The image of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as a ‘Hindu’ raja has been portrayed many parties. No doubt Shivaji was a devout Hindu, but claims of him being anti-muslim or pro-hindu are false. Several distinguished academics have brought out the concern of his false image projection. Shivaji Maharaj was an astute strategist who relied mainly on guerrilla warfare with the support of local people who belonged to diverse backgrounds-different castes, tribes, nomadic groups or even nationalities.
Shivaji’s Hindu-Muslim Syncretism
The Hindu-Muslim syncretic traditions are evident till date in Maharashtra. Even Shivaji federated with many Islamic state including Bijapur and Golconda. M.S.Gore (1995) states that both Islam and Bhakti played a symbiotic role for each other.
“Islam seems to have strengthened the de-ritualising and egalitarian trends in Hinduism while Hindu philosophy seems to have strengthened the mystical spiritual strain in Muslim religious thought.”
It is important to question the burying of Afzal Khan with all military honours and protection of his tomb Shivaji Maharaj if he was anti-Islam. Shivaji was a man of principles, who let numerous Muslims within his army at top ranks. Here are few of them to mention:
- Siddi Ibrahim, (Chief of the Artillery) was one of the most trusted commander of Shivaji’s army.
- Nur khan Beg, was a best adviser according to Shivaji who influence his personal and political decision.
- Yakut Baba, a sufi Muslim Saint was one of the Shivaji spiritual guides.
- Haider Ali kohari, General and secretary of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He was one of the most trusted lieutenants.
- Siddhi Hilal, a brave Muslim chieftain in Shivaji Maharaj’s army. He accompanied Netaji Palkar.
- Shamsher Bahadur was a Maratha ruler of the dominion of Banda in northern India. He was the son of Peshwa Bajirao I and Mastani.
- Ibrahim khan Gardi, Chief of artillery during the fierce third battle of Panipat (confederacy era).
- Madari Mehtar, Shivaji Maharajas Royal Servant.
In short, in the era of Shivaji, Hindu-Muslim hatred/conflict was non-existent. He fought politically, and not religiously. In the words of Shivaji “Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are used the true Divine Painter for blending the colors and filling in the outlines. If it is a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of Him. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for Him alone.”