Shivaji Maharaj and the Agra escape

By comparing Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s departure from the Uddhav Thackeray-led camp in Maharashtra to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s fabled escape from Agra, Maharashtra Tourism Minister Mangal Lodha recently stirred up controversy. Political parties and other organisations that regard Shivaji as a Maratha icon without comparison in the past or present harshly criticised his remarks.

Political background

Eknath Shinde’s “revolt” against party leadership and CM Uddhav Thackeray in June this year led to the fall of the coalition government of the Shiv Sena, NCP, and the Congress. He has since taken the reins of Maharashtra as its CM.

Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj

  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (1630–1680): He was born in the modern-day state of Maharashtra on February 19, 1630, at Shivneri Fort in the district of Pune. He was the son of Jijabai, a powerful and determined woman who was the epitome of self-respect and decency, and Shahaji Raje, a general who spent his life serving many Deccan Sultans.
  • Intent on turning his father’s domain of present-day Pune into an independent Maratha state, Shivaji Maharaj founded the Maratha kingdom. In the 17th century, he divided the several Deccan states into an autonomous Maratha kingdom. At the time of his death, he controlled about 300 forts over a region spanning the Konkan coast from Surat to close to Goa, which was protected by the important Western Ghats.
  • Power struggles between modern kingdoms: The Mughals and a number of Sultanates, primarily Bijapur, Golkonda, and Ahmadnagar, were contending for dominance of the Deccan at this period. These Sultanates would become tributary to the Mughal Empire as Mughal authority increased, with the kings and ruling clans receiving posts in the Mughal court (while frequently continuing to quarrel among themselves).
  • Lifetime battles and conflicts for Swaraj: At the age of 16, he engaged in hostilities with the Adil Shahi Sultanate of Bijapur. He would spend the remainder of his life battling different foes, creating the groundwork for the Maratha Empire, which would dominate over a significant portion of the Indian subcontinent until the 19th century.
  • Forts were crucial in his era: Early in his life, he realised that capturing and retaining significant forts was the key to maintaining dominance in the Deccan—or, for that matter, in many other locations in India at the time. His tactics would therefore be focused on seizing forts in key areas, frequently on hilltops. As his area of influence grew, he also renovated and constructed new forts.

Shivaji Maharaj: how he is remembered?

  • Shivaji was a Maratha folk hero for two centuries following his passing, serving as an inspiration for those who fought against colonial control. His standing in history and emergence as a national hero of India were characterised by the British Raj and the ensuing anti-colonial movement.
  • He went from being a folk hero to being a pan-Indian hero, according to nationalist historians, who used him as an illustration of a native Indian monarch who was able to effectively fend off and overthrow the strong and oppressive “outsiders” (Muslim rulers, including both Mughals and the Deccan Sultans). As a result, Shivaji evolved from a folk hero to a nationalist figure and was even considered a proto-nationalist.
  • Stories of his valour and equitable rule were used to inspire a populace that was experiencing injustice and emasculation at the hands of the British overlords. The story of Shivaji Maharaj during the 19th and 20th centuries emphasised both his valour in battle and his righteous governance.

Shivaji Maharaj and the Mughals

  • Meteoric rise: The Mughals’ suzerainty faced challenges as a result of Shivaji Maharaj’s meteoric ascension. During Aurangzeb’s expeditions in the Deccan in the 1650s, he had his first direct interaction with the Mughals. Shivaji Maharaj was able to annex more land while Aurangzeb moved north to contend for the Mughal crown.
  • Using quick and clever military strategies that the Mughals could not comprehend: His strategies for dealing with the Mughals were tailored to the peculiarities of his army and the sluggish Mughal troops. He would raid and plunder Mughal strongholds using quick cavalry attacks. While he occasionally engaged in combat to successfully take and hold Mughal positions, more often than not, he simply caused chaos, raided the treasury, and fled with the Mughals in fear and disarray.
  • Famous Seize of Surat: In 1664, when the local ruler was hiding in a neighbouring fort, he famously invaded the port of Surat (now in Gujarat) and pillaged one of the wealthiest and busiest trading centres of Mughal India.
  • Posed the biggest threat to Aurangzeb and the ensuing Purandar Treaty: In 1665, Aurangzeb dispatched an army led by Raja Jai Singh I that numbered 100,000 soldiers and was well-equipped to defeat Shivaji as his fame and the physical extent of his control rose. After putting up a heroic fight, Shivaji was surrounded in the hill fort of Purandar.

The great escape

  • After the Purandar Treaty, he was brought to Aurangzeb’s court in Agra, where he was received in 1666. He gave Aurangzeb a number of gifts, but when he wasn’t treated well in return, he felt belittled and expressed his discontent in front of the court.
  • Agra was the location where Aurangzeb placed him under tight house imprisonment. Shivaji realised he had to flee to save himself and his domains because he was far from home and assistance. He started to make plans for how he would get back home and continue the battle with the Mughals.
  • The ideal escape strategy: The ensuing escape of Shivaji is now a well-known legend. In the commonly reported tale, he started giving brahmans alms every day according to a complex arrangement. His home in Agra would send the charity in huge, covered baskets.
  • The Mughal guards eventually stopped inspecting the contents of the baskets that daily left his home, which led to the final escape right under their noses. One day, Shivaji hid among the baskets and placed his little son Sambhaji inside a different one. Under the noses of the Mughals, Shivaji and his son departed Agra in these covered baskets.
  • From there, he would go through Mughal territory in a cunning and quick disguise, living covertly until he arrived at the safer territories closer to home. In some tellings of this tale, he assumed the persona of a wandering hermit, while in others, he used a variety of masks. Although his exact route is unknown, various towns and locations he passed through are frequently mentioned in songs and folktales honouring Shivaji.
  • Embarrassed Aurangzeb thought of him as his own monarch and was furious and humiliated. But he decided against engaging Shivaji in a direct argument once more. Instead, he gave Shivaji the title of Raja and promised him control over the Maratha territories as long as he recognised the Mughals as the superior race.

Coronation of Shivaji Maharaj to Chhatrapati and the ideal rule

  • Shivaji had reassembled and assembled a potent army by 1669. He would quickly enter stationary Mughal and Bijapuri strongholds using his old guerilla techniques, plundering the surprised Mughals.
  • Aurangzeb was preoccupied at the time with Pathan uprisings in the northwest part of his Empire. In the Konkan coast, Shivaji skillfully reclaimed his lost positions. He proclaimed himself Chhatrapati in 1674, formally establishing an independent Maratha kingdom.
  • His rule was expanded over the course of the following six years as new political rules were created to replace the predominate Indo-Persian court culture. He encouraged the use of Marathi and Sanskrit in his courts and established a complex administrative structure with a “Ashta Pradhan” council of ministers.


For many people, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is more than simply a name or a single individual; rather, he is an ideology, a way of life, and an inspiration for today and tomorrow that is unparalleled in history. His steadfastness, bravery, and dominance served as examples for all who came after him. His bravery knew no limits.

And get notified everytime we publish a new blog post.