What was the reason behind the death of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj?

What was the reason behind the death of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj?

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There are many novels about King Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Nobody knows the exact reason of his death. It has been written tentatively in those novels. Somebody says he died due to Tuberculosis, someone says his death was due to poison intake.

What was the real reason of his death?

According to Shivaji and his times, by the historian Jadunath Sarkar,

On 24th March, 1680, the Rajah was seized with fever and dysentery. The illness continued for twelve days. Gradually all hopes of recovery faded away, and then, after giving solemn charges and wise counsels to his nobles and officers, and consoling the weeping assemblage with assurances of the spirit's immortality in spite of the perishableness of the body, the maker of the Maratha nation performed the last rites of his religion and then fell into a trance, which imperceptibly passed into death.

So it seems he died from dysentery, which was undoubtedly a far from uncommon occurrence in a time before antibiotics.

Sarkar goes on to say that there were rumours of poison following the death of Shivaji, but points out that there is no evidence to support those rumours. He then wryly observes that:

"Readers of Macaulay's account of the death of Charles II. will remember how at that very time in Europe hardly a sovereign died without the event being ascribed to poison."


Shivaji Bhonsale I (Marathi pronunciation: [ʃiʋaˑɟiˑ bʱoˑs(ə)leˑ] c. 1627 / 19 February 1630 – 3 April 1680 [5] ), also referred to as Chhatrapati Shivaji, was an Indian ruler and a member of the Bhonsle Maratha clan. Shivaji carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned the Chhatrapati (emperor) of his realm at Raigad.

Over the course of his life, Shivaji engaged in both alliances and hostilities with the Mughal Empire, the Sultanate of Golkonda and the Sultanate of Bijapur, as well as with European colonial powers. Shivaji's military forces expanded the Maratha sphere of influence, capturing and building forts, and forming a Maratha navy. Shivaji established a competent and progressive civil rule with well-structured administrative organisations. He revived ancient Hindu political traditions and court conventions and promoted the usage of the Marathi language.

Shivaji's legacy was to vary by observer and time, but nearly two centuries after his death, he began to take on increased importance with the emergence of the Indian independence movement, as many Indian nationalists elevated him as a proto-nationalist and hero of the Hindus. [6]

Fast Facts

  • Name: Shivaji Bhonsale
  • Birth: 19 February 1630
  • Place of Birth: Hill-fort of Shivneri
  • Father: Shahaji Bhonsale
  • Mother:Jijabai
  • Marriage: First marriage on 16 May 1640, he was wedded 8 times
  • Wife: Saibai Bhosale, Soyarabai Mohite, Putalabai Palkar, Gunwantabai Ingle, Sagunabai Shirke, Kashibai Jadhav, Lakshmibai Vichare, and Cakwarbai Gaikwad
  • Children: He had 8 children Sakhubai, Ranubai, Ambikabai, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, Deepabai, Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj, Kamalabai, and Rajkunvarbai
  • Death: 3 April 1680
  • Successor: His eldest son Sambhaji

Chhatrapati Shivaji -An inspiration for many.

Chhatrapati Shivaji was one of the greatest men to be born in this country. His exemplary vision and courage gave us “swarajya” from the clutches of the Mughals and Turkic sultanates. A lot has been written about his prowess on the battlefield . The incidents involving Afzal Khan , Shaiste Khan , the battle at Kolhapur , the siege of Salher (a fort near Nashik) are legendary and excellent examples of how Shivaji put the terrain and the meagre resources at his disposal to good use to win against far more formidable enemies. But bravery and cunning were gifts found in ample measure even among Shivaji’s adversaries – the Rajputs and Pathans. The greatness in Shivaji is the thought behind his action. The inspiration behind his actions. When we think of Shivaji as an idol , this facet of his personality must be borne in mind . Certainly, the Rajputs and Pathans against whom Shivaji fought were also sacrificing their lives on the battlefield , but for what purpose ? Weren’t their sacrifices for a foreign power – that of the Mughal ? And Shivaji’s soldiers for the lofty ideal of a swarajya. This is a major difference we must bear in mind.

Shivaji’s life was an inspiration not just for his own but for future generations too. Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela in particular and Lachit Barphukan to a much lesser extent, were influenced by the heroics of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Furthermore , Chhatrapati Sambhaji , Chhatrapati Rajaram , Bajirao Peshwa , Ahilyabai Holkar etc were the ones who strove to follow in the great king’s footsteps. Wherever the later Marathas tried to follow the policies laid down by Shivaji , greatness has awaited them ! So what indeed were the policies of Shivaji that have rendered him a giant of his age ?

First and foremost – the ideal of swarajya. Shivaji believed that Afghans , Turks, Uzbeks , Persians , Abyssinians and other foreign had no right to rule this land , its people and decide its fortunes. This does not mean that Chhatrapati Shivaji wanted power for personal gain only. His soldiers fought for the ideal of swarajya . For Shivaji , swarajya was always bigger than himself. This is the main reason that the Marathas could fight for 27 long years against the mighty Mughal empire after his death , and later blossom into the Maratha empire.

Today we treat rights given to us by birth in this democracy as almost for granted. We have self rule , but many don’t make an effort to even vote ! We take it for granted that our soldiers will always be there to guard our borders and uphold the Indian Constitution. That no matter what happens in the country , the Army will always keep the tri colour flying high. These ideas we take as modern an routine. The very fact that Chhatrapati Shivaji was thinking along these lines three hundred years ago shows his greatness.

Another of Shivaji’s traits as a military commander is seen in his behaviour after a victory. Unlike previous Hindu kings who would rest on their laurels and let the enemy go scott free , Shivaji began a trend of menacing the opponent when he was down and defeated – sometimes by entering the enemy’s territory. This , coming from a Hindu king , was unheard of for the invaders ! In this regard , noted historian Narhar Kurundkar says “ Hindu kings had two traits – status quo in victory and annihilation in defeat. Shivaji overturned both and its impact has been immense.

The third point I wish to make is that Shivaji was not merely a great warrior , but also a great thinker , and an ideal ruler. He had full knowledge about the religious and cultural unity of this great land. And this cultural oneness was the driving force behind his fight for a Hindavi Swarajya.

Now let us turn to a few personalities in the annals of history who were inspired by the great persona of Shivaji :

In the year 1661, a Mughal sardar from Bundelkhand named Champat Rai rose in revolt against the Mughal emperor. Aurangzeb attacked his base at Mahoba and killed him and his wife after imprisoning them. At that time his son – Chatrasal – was a mere fourteen years old. He joined Mirza Raje Jai Singh’s famous campaign to the Deccan in 1665. He hoped to obtain a good share of the spoils of war and looting from the conflict that was to follow against Shivaji. With this aim in mind, he had joined the Mughal army. Moreover , he was personally present during the infamous siege of Purandar. In the course of this campaign however, Chhatrasal realised that Shivaji was fighting for the very same ideals that his father , Champat Rai , had sacrificed his life for ! How could he, Chhatrasal , be serving then in the Mughal army ? And Shivaji was the one he was supposed to emulate, not oppose .

This storm in Chhatrasal’s mind has been brought out beautifully in his own words –

पिता हमारे सूबा डॉंडे | तुरकन पर अजमाये खांडे ||
तिन चंपति के नंद हम, ससि नवावै काहि ||
हम भूले सेयौ वृथा, हितु जानि कै वाहि ||२||

ऐड एक सिवराज निबाही | करै अपने चितकी चाही ||
आठ पातसाही झुक झोरे | सुबनि बाँधि डाँड लै छौरे ||
ऐसे गुन सिवराज के | बसे चित्र में आइ ||
मिलिवोई मन में धन्यो | मनसि मत ज्यौ बनाई ||४||

Meaning : My father stood against the Turks with sword in hand. What kind of son am I , which bows to those same Turks ? And then there is Shivaji, a truly great person, who is standing against the Paatshah. Shivaji has bravely faced eight sultans. I will be blessed if I get the chance to meet Shivaji.

Shivaji received Chhatrasal’s letter. He advised him to fight and liberate his Bundelkhand. For this job, Chhatrasal is more than capable, Shivaji believed. In Kavi Bhushan’s words

सिवा किसा सुनि कैकही, तुमी छत्री सिरताज |
जीत अपनी भूम कौ, करौ देशकौ राज ||
करौ देशको राज छतोरे, हम तुमतैं कबहूँ नहिं न्यारे ||
दैरि देस मुगलनके मारौ | दबटि दिली के दल संहारौ ||
तुरकन की परतीत न मानौ | तुम केहार तुरकन गज जानौ ||
तुरकन मे न विवेक विलोक्यौ | मिलन गये उनकौ तुम रोक्यौ ||
हमको भई सहाइ भवानी | भय नहि मुगलन की मन मानी ||
छलबल निकसि देंशमें आये | अब हम पै उमराइ पठाये ||
हम तुरकन पर कसी कृपानी | मारि करेंगे कीचक धानी ||
तुम हूँ जाइं देस दल जोरौ | तुरक मारी तरवारनि तौरौ |
राखि हियै व्रजनाथ कौ, हाथ लेड करवार |
ये रक्षा करि है सदा, यह जानो निरधार ||७||

In this way , being inspired by Chhatrapati Shivaji , Chhatrasal Bundela left for his Bundelkhand. In 1671 , with but a handful of soldiers, he revolted against Aurangzeb. Mahoba , Orccha , Panna .. one by one all of Bundelkhand was liberated from the vile Mughal rule. During the time Aurangzeb was engaged in the Deccan , fighting against the Marathas, Chhatrasal Bundela totally obliterated Mughal rule in Bundelkhand. He was blessed with a long life. He saw both – the failure and death of Aurangzeb and the destruction of the Mughal empire, in his lifetime. Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela would come in contact with the Marathas once again – that during the days of Peshwa Bajirao , making him one of the very few persons to have dealt directly with both Chhatrapati Shivaji and Peshwa Bajirao ! (we shall see this in next article)

The land of Assam has a glorious history of beating back invading armies for years and years on end. The Tai Ahom dynasty has beaten back at least seventeen invasions by various sultans from Delhi or Bengal. But in 1663, Mir Jumla was victorious.The major part of Assam had to be given to the Mughals. Soon efforts began to reclaim this portion. At the same time, the Mughals were reeling under attacks made by Shivaji far away in the Deccan. This Mughal – Maratha fight , in its own small way, inspired the Tai Ahom king – Chakradhwaj Singha and his commander – Lachit Barphukan. Chakradhwaj Singha, in one of his letters to the raja Of Koch Behar (Cooch Behar) writes –

“ You had sent the message that war had broken out between Shiva and the Mughals. Shiva has defeated them in battle and pushed them back to twenty days march. That we must also work accordingly”

In the famous battle of Saraighat of 1671 , Lachit Barphukan handed a crushing defeat to the Mughals and drove them out of Assam for all time to come.

Continued in Part 2 – Following in Chhatrapati Shivaji’s footsteps – Peshwa Bajirao , Ahilyabai Holkar

1. Narhar Kurundkar’s preface to Shriman Yogi

3 Shivaji – The Great Maratha : H.S. Sardesai
© Aneesh Gokhale

Author – 1. Brahmaputra : The Story of Lachit Barphukan, Assamese contemporary of Chhatrapati Shivaji .

Forts of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

The Mughal Empire which was at its peak during the times of Akbar was making inroads into Southern India during the reign of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. At the same time the five Deccan Sultanates of Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar and Berar located in South-Western India ruled over most of the lands that later came under the Maratha Empire. There was a constant struggle for supremacy among the Deccan Sultanates which resulted in frequent outbreak of wars. It is at this time that from among the ranks of the Marathas rose a great Hindu king who halted the massive Mughal juggernaut as well as ended the supremacy of the Sultanates of Deccan to establish the grand Maratha Empire. He was none other than Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

A Kshatriya or warrior’s life revolves around war and every king prided himself on having impregnable forts. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj recognised the importance of forts early in his career and hence captured & restored several forts as well as ensured their proper maintenance during his reign. At the time of his death he had around 370 forts under his command.

We will journey through five of the most important forts among the several that Chhatrapati Shivaji had under his control. These forts stand testimony to the various significant events that paved the way for the creation and subsequent dominance of the Maratha Empire in Western and Southern India.

Shivneri Fort

Shivaji Maharaj belonged to the Bhonsale clan, one of the most powerful Maratha clans of that time. Shivaji’s father, Shahaji Raje Bhonsale was a jagirdar serving the Adilshahis. His mother Jijabai was the daughter of Lakhojirao Jadhav. Our journey begins at the Shivneri fort located in Junnar, Pune district. The Fort gets its name from the patron Goddess of the fort Shivai Devi. During those days due to the constant warfare between the Deccan Sultanates the threat of war loomed large on the horizon. Hence when Jijabai was pregnant with Shivaji, Shahaji thought it best to leave her at the well guarded and highly defensible Shivneri Fort while he stayed back at Karnataka with their elder son Sambhaji.

It was here that Shivaji was born on 19th February 1630. Jijabai named him after the Goddess Shivai Devi whose temple is located within the fort premises.

Shivba, as he came to be known among family and friends, spent his childhood days in this fort. It was here that he learnt the skills necessary to become a warrior form his tutor and Shahaji’s trusted friend Dadoji Konddeo. He received his religious training from Jijabai who taught him Hindu scriptures and thus laid the foundation for Shivaji’s lifelong devotion to the Hindu cause.

It had been Shahaji’s dream to set up a Hindu kingdom after the decline of the Nizamshahi Sultanate. But the joint forces of Mughals and Adilshahis put an abrupt end to his vision during one of the battles and he was forced to move further South. This unfinished task was later taken up by Shivaji when he took the ‘Hindavi Swarajya Oath’ at Fort Temple of Lord Raireshwar in 1645 when he was just 17 years old.

Shivaji Maharaj honed his military skills at the hills and area surrounding the Shivneri Fort. He put together his band of soldiers and developed guerrilla warfare tactics that helped him greatly during his future conquests.

The Shivneri Fort was commissioned by Shahaji Raje and he ordered the construction of seven gates before the main entrance of the fort. The hill boundary wall and steep rocks on all four sides made this fort highly defensible.

Rajgad Fort

12 kilometres South-West of Pune lies the king of forts ‘Rajgad’. Its history dates back to 1490 AD when it was brought under the control of Ahmad Nizamshah. It is located on Murumbadevi Dongar- the hill of Goddess Murumba. During the reign of Nizamshah it was called Murumbdev Fort after the patron deity. Shivaji Maharaj took control of the fort in 1647 AD. He ordered the construction of new fortifications and several other additional structures as well as renamed the fort as Rajgad in the year 1654.

This fort played a significant role not only in Shivaji Maharaj’s military life but also his personal one. The citadel witnessed several epic battles as well as personal moments of joy and sorrow. It was here that his son Rajaram from his second wife Soyrabai was born. It was also the place where his Queen Saibai breathed her last.

It is said that Afzal Khan’s head was buried on the walls of Mahadarwaja of Ballekilla. Rajgad is also historical because it was here that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj spent the maximum number of days. In addition it also served as the capital of the Maratha Empire for more than two decades up to 1670 when the capital was shifted to Raigad Fort.

Sinhagad Fort

30 kilometres to the South west of Pune, atop an isolated cliff on the Buleshwar range of the Sahyadri mountains, stands the mighty fort of Sinhagad. Earlier known as the Kondhana Fort, after sage Kaundiya in whose honour the Kaundineshwar Temple has been constructed within the fort premises, it was renamed as Sinhagad to honour the sacrifice of Tanaji Malusare, one of Shivaji Maharaj’s foremost military commander. It was a fort of great significance also due to its ideal location at the centre of a series of other forts such as Torna, Purandar and Rajgad among others.

Of the several battles fought here, Sinhagad is remembered for the epic battle of March 1670 which was launched by the Marathas, under the command of Tanaji Malusare, to recapture the fort from Mirza Raja Jaisingh’s fort-keeper Udhaybhan Rathod. The first offensive that was launched in 1670 by Shivaji Maharaj to regain his territories surrendered to the Mughals under the ‘Treaty of Purandar’ was the Sinhagad campaign.

Time has taken its toll on this splendid fortress but the ruins are as impressive as the legends it is associated with. The historic gates, a temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, erstwhile military stables, are some of the structures one can view here. It is a favourite with picnickers and trekkers. The fort is also used for training the National Defence Academy Cadets.

Purandar Fort

If Torna was the first fort captured by Shivaji Maharaj, Purandar was the first one where he exhibited his renowned military prowess. In the year 1646 at the young age of 19, Shivaji Raje fought valiantly to bring the fort, which was once part of his grandfather’s jagir, under his control. This battle was the launch pad for the establishment of the great Maratha Empire that was to subsequently found. Purandar features prominently time and again in Shivaji’s struggle against the Mughals and Bijapur sultanate.

The earliest known records of this fort dates back to the 11th century when the fort was under the administration of the Yadavas. Much like the other forts of the region, it passed through several rulers including the Persians, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and Berar sultanates. Bahadur Shah of Ahmadnagar gave the fort along with the jagirs of Pune and Supa to Maloji Bhonsale, Shivaji’s grandfather.

Purandar is well-known for the Mughal siege, led by Mirza Raja Jai Singh, in the year 1665. Despite the brave efforts of the fort-keeper Murarbaji Deshpande to fend off the Mughal attack, Jai Singh showed little sign of relenting. Deshpande lost his life in an effort to keep possession of the fort. Left with no option Shivaji Maharaj had to sign the Treaty of Purandar on 11th June 1665. Through this treaty Shivaji Raje lost possession of some of his important forts including Sinhagad, Rudramal, Tikona, Lohagad and several others. Consequently Shivaji was left with just 12 forts and an area worth 1 lakh huns in revenue. Just five years later in 1670 Shivaji Maharaj was successful in recapturing all the forts within a short span of four months in a major military offensive. In 1818 the fort passed into the hands of the British who used it to house German prisoners of war during the Second World war.

At the peak of the hill lies the ancient Kedareshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. A temple dedicated to the fort’s patron deity Purandeshwar and a statue of Murarbaji Deshpande are located at the machee.

Raigad Fort

If Rajgad served as Shivaji Maharaj’s base during the initial years of his reign, then Raigad was the fort which saw the transformation of Shivaji Raje from Maharaj to Chhatrapati, king to Emperor.

This is an ancient fort, some records indicate that the fort was constructed as early as 1030 AD and was part of both the Vijayanagar as well as Bahamani kingdoms. The Nizamshahis captured the fort in 1479. From the end of the Nizamshahi rule in 1636 until 1648, Raigad came under the administration of Chandrarao More. Formerly known as the Rairi Fort, Shivaji Maharaj captured the fort from More. In 1662 he took the important step of making Raigad the administrative headquarters of the Hindavi Swarajya movement. Subsequently, in the year 1670 Raigad was made the capital of the Maratha Empire.

It was here that the ‘Rajyabhishek’, coronation of Shivaji Maharaj took place in the year 1674. Six years after his coronation, on 3rd April 1680, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj breathed his last at the Raigad fort, thus bringing down the curtains on the life of one of the most formidable foes of the Mughal Empire. He left behind a Maratha Empire that covered almost all of Western and Southern India.

At this fort one can see the remains of the erstwhile palace, cisterns, watch towers, market place and an execution point in the fort today. Other structures within the fort premises include the queen’s quarters, public durbars, Shivaji Maharaj’s Samadhi and that of his pet dog Waghya, Ganga Sagar Lake, the Jagdishwar temple and a statue of Shivaji Maharaj at the spot where his coronation was conducted among others. In addition to these structures, one can view ancient weapons and artefacts used for both offense and defence purposes.

Legends leave their footprints on the sands of time through their actions and in case of visionaries like Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje through their constructions as well. Several features set apart Chhatrapati Shivaji’s fort from his predecessors, contemporaries as well as successors. The design of each fort conformed to the topography of the place thus making it impregnable. He ensured that the forts were not monotonous in their design and the sites were selected carefully so as to provide maximum leverage to the Marathas. Double line of fortifications and Sanskritization of the names in keeping with his policy of founding a Hindu Empire were the other features that made his forts stand out. Most of the more than 350 forts that have survived in Maharashtra today, are directly or indirectly associated with Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhonsale.

The self-made Shivaji: How his humble beginnings made him the strongest Mughal adversary

The humble beginnings of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as he came to be known later are the source of the immense mental strength of the Maratha tiger. Despite having died 300 years ago- on February 19, 1627, Shivaji’s name and presence are continually felt around India, and especially in Maharashtra, thanks to the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station. The legacy of the warrior king has only become stronger as the very human warrior king is moulded into the image of the Hindu avenger.

The Shiv Sena, the political party which aims to hold up the rights of the local Hindu Marathas, hails Shivaji mainly for his stance against the Mughal Empire.

However, it is his roots that truly align with the party’s cadres, most of whom are lower- and middle class 'sons of the soil' author, professor and historian Sunil Khilnani explains in his book 'Incarnations', which was originally a BBC Radio 4 series.

That is no mean feat for someone who wasn't born in a royal household. And it is this side of Shivaji’s story that endears him to the underprivileged population.

The absentee father

The Maratha society was "proud-spirited and warlike" as Chinese scholar and pilgrim Xuanzang described, around 1000 years before Shivaji lived. Since much of Maharashtra lies on the rugged terrain of the western Deccan Plateau, life wasn’t exactly easy.

Since the land was not very rich, the societal rich were not very wealthy either. Those who were poor often joined the armed forces as that gave a good opportunity for people to climb up the social ladder. Shivaji’s father was no different.

The young impressionable Shivaji was left with his mother.

The proud and devoted mother

Jijabai’s devotion to her son and her influence has become the stuff of legends, and with good reason. Sons with absent fathers are almost always extremely influenced by their mother, and this was advanced by the fact that his only brother died when Shivaji was just an adolescent.

At the young age itself, he took hold of the small domain around Pune that his distant father assigned to him for administration. But the teenage Shivaji wouldn’t sit content with just that tiny piece of land. He amassed forces and started capturing forts in the surrounding districts.

