प्रौढप्रतापपुरंदर, क्षत्रियकुलावतंस, गोब्राह्मणप्रतिपालक, सिंहासनाधीश्वर, महाराजाधिराजछ्त्रपतिशिवाजीमहाराजकीजय!”
“The bravest, the royal warrior by birth, the savior of the poor, the Brahmins and the cows, the royal seat holder, the king of kings – Hail Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj!”
On the auspicious day of 6 June 1674, the unbelievable had happened. After years of oppressions, torture, pillage and massacres, a kingdom had risen, that had not only challenged the might of the Mughals, but also destroyed them. On this very auspicious day, a rebel warrior officially anointed himself the title of Chhatrapati, having reduced the so-called pride of Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb to smithereens. On this very day, a chieftain from Satara, Shivaji Shahaji Bhonsle, became the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Bharatvarsha which continues to revere till date.
The rise of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in many ways, can be called the resurrection of the idea of Bharat, that was somehow crushed after Babur had invaded Bharat. There were pockets of resistance for a while, with Samrat Hemchandra Vikramaditya and Maharana Pratap showing some significant impact. But none made the impact the way a four-fold national resistance made in the late 17th century, spearheaded by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and ably supported by the likes of Veer Lachit Borphukan, Maharana Raj Singh, Rao Durgadas Rathore and Guru Gobind Singh ji to name a few.
But how did Shivaji Raje manage to create such an impeccable legacy? How did he succeed, where many failed? It was because of two main reasons – his mother, Jijabai Bhonsle, reverentially known as Aausaheb, whose teachings were no less worthy as that of Acharya Chanakya. The other reason was his small, but resolute group of warriors, each of whom had a crucial role to play in the success of the Maratha Mavlas [Marathi for warriors]
Long before it became cool, it was Shivaji Raje who learnt that information is the real gold in the times of warfare. As such, he employed Bahirji Naik, who is till date one of the best spies the world is yet to know about. From his legendary exploits at Pratapgarh, where Shivaji Maharaj deftly avoided the treachery of Bijapuri warlord Afzal Khan, to the iconic strike at Lal Mahal in Pune, where Shivaji Raje attacked and humiliated Shaista Khan, the uncle of Aurangzeb, to even the daring escape from Agra, you name it and Bahirji had a crucial role in everything.
It was also Shivaji Raje who decided to give the Islamists a taste of their own medicine. He knew that he had limited men at his disposal, but he did not want to be bogged down either. He devised ‘Ganimi Kava’, an art of guerrilla warfare, where the Mavlas, using the natural resources and whatever was at their disposal, harassed and tortured Mughals to their heart’s delight.
An interesting example of the same was the Battle of Umberkhind, fought only a year after the Battle of PaavanKhind, where just 300 Marathas overcame more than 10000 Adil Shahis in the extremely narrow pass of GhodKhind, so that they could not attack Shivaji Raje, who was retreating to the fort of Vishalgadh. More than 20000 Mughals were whacked black and blue by a handful of Marathas, who did not even number upto 1000.
Another testimony to the success of the Marathas was – commitment to one’s cause. Today, even a simple scratch would make one run for their money. However, for Marathas, their motto was simple, ‘NEVER QUIT’! Fighting to the last was something the Mughals had least expected from anyone, and the ferocity of the Marathas was something of the next level. Baji Prabhu Deshpande’s valor was not the only example. Tanaji Malusare, one of the most trusted commanders of Shivaji Maharaj, took it upon himself to liberate Kondhana, a crucial fort for the Maratha kingdom, and in a fierce battle with Udaybhan Rathod, that ultimately claimed his life, proved what Marathas are made of. It isn’t just like that for which the likes of ‘Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior’ and ‘Paavankhind’ have been adored by the masses. Likewise, despite being tortured, maimed and forced to convert to Islam, Netaji Palkar, a loyal commander to Shivaji Raje, never compromised with his ideals. The very first moment he received, he deceived his own masters, and rejoined the Marathas, fighting the Mughals till his last breath.
By 1674, Shivaji Raje had proved to Bharatvarsha that there is a warrior who could beat Aurangzeb at his own game. However, it was necessary to give himself an official status. Once his lineage was confirmed, the coronation process began with fanfare. Some even say that Shivaji Raje has ancestral links to very Sisodias of Mewar, who gave warriors like Maharana Hammir, Maharana Kumbha, and more importantly, MAHARANA PRATAP. However, those claims are yet to be verified.
On 28th of May, Shivaji Raje performed penance for not observing Kshatriya rites by his ancestors’ and himself for so long. Then he was anointed by Pandit Gaga Bhatt of Kashi with the sacred Janeu. On insistence of other Brahmins, Gaga Bhatt dropped the Vedic chant and initiated Shivaji in a modified form of the life of the twice-born, instead of putting him on a par with the Brahmins.
Shivaji Raje was crowned king of the Maratha Empire (Hindawi Swaraj) in a lavish ceremony on 6 June 1674 at Raigad fort. In the Hindu calendar it was on the 13th day (trayodashi) of the first fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha in the year 1596. Gaga Bhatt officiated, pouring water from a gold vessel filled with the waters of the seven sacredrivers Yamuna, Indus, Ganges, Godavari, Narmada, Krishna and Kaveri over Shivaji’s head, and chanted the Vedic coronation mantras. After the ablution, Shivaji Raje bowed before Jijabai and touched her feet. Nearly fifty thousand people gathered at Raigad for the ceremonies. Shivaji was entitled Shakakarta (“founder of an era”) and Chhatrapati (“sovereign“). He also took the title of HaindavaDharmodhhaarak (protector of the Hindu faith). He proclaimed ‘He HindaviSwarajya Shri Hari Chi Iccha!’ [It is Ishwar who wills an independent Bharat!], and it took warriors like Peshwa Bajirao, Raghunath Rao, Peshwa Madhavrao, Mahadji Shinde and Ahilyabai Holkar to fulfil his cherished legacy.