Stealing Shivaji: Why liberals hate the Hindu emperor but also want to make him secular

Stealing Shivaji: Why liberals hate the Hindu emperor but also want to make him secular

In 1925 an Indian revolutionary wrote a letter to Mohandas Gandhi, accusing the Congress leader of stifling India’s freedom movement due to his non-violent approach. The gist of this most interesting letter is as follows:

  • A few spinners do not form the Indian nation.
  • The revolutionaries are entering villages and have been successful everywhere.
  • Indians are descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Rana Pratap, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Guru Govind Singh, and can therefore appreciate revolutionary sentiments with more readiness and depth than Gandhi’s followers.
  • Armed and conspired resistance against something satanic and ignoble as British rule is infinitely more befitting for any nation, especially India, than the prevalence of effortlessness and Gandhi’s philosophical cowardice.
  • Cowardice is pervading the length and breadth of India owing to the preaching of Gandhi’s theory of non-violence or more correctly the wrong interpretation and misuse of it.

In response, Gandhi wrote an editorial in ‘Young India’, calling the revolutionary “a misguided and therefore, dangerous patriot”. He added: “It sounds very pleasant and exciting to talk of the descendants of Shivaji, Ranjit, Pratap and Govind Singh. But is it true? Are we all descendants of these heroes in the sense in which the writer understands it? We are their countrymen, but their descendants are the military classes.”

Gandhi is clearly trying to delink the heroic Indian rulers (especially who defeated Muslim and European invaders) from the Indian masses. He is trying to present the case that the majority of Indian people had no connection to their great kings. Observe that he has also internalised the British classification of ‘martial races’ and is using that here to suggest that only some Marathas, Rajputs and Sikhs did the fighting. It shows a servile acceptance of British racial theories and a complete lack of knowledge of Indian history. Even school children know the vast scale of Indian resistance to foreign rule against which even forest tribes fought valiantly and victoriously.

Gandhi continues that the revolutionaries’ “sacrifice, nobility and love are not only a waste of effort, but being ignorant and misguided, do and have done more harm to the country than any other activity.”

Not content with maligning the four great Indian warrior kings, Gandhi twists the knife again into Maharana Pratap, ridiculing the Rajput titan as “a giant bandit”. (2)

On another occasion the leader of the freedom movement labels revolutionaries, including Bhagat Singh, who inspired millions of Indians with their ultimate sacrifice, as “misguided souls”. (3)

Taking his mentor’s cue, Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru in his ‘Glimpses of World History’ (4) dismisses Shivaji’s epic life as a “predatory career”. In contrast, while talking about Islamic invaders, Nehru goes full-tilt secular. In the same book, he describes the barbaric Mahmud Ghazni in the following words: “He was a brilliant general and a fine cavalry leader.”

And in a bizarre attempt to secularise the Turko-Afghan barbarian, Nehru offers this gem: “It will interest you to know that Mahmud of Ghazni, who was the greatest destroyer that northern India had known, and who is said to have been a champion of Islam against the “ idolaters ”, had a Hindu army corps under a Hindu general, named Tilak. He took Tilak and his army to Ghazni and used him to put down rebellious Muslims.”

It is clear where India’s secular and liberal classes have got their ideas of history from. The Nehru dynasty, which goes by Gandhi’s name because of a bizarre accident of marriage, ensured that immediately after independence in 1947 the school history books were biased against Hindu kings and queens. With the appointment of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as India’s first education minister, it was a foregone conclusion that official Indian history would portray Islamic rulers as great and resplendent while Hindu monarchs would be regarded as rebels – brave at best, but generally a nuisance.

Just let that sink in – three generations of Indians have been brainwashed into believing that Hindus were always defeated and Muslims were able to blast through Hindu defences each time without much resistance. Could there be a bigger historical heist? And the Gandhis, the perpetrators of this massive Orwellian lie, are all glorified as nation builders, with countless streets, universities, parks, housing estates, sports stadiums, awards, and development programmes named after them. It is a miracle that India is not named Gandhiland.

To understand how this heist happened, we have to visit Gandhi’s fake freedom movement of the early 20th century. It was undoubtedly fake because nothing happened except cotton spinning, article writing, speech making, long marches, and the occasional bonfire of foreign manufactured clothes. In contrast, from the mid 17th century to the end of the 19th century (a period of 150 years), Indian rulers, soldiers and ordinary people had launched ceaseless, bloody wars against the British. Millions died in those wars, with the British killing ten million Indians in the decade following the 1857 War of Independence. Even the first political assassinations of the 20th century were by the 18 year old Khudiram Bose who attacked a British convoy in 1908, sparking the fire of revolution among Indians. Gandhi was not only a late arrival but he did everything to douse this warlike mood.

