This biography aims to fill in the gaps left by previous biographers. It draws extensively from archival sources in the Marathi language, including letters written by Shivaji to his aides and opponents, official state documents, treaties, and tax office documents.
Journalist and biographer Vaibhav Purandare is known for writing books about loved and hated public figures. After delving into the lives of men such as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Bal Thackeray and Adolf Hitler, he has published a new book titled Shivaji: the great warrior king of India. Published by Juggernaut Books, this biography portrays Shivaji as “a master guerrilla fighter who sowed the seeds for the downfall of the Mughal Empire” and as “an enlightened ruler” who “recruited Muslims into his army, just as he recruited Marathas and other Hindus”. . We bring you an interview with Purandare.
Why did you choose to write a book on Shivaji Raje Bhosle? How does your approach differ from previous biographers such as Lala Lajpat Rai, Jadunath Sarkar, Krishnaji Anant Sabhasad, Dennis Kincaid, Medha Deshmukh-Bhaskaran and others you have read?
Chhatrapati Shivaji is a pivotal figure in Indian history and one of the most important figures in modern India. He not only transformed the map of the Deccan in the 17th century, but attacked the Mughal Empire when it was at the height of its glory under Aurangzeb, shook it to its foundations and sowed the seeds. seeds of its eventual destruction. He built an independent Maratha state from scratch and inspired generations after him, including leaders of the Indian freedom movement who fought the British.
My approach differs from that of other writers because I have scoured a wide variety of Marathi sources that have been overlooked by previous biographers. If we were to consider just two of these biographers – the principals, Dennis Kincaid and Jadunath Sarkar, whose work on Shivaji had been the standard in English for decades – they made very fundamental mistakes. Sarkar and Kincaid even get Shivaji’s year of birth wrong, and because they haven’t scoured the Marathi sources – in most cases not at all and in several not carefully enough – they have missed details. very important and fascinating that are at the heart of Shivaji’s story. I tried to bring them out in my book.
What places have you visited to better understand the life and times of Shivaji?
Since my early childhood, I have traveled to various places associated with the life of Shivaji Raje – Raigad, Rajgad, Shivneri, Sindhudurg, Purandar, Panhalgad, Pratapgad and so many other forts. I saw all the important places not just once, but at least two or three times. Speaking of places, I must also mention the archives, where I have accessed nearly 35 volumes of Marathi documents which contain rich information about his life and times – letters, correspondence with aides as well as adversaries such than Aurangzeb and Afzal Khan, state officials. documents, treaties, tax administration documents, just about all kinds of available and relevant documents on the subject.
How would you describe the influence of the Warkari poet saints on Shivaji’s worldview?
Warkari poet saints like Namdeo, Dynaneshwar and Tukaram created a spiritual awakening in western India before the birth of Shivaji. He imbibed their teachings from his mother Jijabai and the environment around her. His thinking represents the best of their deeply humanistic vision. And yet he is unique in his human philosophy because while others of the time absorbed the lessons of the Warkar, Shivaji created a political state based on their teachings with his view of state institutions, farmers , ordinary people of the Deccan. He took these teachings to a whole new level.
Growing up in Maharashtra, I read about Shivaji in my school books. Her mother is believed to have played a major role in shaping her character. During your research, did you come across any anecdotes that particularly marked you?
Shivaji was very deeply attached to his mother, and Jijabai gave her both backbone and spirituality with his strong and resilient conduct and character and powerful teachings. I was particularly touched by an incident where Jijabai wants to be a Sati after the death of Shivaji’s father, and Shivaji persuades her not to do such a thing. This reveals the depth of the bond they shared. I recounted this incident in my book, among other incidents.
How Jyotirao Phule, Rabindranath Tagore, MK Gandhi, Aurobindo Ghose and Jawaharlal Nehru mobilize Shivaji – the man and the myth – for their political purposes?
When Indian nationalist consciousness materialized in the 19th century, prominent leaders and thinkers used the legend of Chhatrapati Shivaji to incite the people of India to action against the British Raj. Shivaji’s life, they knew, offered a classic example of a David versus Goliath type fight where the rebel takes on a giant empire and emerges victorious. This example served these rulers well, and whether it was Phule or Tagore or Gandhi or Aurobindo or Nehru, they deployed the legend of Shivaji and Shivaji as an iconic figure to develop the Indian political mind and sharpen the instinct and push for freedom.
You state that “Shivaji’s deep sense of his own religion and spirituality made him regard Hindus and Muslims as equals” and that he viewed religious discrimination as “abhorrent, immoral and unacceptable”. What sources led you to this conclusion?
Shivaji’s letters, correspondence and official directives! And also those of his opponents like the official Mughal chronicler Khafi Khan, who acknowledged Shivaji’s enormous respect for the Koran, the holy book of the Islamic faith. In one of his letters to Aurangzeb, Shivaji explains that Islam itself does not teach discrimination based on faith. Accounts left by his opponents show how he had given strict orders to his men to treat all believers and the holy books of all religions with the utmost respect. He continued to give grants to mosques in the territories he won, and he recruited Muslims into his army and navy just as he recruited Marathas and other Hindus. In fact, two of Shivaji Raje’s naval admirals were Muslims. At the same time, Shivaji affirms his Hindu identity and repels Islamic fanaticism where he sees it, as in the case of Aurangzeb. Its Hindu values were underpinned by a strong sense of Hinduism’s embrace of diversity and pluralism.
You have written books on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Bal Thackeray, Sachin Tendulkar and Adolf Hitler. What book did you have the most fun working on? Why?
All of these personalities I’ve written about have been deeply interesting and absorbing topics in their own right. Books are like children; it’s hard to say which one was more fun than the other.
Tell us about your next biography. Are you considering writing about a woman for a change?
I’m thinking about a few ideas right now, and yes, there are women on my wish list.
Chintan Girish Modi is a writer, journalist and educator who tweets @chintanwriting