CHARACTER OF SHIVAJI
Sir Jadunath Sarkar
Shivaji's private life was marked by a high standard of morality. He was a devoted son, a loving father and an attentive husband. Intensely religious from his very boyhood, by instinct and training alike, he remained all through his life abstemious, free from vice, respectful to holy men, and passionately fond of hearing scripture readings and sacred stories and songs. But religion remained with him an ever-fresh fountain of right conduct and generosity; it did not obsess his mind nor harden him into a bigot. The sincerity of his faith is proved by his impartial respect for the holy men of all sects (Muslim as much as Hindu ) and toleration of all creeds. His chivalry to women and strict enforcement of morality in his camp was a wonder in that age and has extorted the admiration of hostile critics like Khafi Khan.
He had the born leader's personal magnetism and threw a spell over all who knew him, drawing the best elements of the country to his side and winning the most devoted service from his officers, while his dazzling victories and ever ready smile made him the idol of his soldiery. His royal gift of judging character was one of the main causes of his success, as his selection of generals and governors, diplomatists and secretaries was never at fault and his administration was a great improvement on the past.
New system of warfare
His army organization was a model of efficiency; everything was provided beforehand and kept in its proper place under a proper caretaker; an excellent spy system supplied him in advance with the most minute information about the theater of his intended campaign; divisions of his army were combined or dispersed at will over long distances without failure; the enemy's pursuit or obstruction was successfully met and yet the booty was rapidly and safely conveyed home without any loss. his inborn military genius is proved by his instinctively adopting that system of warfare which was most suited to the racial character of his soldiers, the nature of the country, the weapons of the age, and the internal condition of his enemies. His light cavalry, stiffened with swift-footed infantry, was irresistible in the age of Aurangzeb.
Essence of statesmanship
The greatness of Shivaji's genius can be fully realised not from the extent of the kingdom he won for himself, nor from the value of the hoarded treasure he left behind him, but from a survey of the conditions amidst which he rose to sovereignty.
He was truly an original explorer, the maker of a new road in medieval Indian history, with no example or guide before him. When he chose to declare his independence, the Mogul empire seemed to be at the height of its glory. Every local chief who had, anywhere in India, revolted against it had been crushed. For a small jagirdar's son to defy its power, appeared as an act of madness, a courting of sure ruin. Shivaji, however, chose his path, and he succeeded.
His success can be explained only by an analysis of his political genius. First and foremost he possessed that unfailing sense of reality in politics, that recognition of the exact possibilities of his time ( tact des choses possibles ) which Cavour defined as the essence of statesmanship. His daring was tempered and guided by an instinctive perception of how far his actual resources could carry him, how long a certain line of action or policy was to be followed, and where he must stop.
Shivaji possessed the true master's gift of judging character at sight and choosing the fittest instruments for his work. This is proved by the successful execution of his orders by his agents in his absence. Many of the distant expeditions of his reign were conducted not by himself in person but by his generals, who almost always carried out his orders according to plan. This was a novel feat in an Asiatic monarchy, where everything depends on the master's presence. It was the training gained in Shivaji's service, aided by the Maratha national character for personal independence and initiative, that enabled the disorganized Maratha people to stand up against all the resources of the mighty Aurangzeb for eighteen years after the murder of Sambhaji and ultimately to defeat him, even though they had no king or capital to form the centre of the national defence.
Women's honour assured
His reign brought peace and order to his country, assured the protection of women's honour and the religion of all sects without distinction, extended the royal patronage to the truly pious men of all creeds ( Muslims no less than Hindus ), and presented equal opportunities to all his subjects by opening the public service to talent irrespective of caste or creed.* This was the ideal policy for a State with a composite population like India.
His gifts were peace and a wise internal administration. The stability of these good conditions was the only thing necessary for giving permanence to Shivaji's work and ensuring national consolidation and growth. But that stability was denied to his political creation. Only his example and name remained to inspire the best minds of succeeding generations with ideals of life and government, not unmixed with vain regrets.
*He was himself a Hindu, sincere in belief and orthodox in practice, and yet he employed a number of Muhammadan officers in the highest positions, such as Munshi Haidar ( who became Chief Justice of the Mogul empire on entering Aurangzeb's service ), Siddi Sambal, Siddi Misri and Daulat Khan ( admirals ), besides commanders like Siddi Halal and Nur Khan ( Dil. i-100 ). He gave legal recognition to the Muslim qazis in his dominions.
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