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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Raja Shivaji and First Sack of Surat.

Dear Readers,

Topic of today's discussion is why Shivaji Raja attacked Surat town. And the reason to choose this is subject is that, there is still some sect of historians or even few common people who still believe that Shivaji was a "Plunderer" and they use episode of "Sack of Surat by Shivaji" to support their stand. Before we reach to any such conclusion, it is essential to a go deeper into it and have a broader view. And we will be doing that in this post.

 In order to achieve it, we will break this topic into three sections: 1 - What Shivaji Raja was trying to achieve...His ultimate goal. 2 - What happened before 1st sack of Surat and 3 - Was Shivaji Raja the only one of its kind who carried out such kind of attacks.
  • What Shivaji Raja was trying to achieve...His ultimate goal.
It is now clear from many a documents what Shivaji Raja was upto. What does it actually meant when he said "हे राज्य व्हावे हि तो श्रींची इच्छा". and there is no reason why we should be doubting his intentions.
Shivaji wanted a kingdom which will be just and secular in nature and no particular religion to be under treated. And to create a kingdom or Swarajya in the era where there are already established, powerful kingdom was not an easy task. Creating a kingdom directly equates to wars, maintaining professional army, cultivation of land, building new and maintaining existing forts etc. and what all one can think which is required to run a country. And all this could not have been achieved without money. No ruler would have given even a piece a of land by his own will to someone to establish the empire. Taking it by Force was the only option.
  • What happened before 1st sack of Surat.
Shaistakhan and his (Mogul) troops were in Shivajis kingdom from more than 3 years and because of this massive damage was done (including Economic). All the land revenue which use to go in in Empire treasury was stopped for these three years, so it was difficult to maintain salaries of the army, defense budget had gone for a toss and even maintaining the other infrastructure became big challenge. Before going any further, just for the readers who may not be knowing, Surat was under the control of Mogul Empire.
  • Was Shivaji Raja the only one of its kind who carried out such kind of attacks.
It is essential to discuss this topic to understand was such kind of attacks an unusual practice back then or was Shivaji the one who invented this. Lets have a look -
  1. India and China has witnessed one of the first civilizations know to the mankind and because of this, India came under attack from other established empires, troop of wanderers like Greece, Shaks, Huns, Persia, Mogul etc. "The Great Wall of China" was built to prevent constant attacks from "Huns".
  2. The Emperor of Persia, Darius I has attacked and plundered the city state of Greece like Athens, Sparta etc. around 330 B.C. in a want of expansion of Persian Empire.
  3. After the death of Phillip II of Macedon, his son "Alexander" has attacked and looted Persia and declared himself as a king of Persia.
  4. He continued his expedition and attacked Punjab, defeated King Porus. It is needless to mention that "attack" also include plundering of the region as well.
  5. In the year 1656, Aurangazeb who was viceroy of the Deccan then has raided the wealthy city of Hyderabad which was under the Govalconda. It was one of the richest city back then and this is one of the reason Aurangazeb wanted to loot it. Akil Khan who was officer at Aurangazeb's court wrote - "Most of the valuable documents and precious things like Gold, Diamonds etc and massive portion of wealth of Kutub-Ul-Mulk has been looted by Shahjada Muhammad Sultan (Son of Aurangazeb) and very rare collection of other valuable has been taken away by Aurangazeb in this raid.
  6. In 1657, Aurangazeb looted Bidar which was under Adilshahi where he got 12 L rupees cash, ammunition worth rupees 8L.
  7. Mohommad Gazni looted India 17 times in 21 years of  his tenure. He not only looted Gold, silver, etc but he also enslaved Women and sold them in Middle East.
  8. Alberuni, a writer during Ghazni's time wrote " Mahmud of Ghazni" has completely destroyed the prosperity of India.
By law of equality of justice shouldn't we be calling all these leaders/rulers as plunderers? If not then, tag of Plunderer should be removed from Shivaji's character. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shivaji and Watandar - Part II