As Professor James Laine wrote his book on Shivaji, it is significant that the first military gestures of young Shivaji were to seize control of forts owned by Adil Shah, his father's employer.

He wonders whether Shivaji, who grew up hearing tales of his mother’s glorious ancestry as Yadavas are said to be the descendants of Lord Krishna was trying to restore social glory to his family.

The practical mind that went beyond religious bias

Despite how Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is hailed as a vehemently anti-Muslim crusader, it is unlikely that he fostered such a mindset at the time. He was trying to survive in a region full of enemies, and had to be a meticulous planner. Being anti-Muslim wouldn't always solve his purpose.

As Laline writes, it was a politically complicated time when Hindu kings had Muslim soldiers and Muslim kings had Hindu soldiers and there were allies across boundaries.

But viewing Shivaji in 'human' rather than 'superhuman' terms, as someone who was not just fighting for religious ideology, landed James Laine in trouble when his book was banned in Maharashtra but later restored by the Supreme Court.

The lack of basis for chauvinistic ideals

Shivaji is portrayed as a chauvinistic man at times, but there is no record of this kind of ideology. He didn’t leave behind any letters or diaries. In all likelihood, he was illiterate like so many thousands of warriors of his time.

This could help him become more accepted in the general population, considering the fact that he wasn’t originally from a high ranking Maratha caste and wasn’t eligible to become a king.

The grand tales about of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

Perhaps the best-known tale about Shivaji is one which is taught to kids in schools around India how he killed Afzal Khan in 1659 at a secret meeting between the two using steel 'tiger claws' and then chopping off his head.

Soon, he was in open revolt against the Muslim empire and started positioning himself as the main adversary. The tales of his greatness would help him further establish his image as a great warrior opposing the Muslim rule.

Shivaji commissioned a Sanskrit poem on his feats especially for his coronation in 1674. Later arrived a rich collection of Maratha literary sources from the late 17 th century ballads to the chronicles known as bakhars.

All this enforced the image of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as he is known now.

How he built himself to become the most important rival of the Mughals

Shivaji started to get on the nerves of Aurangzeb before long as he started to snub the Mughals in one incident after another.

He humiliated a senior commander of Aurangzeb, and went on to plunder the major commercial port of Mughals and the departure point of their Hajj Surat in 1664. He returned again to fill his treasury again in 1670.

A 1694 Marathi bakhar describes Aurangzeb as muttering about "What will I do to crush this pest?"

However, once Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj reached, he was mistreated and put under house arrest. The idea of striking a good deal having left his mind, he is said to have escaped the court in a sweet basket.

He went back to his hill forts and announced himself as a rival power to the Mughals.

This escape would haunt Aurangzeb to the end of his life as it forever stopped him from subduing the Marathas. So great was his regret that he lamented it in his will.

Shivaji's elaborate coronation that established his image as a heroic king

Shivaji's coronation ceremony was majestic and carefully planned to mould his public image so that he would be accepted by the masses. Around 11,000 people climbed up the steep hill to Raigad Fort to attend his coronation in early June 1674 after a 4-month preparation.

Reports from Dutch and British East India Company officers gave details of the festivities. Large halls were built and gold, diamonds and jewellery were sourced from around the world. His grand throne was the talk of the town.

Two weeks before the coronation, a sacred thread ceremony took place where Shivaji was initiated into the Kshatriya caste and raised to the Rajput warrior clan of Sisodias. This kind of genealogical changes was a common practice for Maratha tiller-turned-warriors.

Shivaji’s coronation or 'abhiseka' was a grand affair involving various purification rituals it was carried out by a ruler after around 200 years. The rituals were designed after the orthodox Hindu society Shivaji wanted to rule.

By the time Shivaji died, he had under his control 130,000 square kilometers 4% of the Indian subcontinent. He was drawing one-fifth of the revenue that Aurangzeb drew from his empire.

As an inspiration to modern-day corporate employees

As Sunil Khilnani writes, senior managers in Maharashtra often bring employees to the forts and battlegrounds of Shivaji in the hope that the inspiration of his focused ambition can boost their personal performance levels as well, which would in turn raise company profits.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is as much a hero now as he was 300 years ago. He was an ambitious man, a meticulous planner, and the perfect networker who knew when and how to make a move to create history.

The Rise, Growth and Decline of Martha’s under Chatrapati Shivaji

The rise of the Marathas as a strong political power under Chatrapati Shivaji, and their long-drawn rivalry with the Mughals in the 17th and the first half of the 18th centuries add a new dimension to the study of Indian history and culture.

The Marathas were originally petty ‘bhumiars’ and soldiers in the service of the neighbouring Muslim kingdoms of Ahmadnagar and Bijapur, where they learnt the art of administration and had their first political training.

The important sources for the study of the Marathas are:

The literary source, Shivaji’s biography or Bakhar written by Sabhasad in 1694 which was elaborated by Chitragupta. Sambhaji’s Adanapatra or Marathishahitil Rajaniti of Ramachandra Pant Amatya written in 1716 is another important source. Jayarama Pande’s Radhamadhav Vilas Champu written in Sanskrit is also a primary literary source on Shivaji.

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On Mughal-Maratha relations, the important source is Bhimasen’s Persian work Nushka-i-Dilkusha. Kanhoji Jedhe and Jedhe Sakavali also provide much information on the activities of Shivaji, the founder of independent Maratha political power structure. Further, Sivabharatam written by Paramanand and Simraj Rajyabhisheka Kalpataru are also useful sources.

The Persian-Sanskrit dictionary Rajya Vyavaharakosam prepared by Raghunath Hanumahte under the instructions of Shivaji also serves as a useful source. The writings of Kafi Khan and Bhimasen in Persian also throw good light on Shivaji. The records of the British East India Company, memoirs of Francois Martin, the travelogues of Bernier, Taverniar and Thevnot also furnish some useful infor­mation on Shivaji. Further, Peshwa ‘daftars’ or official records of the Peshwas, Persian records and Residency records also throw useful light on the activities of the Peshwas.

The books of Grant Duff, Kirtane, Rajwade, V.S. Khare, P. Ranade, G.S. Sardesai and J.N. Sarkar constitute the secondary source-material to study and understand the Maratha history and culture. Multiple factors like the physical features of the area of Maharashtra the land, the climate, the hilly areas, scanty rainfall, the impact of the preaching’s of the devotional saints Tukaram, Ramdas, Vaman Pandit and Eknath on the masses and the Maratha language and literature fostered a sense of oneness among the Marathas. Added to the above factors, the training they obtained in the Ahmadnagar and Bijapur courts made them to realize the need of a united stand to become a political power and the leadership of Shivaji enabled them to carve out a kingdom for themselves.

J.N. Sarkar aptly remarks that nature developed in them “self-reliance, courage, perseverance, a stem simplicity, a rough straightforwardness, a sense of social equality and consequently pride in the dignity of man as man … thus a remarkable community of language, creed and life was attained in the Maharashtra in the 17th century, even before political unity was conferred by Shivaji. Thus, in the end a tribe or a collection of tribes or castes was fused into a nation and by the end of the 18th century a Maratha people in the political and cultural sense of the term had been formed, though the caste distinctions still remained. Thus history has moulded society”.

The above are the generally accepted factors for the rise of Maratha nationalism. Yet, the rise of the Maratha nationalism received the deep attention of many a scholar, who perceived it differently. Grant Duff views the rise of the Maratha power as a result of the conflagration in the forests of Sahyadri along with the Mughal factor. M.G. Ranade holds the opinion that it was a national struggle of independence against foreign domination. J.N. Sarkar and G.S. Sardesai strongly believe the rise of the Marathas as a Hindu reaction against the fanatical religious policy of Aurangzeb.

Andre Wink is of the view that it was because of the growing Mughal pressure on the Deccan Sultans. Satish Chandra is of the definite opinion that the socio-economic factors are responsible for the rise of the Maratha nation state. Satish Chandra postulates a view that Shivaji by curtailing the powers of the big landed intermediaries, i.e., Deshmukhs and by introducing necessary reforms created political space for petty landholders to have a say in the political management.

Irfan Habib sees a connection between the rise of the Maratha power and the rebellious mood of the oppressed peasantry. The social content of the Maratha Dharma can be understood by the way Shivaji got prepared a Suryavamsa Kshyatriya lineage of his family with the willing support of Gangabhat, a Brahmin of Benaras.

Along with Shivaji many of the people belonging to the agriculturalist profession might have succeeded in enhancing their social status. In this backdrop, the Bhakti movement spear­headed by Tukaram, Samarth Ramdas and Eknath gave scope for mobility in the Varna scale by individuals and groups which further crystalized into Maratha Dharma based on egalitarianism. M.G. Ranade and V.K. Rajwade formulated the idea that it was Maratha Dharma that led to the political independence of the Marathas based on aggressive Hinduism.

The earliest reference to the term Maratha Dharma is found in the Guru Charitra of the 15th century in the context of an ethical policy of a great enlightened state. Samartha Ramdas, the spiritual guru of Shivaji who was very critical about the Turko-Afghan-Mughal rule gave impetus to Maratha nationalism. Shivaji made use of this saint-poet’s statement to kindle popular ideological protest against the rule of the Mughals and the Deccani kingdoms of Bijapur and Golkonda.

Tulja Bhavani, Vithobha and Mahadeva, the trinity of Maharashtra and the slogan Hara Har Mahadeva gave the needed religious sanction to Maratha Dharma. A big debating point is – can we identify Maratha Dharma with Hindu Swarajya. While some subscribe to the view that Hindu Swarajya and Maratha Dharma are identical, there are some who disagree with this view and regard that it was not primarily religion-oriented but opposed to the centralizing tendencies of the Mughals. We can agree with the view that taking advantage of the decline of Ahmadnagar kingdom, the Marathas wanted to carve out a bigger principality against the growing influence of the Mughals in the Deccan.

Formation of the Maratha State:

Since the early 17th century, the Marathas emerged as new political elite by joining the service of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golkonda courts in the Deccan. Some Marathas earned the titles of Raja, Naik and Rana and became petty chiefs of hill forts and Chander Rao Morey and Yaswanta Rao, Rao Naik Nimbalkar, Jujah Rao Ghatage, the Deshmukh of Mullore, were some of the important subordinates of the Deccan Sultans. Maloji, the grandfather of Shivaji married the sister of Jagpal Rao Nail Nimbalkar the ‘deshmukh’ of Phultun. Maloji’s son Shahji joined the count of Bijapur and was married to Jijiyabai. Shahji and Jijiyabai’s youngest son was Shivaji.

He was born at Shivaneri on April 10, 1627. As Shahji was busy till 1636 Shivaji was denied paternal attention. Shivaji was shifted to Poona under the guardianship of Dadaji Kondadev. In 1640-41 Shivaji married Saibai Nimbalkar and the administration of the Jagir of Poona was entrusted to Shivaji by Shahji Bhonsle under the guardianship of Dadaji Khonddev. With the death of Dadaji Khonddev in 1647, Shivaji became the independent agent of Shahji at Poona.

Shivaji tactfully befriended the brave community of Maval chiefs who became loyal defenders to him. The Maval chieftains Jedhe Nayak of Kari and Bandal Nayak were the first to join hands with Shivaji. Shivaji developed a desire to recover as a legitimate heir of Shahji, the territories surrendered to Bijapur Sultan by the latter. But he could not execute his plans as his father Shahji was imprisoned by the Bijapur forces.

Shivaji succeeded in 1649, on getting his father released from the prison. Shivaji occupied Purandar fort in 1648 and the fort of Javali in 1656, and also the fort of Rairi or Raigarh which became the capital of Shivaji’s ‘swarajya’ in 1674.

The relations between the Marathas and the Mughals can be studied under four phases:

The Mughal rulers Jahangir and Shahjahan realized the importance of the Maratha chieftains of Deccan and started persuading them to defect to their side from that of the Deccan Sultans. Aurangzeb too tried to woo Shivaji to be his ally as early as 1657. Shivaji did not yield and continued with his raids and occupied Kalyan and Bhiwandi in 1657 and Mahuli in 1658 and the entire eastern half of the Kolaba district was occupied by Shivaji from the Siddis of Janjira. In order to cut short the efforts of Shivaji, the Adilshahi ruler of Bijapur dispatched Abdulah Bhatare Afzal Khan with a strong force against Shivaji in 1659.

Shivaji got Afzal Khan killed by a stratagem and diplomacy and overpowered the Bijapur army by occupying Panhala and south Konkan but Shivaji lost Panhala after a short while in 1660. In order to reduce the growing power of Shivaji, the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb despatched Shaistha Khan as viceroy of Deccan in 1659.

Shaistha Khan succeeded in occupying Chakan in 1660 and north Konkan in 1661 and there were hostilities between the Marathas and Aurangzeb in 1662-63. In 1663, Shivaji attacked Shaisth Khan at Poona and seriously wounded the Mughal viceroy of Deccan and sacked Surat in 1664. This gave a shock to Aurangzeb and Aurangzeb appointed Mirja Raja Jai Singh as the viceroy of Deccan. Raja Jai Singh raided the Maratha territory and occupied Purandhar in 1665 and persuaded Shivaji to enter into an alliance with the Mughals. Shivaji accepted the proposal of Jai Singh and the Treaty of Purandhar was concluded between the Mughal and Shivaji in 1665.

Shivaji was made to visit Agra to meet Aurangzeb. At Shivaji got enraged when he was not treated with proper respect and expressed his dissatisfaction and he was imprisoned by the Mughal forces in Agra. In 1666, Shivaji escaped from from Agra prison and Raja Jai Singh was replaced by prince Mauzzam in 1667 as the Mughal viceroy of Deccan. Shivaji kept quiet for two years after his escape from Agra prison and again renewed his hostile attitude towards the Mughals as the Purandhar Treaty was not at all advantageous to him and he had to forgo 23 forts and territory worth 4 lakh huns to the Mughals without any compensation from Bijapur.

He renewed hostilities by sacking Surat in 1670 for the second time and recovered a large number of forts, including Punandhar and made deep inroads into the Mughal territories of Berar and Khandesh. Simultaneously, he fought with Bijapur and secured Panhala and Satara by offering bribes and also raided Kanara country at leisure.

The year 1674, was a memorable year in the life of Shivaji, as in that year the coronation of Shivaji with the appropriate title of Chatrapati took place at Raigarh. Definitely, the coronation was a declaration to the public that Shivaji was the foremost among the Marathas and an equivalent to the contemporary Sultans and the emperor. This was followed by his raids into Bijapur and Karnataka in 1676, in which Akkanna and Madanna of Golkonda offered him active support.

The Qutub Shahi ruler of Golkonda entered into a friendly treaty with Shivaji but in due course the relations between them got strained as Shivaji did not agree to share the booty with Golkonda. This Karnataka expedition happened to be the last major expedition of Shivaji and Shivaji died in 1680, shortly after his successful return from the expedition of Karnataka.

Shivaji, who was by birth a petty Bhumia or landlord belonging to the agricul­tural occupation, by virtue of his determination and foresight became a Chatrapati and Haindava Dharmodharak and carved out a considerably vast kingdom, which he bequeathed to his progeny.

Shivaji’s fame rests on his assertion of popular will as a representative of the popular Maratha Dharma against the Mughal penetration into Maharashtra. Shivaji was also an able administrator as well as a builder of independent kingdom by bringing together different elements.

Administration of Shivaji:

The creator of the administrative structure and apparatus was none else than Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha state. The administrative structure of the Marathas is primarily based on the Deccan Sultans’ administrative principles and some of the aspects of the contemporary Mughals. The Maratha polity was basically a centralized despotic but enlightened monarchy.

The king was the pivot of the entire administrative process from the beginning to the end. “Raja Kalsya Karanam” or happiness and prosperity of their subjects were the motto of the Maratha rulers. However much interested and sincere, as it is not possible for a single individual to carry out the entire administrative process, the king was assisted by a council of ministers designated as Ashtapradhan or council of eight ministers.

(1) Peshwa or Prime Minister, who was the head of civil and military matters,

(2) Majumdar or auditor, who scrutinized the income and expenditure of the state,

(3) Waqenavis or the person, who was in charge of intelligence, costs and household affairs,

(4) Dabir who was in charge of ceremonies and assisted the king in dealing with foreign powers,

(5) Shuru Nauis or Sachiv or who was incharge of all the official correspondence,

(6) Pandit Rao Danadhyakha was incharge of eclesiastical affairs,

(7) Nyayadhish or the Chief Justice and,

(8) Senapati or the commander in Chief Of the 8 members of the council of ministers except Panditrao and the Nyayadhisha, the rest were entrusted with military responsibility.

During Shivaji’s rule, all these posts were neither hereditary nor permanent. They were kept in their positions as long as they enjoyed the confidence of the king. They were liable for transfer. All these executive officers were paid in cash by the exchequer and no Jagir was given to any military or civil executive. But, by the time we come to Peshwas (1713-1761) this practice was given up and the posts became hereditary and permanent.

Each of the Ashtapradhan was assisted by eight assistants, Diwan, Majumdar, Phadnis, Sabnis, Karkhanis, Chitnis, Jamadar and Potnis. Among the eight assistants, Chimis or secretary appears to be next in rank to asthapradhans as he dealt with all diplomatic correspondences and drafted all royal letters.

He also wrote letters to provincial and district officials. Fadnis was given the authority to respond to the letters of commanders of forts. By the time of Peshwas, the power and prestige of Phadnis grew and he becomes a prominent officer. The Potnis took care of the income and expenditure of the royal treasury. The Potedar acted as an assay officer.

Provincial Administration:

The Marathas divided their kingdom hierarchically into ‘mauzas’, ‘tarafs’ and ‘prants’ for administrative efficiency and convenience. Mauza was the lowest unit of administrative structure. The head of the taraf or district was havaldar, Karkun or paripatyagar. The provinces were known as Subahs and their officers were called Subedars. Karkun or Mukhyadesadhikari or Sarsubedar supervised and controlled the work of the Subedars.

The stability and security of the kingdom depended on the efficiency of the military and their preparedness to meet the demands of the situation. In the history of the Marathas, forts played a crucial role and no single officer was entrusted with the sole responsibility of the fort. Instead, Shivaji appointed a havaldar, sabnis and a sarnobat for ordinary sized forts. For big forts, 5 to 10 tatsarnobats of equal status who were liable for transfers also were appointed.

The keys of the fort were kept in the custody of the havaldar. The muster roll or attendance was taken care of by the sabnis. He was also in change of the revenue administration. The sarnobat was in charge of the garrison. Karkhanis used to take care of the grain stores and other material required. Shivaji applied a good system of checks and balances over his officials to keep them under control. No official was given absolute power in any sphere of activity.

Shivaji had taken care that no caste group dominated in the bureaucratic set-up. It was clearly ordained that the havaldar and sarnobat had to be a Maratha, the sabnis a Brahmin and Karkhani, a Kayastha. Shivaji maintained light cavalry and light infantry trained in guerilla and hilly warfare. Shivaji’s most excellent troopers belonged to the Mavalis and Hetkaris. Shivaji’s infantry structure was hierarchically arranged in a pyramidal shape from bottom to top.

Naik-Havaldar-Jumladar-Hazari-Samobat. Same is the case with cavalry. His cavalry consisted of two classes – Bargirs and Silodars. Bargir troops were supplied with horses and arms by the state and silodars are those who brought their own horses and arms. The army of Shivaji was well served by an efficient intelligence department headed by Bahiraj Naik Jadhav. By the time of Peshwas, separate artillery department was created in the army. Discipline was given top priority by Shivaji and that became lax under the Peshwas. During the time of the Peshwas, the armies become a mobile town with all paraphernalia.

Shivaji strengthened his military by a strong navy. His naval fleet consisted of Ihurabs or gunboats and galivats or row boats. Koli the sea faring tribe of Malabar manned his fleet. Shivaji established two squadron’s of 200 vessels. There is a view that these figures are highly exaggerated as Robert Orme mentions just 57 fleets of Shivaji under the command of Admiral Daniya Sarang and Marnaik Bhandari. One more admiral of Shivaji’s navy was Daulat Khan.

The Marathas did not develop an organized judicial structure. At the village level the village panchayat decided the legal issues. Criminal cases were decided by Patil. Hazir Majalis was the highest court for civil and criminal cases. In the matters relating to land revenue system, Shivaji continued the regulations practised by Malik Amber in the Deccan states. Shivaji got the measurement of land under cultivation by using a Kathi or measuring rod. Twenty Kathis constituted a Bigha and 120 Bighas a Chavar.

Shivaji entrusted the task of systematic assessment to Annaji Datto in 1678. Annaji Datto carried on assessment with the help of the Paragana and village officials. Shivaji collected one-third of the total value of the crop as land tax but later after abolishing other cesses, a consolidated share of 40 per cent was claimed by the state. A hierarchy of officials was there to look after the collection of land tax at various stages from the cultivators. Jadunath Sarkar holds the view that Shivaji did away with the intermediaries – Zamindars, Deshmukhs, Desais and Patils between the State and the cultivator.

Contradicting the view of J.N. Sarkar, Satish Chandra holds the view that Shivaji curtailed the unlimited powers of these hereditary intermediaries and appointed his own men to collect the land tax, instructing them not to extract more than the due share of the state. Shivaji punished those officials who violated his orders. Peshwas introduced changes into the land tax collection system introduced by Shivaji. Shivaji attempted to take special measures to protect peasants from the oppressions of the revenue collector.

Besides land tax, ‘chauth’ and ‘sardeshmukhi’ formed the major sources of income for the Marathas. Some criticized these measures as plunder and loot. Sardeshmukhi was an extraction of 10 per cent imposed upon the revenues of the entire Martha kingdom. Shivaji claimed sardeshmukhi as his right as the supreme head of the Marathas. Further, he claimed chauth, i.e., percentage of the total revenue of the neighbouring chieftains whose territories did not form a part of swarajya.

Shivaji was not an innovator and creator of new administrative ideas but modified the existing Daccani Sultan’s administration and made it suitable for his swarajya. The only change introduce by him was more and more of central­ization and he saw to it that there was no possibility of configuration of various groups to emerge as strong political elite. This system worked very effectively and efficiently as long as Shivaji survived and decline set in after his death.

Shivaji was followed by his son Sambhaji who ruled from 1680 to 1689 and he was followed by his brother Rajaram, who ruled from 1689 to 1700. After the death of Rajaram, his wife Tarabai became regent on behalf of her son Shivaji II who ruled from 1700 to 1707. All these years the hostility with the Muguals continued and in spite of his best efforts, Aurangzeb failed to curb the spirit of the Marathas. Once again the Marathas became a prominent political force under the regime of the Peshwas during the years 1713 to 1761 during the reigns of Sahu 1707-1749 and Rama Raja in 1749-1777.

Shivaji's Administration

  • Forts: Shivaji possessed several strategically important forts, such as Pratapgad, Murambdev, Kondana, Torana and Purandar. He laid the very foundation of swaraj or self-rule and had gained control of 360 forts by the end of his rule. Besides these, he constructed nearly 20 new forts and repaired several old ones. Once his work was done, he had built a chain of over 300 forts, which stretched on endlessly for a thousand kilometers, spanning the rocky stretch of the Western Ghats.
  • Language: Shivaji replaced the Persian language, most prevalent at that time, with Marathi. He stipulated that Marathi be the official language in his court and that Hindu political traditions be followed while in the sabha. Apart from that, he also propagated the Sanskrit language, even giving his forts Sanskrit names such as Suvarndurg, Sindhudurg and Prachandgarh. Additionally, he named his council of ministers with terms such as senapat, nyayadhish and so on.
  • Religion: Shivaji was a strict follower of Hinduism. However, he believed in respecting all religions. He also venerated all contemporary saints and sages. He strongly opposed forced conversion and was liberal in thought, including equal rights for women. He regularly consulted with both sadhus and Sufis regarding various matters of philosophy. He was especially devoted to Swami Ramdas and even built a Samadhi for the Swami within the Sajjangad fort. Shivaji's respect for Islam can be seen in the fact that he had several stalwart Muslim soldiers, especially in the Navy. In those days, Muslim soldiers were known for their skills in combat and artillery.


Shivaji was born in family of Maratha family of Bhonsle clan. [7] Shivaji's paternal grandfather Maloji (1552–1597) was an influential general of Ahmadnagar Sultanate, and was awarded the epithet of "Raja". He was given deshmukhi rights of Pune, Supe, Chakan and Indapur for military expenses. He was also given Fort Shivneri for his family's residence (c. 1590 ). [8] [9]

Shivaji was born in the hill-fort of Shivneri, near the city of Junnar in what is now Pune district. Scholars disagree on his date of birth. The Government of Maharashtra lists 19 February as a holiday commemorating Shivaji's birth (Shivaji Jayanti). [a] [16] [17] Shivaji was named after a local deity, the goddess Shivai. [18] Shivaji's father Shahaji Bhonsle was a Maratha general who served the Deccan Sultanates. [19] His mother was Jijabai, the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhavrao of Sindhkhed, a Mughal-aligned sardar claiming descent from a Yadav royal family of Devagiri. [20] [21]

At the time of Shivaji's birth, power in Deccan was shared by three Islamic sultanates: Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golkonda. Shahaji often changed his loyalty between the Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar, the Adilshah of Bijapur and the Mughals, but always kept his jagir (fiefdom) at Pune and his small army. [19]


Shivaji was devoted to his mother Jijabai, who was deeply religious. His studies of the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, also influenced his lifelong defence of Hindu values. [22] He was deeply interested in religious teachings, and regularly sought the company of Hindu saints. [23] Shahaji, meanwhile had married a second wife, Tuka Bai from the Mohite family. Having made peace with the Mughals, ceding them six forts, he went to serve the Sultanate of Bijapur. He moved Shivaji and Jijabai from Shivneri to Pune and left them in the care of his jagir administrator, Dadoji Konddeo, who has been credited with overseeing the education and training of young Shivaji. [24]

Many of Shivaji's comrades, and later a number of his soldiers, came from the Maval region, including Yesaji Kank, Suryaji Kakade, Baji Pasalkar, Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Tanaji Malusare. [25] Shivaji traveled the hills and forests of the Sahyadri range with his Maval friends, gaining skills and familiarity with the land that would prove useful in his military career. [26] Shivaji's independent spirit and his association with the Maval youths did not sit well with Dadoji, who complained without success to Shahaji. [27]

In 1639, Shahaji was stationed at Bangalore, which was conquered from the Nayaks who had taken control after the demise of the Vijayanagara Empire. He was asked to hold and settle the area. [28] Shivaji was taken to Bangalore where he, his elder brother Sambhaji, and his half brother Ekoji I were further formally trained. He married Saibai from the prominent Nimbalkar family in 1640. [29] As early as 1645, the teenage Shivaji expressed his concept for Hindavi Swarajya (Indian self-rule), in a letter. [30] [b]

In 1645, the 15-year-old Shivaji bribed or persuaded Inayat Khan, the Bijapuri commander of the Torna Fort, to hand over possession of the fort to him. [34] The Maratha Firangoji Narsala, who held the Chakan fort, professed his loyalty to Shivaji, and the fort of Kondana was acquired by bribing the Bijapuri governor. [35] On 25 July 1648, Shahaji was imprisoned by Baji Ghorpade under the orders of Bijapuri ruler Mohammed Adilshah, in a bid to contain Shivaji. [36]

According to Sarkar, Shahaji was released in 1649 after the capture of Jinji secured Adilshah's position in Karnataka. During these developments, from 1649–1655 Shivaji paused in his conquests and quietly consolidated his gains. [37] After his release, Shahaji retired from public life, and died around 1664–1665 in a hunting accident. Following his father's release, Shivaji resumed raiding, and in 1656, under controversial circumstances, killed Chandrarao More, a fellow Maratha feudatory of Bijapur, and seized the valley of Javali, near present-day Mahabaleshwar, from him. [38] [39] In addition to the Bhonsale and the More families, many others including Sawant of Sawantwadi, Ghorpade of Mudhol, Nimbalkar of Phaltan, Shirke, Mane and Mohite also served Adilshahi of Bijapur, many with Deshmukhi rights. Shivaji adopted different strategies to subdue these powerful families such as marrying their daughters, dealing directly with village Patil to bypass the Deshmukhs, or fighting them. [40]

Combat with Afzal Khan

Adilshah was displeased at his losses to Shivaji's forces, which his vassal Shahaji disavowed. Having ended his conflict with the Mughals and having a greater ability to respond, in 1657 Adilshah sent Afzal Khan, a veteran general, to arrest Shivaji. Before engaging him, the Bijapuri forces desecrated the Tulja Bhavani Temple, holy to Shivaji's family, and the Vithoba temple at Pandharpur, a major pilgrimage site for the Hindus. [41] [42] [43]

Pursued by Bijapuri forces, Shivaji retreated to Pratapgad fort, where many of his colleagues pressed him to surrender. [44] The two forces found themselves at a stalemate, with Shivaji unable to break the siege, while Afzal Khan, having a powerful cavalry but lacking siege equipment, was unable to take the fort. After two months, Afzal Khan sent an envoy to Shivaji suggesting the two leaders meet in private outside the fort to parley. [45] [46]

The two met in a hut at the foothills of Pratapgad fort on 10 November 1659. The arrangements had dictated that each come armed only with a sword, and attended by one follower. Shivaji, either suspecting Afzal Khan would arrest or attack him, [47] [48] or secretly planning to attack himself, [49] wore armour beneath his clothes, concealed a bagh nakh (metal "tiger claw") on his left arm, and had a dagger in his right hand. [50]

Accounts vary on whether Shivaji or Afzal Khan struck the first blow: [48] Maratha chronicles accuse Afzal Khan of treachery, while Persian-language records attribute the treachery to Shivaji. [51] [52] In the fight, Afzal Khan's dagger was stopped by Shivaji's armour, and Shivaji's weapons inflicted mortal wounds on the general Shivaji then fired a cannon to signal his hidden troops to attack the Bijapuri army. [53] In the ensuing Battle of Pratapgarh fought on 10 November 1659, Shivaji's forces decisively defeated the Bijapur Sultanate's forces. [54] More than 3,000 soldiers of the Bijapur army were killed and one sardar of high rank, two sons of Afzal Khan and two Maratha chiefs were taken prisoner. [55]

After the victory, a grand review was held by Shivaji below Pratapgarh. The captured enemy, both officers and men, were set free and sent back to their homes with money, food and other gifts. Marathas were rewarded accordingly. [55]

Siege of Panhala

Having defeated the Bijapuri forces sent against him, Shivaji's army marched towards the Konkan and Kolhapur, seizing Panhala fort, and defeating Bijapuri forces sent against them under Rustam Zaman and Fazl Khan in 1659. [56] In 1660, Adilshah sent his general Siddi Jauhar to attack Shivaji's southern border, in alliance with the Mughals who planned to attack from the north. At that time, Shivaji was encamped at Panhala fort with his forces. Siddi Jauhar's army besieged Panhala in mid-1660, cutting off supply routes to the fort. During the bombardment of Panhala, Siddi Jauhar purchased grenades from the English at Rajapur to increase his efficacy, and also hired some English artillerymen to assist in his bombardment of the fort, conspicuously flying a flag used by the English. This perceived betrayal angered Shivaji, who in December would retaliate by plundering the English factory at Rajapur and capturing four of the factors, imprisoning them until mid-1663. [57]

After months of siege, Shivaji negotiated with Siddi Jauhar and handed over the fort on 22 September 1660, withdrawing to Vishalgad [58] Shivaji retook Panhala in 1673. [59]

Battle of Pavan Khind

There is some dispute over the circumstances of Shivaji's withdrawal (treaty or escape) and his destination (Ragna or Vishalgad), but the popular story details his night movement to Vishalgad and a sacrificial rear-guard action to allow him to escape. [60] Per these accounts, Shivaji withdrew from Panhala by cover of night, and as he was pursued by the enemy cavalry, his Maratha sardar Baji Prabhu Deshpande of Bandal Deshmukh, along with 300 soldiers, volunteered to fight to the death to hold back the enemy at Ghod Khind ("horse ravine") to give Shivaji and the rest of the army a chance to reach the safety of the Vishalgad fort. [61]

In the ensuing Battle of Pavan Khind, the smaller Maratha force held back the larger enemy to buy time for Shivaji to escape. Baji Prabhu Deshpande was wounded but continued to fight until he heard the sound of cannon fire from Vishalgad, [7] signalling Shivaji had safely reached the fort, on the evening of 13 July 1660. [62] Ghod Khind (khind meaning "a narrow mountain pass") was later renamed Paavan Khind ("sacred pass") in honour of Bajiprabhu Deshpande, Shibosingh Jadhav, Fuloji, and all other soldiers who fought in there. [62]

