The eagerly anticipated moment arrived when the commoners would witness the restoration of their pride and identity. It was a momentous day on the Hindu calendar, specifically Jyeshtha Shuddha Trayodashi, which falls two days before the full moon day. This auspicious day, June 6, 1674, marked the coronation ceremony of Shivaji Maharaj, a historical event within the magnificent fortress of Raigad. A plethora of detailed descriptions of this grand occasion can be found in various historical records, including the writings of foreign observers. Henry Oxenden’s diary, penned in 1674, provides a significant first-hand account of Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation. The Marathi records, the English Factory Records, and primarily Oxenden’s diary are essential sources for understanding and documenting this momentous event.
Coronation with Hindu Tradition
The events leading up to the coronation began on the previous evening of Friday, June 5, with traditional Hindu ceremonies, including Ganesh Pujan, SwastiPujan, and MatrukaPujan. Shivaji Maharaj and his wife Soyrabai performed the mandap puja, paying homage to the sacred space. Four large pots containing ghee, milk, and water were positioned around the main altar in the mandap. Made of gold, silver, copper, and earthen materials, these pots represented the cardinal directions. Additionally, numerous pots held water from holy rivers and seas. The rituals commenced with the symbolic installation of celestial bodies and the chanting of Vedic mantras, followed by the illumination of the main altar with the holy fire. Shivaji Maharaj then underwent ceremonial water and panchamrit baths, donning a regal white robe. He performed further rituals near the main altar, offering prayers to the fire god before proceeding to the consecration area. The abhishek with holy water and the subsequent enthronement was the essential coronation rituals. As Shivaji Maharaj stepped into the consecration area, Vedic mantras filled the air, and sacred water was poured over him, signifying divine blessings and purification. With the completion of this purification, the momentous enthronement took place. Henry Oxinden has described the scene of Shivaji Maharaj’s enthronement quite vividly. He says, “We saw several royal insignia and symbols of power atop the tips of gold-plated spears on either side of the throne. On the right side of the throne, there were two goldfish heads with large teeth. On the left were several horse tails, and at the tip of a valuable spear dangled a gold scale, signifying justice.”
People’s King & Braveheart
The coronation of Shivaji Maharaj held great significance for various reasons. After centuries of oppressive Muslim rule, the ordinary people found solace in Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation. By declaring himself an enthroned king, he became the ruler of the Marathas, Hindus, and Bharatiyas. Shivaji Maharaj emerged as a symbol of independence, proving that the sons of the soil could challenge and humble the oppressive rulers. The coronation is also essential for strategic reasons. His state during that time was surrounded by alien powers. By crowning himself as Chhatrapati, Shivaji Maharaj posed a significant challenge to the Muslim rulers of the time. The destruction of the Vijayanagar Empire had left the native population demoralised, but his thoughts of independence reignited their hopes. His coronation symbolises the strength of the Indians and instils fear in the powerful Muslim kingdoms. The ruler of Bijapur even sent gifts to Shivaji Maharaj, feigning happiness but secretly feeling intimidated. Shivaji Maharaj established a sovereign and independent kingdom in the Deccan through his coronation. In an era when powerful rulers succumbed to Mughal rule, his kingdom stood apart as an independent entity. The coronation elevated its political and religious stature.
Unlike his father, who had refrained from ascending the throne, Shivaji Maharaj went further by creating his separate kingdom and undergoing the coronation ceremony. Before his coronation, Shivaji Maharaj had already established a functioning state with an efficient administration and military system. However, the coronation bestowed religious and cultural legitimacy upon his state. It became the pinnacle of his government system, reviving nationalistic culture with religious approval. Shivaji Maharaj was committed to providing good governance to the people. He promised political independence and a benevolent government by vowing to rule with justice and lawfulness during his coronation. His assurance reassured the people that they would be ruled justly and fairly, which became a defining aspect of his coronation. R. V. Oturkar writes, “In this ceremony, Shivaji Maharaj vowed in witness of gods, holy fire and his teachers to rule by being lawful. Through this, he promised the people not just political independence but good governance as well. This was the salient feature of this coronation ceremony. No one had forced him to do this; it was his will and wish”. The coronation established a Dharma-based state and created a governed society. His authority extended to all classes, castes, and religions, allowing him to enforce laws and deliver justice across society. This removed legal and moral obstacles, stamping his rule with religious, moral, and legal legitimacy. The coronation also enabled Shivaji Maharaj to create a constitution for his state. The roles and responsibilities of the Eight Minister Council were outlined, and Sanskrit names were used, breaking away from Persian influence. His title, ‘Chhatrapati,’ signified his care and protection for people of all religions and castes. The constitutional aspects of the coronation reinforced the inclusive nature of his rule. It marked the beginning of a new epoch in the history of Bharat. He established a new era, starting with his coronation day, and introduced a different currency for his independent kingdom. He enacted new laws in various fields, including civil, military, religious, and legal domains. He also significantly changed the writing style and language used in official communication. Shivaji Maharaj aimed to eradicate foreign influences and create a distinct cultural identity by promoting Marathi-based writing systems and replacing Persian terms with Sanskrit-based ones.
