We all have heard the valiant conquests of the great ruler of the Maratha Kingdom – Chatrapathi Shivaji. Sivaji’s father Shahaji was a very weak ruler who lost most of his forts to Mughal invaders who proceeded South from the Delhi Sultanate. At a very young age, he began ruling a small kingdom in Pune. Being a very intelligent boy and a prodigious strategic thinker, he quickly learnt from all the mistakes his father made. His mother taught him values and contributed greatly to his highly respectable character. Shivaji had exceptional military capabilities, combined with a deep knowledge of Sanskrit. He was a patron of arts, culture and music. He respected women. Most importantly, he was a truly secular leader, because he tolerated and respected all other religions, including Islam.
Shivaji began to slowly conquer forts and started expanded his territory very fast. He fought bravely in several battles, and grew his empire. Shivaji was the founder of the great Maratha kingdom. There was a period amidst these conquests when he was failing in almost every endeavor he undertook. As he started annexing territories from more and more powerful kingdoms, he did not realize that he must change his strategies. For example, he did not understand that powerful kingdoms have be annexed slowly and cautiously and not aggressively. But he was still an exceptionally brilliant man.
Soon after one such failed conquests, he stopped by at an old lady’s hut in a village near the battle field asking for food. While she cooked a hearty meal, she did not recognize that this was her king. Lovingly, she served a plate full of steaming hot khichdi to her fatigued soldier. Hungrily, Shivaji put his finger in the middle of the plate to get a mouthful. Oh! And he burnt his finger! The old lady carefully watched this action and advised “Oh brave soldier, You are just like your king. You start from the inside first. Just like he attacks kingdoms starting from the forts instead of the periphery, you are eating this hot khichdi inside-first. Why don’t you try to eat the corners first and then attack the center, instead of starting at the hot center?” Shivaji, at once realized why he was failing. In all his future battles, he always annexed peripheral territory before attacking a fort. This old lady taught him a very important strategy lesson and he remembered it for all his life.
Shivaji was a very righteous ruler, much unlike the aggressors he was fighting against. His staunch principles of dharma never failed him. He is remembered and celebrated as a national hero, even 400 years after he died.
Some of these important events in the life of great men occur repeatedly and manifest themselves again and again, mainly for us to understand and learn from them. A similar anecdote has also been believed to have happened in the life of the great Chandragupta Maurya.