Until 1657, Shivaji maintained peaceful relations with the Mughal Empire. Shivaji offered his assistance to Aurangzeb who then, was the Mughal viceroy of the Deccan and son of the Mughal emperor, in conquering Bijapur in return for formal recognition of his right to the Bijapuri forts and villages under his possession. Dissatisfied with the Mughal response, and receiving a better offer from Bijapur, he launched a raid into the Mughal Deccan. [63] Shivaji's confrontations with the Mughals began in March 1657, when two of Shivaji's officers raided the Mughal territory near Ahmednagar. [64] This was followed by raids in Junnar, with Shivaji carrying off 300,000 hun in cash and 200 horses. [65] Aurangzeb responded to the raids by sending Nasiri Khan, who defeated the forces of Shivaji at Ahmednagar. However, Aurangzeb's countermeasures against Shivaji were interrupted by the rainy season and his battle of succession with his brothers for the Mughal throne following the illness of the emperor Shah Jahan. [66]

Attacks on Shaista Khan and Surat

Upon the request of Badi Begum of Bijapur, Aurangzeb, now the Mughal emperor, sent his maternal uncle Shaista Khan, with an army numbering over 150,000 along with a powerful artillery division in January 1660 to attack Shivaji in conjunction with Bijapur's army led by Siddi Jauhar. Shaista Khan, with his better–equipped and –provisioned army of 80,000 seized Pune. He also took the nearby fort of Chakan, besieging it for a month and a half before breaching the walls. [67] Shaista Khan pressed his advantage of having a larger, better provisioned and heavily armed Mughal army and made inroads into some of the Maratha territory, seizing the city of Pune and establishing his residence at Shivaji's palace of Lal Mahal. [68]

In April 1663, Shivaji launched a surprise attack on Shaista Khan in Pune, along with a small group of men. After gaining access to Khan's compound, the raiders were able to kill some of his wives Shaista Khan escaped, losing a finger in the melee. [69] The Khan took refuge with the Mughal forces outside of Pune, and Aurangzeb punished him for this embarrassment with a transfer to Bengal. [70]

In retaliation for Shaista Khan's attacks, and to replenish his now-depleted treasury, in 1664 Shivaji sacked the port city of Surat, a wealthy Mughal trading centre. [71]

Treaty of Purandar

The attacks on Shaista Khan and Surat enraged Aurangzeb. In response he sent the Rajput Mirza Raja Jai Singh I with an army numbering around 15,000 to defeat Shivaji. [72] Throughout 1665, Jai Singh's forces pressed Shivaji, with their cavalry razing the countryside, and their siege forces investing Shivaji's forts. The Mughal commander succeeded in luring away several of Shivaji's key commanders, and many of his cavalrymen, into Mughal service. By mid-1665, with the fortress at Purandar besieged and near capture, Shivaji was forced to come to terms with Jai Singh. [72]

In the Treaty of Purandar, signed between Shivaji and Jai Singh on 11 June 1665, Shivaji agreed to give up 23 of his forts, keeping 12 for himself, and pay compensation of 400,000 gold hun to the Mughals. [73] Shivaji agreed to become a vassal of the Mughal empire, and to send his son Sambhaji, along with 5,000 horsemen, to fight for the Mughals in the Deccan as a mansabdar. [74] [75]

Arrest in Agra and escape

In 1666, Aurangzeb summoned Shivaji to Agra (though some sources instead state Delhi), along with his nine-year-old son Sambhaji. Aurangzeb's plan was to send Shivaji to Kandahar, now in Afghanistan, to consolidate the Mughal empire's northwestern frontier. However, in the court, on 12 May 1666, Aurangzeb made Shivaji stand behind mansabdārs (military commanders) of his court. Shivaji took offence and stormed out of court, [76] and was promptly placed under house arrest under the watch of Faulad Khan, Kotwal of Agra.

Shivaji's position under house arrest was perilous, as Aurangzeb's court debated whether to kill him or continue to employ him, and Shivaji used his dwindling funds to bribe courtiers to support his case. Orders came from the emperor to station Shivaji in Kabul, which Shivaji refused. Instead he asked for his forts to be returned and to serve the Mughals as a mansabdar Aurangzeb rebutted that he must surrender his remaining forts before returning to Mughal service. Shivaji managed to escape from Agra, likely by bribing the guards, though the emperor was never able to ascertain how he escaped despite an investigation. [77] Popular legend says that Shivaji smuggled himself and his son out of the house in large baskets, claimed to be sweets to be gifted to religious figures in the city. [78]

Peace with the Mughals

After Shivaji's escape, hostilities with the Mughals ebbed, with Mughal sardar Jaswant Singh acting as intermediary between Shivaji and Aurangzeb for new peace proposals. [79] During the period between 1666 and 1668, Aurangzeb conferred the title of raja on Shivaji. Sambhaji was also restored as a Mughal mansabdar with 5,000 horses. Shivaji at that time sent Sambhaji with general Prataprao Gujar to serve with the Mughal viceroy in Aurangabad, Prince Mu'azzam. Sambhaji was also granted territory in Berar for revenue collection. [80] Aurangzeb also permitted Shivaji to attack the decaying Adil Shahi the weakened Sultan Ali Adil Shah II sued for peace and granted the rights of sardeshmukhi and chauthai to Shivaji. [81]

The peace between Shivaji and the Mughals lasted until 1670. At that time Aurangzeb became suspicious of the close ties between Shivaji and Mu'azzam, who he thought might usurp his throne, and may even have been receiving bribes from Shivaji. [82] [83] Also at that time, Aurangzeb, occupied in fighting the Afghans, greatly reduced his army in the Deccan many of the disbanded soldiers quickly joined Maratha service. [84] The Mughals also took away the jagir of Berar from Shivaji to recover the money lent to him a few years earlier. [85] In response, Shivaji launched an offensive against the Mughals and recovered a major portion of the territories surrendered to them in a span of four months. [86]

Shivaji sacked Surat for second time in 1670 the English and Dutch factories were able to repel his attack, but he managed to sack the city itself, including plundering the goods of a Muslim prince from Mawara-un-Nahr who was returning from Mecca. Angered by the renewed attacks, the Mughals resumed hostilities with the Marathas, sending a force under Daud Khan to intercept Shivaji on his return home from Surat, but were defeated in the Battle of Vani-Dindori near present-day Nashik. [87]

In October 1670, Shivaji sent his forces to harass the English at Bombay as they had refused to sell him war materiel, his forces blocked English woodcutting parties from leaving Bombay. In September 1671, Shivaji sent an ambassador to Bombay, again seeking materiel, this time for the fight against Danda-Rajpuri. The English had misgivings of the advantages Shivaji would gain from this conquest, but also did not want to lose any chance of receiving compensation for his looting their factories at Rajapur. The English sent Lieutenant Stephen Ustick to treat with Shivaji, but negotiations failed over the issue of the Rajapur indemnity. Numerous exchanges of envoys followed over the coming years, with some agreement as to the arms issues in 1674, but Shivaji was never to pay the Rajapur indemnity before his death, and the factory there dissolved at the end of 1682. [88]

Battles of Umrani and Nesari

In 1674, Prataprao Gujar, the commander-in-chief of the Maratha forces, was sent to push back the invading force led by the Bijapuri general, Bahlol Khan. Prataprao's forces defeated and captured the opposing general in the battle, after cutting-off their water supply by encircling a strategic lake, which prompted Bahlol Khan to sue for peace. In spite of Shivaji's specific warnings against doing so, Prataprao released Bahlol Khan, who started preparing for a fresh invasion. [89]

Shivaji sent a displeased letter to Prataprao, refusing him audience until Bahlol Khan was re-captured. Upset by his commander's rebuke, Prataprao found Bahlol Khan and charged his position with only six other horsemen, leaving his main force behind. Prataprao was killed in combat Shivaji was deeply grieved on hearing of Prataprao's death, and arranged for the marriage of his second son, Rajaram, to Prataprao's daughter. Anandrao Mohite became Hambirrao Mohite, the new sarnaubat (commander-in-chief of the Maratha forces). Raigad Fort was newly built by Hiroji Indulkar as a capital of nascent Maratha kingdom. [90]

Shivaji had acquired extensive lands and wealth through his campaigns, but lacking a formal title he was still technically a Mughal zamindar or the son of a Bijapuri jagirdar, with no legal basis to rule his de facto domain. A kingly title could address this and also prevent any challenges by other Maratha leaders, to whom he was technically equal. [c] it would also provide the Hindu Marathas with a fellow Hindu sovereign in a region otherwise ruled by Muslims. [92]

Controversy erupted amongst the Brahmins of Shivaji's court: they refused to crown Shivaji as a king because that status was reserved for those of the kshatriya (warrior) varna in Hindu society. [93] Shivaji was descended from a line of headmen of farming villages, and the Brahmins accordingly categorised him as being of the shudra (cultivator) varna. [94] [95] They noted that Shivaji had never had a sacred thread ceremony, and did not wear the thread, which a kshatriya would. [94] Shivaji summoned Gaga Bhatt, a pandit of Varanasi, who stated that he had found a genealogy proving that Shivaji was descended from the Sisodia Rajputs, and thus indeed a kshatriya, albeit one in need of the ceremonies befitting his rank. [96] To enforce this status, Shivaji was given a sacred thread ceremony, and remarried his spouses under the Vedic rites expected of a kshatriya. [97] [98] However, following historical evidence, Shivaji's claim to Rajput, and specifically Sisodia ancestry may be interpreted as being anything from tenuous at best, to inventive in a more extreme reading. [99]

On 28 May Shivaji performed penance for not observing Kshatriya rites by his ancestors' and himself for so long. Then he was invested by Gaga Bhatta with the sacred thread. [100] On insistence of other Brahmins, Gaga Bhatta dropped the Vedic chant and initiated Shivaji in a modified form of the life of the twice-born, instead of putting him on a par with the Brahmans. Next day, Shivaji made atonement for the sins which he committed in his own lifetime. [101] Two learned Brahmans pointed out that Shivaji, while conducting his raids, had burnt cities which resulted in the death of Brahmans, cows, women and children, and now could be cleansed of this sin for a price of only Rs. 8,000, and Shivaji paid this amount. [101] Total expenditure made for feeding the assemblage, general alms giving, throne and ornaments approached 5 million Rupees. [102]

Shivaji was crowned king of Maratha Swaraj in a lavish ceremony on 6 June 1674 at Raigad fort. [103] [104] In the Hindu calendar it was on the 13th day (trayodashi) of the first fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha in the year 1596. [105] Gaga Bhatt officiated, holding a gold vessel filled with the seven sacred waters of the rivers Yamuna, Indus, Ganges, Godavari, Narmada, Krishna and Kaveri over Shivaji's head, and chanted the Vedic coronation mantras. After the ablution, Shivaji bowed before Jijabai and touched her feet. Nearly fifty thousand people gathered at Raigad for the ceremonies. [106] [107] Shivaji was entitled Shakakarta ("founder of an era") [1] and Chhatrapati ("sovereign"). He also took the title of Haindava Dharmodhhaarak (protector of the Hindu faith). [2]

Shivaji's mother Jijabai died on 18 June 1674. The Marathas summoned Bengali Tantrik Goswami Nischal Puri, who declared that the original coronation had been held under inauspicious stars, and a second coronation was needed. This second coronation on 24 September 1674 had a dual-use, mollifying those who still believed that Shivaji was not qualified for the Vedic rites of his first coronation, by performing a less-contestable additional ceremony. [108] [109] [110]

