Tuesday 25 June 2013

When a son avenged his father's arrest

Indian history has rather been unkind to our own countrymen or rather we have been unkind in writing our own history. Even today, we have failed ourselves in reading and writing history accurately and in a dispassionate manner.
Many incidents and events in our past have either been simply glossed over or given a slant. Deliberate or otherwise, such writings have made their way into history and today they have become a part of  history books.
Indians have always been besotted with what Westerners have said about our history and culture and we have blindly accepted them even if they are wrong. Many incidents and personages have been dismissed by British and European historians without giving them their due.
One such figure who has not been accorded due recognition and whose exploits have been significantly whittled down in history is Shahaji Bhonsale, the father of  Chatrapathi Shivaji.
Few historians and fewer people are aware that Shahaji was among the first exponents of guerilla warfare. He was also an astute military strategist and he once managed to outwit the combined forces of Mughals and Bijapur armies merely by his common sense. This was when he was in the service of the Nizam Shahis.
Once the Nizam Shahis were extinguished, he joined the service of the Adil Shahs and for decades he was counted among the bravest, courageous and extremely far sighted commander of  the mighty Bijapur Army.
A peculiar incident that has not been given its proper and correct perspective during this time is the so called arrest and imprisonment of  Shahaji in 1648-1649 by the Adil Shah Emperor and his subsequent release.
While most history books ascribe his arrest to the rise of Shivaji,  contemporary accounts and even a few Marathi books speak otherwise about the incident.     
The Marathi Bakhars (Bakhar is a historical narrative written in Marathi prose and it is classified as one of the earliest genres of medieval Marathi literature. More than 200 bakhars were written from the seventeenth to nineteenth century. Many of them detail the deeds of Shivaji) and Basatin-i-Salatin by Mohammad Ibrahim Al Zubairi are sure that Shahji was arrested as a reaction to the military exploits of Shivaji.
According to these two sources, Shivaji had taken possession of some forts and territories in Maharashtra
and they belonged to the Adil Shah. Besides, he had killed several Bijapuri officers and even surprised the escort below the Bhor Ghat and captured the royal  treasure which was being sent from Kalyan to Bijapur. The conquest of Kalyan and the hill forts of Rajmachi and Lohgad had angered the Adil Shah who naturally concluded that these disloyal acts must have been done by the young Shivaji with the advice and instigation of his father. Hence secret orders were issued to arrest Shahaji.
Other sources such as the Sabhasad do not give credence to this view and infact they go so far as to say that Shivaji’s conquests had nothing to do with his father’s arrest. On the contrary, the Sabhasad throws up an entirely new angle on the incident. The Sabhasad records-this was the earliest work on Shivaji written by one of  the courtiers in the Maratha administration, Krishnaji Anant Sabhasad, in Ginjee in 1694- that a letter was sent to Shahaji by the Adil Shah Emperor directing him to keep Shivaji  under proper control.
The record further says Shahaji replied that his son was no longer under his control and that the Emperor might consequently deal with him in any manner he liked. This reply angered the Emperor who directed Afzal Khan to punish Shivaji. Surprisingly, the Sabhasad makes no mention of the imprisonment and release of Shahaji in 1649. The Chitragupta and Shiva Pratap Bakhars also make no such mention.
One of the earliest historians on Marathas, Chitnis, claims that Shahaji wrote a letter to Shivaji censuring his conduct and asking him to go to Bijapur. Chitnis further claims that Shivaji sought advice of his wife, Sai Bai Saheb, as well as of his officers and nobles.
Another work, Shiva Digvijaya, reproduces all the letters of  Shivaji, Shahaji and the Adil Shah on the issue. It confirms that Shivaji consulted his mother, officers, his wife and Goddess Bhavani before he wrote to his father and the Adil Shah.
