One of the most progressive and sensible rulers in the history of our country was Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Tales of his bravery are countless and stories of his victories innumerable. But where there is greatness, there is always misconception. Some people have often thought of him as a cruel dictator, while some have condemned him to be anti-secular. All this and many more things that are actually more fiction than fact.
Talking about facts, let's set the record straight and get to know more about the greatest Maratha ruler in history. Here are 14 facts you ought to know about him:
1. His name is not derived from Lord Shiva but in fact a regional deity by the name of Shivai.
He was given god-like stature for his deeds, not his name.
2. He was extremely secular.
At a time when all kingdoms were strictly sticking to their religious beliefs and doing away with others', Shivaji was surprisingly very accommodating of all religions.
3. But he never compromised on his own religious roots and tried reviving all the positive aspects of Hinduism.
He helped people who wanted to convert to Hinduism. In fact, he married his own daughter to a converted Hindu.
4. He had many Muslims in his military ranks as well.
As opposed to the common belief of him being a king of Hindu origin who fought Muslims. He fought other rulers, not religions, who threatened his kingdom.
5. In fact, he even offered his assistance to Aurangzeb in conquering Bijapur.
Things backfired because two of his officers raided the Mughal territory near Ahmednagar.
6. He converted his army of 2,000 men into 10,000 soldiers.
His father left him 2,000 soldiers, which he converted to 10,000. He knew the importance of a good army and perfected warfare strategies. He had an intelligence unit that helped him devise tactics like the guerrilla warfare.
7. He was a practical military commander and didn't encourage his troops to be martyred for the sake of it. Instead, he always asked them to take a step back and regroup.
His tactics and practicality helped him win battles where he was out-numbered as well.
8. He was smart enough to establish a navy to protect the coastline.
He knew that to protect India from foreign invaders, a naval fleet was required. Not many other kings had thought of this. But he formed a resolute Maratha navy.
9. He defeated Afzal Khan in a one-on-one battle. Afzal Khan was a veteran general and superior to Shivaji in size & strength.
It is said that they met in a hut that only allowed them to carry a single sword, but Shivaji was sure that Afzal Khan would attack him. So, he wore an armour underneath which stopped Khan's dagger. The Persian chronicles state that Shivaji attacked him first while the Maratha chronicles state the opposite.
10. He stood for the honour of women and made sure none were taken prisoners.
Unlike many other rulers of the land, no one under his rule was allowed to dishonour women. Women of captured territories were left unharmed.
11. And naturally rape or molestation was severely punished.
He turned cruel towards those who did cruel things. The punishments were constant with the severity of the crime.
12. He was extremely merciful to those who surrendered and would welcome them into his own army.
He judged them not on their backgrounds, but on their skill alone.
13. He fought for India first, and then his kingdom.
His goal was always to establish a free kingdom in the country and motivated his troops to fight for India and not any king in particular.
14. He was extremely caring towards the common people and never allowed raids on households or religious places.
He did not give personal weapons & horses to troops. They were provided the same by the government so that they weren't misused. All that was looted from enemy cities was properly accounted for in the treasury. If ration was short, he asked his troops to buy more rather than harassing the locals.