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King Shivaji - The rise of an Indian Legend

Updated on July 30, 2017
King Shivaji
King Shivaji

This is how this article has been laid out

  • The glorious past
  • The beginning of foreign rule
  • The brutality of rulers and painful life of a common man in India
  • The distortion in history
  • Problem's of Indian kingdom's and Hinduism
  • What shaped Shivaji's rise as a King
  • What were his intentions

The glorious past and foreign invasion

India has a long history full of traditions, culture, inventions as well as spirituality. The Indian culture has blessed us with some of its exclusive gifts like yoga, ayurveda, sanskrit language, astronomy, cuisine and spiritual life. The empire established by Chandragupta Maurya and later expanded by King Ashoka extended from Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan to the modern state of Bangladesh in the east and from the Himalayas and Kashmir in the north to the Deccan Plateau in the south

But considerable portion of this culture was destroyed over few centuries. Right from the Muslim rulers to the modern British colonialism, the Indian History was distorted and much of its heritage was destroyed.


The Taimur Langs, Ghoris,Tughluqs and Khilji's of those times had only one desire, to conquer and to destroy. They were either savages or religious fanatics and enjoyed killing people and destroying cities. They were more than tyrants.

Indian kings are known for their chivalry, their love for their people and the promotion of education, architecture and cultural aspects of the society.But then they really got too contented and too peaceful.

Islamic Barbarism
Islamic Barbarism | Source

While the Muslim attackers have always tried to subdue the local population and rulers, they have been extremely brutal in their conquests and their only aim has been to loot, destroy the local culture, and kill the Hindus whom they called as “Kaphir”.

The initial attackers limited themselves to looting and then getting back to their own kingdom. But the attackers like Muhammad Ghori established their base in Delhi and the era of foreign rule began.

India during Mughal rule

The distortion

Sadly, our local textbook history is quite manipulated to satisfy the wishes and whims of local political parties. Although Mahatma Gandhi has been a great leader, philosopher and activist, he is not the only great Indian figure that was born during thousands of years of Indian history.

India has a great history of kings, warriors, philosopher as well as scientists. Right from King Ashoka, Chandragupta Maurya, Prithviraj Chauhan to Maharana Pratap, King Shivaji and Bajirao Peshva. We also had mathematician like Aryabhhat and scientists like Dr. Jagdishchandra Bose and Dr. Abdul Kalam. Kautilya and Chanakya were born here and this is also a land of Rabindranath Tagor. Veer Savarkar, Subhashchandra Bose and Bhagat Singh were sons of the same soil.

Shivaji was the father of Indian Navy
Shivaji was the father of Indian Navy

Shivaji, the great Maratha king in 17th century, having played a pivotal role in shaping the direction of Indian politics, should have got a major place in Indian history. But sadly, it does not seem so. In fact, the acts of some of the political parties, using him as a symbol of Hinduism defamed him and made him a local hero rather than a national inspiration.

These very people sing songs of foreign rulers like Shahjahan and Akbar who came from outside and ruled our country and changed its history. Some of these ruler even massacred Hindus and destroyed local culture to align it with Muslim philosophy and religion.

Real India

India can't be symbolized merely with Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar, although they are part of Indian heritage. India is more prominently available through folklore of valor and bravery of great kings and warriors. It can be seen in the Veda’s which existed right from 1700 BC. The Mahabharata and Ramayana symbolize India. The wide spread Hindu and Buddhist traditions in the most parts of south east Asia symbolizes Indian contribution towards the world. The centuries old beautiful temples which remain intact till date, tell the story of art and architecture in India.

Brihadeshwara Temple, Tanjur, Tamil Nadu
Brihadeshwara Temple, Tanjur, Tamil Nadu | Source

The Indian Kings and Kingdoms

The Indian Kingdoms although having a great heritage, they failed to keep the foreign invasion away from our land and got easily subdued in subsequent conquests. Few qualities that allowed this to happen were

  • They were never united.The Rajput kings of Rajasthan were brave warriors, but they were never got together and kept busy fighting among themselves. Same is equally true with most kingdoms in India.
  • They were too civilized and sometimes even docile.During initial conquest when Prithvi Raj Chauhan defeated Ghori, he was allowed to go back, instead of being captured or killed and then same Ghori strikes back to defeat and kill Prithviraj Chauhan.
  • They never got aggressive and ventured beyond established borders for expanding their empire.They were too contented and they did not realize the threat across the border.

