Shivaji at Agra

How Shivaji looked like and his image among the people (khalq)

We have very few accounts of how Shivaji looked like but none more detailed and informative than the one given by Parkaldas, an Amber State official, posted at Agra during the days when Shivaji arrived there, and later when he remained in strict confinement for more than three months. (11th May – 18th August 1666) there.

In his letter of 29 May 1666 from Agra, Parkaldas wrote to Kalyandas, the Diwan of Amber (later Jaipur State).

"….. You have asked me to let you have details regarding Shivaji's visit here. Well, he has come alone, with only one hundred retainers and his escort numbers from 200 to about 250 men in all. Among the latter, one hundred are silehdars (mounted on their own horses) and the rest are bargirs of the paga (mounted on horses supplied by the State). In his train, the camels are few, and are only meant for carrying baggage. The Banjaras are one hundred each with a pair of pack-oxen.

“When Shivaji rides out in a palki (in Agra), many footmen wearing Turkish caps, big like Khadauts, go before him. His flag is orange and vermillion coloured, with golden decorations stamped on it. At sight Shivaji's body looks lean and short. His appearance is wonderfully fair in complexion, and even without finding out who he is, one does feel instinctively that he is the ruler of men. His spirit and manliness are apparent. He is a very brave, high-souled man and wears a beard ….. The people had been praising Shivaji's high spirit and courage before. Now that after coming to the Emperor's presence he has shown such audacity and returned such harsh and strong replies, the public extols him for his bravery all the more …..”

In another letter dated 7 June 1666 Parkaldas informed his Diwan (Prime Minister) of Amber State, various news circulating in the Agra among the people (khalq) such as that Maharaja Jaswasnt Singh told the Emperor that Shivaji can fly at a height of 14-15 hath from the ground and can cover 40-50 kos on foot" whereupon the Prince (Muazzam) said, "I too had heard so at Aurangabad". People also say, wrote Parkaldas that "Shaista Khan has written to the Emperor from the east (Bengal)"Your Majesty! Shiva is a great disturber of peace (bada ghanim). You (must) put him to death. If Your Majesty does not kill him, I will give up my mansab and become a faqir (medicant)". According to one news current among the people, the Princess (Jahanara Begum) told the Emperor, "Shiva has come (to Agra) trusting the word of a Rajput (Jai Singh) and the tek of a Rajput has hitherto been respected the Emperors and it becomes of you also to do the same". And lastly, Parkaldas added one juicy news. He wrote that a popular gossip current in Agra was that on account of Shivaji's fear, the Emperor goes for the Friday prayers under heavy security cover. Guards are posted at every step when he goes for the prayers".

Such was the image of Shivaji in the minds of the people, both discreet and judicious and also the common folk. His visit to Agra, though seemed at one time to be a fatal blunder, ultimately proved beneficial not only for Shivaji's high reputation but also for the lofty aim he wished to fulfil.