Hello again,

As we have seen in the previous part (Part I) that the administration of most of the Watandars of their respective watans was not all that good.
Few of the malpractices of Watandars are -
  •  As the Sultan or Ruler of the jurisdiction hardly interfered in the matters of Watandars and Watandari.  Watandars used to collect exorbitant taxes from the cultivator/farmers.
  • A fixed amount (very little of the amount collected) of the collected taxes were given to the ruler and the remaining was kept by Watandars.
  • They built bastion, castle with the money they extorted from the farmers and posed a serious threat to the existing ruler.
  • In Sabhasad Chronicle it is mentioned about watandars that - ये जातीने पुंड होऊन देश बळकाविले .
Shivaji Raja was very well aware about the business of these watandars and he was also aware how important it is to curtails their power.
  • There are few evident reforms which Shivaji Maharaja made in the watandari system:
  • As there was negligible interference of the Sultan or ruler over the watandars and their watandari. Watandars exploited this stance of the ruler and collected heavy taxes from the peasants. This was solely done for the purpose of filling their own pockets. They built huge garrisons with this money they collected from the poor peasants and kept big army.
    1. Shivaji introduced the new policy where he forbade the watandars from directly collecting taxes from the farmers but instead he told watandars to collect their dues/remuneration from the District treasury. Thus, cutting any direct relation of watandar and a farmer. By doing so, he also established a direct link between central government and farmers and gained their confidence.

  • We have seen that watandars used to build bastions, castles, do fortification of the place of their residence, with the money they extorted. Because of these garrisons they became fearless and  used to join the side of enemy during war times.
    1. Shivaji started a new policy and according to his policy, he demolished all the strongholds of these watandars and imposed a new rule by which watandars can not build new garrisons or castle. They should build a house with normal fence and live therein.
  • As we know that watandars used to collect huge taxes and fill their own pockets. Raja Shivaji made it a point that these watandars should not get more than what they deserve.
    1. He imposed a new tax, we can say super tax on the watandars (not on the common man or peasant) which was known as miras patti or sihansan patti. According to the available documents, the rates of this super tax was too high. In one document it is mentioned that miras patti  of 1000 hons (gold coins) was collected from the watandars of Shirwal pargana.
Watandars who do not obey these orders were subjected to a severe punishment. In one such incidence, a watandar known as Khandoji Khopde betrayed Shivaji and joined the army of Afzal Khan against Shivaji. Shivaji got hold of him after the famous battle against Afzal Khan, and carried out amputation of his right hand and left leg.

Shivaji did not uproot the concept of watandar(i) but toned it up in such a manner that it will work effectively towards the well being of cultivators and development of villages/pargana under the watandar. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shivaji and Watandar - Part I

Hello again,

Before we start reading about Raja Shivaji and his feeling towards Watandars and Watandari concept, it is important to know what is Watandari and who is Watandar and before we talk about Watandar(i), it essential to briefly discuss about Manasbdar, Jagirdar and so on and that is what we are going to see in Shivaji and Watandar - Part I.
  • Mansabdar - Any leader or officer in the Empire (Mughal, Adilshahi, Qutubshahi even Maratheshai for that matter etc.) is called as a Mansabdar. Mansabdars usually had cavalry and Infantry with them. How much Cavalry and Infantry they could keep was decided by Emperor. Emperor used to decide the other privileges, a mansabdar can have, like permission to attend, 'court or audience hall of the select' (diwan-i-khas), court or audience hall of the common (diwan-i-aam) etc.
  • Any person entitled to above mentioned services (and there are many more) was called as holding a Mansabdari.
  • There were two ways to make payments (their remuneration we can say) to a Masabdar, (1) By Cash and (2) Payment in the form of Jagir or Mukasa.
  • Jagir/Mukasa - is a piece of land may be as small as few hectors or a village or a group of villages bestowed upon a Mansabdar by an Emperor of that region.
  • A Mansabdar to whom a Jagir has been officially assigned (could be on top of the salary) used to collect the different taxes (taxes on crop, import/export etc) from the farmers, merchants etc. to feed his troops, run his household and make some more money of course. Such a Mansabdar is called as Jagirdar. 
  • Watan - if literally translated mean Hometown or Homeland in general. It is again a piece of land but with some special authorities given to its owner.
  • And owners of such a Watan is called as Watandar. They "belonged" to that piece of land. A Watandar could be owner of more than one Watan.
  • Watandar's role was to collect taxes as said above from the peasant and give a portion of it to the Emporer/Ruler under whom that Watan is geographically located.
  • Watandari was a hereditary concept and it was passed on to the eldest son, or it could be divided among the children. But it was strictly contained in the family.
  • The most important salient feature of the Watandari is that, even if the Ruler of the area under which the Watan is situated changes, may be as a result of war and victory of the other person or as a result of treaty, "Watandar" remains the same and his/her Watandari remained intact.
  • So, Watandars were least bothered about the outcome of war or change in the rule and because of this they became less patriotic, as their Watan was already carved out of the territory under war. Most of the Watandar's only motive was to join the side of that ruler, who is more powerful and the one who will be providing more favors (may be more monitory favors or favors in the form of additional Watan).
  • That said, they remained the most unreliable element of the society, especially during war times.
  • And because of their growing power and in turn whims, they used to carry many atrocities on the common man under his territory, like imposing huge taxes, looting them for their own greed and even raping and molesting the young girls of the town. 
  • They mostly behaved like king of their region. But most of the time their behavior was like a goon or a gangster who became serious threat to the existing ruler of that region.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What is Mudra, Shikka-Mortab?