Rajvyavaharkosh was compiled to remove use of Persian words from day to day administration. For many reasons, Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation is still relevant today. It showcases exemplary leadership and courage in the face of adversity. He rose from humble beginnings to establish an independent kingdom, challenging the oppressive rule of foreign powers. His unwavering determination, strategic prowess, and commitment to the welfare of his people inspire individuals to overcome obstacles, take bold action, and lead with integrity. His actions were always futuristic in nature. He always believed your land could not be safe unless you were economically more robust and powerful. He stressed the need to collect land revenue and other taxes honestly. His coronation was a statement of cultural pride and identity. He actively promoted and protected the native culture, language, and traditions of his people. His emphasis on cultural resurgence reminds future generations to cherish their heritage and preserve their unique identity despite external influences.
The message of empowerment
It also symbolises the spirit of resistance against oppression and injustice. Shivaji Maharaj stood up against the tyranny of foreign rulers and fought for the rights and dignity of his subjects. His relentless struggle for independence inspires individuals to stand up against any form of oppression, uphold justice, and defend the rights of the marginalised. This was his idea of Swaraj. In his coronation, there was a message of empowerment for the marginalised sections of society. He actively worked towards social upliftment, challenging traditional hierarchies and providing opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds to rise based on merit. His commitment to inclusive governance inspires future leaders to create a society with equal opportunities and rights. He had a vision for a strong and prosperous nation. He laid the foundations for good governance, efficient administration, and infrastructure development. Shivaji Maharaj’s basis of swaraj was through Suraaj. His futuristic vision can be emphasised when he wrote a letter on April 9, 1674, to the military officers at Chiplun, asking them to arrange everything needed for the military before the arrival of the monsoon. His emphasis on justice, lawfulness, and people-centric policies inspires future leaders to prioritise the well-being and progress of the nation as a whole.
A letter written to a subedar on September 5, 1676 indicates his pro-people policies. In this letter, he directed the officials to advance interest-free loans to the needy ones for the purchase of seeds and oxen, which was to be repaid after 8 to 10 years. He fixed land revenue which was to be paid in cash at 33 per cent and in the form of grains was 40 per cent. The idea was to store grains to be used during calamities or wars. Shivaji Maharaj protected the interests of salt traders and merchants by imposing extra cess on the Portuguese salt manufacturer from Bardez. The coronation ceremony highlights the importance of unity and nationalism. Despite diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, he united the people under a common purpose and fostered a sense of national identity. His inclusive approach and ability to forge alliances inspire future generations to prioritise unity and work towards the betterment of the entire nation.
Overall, the coronation of Shivaji Maharaj granted political independence and ushered in a new age of social, religious, and cultural transformation. It restored the pride and identity of the Indians, shattered long-standing myths, and challenged the dominance of Muslim powers. Shivaji Maharaj created a governed society and laid the foundation for a constitutional framework by establishing an independent kingdom and the assurance of good governance. His coronation marked the beginning of a new era in Indian history, characterised by a power led by an Indian, cultural resurgence, and the pursuit of justice and sovereignty.
Acknowledging the profound impact of Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation is crucial, as it solidified his esteemed position as a revered king and profoundly influenced the trajectory of Indian history. The enduring legacy of his visionary leadership and unwavering dedication to the welfare of his people continues to serve as a wellspring of inspiration for successive generations, underscoring the enduring significance of his coronation in the annals of Indian civilisation. The coronation of Shivaji Maharaj stands as a source of inspiration for future generations, imparting invaluable lessons on leadership, fortitude, the preservation of culture, resistance against oppression, empowerment, nation-building, and the unifying force of unity. His extraordinary accomplishments and timeless legacy motivate individuals to strive for excellence, champion justice and actively contribute to forging a brighter future for themselves and their nation.
