I remember Amar Chitra Katha comic books,which my Father will buy for me,from railway stations and his other travels,when we lived in Bhopal.Every six months, journey to our Fatherland(New Delhi & Western UP) would provide an opportunity for me to lay my hands on some amazing comic story books.I read about some great warriors of our past,one of them was off course the Great Maratha, “Shivaji”.
Shivaji’s life consisted of many adventurous military campaigns which lasted through out his life.I think most of us might remember his use of Tiger Claws against Afzal Khan,Commander from Bijapur.Let me share one of his audacious night attack on Mughal Viceroy of Deccan,Shaista Khan.
Shivaji, wounded the Viceroy in his bed chamber,while his guards were still around.The story goes like this,Shaista Khan was living in Lal Mahal in Pune,where Shivaji had spent his youth.Across the road from Mahal,a Mughal contingent of 10000, men under Jai Singh was camping.On April 5th,1663, Shivaji with 400 men(disguised as Mughal soldiers),entered Pune, telling Mughal forces that they were reinforcements from the other province.It was the day of Ramzan,most of the people had fallen asleep,after having heavy meal. Shivaji,since he knew in and out of the palace,entered the Kitchen,killed few cooks and broke through the wall(wall was newly made) to enter into the Harem of Shaista Khan. 200 Hundred of Shivaji men,who were outside the Harem,entered the band room and ordered the Band members to play. The rest 200 along with Shivaji, entered the bedroom of Shaista Khan, and before Shaista Khan could move,Shivaji jumped on him,and cut off his thumb,fortunately a smart slave girl,quickly put the lights off the Chamber,what followed after that was Mayhem.In the attack,Marathas lost only six men,while they slew a son and a captain of Shaista Khan, forty attendants,six wives and slave girls,wounding Shiasta Khan himself.This daring attack greatly increased the prestige of Marathas.
Those were the times,when nobody was saint.As practice,plundering and looting rival villages and forts was a way to earn quick money for further battles and wars.On one such expedition Shivaji, attacked and his forces ransacked Surat(richest port in Mughal Empire) for days.During those days Surat probably had the richest merchants in the world.Merchant Baharaji Borah’s house was attacked, he had property worth 80 lakh.Surat was a town spread across 7 sq km with a population of 2 lakh,but was not well defended.It’s Mughal commander was corrupt and coward.It was the English merchants who with its small contingent could protect their factory,from the onslaught.Plunder of Surat was an audacious attack and yielded more than one crore to Shivaji and directly challenged the might of Mughals.
Once when in Agra court of Aurangzeb,Shivaji was not only humiliated but was also arrested and put in a gaurded house.But Shivaji made an escape plan.He feigned illness and everyday began to send out sweetmeat and other stuff to be distributed to Brahmans and other religious people.These were carried in huge baskets slung from pole managed by two people.
Soon the guards stopped checking those baskets everyday, On 9th August,Shivaji orderd his half brother to lay instead of him on the bed while he and his son Shambhoji sat in the basket. Shivaji gave his gold bracelet to Hiraji Farzand(his half brother)while he moved out in the baskets.So,whenever the guard saw his hand on the cot(rest of the body was covered), they thought it was Shivaji. By the time Mughal guards realised, Shivaji was 14 hrs ahead of them,and on the run.
Inspiration to write this small note on Shivaji has come from book written by Jadunath Sarkar, “A Short History of Aurangzeb”.