Ascending sun in the sky smiles –
Greeting you at the day-break.
Clap your hands in applause,
Offer him flowers standing by the lake.
Our story evolved in past, that too distant past. Who knows how was the life of common man in Maharashtra a few centuries back? We can only imagine. The abundance of historical monuments across the state carrying the sign of political turmoil triggers our imagination. We see in our mind’s eye – how people of a land facing threats from outside retained their identity.
Mohammed Ghuri conquered Northern part of India around the end of twelfth century AD. This group of Mohammedans were contented almost a century after acquiring that large tract of fertile land; did not take an attempt to conquer Southern part of India crossing the high barrier of mount Vindhyachal and the deep trench in form of Narmada river separating south from north. Finally, by the end of thirteenth century, Allauddin Khilji, another ambitious invader who wanted to spread his empire beyond northern India, overpowered the river leading an army of eight thousand soldiers. He besieged Devgarh, the capital of a Hindu State without warning them. The prince of Devgarh reciprocated leading his big armed force, but the Hindu battalion was defeated in the fierce battle. The king was forced to make a peace treaty paying large sum and a district called Ellichpur. Later, after Allauddin ascended Sultanate of Delhi, his commandant Malik Kafur attacked South India thrice, unsettled and to some extent devastated the area between Narmada to Kanyakumari. Devgarh and other Hindu states were pushed to surrender to Mohammedans, then ruling power from Delhi.
In fourteenth century, Mohammed bin Tughlaq took an attempt to transfer his Capital from Delhi to Devgarh, and modified its name to Daulatabad. But his wild behaviour infuriated both Hindus as well as Islamics in south enough to revolt against the Emperor. Hindus established a large empire with Vijayanagaram as Capital while Islamics established a separate Islamic state in Daulatabad. In course of time, Vijayanagaram and Daulatabad became two major power-centres of South India. The Delhi Sultanate didn’t take up an effort to acquire that part of the country for another three hundred years.
Even though safe from Delhi’s aggression, having the Islamic Daulatabad as neighbour, southern Hindu states were not completely free from threat. Hindu cultural spirit was already seeing decay at that time. On the other hand, the Islamics were not only growing powerful but also started flourishing culturally. Following the rule of history of civilization, the mightier started wiping out the weak. Eventually, Daulatabad increased in size and then separated into three Islamic states – namely Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar. All three joined hands in a fight against Vijayanagaram and crushed that kingdom in the war of Talikota in 1564. The Hindu rule was thus extinguished in South. Being extensively dominant, Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar defeated all Hindu states in Karnat (Karnataka) and Dravida region over the course of time.
Again in 1590, Emperor Akbar took an effort to bring South India under Mughals. Khandesh and Ahmednagar were overpowered in his lifetime. His grandson Shahjahan got hold of entire Ahmednagar before 1636. Hence, by the time this story evolved, only Bijapur and Golkonda remained two independent dominant Islamic states in South. All the others became part of Mughal Empire.
We need to understand the role of Maharastrians during these political turbulences. Hindus enjoyed a fair status even in the Islamic states of Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar. The administrative decisions of the Islamic states used to be determined following ancient Hindu law-books. Every state was divided into Sarkars and Sarkars into Parganas. True, mostly Islam followers ruled those Sarkars and Parganas, but tax was collected and sent to treasury principally by Hindus. Maharashtra is located in hilly region; numerous forts were built on the hilltops across the land. Islamic Sultans did not mind entrusting Hindus with the task of controlling those forts. As a result, many Maharashtrian Killadars (fort-keepers) maintained their respective forts with the revenue earned from Jagir (estates) granted by the Islamic rulers. Apart from these fort-owners and Deshmukhs, Hindu Mansabdaars used to be recruited by Sultan. They led hundred, two-hundred, five hundred, one thousand or more number of soldiers. They were duty-bound to join hands in wars leading those soldiers whenever ordered by Sultan. Sultan granted them rent-free land to meet the expense of those soldiers.
Under Bijapur Sultanate, Chandrarao More was a commander of twelve thousand foot-soldiers. Directed by the Sultan, he conquered all kingdoms between rivers Neera and Barna; and the pleased master awarded him that tract of land as Jagir for a reduced tax rate. Chandrarao’s descendants, gaining the title “Raja”, ruled that territory till seventh generation after him. Similarly, Rao Naik Nimbalkar family ruled the Phaltan region for generations as Deshmukh. Influential Maharashtrian families ruled Mallari, Muswar, Kapusi, Mushola, Jatta and Wari regions as subsidiary under Bijapur Sultan. Engaging in fights against each other was not uncommon. Concept of welfare states didn’t develop widely in pre-colonial era. Every ruler had to establish power over own territory by militarising. Growth of many aspiring rulers within a family led to violent family-conflicts as well. That is reason most of the prominent royals in the hilly regions of Konkan and Maharashtra frequently kept themselves busy in combat against family members. Probably hostility appeared to be good omen to those feudal lords. Like exercise makes our body healthier and farmer, hard work, disturbance and disaster helped building the Maharashtrian stronger. That way the dawn in the life of Maharashtrian state brightened the Indian sky long before the arrival of Shivaji.
Jadhavrao and Bhosla were two prominent states under Ahmednagar Sultans. Jadhavraos of Sindh khed were principal politically dominant family in Maharashtra. Many consider them to be scions of the old royal family of Devgarh. Bhoslas did not stand exactly at the same level with Jadhavraos, but was no doubt another powerful clan. Shivaji’s mother came from the Jadhavraos and father from the Bhoslas.
Let us go for a time travel across this region – Let us watch how history reveals its secrets before our eyes.
Image: Shivaji by Raja Ravi Varma. Source – Wikimedia commons