Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The night attack of Shivaji on Shaista Khan!!!

The night attack on Shaista Khan uncle of Aurangzeb, general and governor of the Deccan thought less discussed is among the greatest of Shivaji's feats of valour. It shows great intelligence, courage, planning and above all will to carry out decisive action.

In 1660 Shaista Khan newly appointed by Aurangzeb as governor of Deccan gained some initial success by partnering with Bijapur and Golconda (Hyderbad). Shivaji's army fighting on three fronts were rolled back successively till they were cornered into the ghats around Singh-garh. In 1663 Shaista Khan after overseeing the mopping up operations to ensure no escape for the cornered foe retired to Pune in August at the onset of the monsoon. Monsoon during those days was the undeclared vacation period for combatants. With hundreds of rivers in full spate criss crossing the Deccan made moving large armies and engaging in open battle a difficult proposition.

Taking advantage of this lull in fighting Shivaji hatched a plan to eliminate the head that binds the weak alliance between Bijapur, Golconda and Mughals. Shivaji reckoned rightly that without a governor the alliance will shatter. Bijapur and Golconda will part ways and the mughal army will be paralysed due to want of a acting general. Using this confusion he would be able to rally his troops to take back lost ground. Supported by ground intelligence and sheer common sense Shivaji knew Shaista Khan had promised to carve out the Deccan after the fall of the Marathas between the three muslim kings and without Shaista to hold to the promise Aurangzeb can always wash his hands of any alliance or treaty.

Shaista had taken up residence in the best house of Pune, the childhood home of Shivaji and set up around it a vast cantonment. Around the house he set up camps of the various divisions and towards the south appointed Maharajah Jaswant Singh who occupied the road leading to Singh-garh with 10 thousand Rajput cavalry. Thus secured he went about making himself comfortable for the next 4 months of monsoon. He established his harem, quarters for body guard, full kitchen, rooms for musicians, singers and personal marching band and other trappings of the decadent mughal court.

After receiving information that Shaista was holed up in his childhood house about which he knew better than anyone else, he personally planned the attack which involved the route of ingress and the mode and route of egress for his band of followers. He handpicked a thousand proven brave fighters to go with him and as a insurance policy another two, one thousand strong supporting divisions under great Netaji Palkar and Moro Pant the Peshwa respectively were to flank the mughal camp on either side and to enter the camp at a predesignated signal if required. What the signal was is not known as it was never used.

The Maratha force, lightly equipped set out from Singh-garh covered the intervening 11 miles rapidly via hidden paths to avoid detection by mughal scouts arrived at Pune after nightfall. The day was Sunday 5th April 1663. Leaving 600 men in Pune Shivaji picked 400 men and approached the mughal camp. When ever challenged by guards they would reply that they were Deccani soldiers of the imperial army going to take up their appointed post for the night. After resting for a few hours at some obscure corner of the camp the raiding party arrived near Shaista Khans house.

It was the 6th day of ramzan, the month of fasting for muslims. The servants and guards were asleep owing to the fasting during the day and heavy meal at night. Some cooks who were awake preparing the pre-dawn meal were quickly dispatched. The wall dividing the kitchen from the servant room within the harem had a opening which had been bricked up to seclude the harem. Shivaji knowing very well this opening in the wall ordered it to be dismantled brick by brick. The noise of the pickaxes and the groans of the dying awoke some servants who reported it to Shaista but that general only rebuked them for disturbing him for such a trifle.

Soon the breach was large enough for a man to enter, Shivaji and his trusted lieutenant Chimnaji Bapuji were the first to enter the harem and were followed by 200 men. The place was a maze of canvas and screen walls made to divide the available space between the various harem keeps. Hacking a way through this maze Shivaji entered the very room where Shaista was sleeping. Shivaji in all his chivalry waited for Shaista to be roused by the voices of the alarmed women folk because he did not want to kill the man in his sleep. When Shaista stirred and went for his weapon, Shivaji with a single stoke severed his thumb and made him drop his weapon. Before Shivaji could deliver the killer blow, a wise woman of the harem doused the lone lamp bathing the entire room in darkness. Other Marathas had now entered the room and were hacking at anything that moved but under the cover of darkness escorted by his 'zanana' (women folk) and slave girls Shaista Khan made an inglorious escape. Unmindful and not knowing the Marathas continued their bloody work.

Meanwhile the remainder of the 200 soldiers still outside the kitchen breach under Babaji Bapuji rushed the body guard quarters slaying sleeping and the awake crying out in derision "Is it thus you keep watch?". They next entered the band room and ordered the bandsmen as if from the Khan to start playing. Using the sound of the band music as a cover they continued further the slaughter of all and sundry. With the tumult of the harem adding to the cries from the guard room, the soldiers in the camps finally to their dismay realised the attack on their general.

Abdul Fath a son of Shaista rushed in to save his father to be cut down by the raiding party. Another mughal captain residing behind the enclosure scaled the walls using a rope ladder only to be butchered. Shivaji by now realised that the camp was fully awake gathered his men and withdrew from the camp creating diversionary shouts and false alarms along the way sending confused mughals soldiers in the wrong directions.

The night attack was a success thought not a complete one. It failed to eliminate the binding force of the tri-party alliance, Shaista Khan. But the outcome still resulted in unexpected gains. The Marathas only lost 6 men killed and 40 wounded. On the mughals side Shaista lost a son, a captain, 6 wives, 40 of his attendants, slave girls and wounds to 2 other sons. Above all it delivered a death blow to the moral of the soldiers and to Shaista Khan himself. With the Maratha war lord coming and going as he pleases striking death blows as he wills and the mughal army paralysed by monsoon and fear, Shivaji was quickly dubbed 'Shaitain' or Devil.

