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Saturday, December 4, 2021

How Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj inspired freedom fighters across Bharat

Chhatrapati Shivaji was the person who not just gave the idea of Bharat but also built an empire on it. He boosted the confidence of native Bharatiyas whose valor and self-respect had been suppressed by repeated invasions, loots, plunders, and massacres by foreign invaders.

Chhatrapati Shivaji and his ideas had a huge influence on the Bharatiya freedom struggle that started two centuries after his death. How can the ideals of a person who lived in the seventeenth century influence revolutionary movements that took place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Let’s see in this piece that how Chhatrapati Shivaji influenced freedom fighters throughout the length and breadth of Bharat.

Chhatrapati Shivaji was seen as a national hero throughout the country from Punjab to Assam and even in southern Bharat. Famous Telugu writer Sri Kamaraju Venkat Lakshamanrao wrote a brief poem on Chhatrapati Shivaji and depicted him as the initiator of freedom, protector of Veda, Cow, country, and warrior. Kannada poet Srinivas wrote a poem on Chhatrapati Shivaji named Malgavel. In this poet saw Chhatrapati Shivaji as Mukti Daata of Hindus from Mlechha.

Chhatrapati Shivaji was celebrated as a national hero in Assam. Assamese writer named Atul Chandra Hazarika wrote a play on Chhatrapati Shivaji in 1928 in which he covered the journey of Chhatrapati Shivaji from his boyhood to coronation. An important element of the play was that the writer wrote many incidents to inspire the youth against the tyranny of Britishers.

During the freedom struggle, revolutionaries were mainly produced in what was then Bombay province, Bengal, and Punjab. Is it mere coincidence that in all three regions Chhatrapati Shivaji was a source of inspiration?

Chhatrapati Shivaji’s influence in Bombay province (Now MAHARASHTRA)

Maharashtra, the Janmbhoomi, and Karmabhoomi of Chhatrapati Shivaji celebrates him as a god. Every revolutionary freedom fighter from Maharashtra was influenced by Chhatrapati Shivaji’s persona and his ideal.

In the early nineteenth century, after the fall of the Maratha empire in 1818, Britishers started their tyrannical rule. Many people kept quiet saying that “British rule is boon for us”.  But there were many people who had the guts and valor that they started an armed struggle against Britishers. One among those who rebelled was Umaji Naik, leader of the Ramoshi tribe who helped Chhatrapati Shivaji in the building of the Maratha empire.

From beginning to end, members of the Ramoshi tribe stood as frontline warriors of the Maratha empire. After the fall of the Maratha empire, the Britishers disbanded Ramoshis from the army and made oppressive rules for forests in which the Ramoshis lived.  This fuelled war between Ramoshis and Britishers.

Ramoshi leader Umaji Naik formed an army of thousands of Ramoshis and started looting, killings, and capturing lands from Britishers (1823). These attacks were very furious that even a single British officer didn’t even dare to step into provinces captured by Ramoshis. Ramoshis started attacking Britishers from Konkan to the boundary of Nizam. Collector of Pune district Roberson gave his report to the government.

In that he stated:

“Citizens are waiting for big political change. These Ramoshis are creating hatred for Europeans and want to throw them out from India and common citizens are very helpful to them. What will happen if Umaji becomes powerful as Chhatrapati Shivaji?? And common citizens start looking at Umaji in the form of Shivaji”

And yes, Umaji was influenced by Chhatrapati Shivaji. He started his own Darbar where he solved problems of common people, gave patronage to Brahmins, and started emulating every action of Chhatrapati Shivaji. He and his men never attacked or harmed common citizens, particularly women. This high moral Umaji learned from Chhatrapati Shivaji.

The British government warned common citizens and their local administration to not help Umaji, but no one opposed Umaji and in fact, they helped him. Umaji and his army started their fierce campaign from Konkan to the border of Nizam’s territory. They defeated Capt. Device, Capt. Spiller, and even defeated Elphinstone who in past led successful campaigns in south Bharat.

