 10 crores was accumulated for the public treasury, a huge sum in those days. He plugged leakages and avoided pompous shows of royal power and its entailing expenses.
The chairperson briefly summarised the presentations and emphasised the need to become more aware of the need to work for such reforms in our contemporary life.
Concern for Women’s Welfare
Chhatrapati Shivaji had the deepest concern for women and gave importance to women’s security and welfare and promoted up sensitivity towards women. Prof. I. Lakshmi, Dr. Vidya Deodhar and Ms Medha D. Bhaskaran explained women’s security under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Shivaji Maharaj did not tolerate crimes against women. He chastised local landlord Patil for raping a woman at a young age. Rape resulted in “Chauranga,” the amputation of hands, legs, and an eye. Citing from the chronicles Bakhars which is considered a valuable resource depicting the Maratha view of history, Prof Lakshmi explained the treatment of Shivaji towards womenfolk during his rule. During the expeditions at Kalyan, one of the officers of Shivaji Maharaj arrested the daughter-in-law of Adilshahi Subahdar of Kalyan. When she was brought into the court, Chh. Shivaji Maharaj asked her to return home and gave her complete honour and a robe. During the expedition of Jawali against the Mores, Maratha Army killed a combatant from Golewadi on More’s side. After his death, his wife fought bravely against the Maratha forces. Eventually, she was caught and brought in front of Shivaji Maharaj, who asked her to return home and conferred on her full honour and robe. Also, Maharaj pronounced capital punishment to the subahdar who arrested that woman. After the coronation, Shivaji Maharaj, after returning from the expedition of Karnataka at Belawadi, wife of a chieftain, looted the supplies of the Maratha Army. Maratha forces besieged her palace. Though she fought bravely, she was forced to surrender to the Maratha Army. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj conferred on her honour and robes. As per the legend, in memory of the great king, the lady commissioned the Shilpa’s (commemoration stones with Shivaji Maharaj’s image) in various places in Karnataka. One such commemoration stone can be seen even today in Yadavad.
His Military Strategy
Speaking on Chhatrapati Shivaji’s military strategy and tactics, Vikram Singh Mohite, informed that very early in his career, Shivaji realised that understanding one’s kingdom’s topography was essential for devising an effective military strategy. After spending a few years with Shahaji Raje in Bijapur, he spent his first few days back in Poona conducting reconnaissance with locals who had grown up in the mountainous and forested areas surrounding the city. He encountered numerous local chieftains and men in prominent positions during his lengthy journeys, which lasted for several nights and days. But these excursions were more than just a way for him to become acquainted with the area’s geography. They gained a devoted group of fans and followers, which was another significant objective. Early on, it became clear that forts offered the finest offensive and defensive options. Torna and Rajgad came under his authority, and he started carrying out his ambitions for Swarajya by acquiring forts close to Poona. Later, he bought, built, rebuilt, and overhauled forts in key areas. Throughout his rule, he ensured they were properly maintained and cared for. When he passed away, he was in charge of 370 forts.
Vice Admiral Muralidhar Pawar, spoke about the Inception of the Indian Navy under Shivaji. Shivaji had exceptional proficiency in the development of his military apparatus. He established a powerful naval presence along the Konkan and Goa coasts to safeguard maritime trade. The Marathas could hold their own against the British, Portuguese, and Dutch because of Shivaji’s mighty navy. Shivaji understood the value of a safe shoreline and the need to defend the western Konkan coastline from Siddi’s naval attacks. He planned to fortify and defend his empire by creating a powerful navy. In cities like Kalyan, Bhivandi, and Goa, Shivaji built ships for trade and set up a formidable navy. He also constructed several marine forts and bases for maintenance, storage, and shelter. Shivaji engaged in several protracted coastal wars with the Siddis of Janjira. After taking control of eight or nine ports in the Deccan, he began doing business with foreigners.
Dr. Annirudha Deshpande emphasised the need to study the strategy of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. “He was a great administrator who galvanised a significant proportion of India and set up the Maratha kingdom. There is ample literature available about Shivaji. He had the highest level of devotion to its people. His relentless work for Swaraj is revered even today, and modern-day management must take lessons from his work.