Appeasement policy of the Congress

Instead of supporting the freedom struggle – forget murdering British colonialists – Gandhi was experiment with breaking-India ideas.

Historian Y.G. Bhave (5) explains how Gandhi and his acolytes pandered so shamelessly before Muslims that they were willing to offer more concessions than the Muslims wanted. If the Muslims requested them to bend, these Gandhians would offer to crawl. If the Muslims said Hinduism offended them, the Congress leaders would agree to remove the ‘taint’ of Hinduism.

“Our leaders of the freedom struggle, especially from 1920 onwards, were so much obsessed with Hindu-Muslim unity that they considered it as the most essential ingredient of the freedom struggle,” writes Bhave. “They had therefore become so oversensitive to Muslim sentiments that they would not touch with a bargepole anything they believed would give offense to Muslim minds. Their craze for keeping the Muslims in good humour went to the extent of admitting tacitly that even the word Hindu was to be discarded in order to keep our Muslim brethren in a happy state of mind.”

The Congress accepted the absurd proposition of referring to the two major communities in India as Muslims and non-Muslims. The fact that Hindus were in a clear majority was totally disregarded in the hope that the same would defeat the divide and rule game of the British and ensure freedom for a united India. “That remedy proved worse than the disease and made that very unity impossible for which it was undertaken, leading ultimately to the partition of the Indian subcontinent.”

Muslim appeasement resulted in the total devaluation of Shivaji and his contribution to honourable Hindu existence on the Indian subcontinent, writes Bhave. The Marxist method of historical evaluation – presenting the present political needs on the events of the past, which had come in fashion around that period – lent further edge to this devaluation process. “Nehru who led this so-called progressive struggle and who claimed and was acclaimed as very modern in his approach to everything including historical interpretations, reportedly referred to Shivaji as a misguided patriot on a certain occasion. This was perhaps Nehru’s euphemistic way of calling Shivaji a traitor! Nehru’s obvious argument was that the British could become masters of India in the 19th century because the Mughal Empire had become very weak at that time, because of Maratha insurgence which had been inspired by Shivaji.”

Nehru could have very easily gleaned certain facts from history which prove beyond any shadow of doubt that the Marathas proved a much tougher proposition to the British evil designs than the Mughal Empire could ever have dreamt of. For, the Maratha Empire had become the protectors of the Mughals within a few years of Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 and fought the British till almost the middle of the 19th century. Compared to this massive resistance, the primary aim of the Mughal Empire was to facilitate the colonisation of India by the Europeans. (6)

But that did not suit Nehru’s purpose of projecting himself as ‘Modern’, ‘Progressive’ and ‘Secular’ in the eyes of the Indian Muslims in general and Gandhi in particular.

“Hence any reference to Shivaji as a great Hindu hero was progressively discouraged in the pre-Independence days,” points out Bhave. His establishment of a powerful Hindu kingdom in the teeth of Muslim opposition was depicted as a mere political development which commonly surfaced in the medieval period. The importance of Shivaji’s kingdom as a very strong (and the only) bastion of Hindu resistance against Muslim onslaught was deliberately ignored. If his religious tolerance was praised it was more with the idea of placating the Muslims than anything else. Hence a certificate of the Mughal historian Khafi Khan that Shivaji protected mosques and treated with respect copies of the Koran that fell into his hands was much flaunted while Shivaji’s insistence on destroying mosques which had been built in place of Hindu temples was conveniently ignored.

The craze to ensure that no offence was given to Muslims went to such an extent that even poems by the great north Indian poet Bhushan and others in praise of Shivaji’s role as a saviour of Hindus against evil designs of Muslims were progressively eliminated from school and college textbooks.

