The Warrior Who Defied A Dynasty
Book Two depicts Shivaji’s guerilla campaign against superior enemy forces.
Credited as inventing the art of guerilla warfare in the sub-continent, Shivaji learned at a young age that his nascent Maratha resistance was no match for repeated pitched battles with the superior Sultanate and Moghul armies. While the empire and the sultanate could throw tens of thousands of men, cavalry and formidable cannon assaults at them, the Marathas had to protect their people, their crops, their homes and lands and families, even as they confronted the far greater forces. Despite these disadvantages, he won a crucial victory at the Battle of Pratapgarh, proving his mettle and impressing no less a military master commander than Emperor Aurangzeb himself. One of the first to recognize the threat posed by the young upstart from the Sahyadri hills, Aurangzeb warned everyone not to take the Marathas lightly. But the Sultan of Bijapur refused to put his best forces against the wild ‘Mavalis’ of the hills and instead sent an army of Afghan mercenaries. Shivaji’s victory shocked everyone. The response was swift, with a stronger force of over 10,000 commanded by the renowned Abyssinian general Rustamjaman attacked Shivaji and less than 5,000 Marathas at Kolhapur. Not only did Shivaji win the day after several hours of brutal frontal assaults, but even the famous general was forced to flee for his life. Aurangzeb summoned his allies to court, warning them of this ‘mountain rat’ of the Sahyadris and deciding to bring the entire weight and power of the Moghul empire to bear on the upstart Maratha warrior. Allying with the Moghuls, the Sultanate then attacked Shivaji’s force of barely 10,000 Marathas with an army of over 40,000 which comprised only the vanguard. In a series of brilliant tactics, Shivaji was surrounded and besieged at Panhala fort near Kolhapur. Then began one of the most bitter sieges of the time. Even the English aided the Moghuls, pounding the fort with their long-range cannon and heavy rock-pelting with siege machines. Shivaji then put into motion one of the most daring and brilliant military countermeasures. Sallying out of the fort, his key men infilterated the Sultanate and british camps, sabotaged cannons, assassinated officers. Using misinformation, spies, and daring lightning-strikes Shivaji escaped the fort and led his enemies on a wild chase. Fighting with dandas (sticks) and wits, the Marathas defeated their enemies in a series of exciting battles and skirmishes, culminating with the crucial Battle of Umberkhand.