Queries grasp me as you enter my room –
Don’t know who you are – letting my hope bloom.
Aurangzeb’s purpose behind summoning him to Delhi appeared clear to Shivaji within a few days. The Emperor’s intension was to imprison him forever so that Maharashtra can never liberate themselves. This fact annoyed him but he started finding a way to sneak out of Delhi.
The trustworthy Raghunathpanth Nyayshastri was the person with whom Shivaji used to consult in such cases. After a long discussion, they decided to appeal for the Emperor’s permission to go back to Maharashtra; other option could be found out in case of dismissal.
The wise and eloquent Nyaysastri was ready to work as emissary for Shivaji to royal court. To carry to the court, he composed a letter describing reasons behind their coming to Delhi in detail. Whatever the leader had done to support Mughal army, and the promise Aurangzeb made before inviting him was explained. Shivaji’s readiness to support the Emperor in bringing Bijapur and Golkonda under control was also specially mentioned. In case the Emperor did not want his support, the minister prayed to grant him permission to go back to own land. Neither he, nor his companions and armed guards were feeling comfortable in North Indian climate.
As Nyaysastri carried the message to the royal court, the Emperor sent a reply though him. But the verbose letter did not include anything about the permission they were seeking. Shivaji fully aware about Emperor’s objective started planning to slip away.
After a few days, the caged leader was sitting at the window in the evening. Darkness didn’t hinder the view though sun went down the horizon. Crowd was still flowing incessant on the roads. He was observing the flow – so many people with so many different attires from so many different places came to the city with so many different purposes! One or two fair-skinned Mughals were passing once in a while. Hundred of brown natives were always visible. Among them he noticed a few dark Africans too. The traders and travellers were mainly from Persia, Arab, Caucasus or Turkey. The Hindu and Mohammedan generals, kings and mansabdars were moving seated on palanquins followed by many attendants, horses and elephants. Soldiers were making fun among themselves while some traders were carrying goods in large baskets on their heads.
Crowd decreased in a while. The shopkeepers started shutting down their shops. The hubbub of the city also died down. Only some lamps inside the houses little away were visible through their open windows. The mansions at a distance stood like dark ghosts while stars started showing up in the sky. Shivaji looked at the east once – the quiet and wide river Yamuna was flowing towards the unending ocean in the calmness of the evening.
The tune of Ajaan sung in Jumma Masjid in that silence was spreading a deep mystic aura around as if it was rising towards the heaven leaving many human hearts spellbound. He went on listening to that tune – looked at the darkness again, only to find the silhouette of the white domes of the mosque far at the backdrop of the sky and the high wall of the red fort looking like a row of mountains.
The night went darker but the string of his thought did not split. He was thinking of his childhood days, old friends, Dadoji Konddeo, his father Shahaji and mother Jijabai – who lit up the hope, devotion and zeal those days. Then opened up the memories of his youth studded with more optimism and passion – how capturing forts, acquiring lands, overcoming dangers, winning battles one after another kept him active throughout his youth. He felt clueless whether his life marked with gallantry and achievements were over, whether his hopes were all gone. Was there still possibility of the end of Mohammedan rule? Was it still possible to establish a Hindu empire spreading over the whole peninsula?
The bell in the fort announced time – it was midnight. The sound of the big bell echoed in the entire city piercing the silence of the night. Before it completely disappeared – he saw a tall silhouette of a man at the window.
Shivaji stood surprised taking a steady gaze at that keeping one hand on his sword which he always tied to waist since he had arrived Delhi.
The visitor probably ignored his aggressive posture. He slowly entered into the room through the window, wiped his sweating forehead once before standing straight before the king such a way that his face remained invisible. Shivaji could see in the darkness that the visitor had matted hair, his body whitened with ash used by hermits, and he did not have knife of any other weapon in hand. This ensured him that his guest was not a spy sent by the Emperor to kill him. Who was that then?
The visitor said in low-pitch, “Long live the King!”
The voice helped Shivaji to immediately recognise him. Even a powerful person cannot find a true friend in this world easily. Such a friend’s visiting us during troubled phase of our life brings new ray of hope in life. He welcomed Sadanand Swami with a warm embrace but didn’t lit a light as the saint forbade him. He was eager to know about his kingdom. “Tell me about Raigad. How and when did you come here? What made you come so far? Why did you enter through the window to meet me in the middle of the night?” – He had never-ending series of queries.
Sadanand: “Raigad should be fine. You have entrusted the administration in the hands of efficient people. Anyway I cannot give you the detail because I left Raigad soon after you left. I have told you that I had to travel to complete my spiritual journey. I came to Delhi on my way to Mathura and other pilgrimage destinations in North. I consider myself fortunate whenever I find chance to meet my master – how does it matter whether it is day or night, which route I took?”
Shivaji: “Still you would not enter my room at midnight through the window unless you had a specific reason!”
Sadanand: “I am telling. But first I wanted to know whether my master is doing fine here.”
Shivaji: “Physically yes. But my mind cannot rest in peace as long as I am surrounded by enemies.”
Sadanand: “Master did sign a treaty with the Emperor, where is the enemy then?”
Shivaji: “How long a treaty between a snake and the frog exists? I am sure you are aware of everything; please do not shame me. If I listened to you in Raigad, I could be still an independent King of my Konkan Mountains and valleys. I did not need to become a prisoner having faith on the words of that tricky Emperor.”