The morning following the attack imperial officers came to condole Shaista on his losses and among them was Maharaja Jaswant Singh. Shaista in his refined courtly manners rebuked the Raja saying ''when the enemy fell upon me I thought you had died battling them''. The Marathas had come and gone in the same direction as the  Raja's camp but his soldiers had neither seen nor heard anything let alone given chase. The rumor floated around that Raja Jaswant Singh was in connivance with Shivaji in this entire episode but Shivaji himself cleared the air and asserted it to the act of bravery, courage and intelligence of his soldiery, himself and divine intervention of Lord Shiva. This rumour was further proved wrong by the fact that in later campaigns Raja Jaswant Singh was hounded out of the Deccan by the Maratha's and when Shivaji encountered him at Aurangzebs court mocked Raja Jaswant Singh for his defeats at the hands of his soldiers.

The mughal governor covered with shame and grief retired to Aurangabad for greater safety. When the Emperor heard of this disaster he ascribed it to his uncles negligence and incapacity. Shaista was not permitted to meet the Emperor to receive his new orders. He was transfered directly to Bengal which was regarded as a punishment posting in those days as even now. Aurangzeb once remarked of Bengal as "a hell well stocked with bread". In place of Shaista was posted Prince Muazzam.

The daring and cunning of the Maratha hero was awarded by immense increase in prestige. Nothing was deemed impossible for Shivaji. The whole country talked about with astonishment and terror of the almost superhuman deeds and that there was bitter humiliation and sorrow in the Emperors court. The common man on the street mostly Hindus rejoiced in this new found messiah. Thousands flocked to him swelling Shivajis ranks once more.

Previous Episodes




  1. A "Nazarana" - The Daughter-in-law of the Muslim Subahdar of Kalyan
    COURTESY: http://www.hinduholocaust.com/heroes/shivaji2.htm

    During the days after the coronation, many Maratha generals presented Nazaranas (tribute in kind) to the newly anointed King of Maharashtra. It was then a practice of the Muslims to abduct any fair maiden and to force her into the harem as a concubine. (A harem is a term for the living quarters of abducted women, nominally treated as wives.) On one such occasion, following the "illustrious" example set by the Muslim aggressors, a Maratha Sardar also (general) abducted a daughter-in-law of the Muslim Subahadar of Kalyan, near Mumbai (Kalyan was then under Mughal occupation).

    This Sardar presented this "Nazarana" to Shivaji Maharaj, expecting to be patted on the back for such a "fair" tribute. Shivaji Maharaj's reaction at this occasion, gives us an insight into the mind of the person who lived 300 years before us. Shivaji not only chided the general, but warned him and all the other Maratha generals that such a heinous offence would henceforth attract a penalty of the offender's hands being chopped off. The dazed general was asked by Shivaji to return with full honours, the daughter-in-law of the Muslim Subahadar of Kalyan.

    The Maratha ballads (Povadas) that describe this event say that on hearing Shivaji's dialogue in Marathi the teenaged girl is said to have exclaimed "Ya Allah, yeh aadmi nahin farishta hai. Ees farishtey pe kamyaabi bahal karna." ("O Lord, this is not an ordinary man but an angel. Bestow success on this angel.") The Maratha balladeers, while narrating this event say that "Asseech amuchi aai asatee,sundar roopavati; amhi hee sundar zhalo asato - vadaley Chattrapati" ("If my mother had been as beautiful, I too would have been as beautiful - exclaimed Chattrapati"). These dialogues might as well be a later romanticization of what actually happened. But it proves a point - Shivaji Maharaj had risen above the attitudes of religious bigotry, and beastly behaviour that had come to typify the Indian ruling class under Muslim rule.

    Also it should not be forgotten that Shivaji Maharaj had allowed Shaista Khan to escape at the intervention of Shaista Khan's wife who called Shivaji Maharaj, 'brother'. Such was the greatness of Shivaji Maharaj.

  2. THis is the historic fact, Muslims were better than Hindus living in INDIA thats why Muslims ruled more than 1000 years over hindus and same thing Britishers were better than Muslims thats why they rule INDIA over 100 years........ now its our time to be better than the rest of the world to beccome ruler............. Dont hide past mistake to and justify yourself or you elders wrong doings. Who ever is better will rule on others.....i dont think our indian leaders desrve to rule

  3. Shivaji Raje BhosleJune 19, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Like the british muslims were also foreign invaders of India who captured India from the then Hindu rulers by means of fraud and deceit when they unable to defeat the then Hindu rulers in direct warfare.Then the islamic invaders declared holy jihad against the kaffir Hindus residing in India and start converting them forcrfully by means of sword or slaughtered them and sold lakhs of Hindu women and childs in the slave market of arab and destroyed and ransacked thousands of ancient Hindu temples and built mosques in place of them.A few examples are jama masjid,adhai din ka jhopra,babri masjid,mosque in place of Kashi Vishwanath temple,qutub minar etc.Mahan and patriotic freedom fighter Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj established the Hindavi Swarajya(Self rule of Hindus)in a portion of Southern India by defeating those barbaric islamic jihadis by paying them back in their own coins by adopting those means of fraud and deceit against them.Shivaji Maharaj ki jay.Jay Maa Bhvani.