“When the Prince of Wales himself laid the foundation of Shivaji’s statue at Poona in 1921, he spoke of Shivaji as one of India’s greatest soldiers and statesmen, and the founder of Maratha greatness. (The Times of India,21 November 1921) The word ‘greatness’, we think, was used by His Royal Highness in its most extended sense, including also Shivaji’s moral greatness. The fact that Shivaji respected the sanctity of mosques and the honour of women is accepted even by his enemies and this alone, in times when temples were constantly demolished and Hindu women violated or carried away as slaves by Mahomedans, would suffice to place him in the rank of the greatest heroes of the world,” records C. V. Vaidya in “Shivaji: The founder of Maratha Swaraj”.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (19 February 1630- 3 April 1680), popularly remembered as Janata Raja and the founder of Hindvi Swaraj, followed Maharashtra Dharma without discrimination of caste, creed and religion. His Hindvi Swaraj should not be mistaken as Hindu Swaraj since he did not discriminate his subjects on religious line and many of his confident Sardars were Muslims including the chief of his navy. His coronation took place on 6 June 1674 and Chhatrapati Shivaji died on 3 April 1680 at Rajgad. He borrowed the concept of AshtaPradhan from the Sukranitisara whereby the idea of 8 ministers with suitable changes was implemented with changes in names and functions suited to his own requirements.
Even after three centuries he is remembered as an ideal ruler. The duties of the eight ministers, as explained by Vaidya, were as under: (1) Pradhana: Shivaji called him Mukhya Pradhana. His duty was to look to all work. He should do all state business, should lead armies and should act with the consent of all. The medieval name of the Prime Minister was Amatya or Mahamatya. His Mahomedan name Peshwa, however, was too strong to be ousted and continued to the last. (2) Shachiva : War Minister. It is strange that he was not called Senapati. This name was introduced
by Shivaji. His Sachiva was sender of letters who was called Surnis in the Persian. Sachiva, the keeper of the seal, was supposed to examine and correct every royal letter. He should also fight. (3) Mantri: Foreign Minister. With Shivaji Maharaj, he was house-hold officer called Waknis in Persian. The medieval name of this officer was Antahpurika or Pratihara. (4) Pradvivaka: Chief Judge. Shivaji changed this name, given in Smritis also, into Nyayadhisa, which was understandable. (5) Pandita: The Ecclesiastical Minister. Chhatrapati Shivaji created this new minister. His medieval name was Dharmadhyksha. (6) Sumatra: Accountant or Finance Minister. With Shivaji, he was foreign minister called Dabir in Persian.
The medieval name of the foreign minister was Sandhivigrahika. (7) Amatya : Writer of letters etc. With Shivaji, he was the most important minister next to the Pradhana. He was both Accountant and Revenue Minister (in Persian name being Mujumdar). He had also to fight and administer conquered territory. (8) Senapati : This was a new office created by Shivaji. A Duta or ambassador (Persian Hejib) was not with Shivaji a special minister. Different persons were sent as Hejib and not one man. To avoid damages by traitors, Shivaji implemented unique civil and military regulations. Every fort and outpost (thanah) was placed under three officers of equal status, viz., the havaladar, the sabnis and the sar-i-naubat, who were to act jointly. No fort was to be left solely under a havaladar, lest a single traitor should be able to deliver it to the enemy. The havaladar and the sar-i-naubat were selected from the Maratha caste and the sabnis from the Brahmanas- so that one caste served as a check upon another.
The stores and provisions in the forts were in charge of a Kayastha officer called the Karkhanah-navis, who wrote the accounts of their income and expenditure. In the larger forts, where the bounds were extensive, the walls were divided into five or six sections, and each of these was guarded by a special tat-sar-i-naubat. The environs of a fort were watched by men of Parwari and Ramushi castes. The havaladar of a fort was empowered to change lower officers and to write official letters and seal them with his own seal. All letters from Government were to be addressed to him. He had to lock the fort-gates at sunset and open them at sunrise, carry the keys with himself and sleep with them under his pillow. He had to make frequent tours of inspection in and outside the fort, pay sunrise visits to sentinels, while the sar-i-naubat had to inspect the work of the patrolling parties and night-watch. Minute written instructions were given by Shivaji for keeping in each fort munition, provisions, building-materials, and other necessary stores adequate to its size, and for keeping proper watch; and these regulations were rigidly enforced.
“Shivaji was illiterate, he learnt nothing by reading. He built up his kingdom and Government before visiting any royal Court, civilized city, or organized camp,” writes Jadunath Sarkar, a celebrated historian, in “Shivaji and his times” and adds, “He received no help or counsel from any experienced minister or general. But his native genius, alone and unaided, enabled him to found a compact kingdom, an invincible army and a practical and beneficent system of administration…Shivaji was the first to challenge Bijapur and Delhi and thus teach his countrymen that it was possible for them to be independent leaders in war.”
Historian Jadunath Sarkar states, “He has proved by his example that the Hindu race can build a nation, found a State, defeat enemies; they can protect and promote literature and art, commerce and industry; they can maintain navies and ocean-trading 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.” While saying, “he has proved that the Hindu race can still produce not only jamadars (non-commissioned officers) and chitnises (clerks), but also rulers of men, and even a king of kings (Chhatrapati)”, Sarkar prefers to consider Chhatrapati Shivaji as very liberal while analyzing his religious policy. “He respected the holy places of all creeds in his raids and made endowments for Hindu temples and Muslim saints’ tombs and mosques alike. He not only granted pensions to Brahmin scholars versed in Vedas, astronomers and anchorites, but also built hermitages and provided subsistence at his own cost for the holy men of Islam, notably Baba Yaqut of Keloshi.” Even Shivaji’s Guru Ramadas Swami’s influence on Shivaji was spiritual and not political.
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(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )