Shivaji, a 17th-century Maratha king, is a hero of modern India. In Mumbai,
both the airport and central railway station bear his name. Soon, he will
greet those who arrive by sea to Mumbai as the world’s largest statue. A
major political party calls itself the Shiv Sena, meaning 'Shivaji’s army',
and often vehemently defends the hero -- dead for more than 330 years --
from insults and defamation. Shivaji is famous, above all, for opposing the
Mughal Empire in the mid- to late- 1600s. Part of his appeal is as the
underdog. The Mughals controlled one of the largest, wealthiest empires in
the early modern world and Shivaji’s comparatively modest forces were a
persistent thorn in their side. But the core reason for which Shivaji
remains a hero is religious: Shivaji was Hindu and the Mughals were
Muslims. In Shivaji's day, religious differences did not determine
political alliances; in fact, the Mughals had amicable relations with
numerous Hindu rulers and Shivaji likewise allied with Muslim kingdoms. In
contemporary India, however, some members of the Hindu majority disparage
Muslims with increasing fervour and the modern myth of Shivaji is of a
strong Hindu warrior who fought Islam. -- Audrey Truschke, in 'Censoring
Indian History' p. 14 | History Today | August 2017

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