Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a young boy when he began his journey towards Hindavi Swarajya, self-rule of Hindu people, when India was facing hardships under invasions. He was strongly rooted in his culture as he grew up listening to stories of Ramayana, Mahabharat, and Puranas from his mother, Jijabai. When his father and brother chose to work for the Adil Shah Sultanate, Shivaji chose the other way, understood the importance of self-rule and created a sense of identity among his men; he built an army to fight against the invaders. He was just fifteen years old when he initiated new military tactics and trained his men in fighting across tough terrains. He held high regard for women and inspired them to contribute; some women were fighters while some were sent as spies. He would play psychological games and weaken the opponent just through strategic planning. He was a visionary, many even considered him an incarnation of Lord Shiva because he destroyed evil and protected all. Through this journey, he regained control of most of Bharat but at the same time lost the most courageous of Marathas.
Digpal Lanjekar, the director, and writer of Shivaji Ashtak (a series of eight movies) has taken up a massive initiative in showing Shivaji Maharaj’s life and times, of which four have been released as of now. The first which came out was Farzand, the second Fatteshikast, the third Pawankhind, and the fourth Sher Shivraj. Lanjekar built a good screenplay with peppy Marathi folk-style music. Throughout the movie, he has shown an unapologetic portrayal of Hindu symbols as it is—the destruction of the Bhavani idol in the temple by Islamic invaders, Shivaji and Jijabai’s daily prayers, the use of Hindu symbols like large Hanuman statue where they practice warfare, etc. During battles, the background score is Sant Tukaram’s poems which showcase spirituality as the weapon and strength against all adharmic forces. The fifth movie is about Subhedar Tanhaji—the commander-in-chief of Shivaji’s army, which is set to release in June 2023. The movies are not in chronological order.
Farzand shows how Shivaji Maharaj takes up the challenge of recapturing one of the important fort—Panhalaghad right before his coronation. Kondaji Farzand (a student of Tanhaji) takes the lead in fighting against Beshakh Khan. Kondaji takes just 60 trained men against 2000 armed soldiers and succeeds in the mission. This movie shows how fighting a battle is all about having clarity of the goal and efficiency in techniques.
Shaista Khan was one of the Sardars of Adil Shah and his army was creating a lot of nuisance in the villages in Pune. They would even burn people alive, especially those who supported Shivaji. Knowing this, Shivaji along with Tanhaji and Bahirji, planned an attack on Shaista Khan at Pune’s Lal Mahal. They were to enter the Mahal at midnight and return before day breaks, akin to today's surgical strike. Shivaji himself led this team and succeeded. Shaista Khan was terrified and fled from Pune immediately. Fatteshikast conveyed the importance of showing the opponent how fearless and strong we are.
In another instance, it was Siddhi Johar and the British together attacking Marathas. He set up his camp along with 10,000 men at the foothills of Prathapgad fort to capture Shivaji. Shivaji had to escape to Vishalghad fort. As they were going, Baji Prabhu Deshpande decided that Shivaji Maharaj’s life was more important—and he and his 300 men stopped at Ghod Khind (mid-way) and fought against 10,000 men and sacrificed their lives. They all became martyrs. Baji Prabhu and others were ready to lay down their lives to save their king. They didn’t think twice. Ghod Kind was renamed Pawankhind, meaning sacred river, by Shivaji. The latest from the series showed how Shivaji Maharaj closely watched Afzal Khan’s moves through a network of spies. Shivaji’s strategies were from Ayurveda—understanding the type of food Khan should consume to make him mentally weak which would lead to poor decision-making to Agnipuran to make a unique weapon—an ornament that had tiger claws. Shivaji played strategically to weaken him intellectually and then attacked Afzal Khan at the right time. Preparation for the mission before the actual attack is the key lesson here.
These four movies have shown the glorious fight Marathas put up against the Islamic invaders. These movies are available on the following OTT platforms in India:
Farzand on Hotstar, Fatteshikast on Zee 5, Pawankhind, and Sher Shivaraj is available on Prime.
Shivaji Ashtak is a must-watch series. It is a reminder of the tireless effort that has gone to protect and preserve our land and uphold our Hindu religion.