Shivaji says in his letters that he was responsible for his own actions and that he was ready to take responsibility for the consequence of his deed. He further said he could not be diverted from his course.
Another source says that the Adil Shah disbelieved Shahaji when told that he had no control over Shivaji. Since the Adil Shah continued to be suspicious of Shahaji’s conduct, he ordered another Maratha nobleman in his service, Baji Ghorpade, to arrest Shahaji by any means and bring him to Bijapur.
Shahaji then was near Tanjore or Thanjavur and Baji Ghorpade accompanied Nawab Sarje ( Sharza ) Khan to meet Shahaji. The Adil Shah had asked Baji Ghorpade to arrest Shahaji in case he refused to control Shivaji. The Nawab, however, refused to arrest Shahaji as he considered him to be his friend.
Baji Ghorpade asked Shahaji to take steps to control his son and prevent Shivaji from invading the Adil Shahi territories. When Shahaji said he had no control over his son, Ghorpade decided to arrest Shahaji.
The Muhammad Namah, an imperial chronicle of Bijapur, has a different story altogether. It says there was some ill will between Shahaji and Mustafa Khan, Prime Minister of the Adil
Shahi Kingdom, during the siege of Ginjee. It says Shahaji questioned the authority of the Prime Minister who then ordered his arrest. Historians like Jadunath Sarkar say that the arrest of Shahji was due to his hobnobbing with the Raya of Vijayanagar and other Hindu Kings.
The Basatin-i-Salatin and the Shiva Bharat carry the same tale about the imprisonment of Shahaji. The Shiva Bharat narrates that one day, just as the sun was about to rise, the Adil Shahi commanders Dilawar i Khan, Masud Khan, Ambar Khan, Rajahs of  Adoni and Karnpur, Farhad Khan, Khairat Khan, Yaqut
Khan, Azam Khan, Bahlol Khan, Malik Raihan Khan,
Balal, son of Haybat Raja, Sidhoji, Mambaji Pawar,
Mambaji Bhosla, and some other nobles, besieged the
camp of Shahaji.
As Shahaji’s soldiers had kept awake the night, they had no idea of such a sudden attack and were unprepared, and so there was a great disorder and tumult in their camp. Masud Khan himself was commanding the forces. Then Khandoji, Ambaji, Manaji, Baji Raje and a few others entered the camp and arrested Shahaji.
The Basatin-i-Salatin says three Sardars- Baji Rao
Ghorpade, Yashwant Rao Wadhwe and Asad Khan-entered the
camp of Shahaji and thus awakened him and asked him to surrender. However, Shahaji decided to fight and ordered all his nobles to be prepared. He then rode on his faithful horse and attacked Baji Raje Ghorpade.
Shahaji was injured in the fight against Ghorpade. When he  swooned, fell down wounded, Ghorpade arrested him. The three thousand horse of Shahji soon dispersed and much plunder was secured from the camp.
Another account says that Shahaji was invited by Baji Raje Ghorpade of Mudhol to his house for a banquet and was treacherously put under arrest. Surprisingly Shahaji;s own kinsmen like Mambaji and Trimbakji Bhosle were in the
pursuing party, as were Sidhoji and Mambaji Pawar. The accounts say that Baji Raje was really accompanied by seven Maratha Sardars.
The vast booty acquired in the fort of Ginjee and Shahaji
were brought to Bijapur under the personal escort of Afzal
Khan. The Adil Shah received the party led by Afzal Khan in the Kalyan Mahal.
The Muhammad Namah claims that “Shahaji Raja who was brought in chains was sent to the prison.” However, the fact that the Adil Shah did not mete put any harsh treatment or torture Shahaji surprised the nobles and people of Bijapur.
A further surprise awaited the when the Adil Shah said he would release Shahaji and restore his jagir provided his forts of Bangalore
and Kondwana were returned to him. Shahaji then wrote to his two sons, Sambhaji and Shivaji, asking them to return the forts. When the forts were returned, the Adil Shah honored Shahaji and gave back his jagir.  
Shahaji, on his part, never forget the arrest. He wrote to Shivaji asking him to take revenge against the Ghorpade. Shivaji did kill the Ghorpade in his palace in Mudhol  and extracted revenge but that is another story.
Once Shahaji came back to Bangalore
, he allowed Ekoji to rule the province and he himself retired to Kanakagiri where he stayed on till his death in a horse accident in Hodigere near Chennagiri in 1664.

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