Chhatrapati Shivaji was crowned on this day in 1674: Remembering the Maratha king
A fierce warrior, the unifier of the Hindus, and the Mughals' worst enemy, Chhatrapati Shivaji was a valiant king and a secular ruler who respected all religions equally. Shivaji was crowned on this day in 1674.
Shivaji Bhonsle, venerated in Maharashtra as the father of “the Maratha nation”, was born in 1627 into a family of Maratha bureaucrats. His father, Shahji, was the jagirdar of the Sultan of Ahmadnagar2 in Pune, but he shifted his allegiance to the Sultan of Bijapur; Shivaji’s mother, Jiji Bai, was devoted to her son, particularly after her husband took a second wife. This was not the only time that Shahji shifted his loyalties: when the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan decided to lead his forces into the Deccan, then rest all history
Shivaji’s coronation in 1674 as Chhatrapati, or “Lord of the Universe”, constitutes the next pivotal chapter in his biography. It was in part to mark his independence from the Mughals, and to repudiate his formal relation to them of a feudatory, that Shivaji had himself crowned, but the very gesture of defiance points to the fact that he recognized the overwhelming power of the Mughals. Moreover, as a Shudra or low-caste person, Shivaji had perforce to enact some ceremony by means of which he could be raised to the status of a kshatriya or traditional ruler.
To this end, he enlisted the services of Gagga Bhatta, a famous Brahmin from Benares, who did the Brahminical thing in falsely certifying that Shivaji’s ancestors were kshatriyas descended from the solar dynasty of Mewar. 11,000 Brahmins are reported to have chanted the Vedas, and another 50,000 men are said to have been present at the investiture ceremony, which concluded with chants of, “Shivaji Maharaj-ki-jai!”
The greater majority of the historians of previous generations and other scholars who have written on Shivaji have supposed that his battles with Aurangzeb, as well as his coronation, cannot be read as other than clear signs of his unrelenting hatred for Muslims and his desire to be considered a great Hindu monarch. But it is not at all transparent, as some recent work suggests, that his conflicts with Aurangzeb should be read through the lens of a communalist-minded history, where all conflicts are construed as the inevitable battle between Islam and Hinduism.
It is precisely to thwart the communalist interpretations of Shivaji that Nehru made the pointed remark, in his Discovery of India, that “Shivaji, though he fought Aurangzeb, freely employed Muslims”. The first Pathan unit joined Shivaji’s forces in 1658, and one of his trusted commanders who was present at Shivaji’s encounter with Afzal Khan was a Muslim, Didi Ibrahim. There is nothing to suggest that the animosity between the Shia rulers of Bijapur and the Sunni Mughal Emperors was of a different order than the conflict between the Hindu Shivaji and Aurangzeb, who were locked in battle over political power and economic resources. It is also a telling fact that, after the coronation, Shivaji struck a military alliance with the Muslim leader Abul Hasan, the Qutb Shah Sultan, and together they waged a campaign against Shivaji’s own half-brother, Vyankoji Bhonsle.
Department of Posts released a commemorative postage stamp during the celebrations of 300th Anniversary of Coronation
Issued Date : 02. 06.1974
Denomination : 25 Paise