Umaji openly distributed his written proclamation in which he stated “no one will assist Britishers from now. Bharatiyas from the British government should join us in the war. Hindu and Muslim should join us in the war and together we will throw out Britishers from our country”. After this, the British government sent a huge army to subdue Umaji, and after long years of battle, Umaji was arrested and beheaded by the British army.

After this mission, Captain Macintosh wrote a report to the government in which he stated that

“Umaji was not like a simple greedy thug and tribesmen, he always wanted to be like Chhatrapati Shivaji and wanted to establish Swaraj on the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji. “

On the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Umaji Naik fought the British government for twelve years and even started ruling his small territory in a similar fashion.

During the period of revolt in 1857 many freedom fighters openly claimed and fought for Chhatrapati’s ideal in Maharashtra. But after the failed revolt, the majority accepted British rule, and revolutionary movements were halted until the rise of Vasudev Balwant Fadke.

Vasudev Fadke was a clerk in British service in Pune. After his mother’s death, he asked permission from the British for the last rites of his mother but the British officers rejected his request and insulted Vasudev which became a turning point in his life. After this incident, he deeply studied history and was hugely influenced by Chhatrapati Shivaji, Dattaji Shinde, Yashwantrao Holkar.

Initially, he started giving speeches in public places on Chhatrapati Shivaji, Yashwantrao Holkar to inspire people against Britishers. But after some time, he knew that this wouldn’t work and we have to do an armed struggle against Britishers. Then he 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. At that time (1878) British government had mismanaged the drought situation in Maharashtra and carried out huge atrocities on farmers and citizens. Taking advantage of this situation Vasudev influenced people against Britishers and youth joined him in his armed struggle. They started fierce attacks on Britishers and government treasure.

A scared British government dispatched a huge army under Daniel and Capt. Bren. But they failed to capture Vasudev.  Vasudev and his army plundered Pune and the British office in Pune in presence of the British army! After this incident, the British sent their army from all sides to capture Vasudev.

Many small battles took place between the British and Vasudev. But in the ambush on Thisubai hill, Vasudev’s general Daulatrao got killed by Daniel, and this halted Vasudev and his struggle.  After few months he again formed an army of 500 Rohillas and waited for an opportunity but an unnamed Rohilla defected to the British who then captured Vasudev Balwant Fadke with huge ammunition (1879)

In his last speech in court in his defense, he stated:

“Hindi people were dying due to starvation and during this time Britishers were taking excessive salaries and living their life luxuriously. There is huge discrimination between Europeans and Indians. Due to your discrimination and atrocities against us during the drought, I with my small army started an armed struggle to throw out Europeans from my motherland. But I failed, my Indian citizens. Please forgive me my dear Indian people for I couldn’t get you freedom”

Vasudev was sentenced to life imprisonment in Aiden jail and he died there. After Vasudev Balwant Fadke, Lokmanya Tilak started celebrating Shiv Jayanthi, the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to inspire youth against the tyrannical rule of the British. It became a huge success as people came in thousands to celebrate Shiv Jayanthi and many youths got inspired and chose the path of freedom struggle against Britishers.

Chhatrapati Shivaji as a national hero in Bengal

Chhatrapati Shivaji is celebrated in various States in Bharat but of all the states the one where his persona resonated the most apart from Maharashtra was in Bengal. Here he was seen as the phoenix-like rise of Hindu against the tyranny of invader. Devi Bhavani was identified with Durga Herself further inspiring the Bengalis.

Bengal the land of patriots and revolutionaries and the nationalist leaders and thoughts saw Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as liberator and initiator of freedom against tyranny.

It started after the revolt of 1857 in which the Bengal regiment and Bengal played a major role. Bhudev Mukhopadhyay sought to inspire the people by writing a book on Chhatrapati Shivaji named Anguriya Vinimoy. It was a fictional story having little to do with historical records but depicted Chhatrapati Shivaji as liberator and initiator of freedom struggle against tyrannical rule.