Secularising Shivaji

Whereas in the freedom movement, Gandhi and Nehru abused Shivaji as a communal king, today the Congress has a new spin – the Chhatrapati is secular. According to author Jeneet Sorokhaibam, the Congress party is trying to depict him as non-communal and secular. Nowadays some Hindu protagonists are trying to drag Shivaji into the camp of secularism by making statements such as “there were Muslim soldiers in his army”. (7)

In this backdrop, the great historian Govind Sakharam Sardesai’s account of Shivaji’s attitude towards Muslim soldiers in his army is worth mentioning. (8) In the year 1649 a group of 500-700 Pathans from Bijapur came to Shivaji in seach of jobs. At first, Shivaji (who had personal experience of betrayal by Muslim rulers such as Afzal Khan and Aurangzeb) did not approve of employing them. However, he listened to the counsel of Gomaji Naik Pansabal who advised him that these people had come over to the Maratha side because of Shivaji’s popularity (obviously among people of all castes and religions), and therefore he should not disappoint them.

Sorokhaibam comments: “However, the current Hindu protagonists are ignorant about the facts in this context and about how the monarch also ensured that there were spies to keep watch on those Muslim soldiers. If these 500-700 soldiers made any attempt to divide the army then as was prevalent in those days he would also not hesitate to punish them (by throwing them over the cliff).”

Historian researcher Ninad Bedekar says, “A new idea that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had ‘several’ Muslims in his army is being projected. I will quote a few names. You can give me the rest. When Prince Shivaji came to the jagirs of Pune, Indore and Supe, of the representatives of (his father) Shahaji Raje only three were Muslims, namely Siddi Ambar Bagdadi, Jainkhan Peerzade and Bahalim Khan. Another Muslim associated with Shivaji Maharaj was Nurkhan Beg, the chief of his infantry. But the truth is that later at some juncture all these people were driven off because no mention of their names is made anywhere in historical annals. After the year 1675 these people were nowhere in the picture.”

“The British army also employed Indians as soldiers. Afzal Khan who attached Shivaji Maharaj employed 3000 Maulas in his army, but can we call him secular? Why then is this cord of secularism wound tightly (like an iguana) only around the necks of Hindus. Claiming that Shivaji Maharaj was secular simply because he had a few Muslim soldiers in his army is an indicator of an over liberal intellect.”

Nothing secular about Shivaji

Shivaji was the very antithesis of fake secularism the Congress has regurgitated since the freedom movement, and which is being chewed and digested by the liberals and leftists. No doubt he was fair and never molested a single Muslim woman. Once when a Deccani sultan’s army was defeated and his beautiful queen presented to Shivaji, the Hindu emperor told her no harm will come to her and she would be escorted back to her camp, and added, “Had I been born to you, I would have been a better looking man.” (Compare that to the countless Hindu women captured and enslaved in the harems of Muslim rulers.)

However, when it came to realpolitik, few Hindu kings could come close to Shivaji. Malhar Ramrav Chitnis (9) has described the mindset of Prince Shivaji when living with his father Shahaji Raje at Bijapur. He pens the young Shivaji’s thoughts: “We are Hindus. These Yavanas (Muslims) are inferior to us. There is none more inferior than them. I am distressed by serving them, eating food served by them, flattering them or even greeting them. It is so wrong to see the ridicule of one’s own religion. As we walk down the road we see cows being slaughtered. At that time I feel like beheading the killers and the distress grows even more. What is the use of living to see a cow being tormented? I am compelled to remain silent because of being reprimanded by my father otherwise I feel like killing the one indulging in cow slaughter. It is not at all good to be in the company of Muslims. So also it is inappropriate to go to the court (darbar) of the emperor or to visit any wealthy man.”

The strong desire to recover the country from the Muslims is a defining feature of Shivaji’s life. “We are Hindus. The entire southern region has been invaded by the Muslims and our religion is going downhill. Hence one should not hesitate to sacrifice even one’s life to protect religion. By doing so one would add to one’s treasure of valorous deeds.”

Secular India vs Contemporary India

On Shivaji Jayanti, February 19, the virulently anti-Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted: “Mandatory reading for all Shivaji bhakts: Jadunath Sarkar on Shivaji and his Times. The great king did not allow his followers to defile any religion even when fighting the Mughal empire.. ‘my war is against a king, not the people.’ ! Jai Shivaji! (10)

He isn’t smart enough to know what he’s doing, but Rajdeep Sardesai has unwittingly joined the left-liberal attempts to secularise the Hindu emperor.

Another petty media attack on Shivaji dates back to 2004 in Outlook Magazine in an article on Shivaji headlined “To Chase A Mountain Rat”. (11) The write-up is on the Congress, Shiv Sena and various castes clamouring to be the sole inheritor of the Maratha ruler’s legacy. There could have been any number of word combinations but the copy desk chose to use the offensive “Mountain Rat” – the very words used by Aurangzeb to describe Shivaji whose relentless rise as the emperor of a Hindu kingdom was making the Mughal emperor envious to the core.