The Great Coronation
– The coronation ceremony of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj took place at Fort Raigad in Maharashtra on Jyeshta Shudha Trayodash (June 6, 1674)
– The ceremony was conducted by Gaga Bhatta of Varanasi, an authority in Vedic rituals and ceremonies
– As per the official record of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, more than 50,000 people attended the coronation ceremony
– Shivaji Maharaj took the title of Hindavi Dharmodhhaarak (protector of the Hindu faith) during his coronation ceremony
– The complete coronation took place over the course of nine days and nine nights
– The great king also proclaimed a new era and a new calendar through the coronation ceremony
– A royal seal was also issued during the ceremony
– Chhatrapati received respects from English, French, Portuguese & Dutch and other kings, except Mughal Aurangzeb
– The coronation of Shivaji declared to foreign powers that the Emperor of India is Shivaji
– The coronation and idea of Swaraj continued to inspire till the Independence
Significance of calling
The coronation ceremony was conducted as per the shastras by Vishweshwar or Gaga Bhatta of Varanasi. Gaga Bhatta knew all four Vedas, the six philosophies and all the Hindu scriptures. Many religious ceremonies were performed before the coronation and Shivaji visited major temples. Shivaji sat on the throne adorned with emblems and other such auspicious materials. The priests chanted holy verses. Gaga Bhatt advanced and held the golden umbrella over Shivaji’s head. He was conferred upon the title of “Kshatriya Kulavantas Chhatrapati Raje Shivaji”. The Coronation ceremony was marked by the beginning of the new Era Known as “Shiv Rajyabhisheka Shaka”.
Aims of State
His own words and deeds : Shivaji’s seal is dated January 28, 1646 CE. The seal is in Sanskrit. Even his father’s seal was in Persian. This fact by itself must have been sufficient to bring home to some people that a new era had commenced. The Saptakoteshwar Temple at Divadi in Goa was demolished by Muslim rulers. Later, a minister of the Vijayanagar Empire re-built it, but it was again demolished by the Portuguese in 1540 CE. The temple was probably in a state of disrepair in Shivail’s time. He restored it or perhaps built a new temple in 1668 CE.
Associates on his aims : In the Sanskrit Deed of Gift that Sambhai signed and sealed on August 27, 1680, he extols Shivaji with the adjective he who had, at the first blossoming of youth, imbibed the aspiration of destroying Muslims’.
Paramananda’s Shivabharat says several times that Shivaji is destroyer of the yavanas (i.e. Muslims), and that he has incarnated for that reason alone.
Adversaries : What his enemies thought about Shivaji and the work he had undertaken may be gauged from letters of the time and court histories. Whenever the name Shivaji’ is mentioned, it is almost always accompanied by the choicest swearwords.
Foreign Powers : The Chief Officer of the factory of the English Fast India Company at Rajapur, Henry Revington, wrote a letter to Shivaji on February 13, 1660 CE, soon after Afzal Khan was killed. He begins the letter with “To Sevagy, General of the Hendoo Forces”. What Revington thought about Shivaji is amply clear from that line. Islamic rulers used to call their military forces the ‘Armies of Islam’; Revington calls Shivaji’s army as ‘Hendoo Forces’.
(Excerpt from the book ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji: Saviour of Hindu Idea’)
Ashta Pradhan Mandal
The ‘Cabinet of Eight Ministers’ of Hindavi Swarjya was the Ashtapradhana Mandala. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj attempted to modernise and formalise the Hindavi Swarajya’s Government.
Ashta Pradhan (Council of Eight Ministers)
-Peshwa: The King’s Prime Minister
-Amatya or Majumdar: Finance Minister
-Waq-i-Nawis: Home Minister
-Dabir or Sumant: Work of the foreign department
-Sachiv: The official correspondence
-Pandit Rao: He was a religious officer
-Sar-i-Naubat or Senapati: The army affairs
-Nyayadhish: The chief justice
Sanskrit royal seal
The objective of Shivaji Maharaj in founding the Swarajya is clearly expressed in his mudra (royal seal) with the following inscribed lines in Sanskrit: Pratipatchandralekhev vardhishnurvishvavandita Shahsunoh shivasyaisha mudra bhadray rajate (Ever-increasing like the crescent moon, the kingdom of Shivaji, son of Shahji, will always seek the welfare of the people). Rajya Vyavahra Kosha (dictionary showing Sanskrit alternatives for Persians for the state administration) was prepared.
Rajya Vyavahra Kosha
Rajya Vyavahra Kosha, a dictionary showing Sanskrit alternatives for Persians for the state administration) was prepared
Shivaji stopped using the Islamic Almanac ‘Hijri’, and started his own Shiv shak as almanac.
