In order to underline-evaluate the importance and contribution of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the national life and historical perspective, the circumstances of the time have to be kept in view. Centuries of slavery had broken the morale of Hindu society to the core. The subjugated and defeated Hindu society could not understand any way of liberation. Despite being the ideal face of all-time great heroes like Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram and Lokrakshak Shri Krishna, the present plight had pushed him into the pit of despair. The desire for struggle and victory grew in the heart of Sanatan Samaj, but the horror and cruelty of the alien rule compelled them to keep silent. After the establishment of the state of the heretic-foreign invaders in the country, there was no space left for pride and enthusiasm in the hearts of the Hindu people and most of the Hindu kings. Their temples were demolished in front of them, idols were broken and revered men were insulted. In spite of slavery and struggle, as a result of continuous defeat due to one or the other socio-organisational-military weakness, strategic error or infighting, etc. by giving up self-respect, they started accepting the notion of ‘Dilliswaro Jagdishwarova’ as true. Still, it would be a simplistic conclusion to say that we Indians could not face the foreign-faithful invaders with courage and struggle and surrendered without fighting or were defeated. But the truth is that we fought a lot! Such that we forced the enemies to retreat. They were not allowed to rule a single and secure rule in any part of the country and in the province.
The truth is that even in that unfavourable environment filled with overcast darkness of despair and despondency, the bright sun like Chhatrapati Shivaji rose on the Indian light. The rise of Shivaji was not only the rise of an individual, but he was the rise of the enthusiasm and effort of the castes, the rise of pride and self-respect, the rise of Swaraj, Suraj, Swadharma and Good Governance and above all, he was a living ideal king. The embodied inspiration was the rise of the man. His coronation was not just an event of a particular person sitting on the throne. Rather, it was a period-marking event that decided the future direction of the society and the nation. It was an event that shook and awakened the sleeping consciousness of centuries. Shivaji Maharaj was not just a person, he was a thought, a culture, a guide, a revolutionary torch, and a period-marking craftsman.
His coronation and the establishment of the Hindavi kingdom were the result of his long thought and direct experience. It was the fruitful culmination of his tireless efforts and innovative experiments. It was his extraordinary and well-thought-out effort to awaken the dormant consciousness and self of the caste which had been subjugated for centuries. Since Prithviraj Chauhan, the Hindu caste was continuously under the control of the Turks-Mughals. In such a situation, Shivaji first instilled confidence within the society. By instilling in them the feeling of national self-respect, inspired and organized them for some big cause. Collected small workers-agriculturists toiling castes, belligerent natives of Maval. They were filled with curiosity. He believed that the Adilshahi-Qutabshahi-Mughaliya Sultanate was not celestial, their powers were not invincible. Rather, they could be defeated with a little intelligence, strategic skill, courage, strength and organization. Not only could they be defeated, but a Dharmadharit-Prajapalak state power could also be established according to the wishes of the people. He first boosted the morale of his soldiers by conquering small forts. After that, he expanded his kingdom by winning big forts; Adilshahi, Qutbshahi, Afzal Khan, Shaista Khan, Mirza Raja Jai Singh etc. took a strong front from the opponents and their huge army. Some battles are lost and most often won. Sometimes treaties and agreements were made. When necessary, retreated, stopped, stayed, accumulated power and fired again. He chose the path of concrete pragmatism in place of dogma and plain idealism. While choosing practicality, neither did he ignore the high ideals and values of private and national life, nor neglected the interests of the subjects and the demand of the time. In fact, his goal was a victory for the protection of the nation and religion. And in the end, he was successful. In a way, he proved to be the last nail in the coffin of the Mughal Empire. If Aurangzeb had not entangled with the Marathas in the south, perhaps the Mughal Sultanate would not have ended so soon. Imagine how strong Shivaji’s leadership skills, military array and organization-craft must have been that even after his departure, the Marathas continued to fight with the Mughals and the British, not bowing down.
