It takes a nation to protect the nation
This section of the historical record shows several lessons we should learn from the Sikhs.
Maharaja Ranjeet Singh Ji and the Rise of the first Sikh Kingdom
Dduring this period the Sikhs were still unorganised and in the period after the defeat of the Marathas and the withdrawal of the Afghans there existed a power vacuum in North India in the period 1761-1799. It was this vacuum that was filled up by the rising Sikh power under the dynamic leadership of Maharaja Shri Ranjit Singh Ji.
Maharaj Ranjeet Singh Ji was born in 1780 and witnessed these turbulent times in Punjab's history. By 1799, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh had started his attempt to unify the different Sikh Misls, which was to grow into a powerful Sikh Kingdom in the early decades of the 19th century and remained a powerful force till Maharaja Ranjeet Singh's death in 1839.
The Sikh kingdom was also the last of the Indian kingdoms that held out against the British (More of this later)
When the history of Maratha-Afghan warfare was being enacted, the Sikhs in Punjab had formed themselves into Misls (Local Armed Battalions). Though they did not actively participate in helping the Marathas against the Afghans, they nursed a grievance against the Rohillas and Afghans.
Jussa Singh Ahluwalia
Jussa Singh Ahluwalia was a leader of the Alhuwalia Misl prior to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's ascent. Before Maharaja Ranjeet Singh's Asendency the Sikhs had formed themselves into various misls which were under control of various tracts of land of the Punjab. Some of these Misls refused to get themselves integrated into the Sikh Army formed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji. These rebellious Misls were eventually overcome and integrated into the Sikh army by Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji.
Hari Singh Nallua
On the departure of the Afghans, the Sikhs reasserted themselves in the Punjab and Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji who was the leader of the Gujranwala Misl - which was one of the most powerful Misl, formed a kingdom with its capital at Lahore in today's West Punjab in Pakistan. His kingdom stretched beyond the Hindu Kush into Afghanistan. Able generals like Hari Singh Nallua helped in pushing the frontiers of the Sikh kingdom into Afghanistan.
It was a tradition in those days for the eldest son of every family from Punjab to join the army (of the Maharaja) by observing the 5 Kakkars. Brave generals like Hari Singh Nallua took the Sikh armies deep into Afghanistan and they are reputed to have brought back the original Gates of the Somnath Temple which had been desecrated by Mahmud of Ghazni in the 11th century. The gates had been carried off by Mahmud to Afghanistan and had remained there ever since. Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji retrieved them and brought them back to India.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji's reign marked the consolidation of Indian sovereignty in Punjab after first Muslim invasions eight hundred years before in 1020. The Marathas had broken the continuous Muslim occupation of Punjab by liberating it in 1756 and Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji consolidated Indian rule in Punjab a few years later.
The kingdom established by Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji successfully resisted the Afghans, and Rohillas and also out-matched the new imperialist power of the British successfully till Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji was alive. At his death, the Maharaja had warned about the impending coming of the British.
(On his death-bed he is said to have expressed a desire to offer his most precious possession to the Jagannath Puri temple at Orissa. He was asked by the chief Mahant (priest) of the Jagannath Puri temple as to what he considered most precious. In reply Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji is said to have told the Mahant that as a Keshadhari follower of the Guru, his unshorn hair was most precious to him and he wanted to donate that to the temple along with umpteen gold and jewellery.)
It was during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji that the Harmindar Saheb Gurudwara at Amritsar which had been burnt down by Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1760, was repaired and was completely plated with gold and from then onwards it came to be known as the Golden Temple.
Such was Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji who consolidated Indian rule in India's frontier state which had been earlier liberated by the Marathas. Unfortunately the Marathas could not retain their hold over the liberated areas, many of which were re-occupied by the Rohillas and Afghans after a few years. But the rise of the Sikh power ensured that a large part of the Maratha achievements of rolling back alien rule could be consolidated and expanded. Even today the Sikhs continue to form an important element of troops in the Indian army and are an effective bulwark in the fight against Muslim terorism that afflicts India especially so in Kashmir.
How the Maratha Hindus outmatched the Muslims at their own game from 1650 onwards
Now we move to the South where the Marathas were the first who crossed the Muslim invader Malik Kafur's path, when he invaded Central India in 1314 C.E. They were then led by the last scion of the Yadava dynasty - Ramdev Rai Yadava who ruled from Devagiri (today's Daulatabad, near Sambhajinagar aka Aurangbad). In their first clash with the Muslims; the Marathas lost to the invaders and accepted the status of being vassals and mercenaries of their tyrannical Muslim masters. Shivaji's mother, Jijabai was a direct descendant of the erstwhile Yadav royal family of Devagiri. She seems to have nursed deep within her mind the idea of recovering independence from Muslim rule which her Yadav forebears had lost in the year 1318. Shivaji grew up with these ideas embedded into him. His childhood stories are those of playing games in which he and his friends attacked and captured forts held by the enemy. When Shivaji was seventeen, he decided to transform what were till then simply games to a reality. He and his friends encouraged by Jijabai and his Guru Dadoji Kondeo; decided to take a formal oath to free the country from the shackles of Muslim tyranny. This was done in the year 1645 in a dark cavern housing a small temple to the Hindu God Shiva (locally called Raireshwar).