Model of Suraj
For convenience and efficiency, Shivaji divided his kingdom into four provinces. The provinces were divided into a number of regions called prants. Each prant was subdivided into parganas and tarafs. The village was the lowest unit of administration, run by the village headman known as Patel. The Patel carried on his duties with the help of the gram Panchayat, whose members were elected by the villagers. Each province was under the charge of a Subedar or Mamlatdar, who was helped by a number of other officers.
Revenue and Economic Administration
In Shivaji’s Revenue System, assessment was made after a careful survey and classification of the lands according to their quality and yield. The procedure entailed a careful survey of the land after which the share of the state was fixed at 30 percent of the produce. Later when other taxes were abolished, the state’s share was increased to 40 per cent. The cultivator was at liberty to pay either in cash or kind, according to his own convenience and will. The amount of money to be paid to the state was fixed, which meant that there was not much scope for tax collectors to oppress the peasantry. The accounts of the revenue collectors were carefully examined by the officers.
The state’s policy was such that it promoted and encouraged agricultural activities by helping peasants through the advancement of money or grain. Shivaji was strict in the collection of land revenue and adequate steps were taken to ensure that no favoritism or oppression took place. Shivaji’s revenue system was beneficent and based on humane considerations. Loans, or the takavi, were advanced to agriculturists by the state for the purchase of cattle and seeds. They were repayable in easy installments. Extension of cultivation was encouraged by greatly reducing the tax upon lands newly brought under cultivation. Tax was raised in gradual stages in such a way that the maximum amount was reached over a period of eight years. He abolished the jagir system because it encouraged the spirit of revolt. He discouraged Zamindari system and established direct connection with the cultivators.
The panchayats settled disputes in the villages and a common form of punishment was the trial by ordeal. Criminal cases were tried by the village headman or Patel. At the imperial level, the Nyaayadheesh heard appeals in both civil and criminal cases.
The people were taught to regard the fort as their mother as indeed it was for thither the inhabitants of the surrounding village resorted in time of invasions. There were about 300 forts in his territory. Each fort was in-charge of three officers of equal rank. They acted together and served as a check on one another. This was done so that forts may not be given to enemy by any one officer.
Abolished Mughal revenue system
The Kingdom ruled by Shivaji had been divided by the Muhammad Govt. for revenue purposes into Mauja, Pargana, Sarkar, and Subhas. Shivaji abolished them or to be more accurate, modified these old divisions. In his time the country was divided into Maujas, Tarfs and Prants.
During his rule, Shivaji formed a group of local respected citizens and government officers in every village to look after the land administration; to buy and sell products and gave people the authority to take decisions on their own. After agriculture, trades and industry are the main areas. Shivaji made some rules and regulations to encourage local business. The salt which was coming from Bardesh (today’s Goa, was ruled by foreigners at that time), was affecting local salt production and the salt was becoming costly. So Shivaji imposed extra taxes, which is called production tariff in today’s market. It is because of bad governance models markets get filled by foreign products. If today’s Indian market is totally hijacked by Chinese and Taiwanese products, it is a result of bad export-import policies.
Regular Army: under the traditional military organization, the soldiers were allowed to serve the army for only six months and thereafter served in their fields. Now, the soldiers were allowed to serve for the year
Payment in Cash: The soldiers were paid in cash except the big chief and military commander who were paid through jagir grants
Merit Based Recruitment: he recruited the soldiers on merit basis
The army had six divisions, namely the cavalry, infantry, camel battalions, elephant battalions, artillery and navy
Dignity & Security of Women
Chhatrapati Shivaji had the deepest concern for women and gave importance to women’s security and welfare and promoted up sensitivity towards women. 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.
Role of Jijabai
Jijabai, the mother of Shivaji, taught him the importance of strategy, values, and dharma by telling him stories from the great epics and folklore. She taught him the art of politics and prepared him to be a just and honest ruler. She even supervised his weapon training sessions.
Western forces attended coronation
The English envoy, Henry Oxinden, who witnessed the ceremony wrote, ‘…This day, the Raja, according to the Hindu custom, was weighed in gold and poised about sixteen pagodas which money together with one hundred thousand more, is to be distributed after his coronation onto the Brahmins who in great number are flocked hither from all the adjacent countries…’.