The headline is the handiwork of a leftist copy editor who used to head the Outlook copy desk back then. He is a former classmate of this writer, and his virulent hatred of Hindus in general and lower castes in particular is well known to all who know him. Such are the journalists who occupy middle to senior level positions in the Indian media.

However, unlike today’s seculars, leftists and liberals who see heroism only in Islamic tyrants, Indians of the time of Shivaji recognised the magnitude of his achievements. According to Bhave, Shivaji’s miraculous escape from Agra, where he had been treacherously imprisoned by Aurangzeb, had made him famous almost instantly throughout the length and breadth of the country. “His coronation with traditional Hindu rites as the king of a powerful Hindu kingdom which he had himself created out of almost nothing, projected him as the sole saviour of the beleaguered Hindu community.”

The contemporary poet Bhushan from northern India, where he had seen for himself the devastating effect of the unjust and oppressive Muslim rule, aptly summed up the situation when he wrote:

Kashi ki kalaa jaati, Mathura masjid hoti

Agar Shivaji na hote, toh sabki sunnat hoti

[Kashi would have lost its splendour, Mathura would have become a mosque

If it had not been for Shivaji, all would have been circumcised (converted to Islam)]

Danger of Negationism

The Congress – and leftist historians – should never be allowed to breathe on Indian history. By being dismissive of Shivaji Maharaj (as well as Rana Pratap, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Guru Govind Singh), Gandhi and Nehru played a key role in suppressing the knowledge of Hindu renaissance and resistance, and India’s rise from the depths of Islamic colonisation.

Would any of the four above-mentioned titans have allowed Partition? On the contrary they were unifiers of India. It is because of Gandhi and Nehru’s misguidance that the people of India accepted the division of India largely without resistance. The Muslim threat of unleashing civil war across the country was used to frighten the masses. In places like Bihar and Calcutta where Hindus had offered strong resistance to the Muslim League goons and also started killing them in large numbers in response to their butchering of Hindus on Direct Action Day in 1946, Gandhi and Nehru jumped into the cauldron to cool Hindu anger. They had silently watched the carnage and not lifted a finger when Hindu were being massacred in their thousands, but when the Hindus counter attacked and the Muslims began to lose the “civil war”, Gandhi and Nehru urged the Hindus to back down and allow the Muslims to take 20 per cent of the country.

Even without any knowledge of Shivaji, the Hindus had almost crushed the Muslim League. Imagine what they would have achieved had they been inspired by the tales of Shivaji and his heroic warriors.

Now compare Shivaji’s achievements with the ‘achievements’ of the Congress leaders who mocked him. Within 15 days of the Battle of Pratapgad in 1659, Shivaji doubled his territory and captured over a dozen forts. On the other hand, within a day of independence the Congress lost a fifth of India and within a year surrendered a third of Kashmir.

It is the mutated gene of secularism that makes some Delhi-centric Hindus view their own great emperor as a rebel. As for leftists and communists, they are loyal only to Karl Marx who was not only a racist (12) and colonialist but also celebrated the destruction of the Indian economy. (13) But then our eminent intellectuals and jholawallas are blissfully disconnected from reality besides being ignorant of history.

Reference and Notes

  1. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi: Vol 31, Gandhi Sevagram Ashram,
  2. Dipak Basu, Victoria Miroshnik, ‘India as an Organization: Vol I’, (Young India, April 9, 1925)
  3. Markandeya Katju, Daily O,
  4. Glimpses of World History,
  5. Y.G. Bhave, ‘From the Death of Shivaji to the Death of Aurangzeb: The Critical Years’
  6. India Facts, The Mughal tax break cost India its freedom,
  7. Jeneet Sorokhaibam, ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji: The Maratha Warrior and His Campaign’
  8. Govind Sakharam Sardesai, ‘Marathi Riyasat’,
  9. Malhar Ramrav Chitnis, ‘Chatrapati Shivaji Maharajanche Saptaprakaranatmak Charitra’
  11. Outlook,
  12. Daily Signal,
  13. Medium,

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Rakesh is a globally cited defence analyst. His articles have been quoted extensively by national and international defence journals and in books on diplomacy, counter-terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south.