Here Shivaji and his select band of teenaged Maratha friends slit their thumbs and poured the blood oozing from it on the Shiva-linga (Phallus representing the Lord Shiva). By this act they declared a blood-feud against Mughal tyranny. This was the beginning of a long and arduous Maratha-Mughal struggle that went on for the next century and a half to culminate in the defeat of the Mughals and their replacement by the Marathas as the dominant power in India when the British came into the scene.
When Shivaji started his military career by capturing the fortress of Torana, it sent shockwaves in the Adilshshi court at Bijapur. Here was a local Hindu chieftain, daring to challenge the might of a Muslim ruler. The retribution was swift and Adil Shah sent in his most fearsome general named Afzal Khan to bring back Shivaji dead or alive to Bijapur. Afzal Khan who was reputed to be more than six feet tall and of a real massive built, set on his mission and in order to lure Shivaji down into the plains, he destroyed the Hindu temples at Tuljapur, Pandharpur and Shikhar Shenganapur.
This ploy failed to work and Shivaji stuck to his Hill fastness in the Sahyadris. Shivaji even sent a letter to Afzal Khan praising the legendary strength of Afzal Khan's powerful arms and his reputed fearlessness. Shivaji addressed him as his uncle and said that he was afraid to come down to meet Afzal Khan. Shivaji asked him to come up into the hills to meet him and on condition that Afzal Khan came with not more than few select soldiers. The proud Khan felt that the Dekkhan-Ka-Chuha (Rat of the Deccan as the Muslims scornfully addressed Shivaji) had really chickened out.
Shivaji's ensnaring and slaying of Afzal Khan proved that the Hindu's had finally come of age in turning against the Muslims their tricks of subterfuge
Before inviting Afzal Khan up to the fort in the densely forested ranges, Shivaji had gone down to the plains in the guise of a fruit vendor with a basket of fruits on his head. This ploy was done so that Shivaji could have a good look at Afzal Khan's face when the Khan traveled on horseback. No other person could have an excuse to look up to the Khan's eyes. But a fruit vendor would have to look up to ask if the Khan wanted fruits. This way Shivaji made sure he knew who was the real Khan, as he knew that for meeting enemies, the Muslims sent imposters whenever they sensed that they would be betrayed at the meeting. But this way Shivaji ensured that he knew that it was the Khan himself who had come to meet him and not an imposter in his place.
This action of Shivaji clearly indicated that he had made plans for slaying Khan when the two met at the Fort. Afzal Khan agreed to go up the hills at Pratapgad Fort to meet his nemesis. When the meeting took place, Shivaji had come in full armor, that was hidden beneath his thick satin robes, while Afzal had no such protection. When they came face to face Afzal Khan embraced Shivaji and with his formidable enemy (Afzal Khan was about six feet tall while Shivaji was less than five feet) in his embrace, Shivaji suddenly slipped his the 'Wagh Nakh' into the Khan's abdomen. The 'Wagh Nakh' (literally tiger's claws) are a sharp weapon resembling tiger claws that could be hidden in the grip of one's fist. In addition, he had the Bichhwa - a curved dagger hidden in the pocket of his waistcoat with which he repeatedly stabbed the unprepared Khan. When Khan realized that he had been betrayed he bellowed "Dagaa, Dagaa" "I have been betrayed" and called for his bodyguard Syed Banda to come to his rescue. The fact that the Khan had not attacked Shivaji is lent credence by the fact the he yelled out "I have been betrayed". Had he attack Shivaji first, then there was no question of his yelling out that he had been betrayed.
After Shivaji had wounded him, the Khan then tried to attack Shivaji in self-defence by using his own dagger, and tried to stab Shivaji. But Afzal's dagger could not plunge into Shivaji Maharaj due to the protective armor which Shivaji was wearing, Afzal tried to throttle him. But the wily Maratha was more than prepared for this as he had come down not only with full armor that was hidden by his thick satin robes, but all his palanquin bearers were hardened Maratha warriors who had been armed to the teeth with their weapons hidden in their clothes and turbans.
When Syed Banda, also a burly Muslim was about to strike Shivaji with his sword, Shivaji's bodyguard Jiva Mahalya struck off Banda's upraised arm in the air itself. After this commotion, the bleeding Khan tried to make good his escape and rushed into his palanquin. As the palanquin bearers set off with the fleeing Khan, Santaji Kawji, another of Shivaji's select warriors cut-off the feet of the bearers and Khans' palanquin, with its load of Afzal fell to the ground. Santaji Kawji, then finished off the task of sending Khan to his final resting place. Khan's army which was waiting in the valley was ruthlessly massacred by the Marathas who were hiding behind every crevice and bush in the densely wooded jungles around the Pratapgad fort. At the place where this encounter took place on 10th November 1659 between Shivaji Maharaj and the Khan, there stands today a Kabar (grave) erected by Shivaji for the departed Khan's soul to rest in peace. Thus for once a Hindu had outwitted a Muslim who was twice as strong and was also a towering giant. The pigeons of Muslim subterfuge had come home to roost and with a vengeance too.
Thus the Shivaji's ensnaring and slaying of Afzal Khan proved that the Hindus had finally come of age in learning Muslim tricks of subterfuge. Tricks that were unheard of in ancient Hindu India and which would have been looked down upon according to the ancient Hindu rules of warfare. Shivaji's attack on Afzal was a pre-planned one, and for which he used the Muslim psychology of killing their enemies, even if there was no immediate provocation. Unfortunately not many Hindu later followed this illustrious example of Shivaji, and so today India remains condemned to face the Muslim threat, which is raising its ugly head once again.