Problems of Hinduism

  • It’s been a very secular religion in its entire history and never tried to forcibly spread their religion
  • They have never been as aggressive as some of those surrounding tribes and religions
  • Sections of society like Brahmins kept themselves busy with caste, religion and related tasks, rather than picking up sword and fighting the enemy
  • They did not judge the intent of those Muslim invaders, who not only looted but later subdued them and became the rulers

Shivaji proved, by his example, that the Hindu race could build a nation, found a State, defeat its enemies; they could conduct their own defence; they could protect and promote literature and art, commerce and industry; they could maintain navies and ocean going fleets of their own, and conduct naval battles on equal terms with foreigners. He taught the modern Hindus to rise to the full stature of their growth. He demonstrated that the tree of Hinduism was not dead, and that it could put forth

— Jadunath Sarkar

Why Shivaji became a warrior king

What made Shivaji become a King, who was promoter of self-rule and destroyer of foreign rulers? The times when Shivaji was born, most parts of India was ruled by Muslim rulers of foreign origin. The able Indian soldiers were serving these rulers. They would get promoted to higher rankings depending on their contribution, but still must obey the orders from these Sultanates.

The common man had no rights and these sultans would levy taxes from them as per their wishes and whims. There was no protection for women and temples were in ruins. These rulers had no sympathy towards people and in fact their ultimate goal was to spread Islam and destroy Hinduism completely.

Trying to raise voice against these established rulers was suicidal. It would be regarded as treachery and would have to undergo the most painful death.

Secondly there were no Hindu kings around who would get disturbed by these grievous and oppressive governing by these rulers and do justice to the man of the land. There was no leader, whom they could go to and who would relieve them from the life of slavery and shame.

The local Hindu Regents were equally afraid and would try saving their own skin and overlook the atrocities by Muslim ruler on their very own people.

Shivaji possessed every quality requisite for success in the disturbed age in which he lived. Cautious and wily in council, he was fierce and daring in action; he possessed an endurance that made him remarkable even amongst his hardy subjests, and an energy and decision that would in any age have raised him to distinctions.

— Sir E. Sullivan
Jijabai telling stories to Shivaji
Jijabai telling stories to Shivaji

What favored Shivaji’s rise

  • As a growing child Shivaji received lessons on local politics by his mother Jijabai. She also inspired him, by talking about great Indian warriors as well as his forefathers.
  • His father ensured that he gets trained on using weapons and also understands combat and warfare.
  • He had trustworthy friends, who swear along with him that they would lay down their lives and make it a mission to free their motherland from foreign rulers
  • The mountainous terrain and thick forests of Sahyadri mountains were equally helpful to build his guerilla warfare and fight with huge infantry of established sultans with his relatively small army of dedicated soldiers

Majestic Pratapgadh Fort
Majestic Pratapgadh Fort

Is there a greater hero, a greater saint, a greater bhakta and a greater king than Shivaji? Shivaji was the very embodiment of a born ruler of men as typified in our 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, under one supreme imperial suzerainty.

— Swami Vivekananda

What was his intent

  1. It was only to save people of his land who had been suffering due to brutal rule of Muslim rulers who never integrated themselves with the local culture, but instead tried forceful conversion to Islam
  2. To fulfill the dream of his mother as well as father to get out of this slavery of few hundred years and regain that freedom that we had lost to foreign rulers who were intolerant to indigenous culture and traditions.
  3. He did not want to become an emperor of Hindustan and it was never his personal mission. He was a king of people and wanted to make sure that his people are happy and get the freedom and prosperity that they deserve
  4. He did intend to protect his motherland and the Hindus, but he did not intent to convert Muslims to Hindus, as far as they share similar values

Royal Seal of Shivaji
Royal Seal of Shivaji

As a son of a respected and brave Regent, Shivaji always had a choice of serving at one of the Sultanates as his father did. But that was not his destiny. His mother had decided to make sure he is different. He had a strong craving for freedom and extreme love for his motherland. As a child he had decided to do everything that it takes to stop the barbarism around him. He has seen that desperation of his friends and his road map was much clear at very early age.

His fearless nature and the oath that he took along with his friends had empowered him to rise above all odds. His mother's blessing had given him all the strength that he needed to get into action and do all that he needed for his people, for the dignity of his motherland. And it really did not matter where he started or how difficult his task was. He always believed that it's Lord himself, who has entrusted him with this mission and he would find way to found a state that would be a true self rule.


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    • Darshan Vartak profile image

      Darshan 9 months ago

      Thanks Sheetal !!

    • profile image

      Sheetal Vartak 9 months ago

      An excellent article. Well done Darshan. It really helps to understand the great worrior Shivaji. It seems you have written this article after making deep study of Indian history revealing many hidden facts. It is really very useful for history lovers.