The Clutches Of The Moghul Emperor
This was the limit of Aurangzeb's patience
and he was in a great fit of rage. But he
checked himself from leading an army
against Shivaji. He had known well how sharp the tearing nails of this
$mountain rat' were. So he thought of a plan. He decided that he should
send a 'Lion' to overpower this lion. He chose for task the King, Raja
Jayasimha. (Incidentally, 'Simha' means a lion.) Jayasimha was a great
warrior and a hero. He was also a clever general. What a shame that a man
like him should he be subservient to a foreigner who was ruling the land!
Jayasimha proceeded south with his large army. He won over the Sultan of
Bijapur to his side. The battle against Shivaji began. All of a sudden
Shivaji wrote a letter to Jayasimha informing him that he would agree to
a friendly compromise. What was more, he met Jayasimha and told him that
he would remain loyal to the Badshah at Delhi.
Shivaji was a lion that had grown up
independently in the mountain ranges of Sahyadri. How then did he all of
a sudden agree to bow down to the Badshah? All were baffled. Many thought
-that there lay behind this some secret plan. It ispossible that Shivaji
had planned to go to Delhi on the pretext of serving the Badshah as a dependent
and then to put an end to the life of Aurangzeb in a direct encounter.
This was perhaps a venture of greater heroism and sharper strategy than
ever before in his life. Accordingly, Shivaji proceeded to meet the Emperor,
Aurangzeb. His son Sambhaji also accompanied him. At home, in the land
of freedom, all were filled with great anxiety. As the proceeded, the Hindu
community welcomed him and With great respect Dowed down to him. Shivaji
reached Agra in order to meet Aurangzeb. The latter too was equally tactful.
He never let Shivaji approach him. He bid him stay at a distance in the
court. This 'was a great disappointment to Shivaji's hopes. Aurangzeb also
acted in a manner ' that insulted Shivaji. Aurangzeb did not , keep the
promise that he would treat him with respect. Naturally Shivaji was greatly
enraged. Ignoring Aurangzeb he left the court.
Shivaji was now in great danger. For
Aurangzeb was not such a fool as to let an enemy who had come within his
reach escape easily. He ordered Shivaji to be imprisoned and to be executed
In spite of the gravity of the situation
Shivaji did not lose heart. At this critical hour his intellect and his
courage shone more brightly. Suddenly Shivaji 'took ill.' He soon grew
worse'. Shivaji begged of Aurangzeb that his Maratha soldiers might be
allowed to return. Aurangzeb felt relieved 'and permitted them to go. Shivaji
began distributing sweets to the Fakirs, mendicants and ascetics of the
town hoping that his ill ness may be cured. He began sending gifts 'also
to the wealthy in the town. Aurangzeb permitted all these. Even, such a
very clever man as Aurangzeb had no doubts. No Vaidya or Hakim could improve
Shivaji's 'condition'. The day of Shivaji's execution had been fixed. On
the previous day * Shivaji's 'illness' grew very serious, and he lost 'consciousness'.
As usual the baskets that would carry
the sweets were brought in. Shivaji who was lying on his 'sickbed' suddenly
jumped into one of the baskets and so did his son Sambhaji. Immediately
the servants put on the lids and carried the baskets away.
The sentries who had been examining
the baskets were convinced by long custom that they contained nothing but
sweets. Even on that day the chief of the sentries, Polad Khan, examined
a few of the baskets. They contained merely sweets. Luckily the Khan did
not chance upon the baskets in which Shivaji and Sambhaji were hidden.
That was by the grace of Goddess Bhavani, coupled with the forgetfulness
of the Khan. He must have meant 'Let him live' when he said, 'Let the baskets
Inside the prison where Shivaji had
been lying a little while before, a friend of Shivaji by name Hiroji lay
down. He put on the royal ring, which Shivaji had given him. He lay down,
with his hand, which showed this ring thrust out. The rest of the body
had been covered with the blanket. Madari, an innocent looking lad, was
massaging the limbs. Polad Khan used to peep in now'. and again just to
find out how' ". Shivaji fared. T W day came to a close and it was nightfall.
The 'Shivaji' who was lying there all the time got up_ He made up the blankets
and the pillows to look like a man on the couch. Putting on his usual clothes,
he came out and announced to thesentries that the condition of Shivaji
was very serious and that it was a matter of a few hours for Shivaji. He
said he- was going to bring some medicine. So saying he went out. Madari
too quietly followed him. Both went away never to return. Inside, on the
couch, lay the huddled imitation of Shivaji. Outside the prison the sentries
stood with swords drawn.
The day dawned. That was the day appointed
for the execution of Shivaji. Polad Khan came in. There was a strange silence.
He grew suspicious. As he stepped in the saw 'Shivaji' asleep. For a moment
this sight put some comfort into his heart. But there was no movement.
Thinking that Shivaji, might have died the Khan came near and pulled back
the blanket. He was shocked to see just the bare bed and the pillows! Shivaji
had disappeared. You can imagine the feelings of Polad Khan, and more important
still, of Aurangzeb. They must have felt the agony of being stung at once
by a thousand scorpions. Aurangzeb at once ordered his army to capture
Shivaji and the army set out in all directions.
By this time Shivaji and Sambhaji had
already mounted the horses that were kept in readiness for them and proceeded
south. They dashed away at great speed. On the way they were sheltered
comfortably in the Maths established by Swami Samarth Ramdas.
Like a holy man in the robes of a 'sanyasi',
Shivaji finally reached Raigadh. For a while
even his mother Jijabai could hotrecognize
her son. But when she understood who it-
was, what a shock of recognition!
Who can describe the ecstasy, at such a moment, of a mother who had born
such a noble son?
When the news of Shivaji's escape from
Agra reached the ears of his enemies in the south, they were all speechless
and helpless. Not just that Shivaji's fame spread all over India. Shivaji
had thrown dust into the eyes of the greatest schemer and politician like
Aurangzeb and had escaped from the latter's capital where all the twenty-four
hours of the day sentries stood with drawn swords. He had evaded the gaze
of the Moghul soldiery for a distance of a thousand miles. The world had
never before heard of such daring and cleverness.