Seeing the success of Shivaji Maharaj, not only in the Marathas but also in other Indian kings, there was a sense of independence. They too were determined to throw off the shackles of independence. From south to north, from Rajasthan to Assam, the efforts for independence intensified. Taking inspiration from him, all the Rajput kings in Rajasthan under the leadership of Veer Durgadas Rathod launched such an attack against the Mughals-Turks that they did not dare to set foot in Rajasthan again. Veer Chhatrasal played a separate battlefield and established self-government based on Swadharma. Raja Chakradhwaj Singh of Assam declared that “we should not allow the footsteps of the Mughals in the states situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra by adopting a policy like Shivaji.” Raja Rudra Singh of Cooch-Bihar said that “We should follow the path of Shivaji. While walking, these hypocrites should be drowned in the sea of Bengal.” Instead of adorning the court of Delhishwar, the poet Bhushan on the heroic Shiromani Maharaj Shivaji carried forward the tradition of struggle and might to protect his culture, and his religion. Wrote ‘Shiva Bavani’. He kicked Aurangzeb’s slavery. He said in the filled court – “The poet is not sold. One who has a bright character and is worthy of praise. You are not worthy of praise.” In fact, this was also the purpose of Shivaji Maharaj’s life. He wanted to spread cultural consciousness in the entire country through his enterprise management, thinking-determination, and policy leadership. To limit his personality and work only to Maharashtra and his time would be a total injustice to him. It is invariably true that not only did he sparkle the consciousness of his time and society, but he also became the most divine and brightest beacon of energy and inspiration for the coming generations and freedom fighters. If the West had such a warrior hero, they would have raised him to the pinnacle of greatness by promoting, broadcasting and praising him all over the world through art, cinema, and literature. But in India, people held him topped off, but some historians tried to prove him as a mountain mouse, and a plunderer who collected rent. But how long could a few clouds and bunches stop the bright sun?
He was the first modern ruler to form the Chaturangini military force. He was the father of the Navy. He understood the importance of weapons along with the scriptures. The factories for its manufacture were established. Perhaps he was the first to get the recognition of the homecoming of the converts. His Ashtapradhan was an example of an unmatched cabinet and governance. The practice of the Peshwa in the dynastic era of that time was, in fact, respect for merit. He kept a high standard of justice by punishing his loved ones too. The higher the office, the greater was his unique style of fixing statutory responsibility and accountability. He presented many examples of rewarding courage, loyalty and talent. While he made the heretical invaders a victim of his wrath, he was equally kind, tolerant and generous towards non-Hindu subjects. An immortal, divine and stunning picture like Shivaji will develop a sense of pride in the past and will certainly pave the way for the present and lay a solid foundation for a golden future.
He was not only a great warrior but also an efficient and capable administrator. He developed his system of governance on the basis of solid principles by integrating ancient Indian traditions and contemporary governance systems. It was his administrative ability that even the inhabitants of the conquered territories considered him their overlord by heart. The governance system of Shivaji Maharaj was people-oriented. He comes before us as a welfare ruler instead of an autocratic ruler. As a ruler who kept the interests of the subjects paramount. The seeds of democracy were present in his system of governance. In fact, his main objective was to develop a government system based on the Indian tradition of justice.
He never misused his authority as an administrator. They also rewarded those soldiers and allies who were loyal to the interests of the state more than the king, that is, the individual. Many such illustrations appear in the life of Shivaji.
Autocracy or monopolism brings distortion. It makes the king autocratic. Most of the kings or emperors (Badshahs) of that period were prone to autocratic tendencies. Shivaji was the first in the history of the world to decentralize his own power. Today, when the lesson of best management is taught, the matter of decentralization of responsibilities is kept at the top. A person has his own merits and demerits, his strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and his limit of thinking ability, Shivaji knew this truth very well. They were not like those weak administrators, who are afraid of losing their power and authority every moment.
Shivaji Maharaj had prepared a comprehensive dictionary of official terminology named ‘Rajvayar Kosh’ by selected experts. This is a testament to his brilliance and intelligence. According to him, he had formed a council of eight ministers, which was called the Ashta Pradhan, to help in the official work. Ability, devotion to duty, loyalty, honesty and bravery were the only criteria for someone’s inclusion in his cabinet. Contrary to the contemporary practice, heredity was not mandatory for the post of minister.