Original Letter of Raja Shivaji
with Shikka and Mortab
Mudra (मुद्रा) - Seal or the very brief introduction of the person and his designation. Usually it is seen that the text on the seal is little poetic, mostly in Sanskrit or in Arabic.

Shikka (शिक्का) - Principal or opening seal - 

  • Raja's or King's seal is found at the top-center of the (start) letter.
  • Minister's (Prime?) or Peshwa's seal is usually found in the left margin, in the middle of the letter.

Mortab (मोर्तब) - Closing Seal - 

  • Found at the end of last line of the letter -
    • Closing seal indicates that nothing can be written after the closing seal is marked. The only thing which is valid, is between the opening and the closing seal.
    • Anything written after the closing is seal is considered as forgery and invalid.
    • Opening and closing seals can be considered as the virtual boundaries of the letter.
Few examples of seals - 
  • Mudra of Shivaji Maharaja - 
प्रतिपचंद्रलेखेव वर्धीष्णुर्विश्ववंदिता । शाहसूनोः शिवस्येषा मुद्रा भद्राय राजते ।।
Like the crescent of the new moon which grows day by day, the one which has great respect towards the life and the people, this seal of Shivaji, Shahaji's son, live, in the heart of the masses.
  •  Mudra of Shamraj (Nilkantha?) -
श्री शिवनरपती हर्षनिदान, सामराज मतिमत प्रधान.

  • Mudra of Moreshwar (Moropant pehwa?) -
  1. श्री  शिवराजेंद्र हर्षनिदान ।। त्र्यंबकसुत मोरेश्वर मुख्यप्रधान ।।
  2. श्री शिवचरणी तत्पर त्र्यंबकसुत मोरेश्वर.

  • Closing Seal - 
  • मर्यादेयं विराजते - This is the end (of the letter)
  • लेखन सीमा -  Letter ends here.
Similarly, the Mudras (Seal) of Sambhaji Maharaja and Rajaram Maharaja, elder and younger son of Shivaji Maharaj respectively, are available. Both are in Sanskrit.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Shivaji Raja as seen by a person during 1st Surat sack

This scene is reported by an Indian peon of Dutch East India Company. And it is one of my favorite for its liveliness.

There were talk in the Surat town, that Shivaji and his troop has finally left. But fear has so much engrossed the city that no one was ready to step out and have a look around. But one of the Indian peon of Dutch EIC volunteered to actually roam around and verify the news.
The peon in disguise went out and came back in the evening and reported, 


"I have been to all parts of the town and have seen houses of all the chief merchants burnt down to ashes. I took a walk in Maratha camp and no one suspected me. However there were no tents. I saw Shivaji, and he himself was sitting on the ground and there was no tent pitched in for him too, but only a cloth tied from the trees for the purpose of protection from sun, the booty laden on oxen and horses had been brought in and laid before him"
Sketch of Dutch East India Company
~unknown source~
(my thanks to the 'unknown' who provided it)


~Ref - Sir Gajanan Bhaskar Mehendale~

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Officers of English East India Company arrested by Raja Shivaji.. and why?

Following are the 8 officers of English EIC arrested by Shivaji Maharaj.
  1. Henry Revington.
  2. Randolph Taylor.
  3. Robert Ferrand.
  4. Richard Napier.
  5. Richard Taylor.
  6. Philip Giffard.
  7. Robert Ward. Doctor (Surgeon) by profession.
  8. William Mingham. (Mostly Sailor and a gunman).
What are the probable irritants by which Shivaji Maharaj got upset over Englishmen behavior.