Inspiration for 1857 war of Independence
- During the period of 1857 war of Independence, many freedom fighters openly claimed and fought for Chhatrapati’s ideal
- After the failed attempt, the majority accepted British rule, and revolutionary movements were halted until the rise of Vasudev Balwant Fadke
- Vasudev Fadke, a clerk in British service in Pune, asked permission from the British for the last rites of his mother
- British officers rejected his request and insulted Vasudev
- Vasudev deeply studied history and was hugely influenced by Chhatrapati Shivaji
- Fadke started giving speeches in public places on Chhatrapati Shivaji to inspire people against Britishers
- Fadke started training youth in gun war, sword war and also started war practice on Ferguson hill
- After examining Chhatrapati Shivaji’s life he went to seek the help of Ramoshi tribes in the armed struggle against Britishers
- Ramoshi leader Daulatrao accepted his proposal and joined Vasudev against the Britishers
- Vasudev along with the army of 500 Ramoshis started attacking and looted British provinces fiercely
- In Bengal, Bhudev Mukhopadhyay sought to inspire the people by writing a book on Chhatrapati Shivaji named Anguriya Vinimoy
- He depicted Chhatrapati Shivaji as liberator and initiator of freedom struggle against tyrannical rule
- Authors like RC Dutta and Sharad Chandra Shastri wrote books on Chhatrapati Shivaji and his achievements
- In 1876, a magazine named Bangdarshan published a series of articles in Bengali on Chhatrapati Shivaji
“Shivaji Represented the True Consciousness of the Nation”
– Swami Vivekananda
The following memoir was written by Dr. M.C. Nanjunda Rao and was published in Vedanta Kesari November 1914 issue.
“Is there a greater hero, a greater saint, a greater Bhakta and a greater king than Sivaji? Sivaji was the very embodiment of a born ruler of men as typified in your great Epics. He was the type of 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, i.e., under one supreme imperial suzerainty. It is a pity that in our schools, History of India written by foreigners alone is taught to our boys. The foreign writers of the Mahratta History can never shake off their bias nor understand the real character and greatness and the inner motive of the actions of Sivaji. We cannot blame them for their beliefs which more or less depended on the writings of the Mussalman chroniclers who out of spite and hatred, denounced Sivaji as a falim or freebooter. On the other hand there are many Mahratta bakhars or chroniclers who have written about him but who, true to their ancient puranic ideal, looked upon Sivaji as an incarnation of God born to relieve His devotees from the oppressions of Mahomedan fanaticism and to re-establish the Dharma. Naturally the foreign writers leaned on the side of the Mussalman chroniclers and considered the account given by the Mahrattas as mere superstition. But fortunately there are many independent Persian manuscripts dealing with the history of Aurangzeeb, Sivaji and the Bijapur kings. They corroborate the account of the Mahratta chroniclers so far as facts are concerned, though they do not share in their belief of the superhuman nature of the exploits of Sivaji. And if young men were to make researches in finding out and translating these manuscripts much truer light may be thrown on the greatness of the doings of Sivaji and of many others who helped in the formation of the great Mahratta Confederacy and it will be a valuable addition to our knowledge of the real History of India.”
(November 1914, p. 218-219)
Lokmanya Tilak started Shiv Jayanti
In 1895, Lokmanya Tilak founded the Shri Shivaji Fund Committee for celebration of “Shiv Jayanti”, the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The project also had the objective of funding the reconstruction of Samadhi of Shivaji Maharaj at Raigad. For this second objective, Tilak established the Shri Shivaji Raigad Smarak Mandal along with Senapati Khanderao Dabhade II.
RSS’ Annual Celebrations
“His (Shivaji) coronation was the successful consummation of the efforts of Shivaji Maharaj for an integral state. That is why we do not call this the anniversary of Shivaji’s Empire. We call it the Hindu Empire Day (Hindu Samraajya Diwas). That is why, our first three Sarasanghachalakas said several times – Doctorji used to say, Guruji said, and Balasahebji said, that our ideal is the abstract principle, the saffron flag, but many a time, the ordinary person does not understand abstract formless principles. He requires a concrete form and such a concrete form with characteristics is present in the person of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, whose every aspect enlightens us. We need today that character, that policy, that skill, and the sanctity of that ideal.”
— Dr Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak, RSS in Nagpur, while addressing ‘Hindu Samrajya Diwas’ (2010)
Appeal to society
“Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is one of those great personalities of Bharat who unshackled the society from the slave mentality and instilled a sense of self confidence and self-respect in it. He was coronated and Hindavi Swaraj was formed on Jyeshtha Shuddha Trayodashi.
This year marks the commencement of 350th year of the establishment of ‘Hindavi Swaraj. On the eve of this, several programs will be organized throughout the country including Maharashtra. On this auspicious occasion, the RSS solemnly reminisces Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and appeals to the swayamsevaks and all the sections of the society to commemorate the epoch-making moment of the establishment of Hindavi Swaraj by participating in all such events”
—Dattatreya Hosabale, Sarkaryavah, RSS, while releasing statement on the 350th anniversary of the Coronation of Shivaji during ABPS 2023 meet.