After that various authors like RC Dutta and Sharad Chandra Shastri wrote a book on Chhatrapati Shivaji and his achievements. In 1876, a magazine named Bangdarshan published a series of articles in Bengali on Chhatrapati Shivaji. Thanks to the efforts of a host of Bengali writers and thinkers, the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji became known in Bengal.

It was on this foundation that Lokmanya Tilak introduced Shiv Jayanti in Bengal and took Chhatrapati to the masses there. As a result, Chhatrapati Shivaji became an Idol for many freedom fighters in that province, and the cries of Har Har Mahadev reverberated in Kolkata and Dhaka. Surendra Nath Banerjee the then president of Congress cited the example of Shivaji Maharaj and his agrarian policies when arguing in a farmers’ case against the British Empire.

Sakharam Ganesh Deoskar, a teacher in a Bihar school, wrote books on Chhatrapati Shivaji’s life named Desher Katha and Shivajir Diksha and wrote a number of articles on Chhatrapati Shivaji. In 1902, through his efforts, Shiv Jayanti was celebrated in Bengal. He wrote a twenty-page booklet on Chhatrapati Shivaji named Shivajir Mahatvatta and distributed it freely.

During Shivaji Utsav in Bengal, Bipin Chandra Pal stated:

“Shivaji was Hindu. He symbolized the religiopolitical idea of Hindu People. In honoring Shivaji we honor that Hindu ideal.”

Bengal’s influential revolutionary organization Anushilan Samiti was highly influenced by Shivaji Maharaj. Barindra Kumar Ghosh, educated under Deoskar and one of the key members of Anushilan Samiti, was greatly influenced by Chhatrapati Shivaji. He was also associated with a magazine named Jugantar that published series of articles on Chhatrapati Shivaji to inspire Bengali people against Britishers. This was banned by the government and later published as a leaflet.

Barindra Kumar Ghosh was involved in the Alipore bomb case letter for which he was sentenced to deportation in the Andaman. The British government raid on Dhaka center of Anushilan Samiti revealed up to 13 copies of Bhagavad Gita in the literature kept for its members. Along with some other books it was found that biographies of Chhatrapati Shivaji were particularly popular with Anushilan Samiti. A book published by Anushilan invokes Shivaji Maharaj describing how his leadership leads to freedom. Har Har Mahadev was also adopted as a slogan by Anushilan Samiti.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote many poems on Chhatrapati Shivaji. Poems like Pratinidhi and Shivaji Utsab were some of the greatest works by him on Chhatrapati Shivaji. Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo were also influenced by the persona of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Aurobindo in his book named Bhavani Mandir and ballad on Baji Prabhu shows how he was influenced by his persona.

Thus, a person and his ideal from the seventeenth-century inspired all sections of Bharatiya society during its freedom struggle that took place 2-3 centuries later. The ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will forever inspire our beloved Bharat. Shivaji Maharaj overthrew the tyrannical rule of invaders and instilled the belief that Bharatiyas are capable to protect and promote their culture, art, commerce, trades. They are also capable of building a strong navy that could fight the mighty Europeans.

In the end, I want to quote Sir Jadunath Sarkar on Chhatrapati Shivaji:

“Shivaji taught modern Hindus to rise to the full stature of their growth. He demonstrated that the tree of Hinduism was not dead, and that could put forth new leaves and branches and once again rise up its head to the skies”

References:

  1. Battles of Maratha empire by Anish Gokhale
  2. Freedom struggle in Maharashtra by Dr. V.G. Khobarekar
  3. Shivaji the great Maratha vol.4 by H S Sardesai

(Featured Image Source: Wikipedia)


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Akshat Lahane
Pursuing bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. Interested in Bharatiya History.

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