Reasons for Shivaji’s break with the Mughals

Unlike the Rajput society, the Maratha society was not a clan based society. In the Maratha society, individual was the basic unit of the society as against the clan or the tribe. So the difficulty which the Mughals faced in the Deccan vis-à-vis the Marathas was that if they win over a powerful leader to their side, there were ten other persons to take his place in the society. So under the Marathas it was quite different from the Rajputs, where if the leader accepted the overlordship, the entire clan followed. Thus if Bharamal joined the Mughals, the entire Kachhawaha clan followed suite; and when Amar Singh accepted the Mughal suzerainty, all the Sisodias followed him.

So for the Rajputs, appointing the leader of the clan to the mansab meant that the entire clan would follow him in fealty. This situation was not possible as far as the Marathas were concerned: here each individual was free to accept or reject on his own. There was no leader of the clan. And the Mughals were not in a position to satisfy each and every individual Maratha. So there was a social impediment.

Secondly the Mughals befriended the Rajputs during the reign of Akbar when the emperor wanted to annex the whole of North India to the Mughal Empire. And to achieve this consolidation, the services of the Rajputs were of immense use. Thus concessions were extended by the emperor towards them.

Aurangzeb had not decided by 1666 to annex the Deccan to the Mughal Empire. When Aurangzeb had not yet decided, the importance of the Marathas could not be equated with that of the Rajputs. So the Marathas had no political importance to the extent as the Rajputs had during Akbar’s reign during the 16th Century. So the entire correspondence of Mirza Raja Jai Singh was from a different point of view. Jai Singh presumed that the whole Deccan would be annexed to the Mughal Empire. If Aurangzeb had also decided on this policy, he would have seen the point of view of giving concessions as demanded.

So Aurangzeb was not prepared to give at that stage all those concessions to Shivaji and the Marathas which were demanded by Mirza Raja Jai Singh.

Thirdly, Shivaji had a burning desire to carve out a separate kingdom for himself and to maintain a separate political identity. It was because of this ambition to have a political identity and status which acted as the most attractive slogan for the Marathas to follow Shivaji. It was because of this slogan that Shivaji succeeded in ralying around his banner the Marathas. So whether he would be given the rank of 5000 or even 7000, he could not be satisfied; and even if Shivaji was satisfied and accepted the overlordship and mansab of the Mughals, he was bound to loose his following in Maharashtra. Perhaps Aurangzeb knew the weakness that even if Shivaji recanted, it would have no serious consequence. Shivaji was only a leader of the Marathas so long as he gave the slogan of separate political identity in the south.

That is why the indecision. Unfortunate result was that Shivaji was neither crushed nor conciliated. These were the basic reasons for the break of Shivaji with the Mughals. In addition to that it was also an assertion of regionalism and the regional elite which created a problem in the process of reconciliation of the Marathas. The movement of Shivaji can also be defined as a regional movement for regional independence. That was the period of rise of nationalities as has been pointed out by Reisner. But then the basic weakness of Reisner’s argument is that in the 17th Century India was not a nation.

In addition to this there were certain immediate reasons for the break of Shivaji with the Mughals.

After the Treaty of Purandhara, when Shivaji was humiliated by Mirza Raja Jai Singh, and the terms were dictated, Shivaji accepted the terms favourable to the Mughals and extremely humiliating to him. Jai Singh persuaded Shivaji to pay a visit to Agra. He gave the solemn assurance of his safety at Agra.

When Shivaji came near Agra, Kunwar Ram Singh son of Jai Singh was directed by the emperor to go out to receive Shivaji at the outskirts of the city. It was just an accident that Ram Singh went to receive by one gate, while Shivaji entered by another. So they missed each other, a fact which Shivaji resented as being a deliberate humiliation. When ultimately Shivaji reached the darbar, he was immediately presented before the emperor. He was ordered to stand in the row of the panj hazari as per the court etiquette of the nobles being organized as per their ranks in the royal presence.

Shivaji enquired who was standing before him in the second row. He was given the reply: ‘Maharaja Jaswant Singh’. To this Shivaji protested that ‘His back has been seen by my soldiers (in company of Shaista Khan). And he is standing in the front!’ on hearing this Jaswant Singh retorted that if every petty baniya was given the status of 5000 it will be an insult.

One should remember that in 1665 his son had been given the rank of 5000. Shivaji now sharply protested to this so-called humiliation of being made to stand in the rank of the panjhazaris.

On hearing the commotion, the emperor enquired the matter. It was reported to him that Shivaji was not used to the heat of Agra, and as such was not feeling well. Aurangzeb ordered him to be taken to the Haveli to take rest. But subsequently the position became clear to him of Shivaji’s annoyance.

Two parties developed at the court: One in favour of Shivaji and the other against him. The party in favour consisted of Kunwar Ram Singh, his father Jai Singh, Muhammad Amin Khan, the son of Mir Jumla of the Deccan (probably due to regionalism), and Murtuza Khan. They pleaded for Shivaji and impressed upon the emperor that Shivaji should be pacified and all demands of mansab etc. should be conceded to him.

The other group, which was more powerful, consisted of Princess Jahanara Begum, Maharaja Jaswant Singh and Ja’afar Khan. They were opposed to Shivaji and pressured Aurangzeb to take stern action against him. Jahanara was hostile to Shivaji as Surat was under her jagir and it had been plundered by Shivaji.

Jaswant Singh was hostile because he knew if the issue of Shivaji was solved, his own prestige would take a beating. Jafar Khan was the son in law of Shaista Khan who had been attacked by Shivaji and whose prestige had been broken like his fingers by Shivaji.

Aurangzeb could not decide the proper action against Shivaji. He was in the meanwhile imprisoned in a house and the custody was given to Faulad Khan, the kotwal of Agra. Then Kunwar Ram Singh was made the in charge of the custody of Shivaji. And it was from his custody that Shivaji made his escape from Agra in 1666 and Aurangzeb was deprived of the fruits of the Treaty of 1665.

In the meantime, Mirza Raja Jai Singh died and a new chapter was opened in the Deccan politics. No Mughal general could replace Mirza Raja Jai Singh, either in qualities of a general or that of a diplomat or a statesman, with the result that no Mughal general succeeded against Shivaji to the extent that Jai Singh did.

In 1672 the Afghans revolted in the North-West, and Aurangzeb had to leave for Hasan Abdal and stay for two years. The bulk of the Mughal forces were during this time withdrawn to be posted against the Afghans. Result was that an opportunity was provided to Shivaji due this absence of the emperor and the Mughal forces from the Deccan. The result was the coronation of Shivaji in 1674. the significance of the coronation of Shivaji is that after this he became an independent king, having all the apparatus of monarchy, the prestige of a king and as such, he could now talk to the rulers of Golcunda and Bijapur on equal terms. As a result of this coronation, the moral prestige of Shivaji was enhanced. He was no longer dependent of recognition of his authority either from the Mughals or the recognition by Adil Shah or Qutb Shah. He became a sovereign in his own right.

He had succeeded in carving out an independent rule. The theoretical framework which was lacking in the movement so far, i.e., the moral and legal hitch was now removed. He established the ‘Hindu pad padisahi’.

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A history buff interested to unravel the past as it was!

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