Photos: Wikipedia
Photos: Wikipedia

On Monday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that an upcoming museum in Agra would be renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It had earlier been known as the Mughal Museum.

"The symbols of slavery mentality have no place in your new Uttar Pradesh. Our hero is Shivaji Maharaj. Jai Hind Jai Bharat," tweeted the Chief Minister.

And while the decision drew a mixed bag of reactions on social media, many pointed out that the Maratha king was also historically connected to the Agra Fort. It was from here that Shivaji escaped the clutches of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb with his son.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The story begins a little earlier than that, with the signing of the Treaty of Purandar in 1665. While Shivaji had held his own against many invaders, acquiring several forts, Rajput ruler Jai Singh I's attack proved problematic. The massive army with over 10,000 soldiers had been sent by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb and they attacked the fort in Purandar where Shivaji was residing. Eventually, the treaty of Purandar was brokered, which saw the Maratha king agree to give up most of his forts, pay a compensation and to send his son Sambhaji and several thousand horsemen to fight for the Mughals.

Maharaja Jai Singh had suggested that Shivaji travel with him to Agra to meet Aurangzeb over the treaty. At the same time, in April 1666, the Mughal Emperor sent a letter of invitation to Shivaji, following which he, along with his nine-year-old son, travelled to Agra.

Things however soon went downhill with Shivaji being angered by the treatment meted out to him. Ignored by the Mughal emperor after his arrival, the Maratha king faced indignities such as being made to stand behind the military commanders of the Mughal court. While some accounts say that Shivaji was imprisoned for several months as Aurangzeb wished to send him to Kandahar to fight for the Mughal empire, others say that he was under a house arrest of sorts, even as some of his companions were exempted.

Eventually however, he escaped, although there are differing accounts with regards how this feat was managed. Legend has it that after falling sick and then subsequently being nursed back to health, Shivaji had asked for sweets and money to be distributed among the populace. With massive quantities of sweets being created, large bamboo baskets were used to ferry them, after an initial inspection.

The story goes that Shivaji and his son escaped undetected in these massive baskets of sweets, leading to confusion and outrage at court. It is believed that they travelled to Mathura and then Prayagraj, eventually travelling to Raigarh.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal