The Moslem rule over India was at its apex when the bigoted Aurangzeb ruled India. At that time the Mughul empire stretched from Kabul to the Deccan. Aurangzeb as a strict Moslem imposed the Jizzia tax on Hindus. In such a scenario a Hindu king named Shivaji not only challenged Aurangzeb, but also established his rule over parts of Western India and Maharashtra.
Shivaji as a Hindu Hero
Shivaji lived during the time when Aurangzeb was in full control. This was a trying time for the Hindus as there were mass scale conversions by the sword and Hindu temples were razed to the ground and Mosques built on their ruins. In such a situation Shivaji raised the banner of revolt against the Mughul emperor. He was successful to a degree, but he could not decisively defeat the Mughul army. Thus he avoided a pitched battle with the imperial forces.
To fight the Moguls he adopted guerrilla tactics with considerable success. The Imperial army was unable to pin him down and in turn exasperated Aurangzeb. The emperor himself came down to the Deccan to fight Shivaji, but his success was limited. Shivaji consolidated his rule and gave the Hindus a chance to raise their heads with pride.
Shivaji as a Warrior
Shivaji was a very brave warrior. This is evidenced from his encounter with Afzal Khanwhohad been specially sent to counter Shivaji. Shivaji and Afzal khan agreed to have a meeting. Both were supposed to be unarmed. But the meeting turned sour and while embracing each other, Shivaji disemboweled Afzal Khan after the latter had stabbed Shivaji in the back. This single combat is testimony to the bravery of Shivaji.
Shivaji also fought the Moslems by eluding them and hiding in his mountain forts, a chain of which had been built by him on mountain crests of the Ghats. Aurangzeb had dubbed him a ‘mountain rat’, but Shivaji more than held his own against the imperial forces.
The period during which Shivaji ruled was a dark age for the Hindus. But credit must go to Shivaji for restoring Hindu pride. Though he cannot be compared to the great conquerors of History, yet his exploits deserve all the accolades that one can bestow on this warrior, who did the Hindus proud for generations to come.
Shivaji The Great Maratha, HS Sardesai, Published by Cosmo Books (2002)
History of the Marathas, JG Duff, Published by Cosmo Books (2003)