Veer Shivaji’s great escape from Aurangzeb’s jail in Agra
Veer Shivaji maharaj was winning the areas after areas in Gujarat, Vindhyachal, Madhya Bharat and Rajasthan and arresting the muslim governors and the land revenue collectors one after the other, and establishing further his own sovereign rule there and appointing his own governors namely Gaikwad in Baroda and Gujarat, Holkar in Indore, Sciendia in Gwalior and Peshwas in Maharastra and central India; this had disturbed emperor Aurenzeb to the last limit. He lost all his temperaments and patience due to the growing victories and leadership of Shivaji. All his communications and the transfer of riches and treasures with the south Indian nawabs was cut off by Shivaji. He was terrorized with the idea of losing his regime in India. Ultimately he took the shelter of Mirza Raja Sawai Mansingh of Jaipur who was also his courtier, to make a move of friendship with Shivaji. He sent him to Maharashtra to bring Shivaji to Agra by any means.
Mansingh met Shivaji and offered a hand of friendship from Auranzeb’s side and also offered a big post or RUTBA in his court at Agra. Shivaji, first of all, demoralized him by pointing out his helplessness and disobedience in mughal army who used to dismantle the temples of India and killing the Indian Hindu population in villages. Man Singh had no answer and explanation to the question and kept quite. Still Shivaji respected a guest to his state and agreed to his terms of accompanying him to Agra. They proceeded towards Agra. Son of Mansingh, Raja Ram Singh was accompanying them. On the other side Shivaji also took his son. In the way, at khandwa Raja Mansingh expired and directed his son to escort Shivaji and his team to Agra and he also explain the agreed terms of Shivaji to Auranzeb.
In Agra, in the court of Auranzeb, Shivaji was presented. His minor son was also there in the court. Auranzeb was sitting on the high throne and the rest everyone were standing. Shivaji was also given the standing position in the second row of the officers. The first row was of the officers who had the status or RUTBA of more than 30 thousand horses with them. Shivaji was made to stand in the second row who had 30 thousand horse’s army under them. Shivaji objected this status, as he had the status of his own more than 30 thousand horses in his own state and that status was not promised and was not offered in the court but Raja Ram Singh pointed out to Shivaji to keep silence and wait, till the time, he is not recommended to Auranzeb. In the court Auranzeb wasted his time uselessely consulting his molwis and mullas and the others on very ordinary topics and the useless discussions with the courtiers. Much more time was wasted in such a nuisance.
Shivaji was tired of standing with his son and waiting some attention of Auranzeb.Being tired and exhausted, ultimately, he came out of the row and left the court without permission of Auranzeb and took a seat behind the court hall. Auranzeb became very furious on this disobedience and unetiquetted manner of Shivaji. He bursted into anger and lost his senses and temperament and rosed
on his feet and gave a very loud order of arresting Shivaji and putting him into jail with his son.
According to the court’s etiquette all his weapons and swords were taken away previously from him before entering into the court, so his army took over him easily and he was put under arrest. He was sent to the ‘Sadar Kotwali’ building of Agra which had a very strong walls and high gates. A very cruel ‘Kotwal’ was given the charge of keeping a watch on Shivaji. The main gate of that building was more than 25 feet high from that height a man cannot dare to jump. In the ceiling of the gate there were strong hooks on which a cot was hanging with a rope on which Shivaji was tied upon and on his finger a ring was put on the stretched hand which was hanging out of cot and which was supposed to be visible from the ground all the time. The ropes were tied up around Shivaji and the cot, Only once or twice a day that cot was loosen down in the day to do the loo activities. This continued till further order.
On the strong recommendations of Raja Ramsingh to Aurangzeb Shivaji’s son was released and dispatched to Maharastra. Shivaji’s strong gang of eight warriors remained in disguised around the Sadar Kotwali. Shivaji pretended of some disease and illness to the Kotwal and asked him to convey his wish to Auranzeb to distribute some sweets to the poor as a gesture. The request was accepted by him. The friends of Shivaji arranged for big quantity of sweets in big boxes for distribution among the poor. The Kotwal was requested that the boxes of sweets should be touched by Shivaji himself as a custom. All the incoming and outgoing boxes were strictly checked. One day, a very confidential and loyal warrior friend of Shivaji put himself in place of Shivaji and he wore the ring on his hand. The short heighted and elastic body of Shivaji was made to hide into the boxes of sweets. That particular box was taken out of the boundaries of Kotwali on the shoulders of labourers. The ropes were pulled over to lift the cot to the ceiling of the gate. For some hours the ring was in view of the soldiers who were standing on the ground and later on after some hours when the cot was brought down to the ground they found that the man who was lying on the cot was not Shivaji. They immediately executed that person into pieces.
Immediately out of the Sadar Kotwali building Shivaji came out of he box and along with his seven strong friends rushed to the Yamuna river. Which had chilling water. The air was also very cold and the strong breeze was blowing. Nobody can think of escaping through the river route in that cold season. Shivaji and his fellows swam through the furious river fastly to the other side of the river and rushed towards Mathura. Because they knew the usual tactics of search and following to Maharastra will begin, so they discarded that route which was beyond the imagination of Auranzeb’s army.
While on foot journey, they reached to Mathura, they knocked a door which was the in- laws house of one of his friends. He explained them their intentions and asked for some very simple clothes of Sadhues and got themselves bald and without loss of time this gang (team) of Sadhus proceeded towards Banaras. Later on, this gang of brave soldiers but humble Sadhus reached Chennai and from South India to pune in 1 year.