Beginning in 1674, the Marathas undertook an aggressive campaign, raiding Khandesh (October), capturing Bijapuri Ponda (April 1675), Karwar (mid-year), and Kolhapur (July). [111] In November the Maratha navy skirmished with the Siddis of Janjira, but failed to dislodge them. [112] : 23 Having recovered from an illness, and taking advantage of a conflict between the Afghans and Bijapur, Shivaji raided Athani in April 1676. [113]

In the run-up to his expedition Shivaji appealed to a sense of Deccani patriotism, that Southern India was a homeland that should be protected from outsiders. [114] [115] His appeal was somewhat successful, and in 1677 Shivaji visited Hyderabad for a month and entered into a treaty with the Qutubshah of the Golkonda sultanate, agreeing to reject his alliance with Bijapur and jointly oppose the Mughals. In 1677, Shivaji invaded Karnataka with 30,000 cavalry and 40,000 infantry, backed by Golkonda artillery and funding. [116] Proceeding south, Shivaji seized the forts of Vellore and Gingee [117] the latter would later serve as a capital of the Marathas during the reign of his son Rajaram I. [118]

Shivaji intended to reconcile with his half-brother Venkoji (Ekoji I), Shahaji's son by his second wife, Tukabai (née Mohite), who ruled Thanjavur (Tanjore) after Shahaji. The initially promising negotiations were unsuccessful, so whilst returning to Raigad, Shivaji defeated his half-brother's army on 26 November 1677 and seized most of his possessions in the Mysore plateau. Venkoji's wife Dipa Bai, whom Shivaji deeply respected, took up new negotiations with Shivaji and also convinced her husband to distance himself from Muslim advisors. In the end, Shivaji consented to turn over to her and her female descendants many of the properties he had seized, with Venkoji consenting to a number of conditions for the proper administration of the territories and maintenance of Shivaji's future memorial (samadhi). [119] [120]

The question of Shivaji's heir-apparent was complicated by the misbehaviour of his eldest son, Sambhaji, who was irresponsible. Unable to curb this, Shivaji confined his son to Panhala in 1678, only to have the prince escape with his wife and defect to the Mughals for a year. Sambhaji then returned home, unrepentant, and was again confined to Panhala. [121]

In late March 1680, Shivaji fell ill with fever and dysentery, [122] dying around 3–5 April 1680 at the age of 52, [123] on the eve of Hanuman Jayanti. Putalabai, the childless eldest of the surviving wives of Shivaji committed sati by jumping into his funeral pyre. Another surviving spouse, Sakwarbai, was not allowed to follow suit because she had a young daughter. [121] There were also allegations, though doubted by later scholars, that his second wife Soyarabai had poisoned him in order to put her 10-year-old son Rajaram on the throne. [124]

After Shivaji's death, Soyarabai made plans with various ministers of the administration to crown her son Rajaram rather than her stepson Sambhaji. On 21 April 1680, ten-year-old Rajaram was installed on the throne. However, Sambhaji took possession of Raigad Fort after killing the commander, and on 18 June acquired control of Raigad, and formally ascended the throne on 20 July. [125] Rajaram, his wife Janki Bai, and mother Soyrabai were imprisoned, and Soyrabai executed on charges of conspiracy that October. [126]

Expansion of Maratha Empire after Shivaji

Shivaji left behind a state always at odds with the Mughals. Soon after his death, in 1681, Aurangzeb launched an offensive in the South to capture territories held by the Marathas, the Bijapur based Adilshahi and Qutb Shahi of Golkonda respectively. He was successful in obliterating the Sultanates but could not subdue the Marathas after spending 27 years in the Deccan.The period saw the capture, torture, and execution of Sambhaji in 1689, and the Marathas offering strong resistance under the leadership of Sambhaji's successor, Rajaram and then Rajaram's widow Tarabai. Territories changed hands repeatedly between the Mughals and the Marathas the conflict ended in defeat for the Mughals in 1707. [127]

Shahu, a grandson of Shivaji and son of Sambhaji, was kept prisoner by Aurangzeb during the 27-year period conflict. After the latter's death, his successor released Shahu. After a brief power struggle over succession with his aunt Tarabai, Shahu ruled the Maratha Empire from 1707 to 1749. Early in his reign, he appointed Balaji Vishwanath and later his descendants, as Peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha Empire. The empire expanded greatly under the leadership of Balaji's son, Peshwa Bajirao I and grandson, Peshwa Balaji Bajirao. At its peak, the Maratha empire stretched from Tamil Nadu [128] in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in the north, and Bengal. In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Ahmed Shah Abdali of the Afghan Durrani Empire, which halted their imperial expansion in northwestern India. Ten years after Panipat, Marathas regained influence in North India during the rule of Madhavrao Peshwa. [129]

In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, Shahu and the Peshwas gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, creating the Maratha Confederacy. [130] They became known as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Bhonsales of Nagpur. In 1775, the East India Company intervened in a succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War. The Marathas remained the pre-eminent power in India until their defeat by the British in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha wars (1805–1818), which left the Company the dominant power in most of India. [131] [132]

Ashta Pradhan Mandal

The Council of Eight Ministers, or Ashta Pradhan Mandal, was an administrative and advisory council set up by Shivaji. [133] It consisted of eight ministers who regularly advised Shivaji on political and administrative matters. [134]

Promotion of Marathi

In his court, Shivaji replaced Persian, the common courtly language in the region, with Marathi, and emphasised Hindu political and courtly traditions. [135] He gave his forts names such as Sindhudurg, Prachandgarh, and Suvarndurg. He named the Ashta Pradhan (council of ministers) according to Sanskrit nomenclature, with terms such as nyaayaadheesha, and senaapati, and commissioned the political treatise Raajya Vyavahaara Kosha. His Rajpurohit, Keshav Pandit, was himself a Sanskrit scholar and poet. [136] [ need quotation to verify ]

Religious policy

Though Shivaji was a proud Hindu and never compromised on his religion, [137] he is also known for his liberal and tolerant religious policy. While Hindus were relieved to practice their religion freely under a Hindu ruler, Shivaji not only allowed Muslims to practice without harassment, but supported their ministries with endowments. [138] When Aurangzeb imposed the Jizya tax on non-Muslims on 3 April 1679, Shivaji wrote a strict letter to Aurangzeb criticising his tax policy. He wrote:

In strict justice, the Jizya is not at all lawful. If you imagine piety in oppressing and terrorising the Hindus, you ought to first levy the tax on Jai Singh I. But to oppress ants and flies is not at all valour nor spirit. If you believe in Quran, God is the lord of all men and not just of Muslims only. Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines. If it is a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of God. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for God alone. To show bigotry to any man's religion and practices is to alter the words of the Holy Book. [139]

Noting that Shivaji had stemmed the spread of the neighbouring Muslim states, his contemporary, the poet Kavi Bhushan stated:

Had not there been Shivaji, Kashi would have lost its culture, Mathura would have been turned into a mosque and all would have been circumcised. [140]

In 1667, the Portuguese Christians started to forcefully convert Hindus in Bardez. Shivaji quickly raided Bardez in which three Portuguese Catholic priests and a few Christians were killed and stopped the forceful conversion of Hindus. [141] [142] However, during the sack of Surat in 1664, Shivaji was approached by Ambrose, a Capuchin monk who asked him to spare the city's Christians. Shivaji left the Christians untouched, saying "the Frankish Padrys are good men." [143]

Shivaji demonstrated great skill in creating his military organisation, which lasted until the demise of the Maratha empire. His strategy rested on leveraging his ground forces, naval forces, and series of forts across his territory. The Maval infantry served as the core of his ground forces (reinforced with Telangi musketeers from Karnataka), supported by Maratha cavalry. His artillery was relatively underdeveloped and reliant on European suppliers, further inclining him to a very mobile form of warfare. [144]

Shivaji was contemptuously called a "Mountain Rat" by Aurangzeb and his generals because of his guerilla tactics of attacking enemy forces and then retreating into his mountain forts. [145] [146] [147]

Hill forts

Hill forts played a key role in Shivaji's strategy. He captured important forts at Murambdev (Rajgad), Torna, Kondhana (Sinhagad) and Purandar. He also rebuilt or repaired many forts in advantageous locations. [148] In addition, Shivaji built a number of forts the number "111" is reported in some accounts, but it is likely the actual number "did not exceed 18." [149] The historian Jadunath Sarkar assessed that Shivaji owned some 240–280 forts at the time of his death. [150] Each was placed under three officers of equal status, lest a single traitor be bribed or tempted to deliver it to the enemy. The officers acted jointly and provided mutual checks and balance. [151]

Aware of the need for naval power to maintain control along the Konkan coast, Shivaji began to build his navy in 1657 or 1659, with the purchase of twenty galivats from the Portuguese shipyards of Bassein. [152] Marathi chronicles state that at its height his fleet counted some 400 warships, though contemporary English chronicles counter that the number never exceeded 160. [153]

With the Marathas being accustomed to a land-based military, Shivaji widened his search for qualified crews for his ships, taking on lower-caste Hindus of the coast who were long familiar with naval operations (the famed "Malabar pirates") as well as Muslim mercenaries. [153] Noting the power of the Portuguese navy, Shivaji hired a number of Portuguese sailors and Goan Christian converts, and made Rui Leitao Viegas commander of his fleet. Viegas was later to defect back to the Portuguese, taking 300 sailors with him. [154]

Shivaji fortified his coastline by seizing coastal forts and refurbishing them, and built his first marine fort at Sindhudurg, which was to become the headquarters of the Maratha navy. [155] The navy itself was a coastal navy, focused on travel and combat in the littoral areas, and not intended to go far out to sea. [156]

Shivaji was well known for his strong religious and warrior code of ethics and exemplary character. [157] He was recognized as a great national hero during the Indian Independence Movement. [158] While some accounts of Shivaji state that he was greatly influenced by the Brahmin guru Samarth Ramdas, others have said that Ramdas' role has been over-emphasised by later Brahmin commentators to enhance their position. [159] [160]

Early depictions

Shivaji was admired for his heroic exploits and clever stratagems in the contemporary accounts of English, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Italian writers. [161] Contemporary English writers compared him with Alexander, Hannibal and Julius Caesar. [162] The French traveller Francois Bernier wrote in his Travels in Mughal India: [163]

I forgot to mention that during pillage of Sourate, Seva-ji, the Holy Seva-ji! Respected the habitation of the reverend father Ambrose, the Capuchin missionary. 'The Frankish Padres are good men', he said 'and shall not be attacked.' He spared also the house of a deceased Delale or Gentile broker, of the Dutch, because assured that he had been very charitable while alive.