  • English EIC had their one of the two main factories at Surat and Rajapur.
  • After Shivaji Maharaj eliminated Afzal Khan (Adilshahi Commander) on 10 Nov. 1659, one of his officer (Mahmud Sharif) fled from Dabhol and arrived at Rajapur with 3 ships belonging to Afzal Khan.
  • Adilshahi commander/soldiers/sailors who were with the ships asked Englishmen at Rajapur to keep one of their ship in return of the money which some of Adilshahi commander owes mostly to Rajapur factory.
  • At the same time Maratha army of around 600 soldiers arrived at Rajapur and around 200 at Jaitapur in pursuit of Adilshahi forces and asked Englishmen to handover the ships and the Adilshahi commanders to them which Englishmen refused to obey.
  • However, Adilshahi commanders agreed to surrender to Shivaji Maharaj. It is unknown what went wrong, but on next day or two the tried to escape and opened fire on Shivaji's force.
  • Englishmen neither tried to stop them or brought them back.
  • Getting upset over the scene, commander of Shivaji arrested Philip Giffard (English officer of Rajapur) and Velji (Broker for English factory of Rajapur) and carried them as a hostage.
  • Henry Revington discoursed this incident with Surat council but they were not in favor of handing over Adilshahi ships and commanders to Shivaji in return of release of Philip and Velji.
  • H.R (Henry Revington) wrote a letter to Shivaji for their release but instead of waiting for the answer, he invented a plan to rescue them by force, which he materialized after few days.
  • This behavior is not expected from "merchants" and Shivaji Maharaj might have taken this as an insult to him.
  • After few days Adilshahi officer (Siddi Jauhar) laid siege of Panhala fort.
  • Henry Revington, Velji, Randolph Taylor along with some more Englishmen helped Siddi by providing   long barrel canons, grenades  and technical expertise. He did all this publicly by hoisting Union Jack with his little troop. 
  • He not only provided the ammunition but also accompanied Siddi Jauhar in his camp with few of the English soldiers which Shivaji Maharaja could very well see from the top of the fort.
  • This is again not expected from "merchants" who were on Indian soil for trading purpose and not to wage a war.
  • This was done against the EIC's will and for which EIC rebuked him.
  • Shivaji Maharaj later escaped from the siege of Panhala fort and began his south konkan expedition and during that expedition, he raided Rajapur and arrested above mentioned Englishmen as prisoners.
  • English had openly joined the war against Shivaji Maharaj by providing Canons and grenades... and not to forget the Union Jack. 
Over the course of time we all came to know they were not only merchants.

~Reference - Sir Gajanan Mehendale~

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ashta Pradhan Mandal (Eight Cabinet Ministers)

It is a well known fact that Shivaji Raja had a Cabinet of Eight Ministers, which was commonly know in Marathi as Ashta Pradhan Mandal. Following is the designation of each post and their present day equivalent.


  1. Peshwa - Prime Minister - Since Shivaji Maharaja's coronation it was also referred as            "Mukhya Pradhan". He was responsible for most of Military and General administration of the Kingdom.
  2. Muzumdar - Finance Minister - Since the coronation, it was also referred as Amatya. He was responsible for the financial affairs of the kingdom.
  3. Surnis - Minister for Land Revenue -  Since the coronation, it was also referred as Sachiv.
  4. Vaknis - Minister for Internal and External Intelligence -  Since the coronation, it was also referred as Mantri. They used to submit reports on the activities in the field force and neighboring states.
  5. Dabir - Minster for External Affairs -  Since the coronation, it was also referred as Sumant. Their responsibility was usually look after the relations with the other kingdoms, merchants like East India Company, Dutch East India Company etc.
  6. Sarnaubat - Commander-in-Chief -  Since the coronation, it was also referred as Senapati. - Responsible for defense of the kingdom and regular military affairs.
  7. Nyayadhish - Chief Justice - Responsible for Judicial affairs, can be considered as today's supreme court. Even King himself do not had greater authority than Nyayadhish in judicial matters. King can be accused of a crime and he could very well be subjected to punishment.
  8. Panditrao - Head of Religious affairs - All the decisions pertaining to Religion was to be taken with his authority.