One day when Mata Jijaji was sitting in balcony of her palace in a very sad mood she saw a sadhu begging for some alms from her. Blessing her with the long life of his son Shivaji. She was extremely amazed to hear the voice of Shiva but she din’t recognized the sadhu. But later on she got an instinct of calling that sadhu inside the palace, it was her surprise he was Shiva.
This was a great act of bravery, planning, loyalty and the sacrifice. This was a great blow to the security of Mughals and this was the high time for Mata Jijabai to arrange for the coronation of the great warrior son Veer Shivaji.
Since then Shivaji climbed on the throne which had a chhatra. Therefore, we recognize him as Cshhatrapati Shivaji.
Chatrapati Shivaji and His Great Escape
Shivaji and his son hid themselves in baskets containing sweets and escaped. The question is how come sweets were served to prisoners in such huge baskets?
By M. R. Rajagopalan
We read in history books about the imprisonment of Shivaji and his son Sambaji by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. History books also tell us that Shivaji and his son hid themselves in baskets containing sweets and escaped. The question is how come sweets were served to prisoners in such huge baskets?
The Mughals had a well-organized administration. How come the prison guards, the police force and the army failed to apprehend the fugitives? Herein lies a saga of intrigue and adventure. Shivaji’s was indeed a great escape.
Shivaji, with his own brand of guerrilla warfare, occupied Juveli area in 1646, with only a small force at his command. He was a lad of 16 then! By carrying out lightning attacks on the enemy forces, he occupied several other forts. After Shivaji defeated Shaista Khan, enraged Mughal emperor Aurangzeb sent another huge force of 10,000 soldiers under the command of Maharaja Jai Singh in the year 1664.
Jai Singh’s army encircled the fort of Purandar where Shivaji was camping. This time Shivaji had to agree to a truce. A peace treaty was signed under which Shivaji agreed to hand over control of 23 out of the 35 forts held by him. He also agreed to be an ally of the Mughal forces in their battles against the Sultan of Bijapur.
Jai Singh advised Shivaji to proceed to Agra and meet the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to ratify the treaty. Jai Singh assured Shivaji that he would not be harmed during his journey to and stay at Agra. Shivaji saw the truce as an opportunity for respite and to consolidate his strength.
Despite misgivings about the Agra trip, his astrologers assured him he would return alive. Further, Aurangzeb sent a letter to Shivaji on 5.4.1666 with an assurance that he would be accorded a reception and treatment befitting his royal status.
Accompanied by his son Sambaji and a small contingent of his forces Shivaji reached Agra on 11th June, 1666. Though he was received cordially by Jai Singh’s son, Ram Singh, when he was taken to the Mughal durbar, Aurangzeb did not even look at him. He was made to stand in the third row of the courtiers. Angered by this humiliation, Shivaji left the durbar in a huff.
A point worth noting is that Shivaji was never in an actual prison but was residing in a royal guesthouse. He soon realized that he was heavily guarded and was effectively under house arrest. Neither did Aurangzeb grant him an interview, nor was he allowed to leave Agra. After three months of this impasse, in August, Shivaji planned his great escape.
Shivaji claimed to have an acute stomach ache, which was treated by a procession of doctors for three days. Once he pronounced himself fit, he requested Ram Singh for sweets and money to pay obeisance to the goddess Bhavani, and to distribute them to his doctors, Brahmins and poor Muslims.
Sweets were prepared in huge quantities and carried out of the guesthouse in two large bamboo baskets, each carried on a pole by two persons. For the first three or four days, the sentries checked the sweet baskets leaving the guesthouse. Afterwards they let the baskets pass without checking.
Shivaji, realizing his moment had arrived, escaped with his son Sambaji in the sweet baskets on August 19. A horse was waiting for them. Instead of proceeding south east towards Maharashtra, he moved north towards Mathura. Within a few hours of Shivaji’s escape, an informer reported to the kotwal that he saw Shivaji and his son escaping on a horse.
When the kotwal sent a messenger to the guesthouse to check, he was told no such escape had taken place! That is because Shivaji had dressed up two of his courtiers like himself and his son.
Within a few hours a second informer came and reported to the kotwal that he saw Shivaji and his son riding a horse in the city. Again the kotwal could not believe the news. Yet he sent a messenger to the guesthouse who brought the news that Shivaji and Sambaji were taking rest in the guesthouse.
Meanwhile, Shivaji and his son reached Mathura where he shaved off his famous beard and mustache, applied ash to his body and darkened his face. From Mathura, he and his followers, dressed like mendicants, proceeded towards Prayag (modern Allahabad) in the south east direction. From there he turned south and traveled towards Bundelkhand (in modern Madhya Pradesh) and Golconda (modern Andhra Pradesh). He reached his safe fortress of Raigarh after a journey of 60 days.
In the meanwhile the Mughal army and police and its informers searched for Shivaji in Agra and all over the empire. According to some historians, Ram Singh might have helped him in his escapade. Aurangzeb also suspected Ram Singh of his complicity and demoted his position in the royal court. Aurangzeb never got over Shivaji’s escape.
Shivaji, who reached Raigarh in October 1666, resumed his adventures. Eight years later, on June 6, 1674, Shivaji was coronated with the title, Chhatrapati (holder of an umbrella) in Raigarh fort. Shivaji, who did not inherit his kingdom from his father or forefathers, created his Maratha Empire by his own effort. And will always be respected and remembered for it.
This teen story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002). Meghdutam.com is the erstwhile online magazine of Learning and Creativity.
The opinions shared by the writer is his personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Learning and Creativity Magazine. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.
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