The Scene of Mughal devastation in the Deccan - Shivaji Changes People's Psychology

Shivaji's life and achievements were such as to thoroughly justify Carlyle's "Great Man Theory". Before Shivaji, the scene in Maharashtra was one of sadness, helplessness, suffering and humiliation at the hands of the Muslim powers. This is best described in the words of Sabhasad, a contemporary observer and the author of Sabhasad Bakhara.

"Shivaji brought home to the minds of his people how the foreign Muslim rule inflicted hardship and wrongs upon their homeland and their religion. He narrated to them graphic stories of what he had seen and heard. Was it not their duty to avenge the wrong? Even an effort in that direction was necessary and laudable. Why remain content with the gifts conferred by the foreigners or with their own paternal acquisitions only? We are Hindus; this whole country is ours, and yet it is (still) occupied and held by the Muslims. They desecrate our temples, break our idols, loot away our wealth, forcibly convert our people to their religion, kill cows openly. We will suffer this treatment no more.

"We possess strength in our arms. Let us draw the sword in defence of our sacred religion, liberate our land, and acquire new areas and wealth by our own efforts. We are as brave and capable as our ancestors in old times. If we undertake this sacred task, God will surely help us. All (noble) human efforts are so helped. There is nothing like good luck or bad luck. We are the masters of our soil and makers of our freedom".

Shivaji's message was no demagogue's attempt to win people to his point of view. His depiction of the oppression under Muslim rule was a reality. Sardesai, the eminent Maratha historian, gives the contents from an old (17thcentury) paper thus: "Complete darkness prevails under Muslim rule. There is no fair ascertainment of facts nor justice. The officials do what pleases them. Violation of the honour of women, murders, (forcible) conversion of the Hindus, demolition of temples and shrines, cow-slaughter, and similar (low and despicable) acts and atrocities prevail under that (Mughal, Bijapur?) government". These feelings were strengthened by actual events. Thus Nizam Shah (Bijapur) had openly murdered Jija Bai's father, his brothers and sons. Bajaji Nimbalkar of Phaltan was forcibly made a Musalman.

These were bold and stirring words, and did not fail to ignite the fire of freedom and desire for regaining the lost honour, in the masses, a fire which ultimately engulfed the whole Mughal empire and made it dependent on the support of the Marathas. Shivaji was thus the father of the Freedom Movement in Maharashtra and a source of inspiration to the Hindus throughout India. When he visited Agra, and later Haidarabad, the Hindus looked upon him with utmost pride and admiration. Yet his war against the Mughals and Bijapur was not against Muhammadans in general or their religion but for the honour and rights of the Hindus and their religion, then both being discriminated against and suppressed under inspiration and direction of a foreign religion, culture and values.

Shivaji was right in thinking that only by arms would his people be able to secure their rights which were far superior to those of the foreign intolerant Muslim rulers – Mughal, Nizam Shahi or Qutb Shahi. Shivaji thus changed the psychology of the masses, assisted by the awakening created by the saints of Maharashtra, and filled them with fresh confidence to fight the Muslim rulers and wipe off their rule. His words, matched by action, transformed the Marathas into a nation before which he eloquently placed "the higher ideal of Swarajya, and political emancipation from the chains of grinding slavery that held down his country for centuries together".

The first painting depicts the scene of Mughal devastation in the Deccan as described in the 17th century paper mentioned above.