The ‘Peshwa’ was the head of that cabinet. The ‘Amatya’ used to bear the finance and state duties. The ‘Secretary’ used to carry out the correspondence and other official work of the king which also included the royal seal and the preparation of the articles of treaties. The main function of the ‘Mantri’ was to collect and verify various types of information and secret information, keep a close watch on the events and activities happening in the state, compile the news and get the Maharaj’s attention to it. He kept the journal of the king. He had the right to ask questions to the king in case of additional expenditure. Do you think that today’s employees can ask for the details of income and expenditure from their officer or chief? ‘Sumant’ used to take care of foreign affairs, almost performing the work of today’s foreign minister. He used to carry forward the negotiations in other states as the principal representative or negotiator of the king. The ‘Senapati’ was the head of the army. He had the right to appoint soldiers in the army. He also used to have the responsibility of organization, discipline, deployment in the battlefield etc. of the army. The ‘Panditrao’ was responsible for religious matters and grants. The ‘Judge’ was the head of judicial affairs. Each Chief Justice was assisted by a number of minor officers, as well as eight chief officers such as “Davan, Majmuadar, Phadnis, Subanis, Chitnis, Jamadar and Potnis”.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had prepared his constitution, i.e. code of governance like today. He promoted the decentralization of power and democratization of governance. He knew very well that no matter how capable and powerful a person was, he could not run the systems without a cohesive system. Therefore, his emphasis was on creating system-based governance instead of individual-centred governance. Despite being a ruler himself, he made an indirect attempt to destroy feudalism from its roots. How high and rare does this ideal of Shivaji seem today, seeing the dynastic legacy being nurtured by all the parties and leaders! They considered themselves to be trustees, not the owners of the state. They believed in God as the lord of the state. That is why he happily offered his kingdom at the feet of his mentor, Samarth Guru Ramdas.
For the convenience of governance, he divided the conquered areas into four provinces called ‘Swaraj’. The ‘subedar’ of each province was called ‘Prantpati’. He had the Ashtapradhan committee of the village. Every village had a ‘Mukhiya’. Three types of taxes were prevalent during his time. It is noteworthy that only land tax was collected from the farmers. Taxes were collected from poor farmers on the basis of the area and yield of their land. All the soldiers, officers, chieftains, ministers etc. of his state were salaried. No other king had effectively implemented a well-planned and prosperous wage system like him. This farsightedness of Shivaji was helpful in curbing corruption and piracy.
People who sing the praises of socialism and communism will be surprised to know that Shivaji was the first ruler who abolished Vatandari and Zamindari. He said that the position will remain, but the power will not be there. At that time the chieftains-jagirdars had their own private armies. Taking the army under the central administration of Swarajya, he started paying them salaries, the happy result of which was that the loyalty of the soldiers became attached to the nation-state, not to the individuals. He also made many changes at the social level. Converted warriors like Netaji Palkar, Bajaji Nimbalkar were again taken back to Hinduism by the scriptural method. Not only withdrew but also gave social recognition to Ghar-Wapsi by adding his family ties to them. He was ahead of his time. So he showed no hesitation in adopting the modern arts and warfare techniques of Arabia and Europe. He took up the art of printing, printing, making guns, swords etc. By forming the navy, built water forts like Sindhudurg, Suvarnadurg, Padmadurg, Vijaydurg.
Overall, he created a comprehensive system of epoch-making governance. And in the light of all these illustrations and episodes, it can be said that Shivaji was the true builder of modern India. Today this question will be completely justified by whose devious plan and indirect and direct conspiracies, a skilled administrator and great warrior like Shivaji was covered in a few pages of textbooks or rather in paragraphs. Isn’t this gross injustice to national heroes like Shivaji? The aware and self-respecting generations not only respect their national heroes but also follow their footsteps firmly.