If you visit Mumbai, you’ll be surprised at how many places/venues are named after the Great Maratha King, Chatrapati Shivaji. The Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Chatrapati Shivaji Railway Terminus (CST), are just but two of them!
But what makes Chatrapati Shivaji so revered, among so many successful Kings and Rulers of India? Even during his time, the Maratha empire was just one of the Indian kingdoms, and there were other large empires like Mughal Empire, Golkonda Sultanate, etc. What endears Shivaji, to not only the Marathas but also to the people of the entire nation?
Shivaji was not born as a prince and was only the son of a military commander. He inherited no Kingdom and he took each and every fort by his own enterprise and bravery. Though rare, such things did occur in India. He fought empires/armies that were much larger than his own, but even this was nothing unique.
But what exactly makes Chatrapati Shivaji, Great?
I will explain the reason with a small incident. Shivaji was called to meet Aurangazeb (the Mughal emperor) for negotiations, but was imprisoned instead. Still, Shivaji managed to escape by hiding inside large containers that were supposed to carry sweets to be distributed among the people of Agra!
Even though he escaped, Shivaji was still in the Mughal territory and hence risked being captured by the Mughal commanders (who were actively searching for him). So, Shivaji and his companions disguised themselves as a Sadhus and were moving towards Maharashtra through the pilgrimage/off-beat routes.
En route, Shivaji fell ill and had to take rest for sometime. Since no one knew them, it was difficult to find a house where they could stay for a few days. However, one poor poet called Vinayakdev allowed Shivaji (and his companions) to stay and rest in his house, without knowing who Shivaji actually was. In fact, Vinayakdev used to request food as alms from various houses and shared it with the Marathas. At times, Vinayakdev provided food to his guests, even though he himself didn’t have anything to eat.
This gesture impressed Shivaji greatly. He wanted to do something in return for the benevolence showed by this poor person. Shivaji asked his colleagues to leave and informed them that he would follow them once his health improved. However, his commander Dhanaji did not want to leave the King alone, and hence stayed somewhere nearby and kept a close watch.
After Shivaji recovered sufficiently from his illness, he gave a letter to Vinayakdev and asked him to present it to the local Mughal chief, which Vinayakdev did. In the letter, Shivaji disclosed his identity/location and requested the Mughal chief to handover the prize money (which was announced to anyone who would help Mughals capture Shivaji) to Vinayakdev. Shivaji was promptly recaptured and the prize money was awarded to Vinayakdev, even though the latter did not have any clue of what was happening.
Since Shivaji’s commander Dhanaji was nearby, he got to know all the happenings through Vinayakdev and saved the King (with the help of a few strongmen he hired locally) while Shivaji was being taken to the Mughal capital. But Shivaji had no idea that Dhanaji was keeping a watch on him or was nearby, and still risked his own life to return the goodwill shown by a poor poet!
How many Kings will do something like that? 10? 5? 2? No. Just One. And his name is Chatrapati Shivaji, the Great.
The above Incident was mentioned in the book, ‘Nattukku Uzhaitha Nallavar – Shivaji’, published by Palaniappa Brothers, Chennai (in Tamil).