Sadanand: “Please do not indulge into self-criticism. The world is full of illusions. Everyone is prone to do mistakes. You came here trusting his words, depending on your trustworthiness. The person who deceived and misbehaved, will be punished by God. Trickery cannot win. Aurangzeb’s dishonesty, that helped him to detain you, will in turn destroy him forever. I remember what you told me in Raigad. The treachery of Aurangzeb would light a fire in Maharastra, blazing high enough to engulf the Mughal Empire.”
Shivaji felt encouraged like never before. He responded, “Sadanand, that hope of mine did not die as yet. Aurangzeb will have to realise that Maharashtra is still alive. But shall I remain imprisoned in this city of Delhi at the time when my brave soldiers will be engaged in fierce fights against Mughals?”
Sadanand: “Aurangzeb will be able to imprison you inside Delhi’s fort walls, only after he is able to capture the flowing breeze in a net, not before that.”
Shivaji smiled and reacted, “Then I am sure you came here to suggest me a way to flee. And that is why you came to me in secret at this hour of the night.
Sadanand: “Master has sharp intellect. I am not able to hide anything from him. Moving out of home in disguise is easy in a dark night. Delhi is surrounded by high walls. But there is an iron pole placed near the wall in the east; it is not difficult for the Maharashtrian hero to cross the wall using that. On the other side of the wall, eight boatmen are ready with a boat; you will reach Mathura in a short while. My Lord will find many friends there. as there are many pious priests in the Hindu temples.”
Shivaji: “I am happy with your arrangement. I found another proof of your being a good friend. But if anyone notices me while crossing the wall, that will lead to death only.
Sadanand: “Ten efficient archers are hiding among your armed guards near the wall where you are supposed to cross. If anyone notices my King or tries to obstruct, he will face death for sure. The eight boatmen are your eight soldiers in disguise. They are wearing armour and carrying containers with arrows. The chance of the boat’s being caught is rare. Moreover, the Brother-in-law of your peshwa is in Mathura. You know how loyal he is. I met him on my way to Delhi. He made all arrangements for you. Please read the letter written by him.”
He took out a letter that was hidden under his cloths. Shivaji smiled giving it back to him, “You read it out.”
Sadanand felt embarrassed. He remembered that the master did not acquire skill of reading and writing; started reading the letter aloud. Shivaji continued, “My saint! I cannot imagine you have spent your entire life is worshipping Gods. Even my prime minister could not plan like you. But I still have something to say. What will happen to my son, my loyal minister Raghunathpanth and Tannaji Malashri after I run away? How will my soldiers save themselves from the rage of Aurangzeb?”
Sadanand: “Your son, minister and friend may leave with you today. Your soldiers will not be harmed even if they stay in Delhi. Aurangzeb has nothing to do with them; he will release them!”
Shivaji: “You do not know Aurangzeb well then. He acquired the throne killing his siblings.”
Sadanand: “If you order your soldiers, there is none in your Maharashtrian force who would not be happy to sacrifice his life.”
Shivaji took some time to judge every option before telling, “I will be obliged to you for your heartfelt effort, but I do not want to save myself at the cost of my loyal soldiers. Please give me some other option; or forget it!”
Sadanand: “Right now there is no other option left, sir!”
Shivaji: “Then give me some time. This is not the first threat I am facing. I will try to find options.”
Sadanand: “There is not much time left. Either you have to run away today; you cannot flee tomorrow.”
Shivaji: “I have no idea whether your power of penance made you predict such a way. But if you are foreseeing the future, then Shivaji is helpless. A Kshatriya cannot save himself leaving his loyalists in danger.”
Sadanand: “Punishing the traitor is the duty of a Kshatriya. Please punish Aurangzeb, for which you have to return homeland. Lead the wave of war from there. Let the daydreamer Aurangzeb sink along with his unrighteous empire under that wave. You don’t have much time to consider. There will be no option left for you tomorrow. You are going to be imprisoned tomorrow!”
Shivaji: “So be it! I cannot leave people loyal to me at any cost. Pardon me. I will always remember your careful plan, your efforts, and your kindness. I will always recall your righteous suggestions in Raigad and your attempts to rescue me in Delhi. If you stay with me here, together we will be able to set all of us free.”
Sadanand: “I am honoured. God knows that I have no other purpose in life but to be with you. But I cannot flout the path of penance I have taken. I must travel through different places to follow the rules.”
Shivaji: “I do not know what vow you have taken!”
Sadanand answered as if he was mourning his ill-fate, “I worshipped a god since childhood. He is angry with me. One person in the temple of Bhabani told me to take this path of pilgrimage to win his confidence again. I will tell you everything one day of I succeed. I will choose death over living a life of shame. What do I do with my life if the one I am devoted to is dissatisfied with me?”
Shivaji: “You are right. No other pain is so powerful that being hated by the person for whom we are ready to sacrifice our life. Even I cannot forgive myself for throwing someone who was ready to sacrifice his life for me. He was not sharp like you, in addition had courage and unbeatable strength. I do not know what made me make such a mistake of calling him a rebel only out of suspicion. I have heard he committed suicide due to that humiliation. He saved my life in a battle. I killed him!” The king’s voice chocked. After sometime he called. “Saint!” There was no answer. Surprised, he lit up a lamp. He did not find Sadanand in the room.