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Shivaji and His Times

Mirza Firuz Shah


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Book Review





Subject Era:

Aurangzeb 1658–1707


Jadunath Sarkar







Publisher and Place:

Longmans Green & Co., London - 1920



ISBN 10|13:


Royal Mughal Ref:


Publisher date:



A new and critical study of Shivaji's life and character has long been due, as the last scholarly work on the subject was composed, by Captain James Grant Duff, a century ago, and a vast mass of original material unknown to him has become accessible to the student since then. To put the case briefly, the present work differs from his eminently readable and still valuable History of the Mahrattas, (3 Vols., 1826), in the rigid preference of contemporary records to later compilations, and the exhaustive and minute use of the available sources, both printed and MS. — in Persian, English, Marathi and Hindi, as well as the Dutch Records in the India Office, London.

The present work marks an advance on Grant Duff's History in three points in particular :

First, among Persian materials his only authorities were Khafi Khan, who wrote 108 years after the birth of Shivaji and is admittedly unreliable where he does not borrow faithfully from earlier writers, and Bhimsen, an incorrect and brief translation of whose Journal (by Jonathan Scott, 1794) alone was then available. I have, on the other hand, relied on the absolutely contemporary official histories of Shah Jahan and Aurangzib, Muhammad and Ali Adil Shah, many historical letters in Persian, the entire letter-books of Jai Singh and Aurangzib, daily bulletins of Aurangzib's Court, and the full text of Bhimsen as well as another contemporary Hindu historian in Persian, viz., Ishwardas Nagar, all of which were unknown to Grant Duff.

Secondly, he relied too much on the uncritical and often deliberately false Chitnis Bakhar, written 183 years after Shivaji's birth, while I have preferred the work of Shivaji's courtier, Sabhasad, and also incorporated whatever is valuable and above suspicion in the mass of Marathi materials published by a band of devoted Indian workers at Puna and Satara during the last 40 years. Grant Duff, moreover, worked on single manuscripts of the Marathi chronicles ; but we live in a happier age when these sources have been carefully edited with variations of reading and notes.

Thirdly, the English and Dutch Factory Records have been more minutely searched by me and every useful information has been extracted from them.

Two minor improvements which, I hope, will be appreciated by the reader, are the exact positions of all the places mentioned, traced with the help of the extremely accurate Government Survey maps, and the chronology, which is the most detailed possible in the existing state of our knowledge and corrects Grant Duff's numerous inaccuracies in this respect.

From the purely literary point of view, the book would have gained much by being made shorter. But so many false legends about Shivaji Rao are current in our country and the Shivaji 2 myth is developing so fast (attended at times with the fabrication of documents), that I have considered it necessary in the interests of historical truth to give every fact, however small, about him that has been ascertained on unimpeachable evidence and to discuss the probabilities of the others.

The Marathas were only one among the many threads in the tangled web of Deccan history in the Seventeenth century. Therefore, to understand the true causes and full consequences of Shivaji Maharaj own acts and policy, it is necessary to have a detailed knowledge of the internal affairs of the Mughal empire, Bijapur and Golkonda also. The present work is more than a mere biography of Shiva ; it frequently deals with the contemporary history of these three Muslim States, though an exhaustive treatment of the subject belongs to my History of Aurangzib, Vol. IV, Second Edition, ( June, 1920.).

In the second edition, occasion has been taken to enlarge the book and subject it to a minute revision and correction, the most noticeable example of the last-mentioned being the position of Ponda in Ch. X. Among the more important additions are a critical examination of the evidence for the Javli and Afzal Khan affairs, a full discussion of the real nature of the Marathi sources and a comparative estimate of the evidential value of the English, Persian and Marathi records, an account of the very first battle between the English and the Marathas (here published for the first time), Shivaji's letter of protest against the jaziya, and a long note on his personal appearance and extant portraits. I have also inserted at the proper places notes on the extent of his dominion in 1648, 1655, 1660, and 1674-5, which together with their extent at his death (previously given) will enable the reader to remember the broad outlines of his territorial expansion and thus take a bird's-eye view of the growth of his power in successive ages. His most authentic portrait has, also, been reproduced in this edition.

Jadunath Sarkar, 1920

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