King Shivaji and the Muslim princess

King Shivaji spent most of his life fighting against the Moghuls and the expansion of the Moghul Empire. Sometimes Shivaji and his brave soldiers won against the huge Muslim army, and sometimes they lost. But everybody respected and admired Shivaji. Although he lived on earth for only 52 years, he became a truly great man in every way. He was a hero and a patriot without equal throughout the length and breadth of the Indian sub-continent.

It was not to oppose the Muslim religion that Shivaji fought against the Moghuls. On the contrary, he had a deep love and appreciation for all religions. He once said that Hinduism and Islam are manifestations of the same divine spirit, and he used to encourage everybody to practise their own religion.

Once somebody wanted to examine Shivaji’s religious tolerance, so he threw a Koran at Shivaji. To a Muslim, the Koran is as sacred as the Upanishads, the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita are to the Hindus. Shivaji took the Koran and held it very devotedly and respectfully. Then he happened to see a Muslim standing at a distance. He called for the man and presented him with the book very soulfully, saying, “Please take this book. It is your most sacred text. When I hold our Gita, I feel it is so sacred that I must become very prayerful and spiritual. When I hold your Koran, I have the same experience. Now you should take this book and revere it.”

Shivaji often encountered the Muslim troops in battle. Once his Maratha soldiers defeated a certain division of the great Muslim army. Shivaji’s commander was supposed to bring the defeated Muslim leader before his king, but before he did so, he brought the Muslim leader’s daughter. Shivaji’s commander said, “O King, now that you have defeated this Muslim leader, you are entitled to seize all his possessions. That includes his daughter. I would be so happy if you would take her as your wife.”

King Shivaji said, “I should marry her?”

“She is such a beautiful young girl,” said the commander.

King Shivaji looked at the girl and said, “It is true. I have never seen anyone as beautiful as you are! How I wish my mother could have been as beautiful as you are! If my mother had been beautiful, then perhaps I would have had more beautiful features.”

As a matter of fact, Shivaji was quite handsome and very strong. He only lacked a little in terms of height. While looking at the girl, he continued to think about his mother.

Finally Shivaji’s commander interrupted his reverie. He said, “O King, either you can marry her or you can give her in marriage to your son.”

Shivaji not only was brave, but he also had many, many spiritual qualities. The fate of this young girl now lay in his hands. He said to his commander, “Let me pray and meditate.”

After meditating, Shivaji said, “What has this young girl done to me that I should take her from her family? Her father is my enemy, true; but if I take her away and marry her, or if I ask my son to marry her, will she be happy? At this very moment the poor girl is so afraid that I may kill her father or put him in jail for life. Again, she feels that I may mistreat her and take her as my maid instead of marrying her in a proper way. No, I cannot add to her sorrow. I have conquered her father. That is more than enough for her to bear without being taken away from her near and dear ones.”

Then Shivaji asked somebody to bring lots of gifts, and he gave them to the young girl. He said to her, “You will not be harmed. You can go back to your father. And you can tell him that I am not going to arrest him or put him into jail. I want him to remain with his family so that the affection between father and daughter will grow and grow. I do not want to come between you. Go back to him with all your affection and love. When your father sees you, he will be so happy. And you can tell him that these gifts are the gifts of a father to his daughter.”

The young girl asked, “What do you mean when you say that these are a father’s gifts?”

Shivaji explained, “I did not want to marry you, and I did not want my son to marry you. In a way, I am your father, for only a father can have this kind of affection for a daughter. I have defeated your real father, but how can I take you away from him and destroy the affection that you have for your father and your father has for you? I cannot do that. I will allow him to return to his home, and you are free to go with him. The fact that your father lost to me in battle does not give me the right to come between him and his beloved daughter. So you take these gifts and go back to him, with all the blessings and love of someone who feels for you as a father feels for his daughter. Go, my child.”