Mughal depictions of Shivaji were largely negative, referring to him simply as "Shiva" without the honorific "-ji". One Mughal writer in the early 1700s described Shivaji's death as kafir bi jahannum raft (lit. 'the infidel went to Hell'). [164]


In the mid-19th century, Maharashtrian social reformer Jyotirao Phule wrote his interpretation of the Shivaji legend, portraying him as a hero of the shudras and Dalits. Phule sought to use the Shivaji myths to undermine the Brahmins he accused of hijacking the narrative, and uplift the lower classes his 1869 ballad-form story of Shivaji was met with great hostility by the Brahmin-dominated media. [165] At the end of the 19th century, Shivaji's memory was leveraged by the non-Brahmin intellectuals of Bombay, who identified as his descendants and through him claimed the kshatriya varna. While some Brahmins rebutted this identity, defining them as of the lower shudra varna, other Brahmins recognised the Marathas' utility to the Indian independence movement, and endorsed this kshatriya legacy and the significance of Shivaji. [166]

In 1895, Indian nationalist leader Lokmanya Tilak organised what was to be an annual festival to mark the birthday of Shivaji. [167] He portrayed Shivaji as the "opponent of the oppressor", with possible negative implications concerning the colonial government. [168] Tilak denied any suggestion that his festival was anti-Muslim or disloyal to the government, but simply a celebration of a hero. [169] These celebrations prompted a British commentator in 1906 to note: "Cannot the annals of the Hindu race point to a single hero whom even the tongue of slander will not dare call a chief of dacoits . " [170]

One of the first commentators to reappraise the critical British view of Shivaji was M. G. Ranade, whose Rise of the Maratha Power (1900) declared Shivaji's achievements as the beginning of modern nation-building. Ranade criticised earlier British portrayals of Shivaji's state as "a freebooting Power, which thrived by plunder and adventure, and succeeded only because it was the most cunning and adventurous . This is a very common feeling with the readers, who derive their knowledge of these events solely from the works of English historians." [171]

In 1919, Sarkar published the seminal Shivaji and His Times, hailed as the most authoritative biography of the king since James Grant Duff's 1826 A History of the Mahrattas. A respected scholar, Sarkar was able to read primary sources in Persian, Marathi, and Arabic, but was challenged for his criticism of the "chauvinism" of Marathi historians' views of Shivaji. [172] Likewise, though supporters cheered his depiction of the killing of Afzal Khan as justified, they decried Sarkar's terming as "murder" the killing of the Hindu raja Chandrao More and his clan. [173]


As political tensions rose in India in the early 20th century, some Indian leaders came to re-work their earlier stances on Shivaji's role. Jawaharlal Nehru had in 1934 noted "Some of the Shivaji's deeds, like the treacherous killing of the Bijapur general, lower him greatly in our estimation." Following public outcry from Pune intellectuals, Congress leader T. R. Deogirikar noted that Nehru had admitted he was wrong regarding Shivaji, and now endorsed Shivaji as great nationalist. [174]

In 1966, the Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji) party formed to promote the interests of Marathi speaking people in the face of migration to Maharashtra from other parts of India, and the accompanying loss of power for locals. His image adorns literature, propaganda and icons of the party. [175]

In modern times, Shivaji is considered as a national hero in India, especially in the state of Maharashtra, where he remains arguably the greatest figure in the state's history. Stories of his life form an integral part of the upbringing and identity of the Marathi people. Further, he is also recognised as a warrior legend, who sowed the seeds of Indian independence. [176] Shivaji is upheld as an example by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, and also of the Maratha caste dominated Congress parties in Maharashtra, such as the Indira Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. [177] Past Congress party leaders in the state, such as Yashwantrao Chavan, were considered political descendants of Shivaji. [178]

In the late 20th century, Babasaheb Purandare became one of the most significant artists in portraying Shivaji in his writings, leading him to be declared in 1964 as the Shiv-Shahir ("Bard of Shivaji"). [179] [180] However, Purandare, a Brahmin, was also accused of over-emphasising the influence of Brahmin gurus on Shivaji, [177] and his Maharashtra Bhushan award ceremony in 2015 was protested by those claiming he had defamed Shivaji. [181]


In 1993, the Illustrated Weekly published an article suggesting that Shivaji was not opposed to Muslims per se, and that his style of governance was influenced by that of the Mughal Empire. Congress Party members called for legal actions against the publisher and writer, Marathi newspapers accused them of "imperial prejudice" and Shiv Sena called for the writer's public flogging. Maharashtra brought legal action against the publisher under regulations prohibiting enmity between religious and cultural groups, but a High Court found the Illustrated Weekly had operated within the bounds of freedom of expression. [182] [183]

In 2003, American academic James W. Laine published his book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, which was followed by heavy criticism including threats of arrest. [184] As a result of this publication, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune where Laine had researched was attacked by a group of Maratha activists calling itself the Sambhaji Brigade. [185] [186] The book was banned in Maharashtra in January 2004, but the ban was lifted by the Bombay High Court in 2007, and in July 2010 the Supreme Court of India upheld the lifting of ban. [187] This lifting was followed by public demonstrations against the author and the decision of the Supreme Court. [188] [189]


Commemorations of Shivaji are found throughout India, most notably in Maharashtra. Shivaji's statues and monuments are found almost in every town and city in Maharashtra as well as in different places across India. [190] [191] [192] Other commemorations include the Indian Navy's station INS Shivaji, [193] numerous postage stamps, [194] and the main airport and railway headquarters in Mumbai. [195] [196] In Maharashtra, there has been a long tradition of children building a replica fort with toy soldiers and other figures during the festival of Diwali in memory of Shivaji. [197]

A proposal to build a giant memorial called Shiv Smarak was approved in 2016 to be located near Mumbai on a small island in the Arabian Sea. It will be 210 meters tall making it the world's largest statue when completed in possibly 2021. [198]

Remembering the Mighty Shivaji, truly a world leader

Shivaji revolutionised the art of warfare in India. His approach to the use of violence was radically different from that followed in the preceding 1,000 years.

He was one of the great personalities of world history, says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

F ebruary 19 is the 384th birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, one of the great sons of India. Unfortunately, no historical figure has been so disfigured by his so-called followers and admirers as Shivaji. He has been thoroughly 'regionalised' by Marathi politicians and reduced to a Marathi icon rather than the pan Indian personality that he was.

Shivaji did not strive for Marathi Raj, but fought for Hindavi Swarajya, or self rule by Hindustanis. Of late in a further debasement, some caste leaders have even sought to make his a leader of the Maratha caste.

On his birth anniversary this is an attempt to restore him to his genuine position as one of the great personalities of not just Indian, but world history.

Islam came to India in the eighth century, but was confined to the Sindh province. In the 13th century, tribes from present day Afghanistan attacked and captured most of the northern plains. The period of Sultanates in Delhi ended when a Seljuk Turk, Babar, established a kingdom at Delhi in 1556.

Popularly called the Mughal empire, this was to last nearly 150 years. It is often said that the Muslims ruled India for over 1,000 years. The truth is that only the northern part of India came fully under Muslim domination.

A significant part of Assam, and most of the south, maintained a tenuous independence. Even when the invaders from Asia Minor were expanding in the north, in the South, the powerful Chola kingdom was colonising much of South East Asia. The last of the major kingdoms in the South was that of Vijaynagar that lasted till 1588.

S hivaji, who was born in 1630, carried on the fight to preserve Indian independence. The British visualised the potential of the threat posed by the ideal of Hindavi Swarajya pursued by Shivaji. It was in British interests to play down the Marathas. In a candid comment Lord Macaulay in his Historical Essays wrote:

'The highlands which borders on the western coast of India poured forth a yet more formidable race, a race that was long a terror of every native power and which after many desperate struggles, yielded only to the fortitude and genius of England. Soon after Aurangzeb's death, every corner of his wide empire learnt to tremble at the name of the mighty Marathas.'

Shivaji revolutionised the art of warfare in India. His policies, strategies and tactics mark a clear break from the past. His approach to the use of violence was radically different from that followed in the preceding 1,000 years.

The basic Indian concept of war is Dharma Yudha (war for the righteous cause). Unfortunately, over the years, wars were ritualised and were reduced to a contest for individual glory.

Indian history before Shivaji's advent reads like a chronicle of military disasters. Shivaji changed that. For him, victory was the only morality in war.

S hivaji's greatest success was that while he fought the misrule of the Muslim sultans and emperors, he managed to win over sizeable numbers of Muslims to his side. His chief of artillery was Gul Khan and Daulat Khan was joint chief of his navy.

Against the fanatic Aurangzeb, he stitched an alliance with the Bahamani kingdom of Golconda. In this sense Shivaji can be rightly called the founder of the modern secular state of India.

He ensured that in his domain Muslim shrines and people were well protected and treated equally. Kafi Khan, the Mughal court historian, rejoiced when Shivaji died. But even he admits that Shivaji treated the Quran Sharif with respect and never touched mosques. Aurangzeb had re-started the hated jizya, a tax that had to be paid by Hindus.

Writing to him in a regretful tone, Shivaji wrote: 'In this land Muslims, Hindus, Christians and other people have stayed together without any problem. Your own great grandfather Akbar was well known for his tolerance and fairness to all faiths. Your imposing of this tax will lead to terrible hardship for poor people and your empire will not survive. The Quran is God's revelation and it does not make distinction between God's children. In the mosque the Muslims give Azzan while the Hindus ring bells in temples -- what is the difference?'

Shivaji believed in the doctrine of &'total war' and never shirked from achieving annihilation of the enemy. If he had to make compromises and truces, these were clearly due to the exigencies of the situation and not as matter of choice.

Shivaji was also the first Indian ruler to discard war elephants. His strategic doctrine relied on swift movement and mobile defence.

He believed in battles of annihilation by placing his army in an advantageous position. Above all, he believed in relentless offensive action and never permitted the enemy time to re-group.

S hivaji did not place any value on the mere possession of the battlefield rather, he made the enemy army his target. Thus, on finding himself in a disadvantageous position, he had no hesitation whatsoever in abandoning the battle and the battlefield.

He placed great value on forts. Yet his defensive strategy was not based on any kind of static defence. Forts for him were secure firm bases from which to launch counter-offensives.

In March 1665, when a powerful Mughal army under Jaisingh of Jaipur, descended on Maharashtra, Shivaji had no hesitation in giving up most of his forts as well as territory and on June 13, 1665 he signed a treaty with the Mughals.

But in less than five months he ensured the defeat of the Mughal army in its battles against the Bijapur sultan.

In 1666, after his successful escape from Agra, in less than two years, Shivaji recaptured the entire territory lost to the Mughals by the earlier treaty. Portuguese chronicles of the period show amazement at the ease with which Shivaji recaptured 26 forts.

The Portuguese viceroy, writing to his king on January 28, 1666 compared him to Alexander and Caesar.

Writing in December 1666, the Portuguese historian Cosme De Guarda mentions that when the news of Shivaji's successful escape from Agra was received, the entire population in Maharashtra rejoiced. He felt that the main reason for Shivaji's popularity was that he was just to all.

S hivaji was one of a handful of Indian rulers to realise the importance of sea power. In November 1664, he laid the foundations of the fort at Sindhudurg. This was to be the headquarters of the Maratha navy.

He took an active interest in ship-building and by February 1665 decided to test the preparedness of his fledgling navy. With 88 ships, including three large ones, he embarked with 4,000 infantry and raided the seaport of Basrur.

Most interestingly, that is just about the capability of the Indian Navy in the 21st century in terms of amphibian operations.

Watch the video: Shivaji Maharaj - Life story of the legend