Bhonsle (Marathi [ʃiʋaˑɟiˑ bʱoˑs(ə)leˑ]; c.
1627/1630 – 3 April 1680) was an Indian warrior king and a member of
Shivaji carved out an enclave from the
Adilshahi sultanate of
Bijapur that formed the genesis of
Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned as the
chhatrapati (monarch) of his realm at Raigad.
Over the course of his life,
Shivaji engaged in both alliances and
hostilities with the Mughal Empire, Sultanate of Golkonda, and
Sultanate of Bijapur, as well as the English, Portuguese, and French
colonial powers. Shivaji's military forces expanded the
of influence, capturing and building forts, and forming a Maratha
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
Marathi and Sanskrit, rather than Persian, in court and
Shivaji's legacy was to vary by observer and time but he began to take
on increased importance with the emergence of the Indian independence
movement, as many elevated him as a proto-nationalist and hero of the
Hindus.:81 Particularly in Maharashtra, debates over his history
and role have engendered great passion and sometimes even violence as
disparate groups have sought to characterise him and his legacy.
1 Early life
2 Conflict with Bijapur
2.1 Combat with Afzal Khan
2.2 Siege of Panhala
2.3 Battle of Pavan Khind
3 Conflict with the Mughals
3.1 Attacks on
Shaista Khan and Surat
3.2 Treaty of Purandar
3.3 Arrest in
Agra and escape
3.4 Peace with the Mughals
Battles of Umrani and Nesari
6 Conquest in Southern India
7 Death and succession
7.1 The Marathas after Shivaji
8.1 Promotion of Marathi and Sanskrit
8.2 Religious policy
10.1 Early depictions
12 See also
15 Further reading
16 External links
Main article: Early life of Shivaji
Shivaji was born in the hill-fort of Shivneri, near the city of Junnar
in what is now
Pune district on 6 April 1627 or 19 February
Shivaji was named after a local deity, the goddess
Shivai. Shivaji's father
Shahaji Bhonsle was a
Maratha general who
served the Deccan Sultanates. His mother was Jijabai, the daughter
Lakhuji Jadhavrao of Sindhkhed, a Mughal-aligned sardar claiming
descent from a
Yadav royal family of Devagiri.
At the time of Shivaji's birth, power in Deccan was shared by three
Islamic sultanates: Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golkonda.
changed his loyalty between the Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar, the Adilshah
Bijapur and the Mughals, but always kept his jagir (fiefdom) at
Pune and his small army with him.
A statue of young
Jijabai installed at the fort of
Shivneri in 1960s
Shivaji was devoted to his mother Jijabai, who was deeply religious.
This religious environment had a great impact on Shivaji, and he
studied the two great Hindu epics,
Ramayana and Mahabharata; these
were to influence his lifelong defence of Hindu values.:128
Throughout his life he was deeply interested in religious teachings,
and regularly sought the company of Hindu and
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
Pune and left them in the care of his jagir (estate)
administrator, Dadoji Konddeo. Dadoji has been credited with
overseeing the education and training of young
Shivaji as a boy was a keen outdoorsman and, though he received little
formal education and most likely could neither read nor write, he is
said to have possessed considerable erudition.:441 Shivaji
drew his earliest trusted comrades and later a large number of his
soldiers from the
Maval region, including Yesaji Kank, Suryaji Kakade,
Baji Prabhu Deshpande
Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Tanaji Malusare. Shivaji
wandered the hills and forests of the
Sahyadri range with his Mavala
friends, gaining skills and familiarity with the land that would prove
useful in his military career.:128 Shivaji's association with the
Maval comrades and his independent spirit did not sit well with
Dadoji, who complained to
Shahaji to no avail in making him
Bangalore from the Mughals, and was permantently
posted there by Bijapur.
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.:60 Around 1645–46, the teenage
expressed his concept for
Hindavi Swarajya (Hindu self-rule), in a
letter to Dadaji Naras Prabhu.
Conflict with Bijapur
In 1645, the 15-year-old
Shivaji bribed or persuaded the Bijapuri
commander of the Torna Fort, Inayat Khan, to hand over the possession
of the fort to him.:32:61:268 The
Narsala, who held the Chakan fort professed his loyalty to Shivaji,
and the fort of Kondana was acquired by bribing the Bijapuri
governor.:34 On 25 July 1648,
Shahaji was imprisoned by Baji
Ghorpade under the orders of Bijapuri ruler Mohammed Adilshah, in a
bid to contain Shivaji.
Accounts vary, with some saying
Shahaji was conditionally released in
1649 after the capture of
Gingee secured the Bijapuri's position in
Karnataka,:41 others saying he was imprisoned until 1653 or 1655;
during this period
Shivaji maintained a low profile.:134 Since his
father's release was conditional, from 1649–1655
Shivaji paused in
his conquests and quietly consolidated his gains.:42 After his
Shahaji retired from public life, and died around 1664–1665
in a hunting accident. Following his father's release,
raiding, and in 1656, under controversial circumstances, killed Raja
Chandrarao More, a fellow
Maratha feudatory of Bijapur, and seized
from him the valley of Javali.:317
Combat with Afzal Khan
Death of Afzal Khan
Adilshah was displeased at his losses to Shivaji's forces, which his
Shahaji disavowed. Having ended his conflict with the Mughals
and having more ability to respond, in 1657 Adilshah sent Afzal Khan,
an experienced and veteran general to arrest Shivaji. The Bijapuri
forces marched into the Maratha-held Konkan, despoiling the shrine of
the goddess Bhavani and other Hindu holy sites.
Pursued by Bijapuri forces,
Shivaji retreated to
Pratapgad fort, where
many of his colleagues pressed him to surrender, his position being
untenable. 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. To
break the impasse after two months, Afzal Khan sent an envoy to
Shivaji suggesting the two leaders meet in private outside the fort to
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:70 or secretly planning to
attack,:294 wore armour beneath his clothes, concealed a bagh nakh
(metal "tiger claw") on his left arm, and had a dagger in his right
Accounts vary on whether
Shivaji or Afzal Khan struck the first
Maratha chronicles accuse Afzal Khan of treachery, while
the Persian-language chronicles attribute the treachery to
Shivaji.:29 In the fight, Afzal Khan's dagger was stopped by
Shivaji's armour, and Shivaji's weapons inflicted mortal wounds on the
Shivaji then fired a cannon to signal his hidden troops to
launch the assault on the Bijapuris. In the ensuing Battle of
Pratapgarh fought on 10 November 1659, Shivaji's forces decisively
Bijapur Sultanate's forces.:135 More than 3,000
soldiers of the
Bijapur army were killed and two sons of Afzal Khan
Maratha chiefs were taken as prisoners.:75
Siege of Panhala
Having defeated the Bijapuri forces sent against him, Shivaji's army
pressed into the Konkan and Kolhapur, seizing Panhala fort, and
defeating Bijapuri forces sent against them under
Rustam Zaman and
Fazl Khan in 1659.:78 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 Jahuar purchased grenades
from the British at Rajapur to increase his efficacy, and also hired
some English artillerymen to bombard the fort, conspicuously flying a
flag used by the English. This perceived betrayal angered Shivaji, who
in December would exact revenge by plundering the English factory at
Rajapur and capturing four of the factors, imprisoning them until
Accounts vary as to the end of the siege, with some accounts stating
Shivaji escaped from the encircled fort and withdrew to Ragna,
following which Adilshah personally came to take charge of the siege,
capturing the fort after four months. Other accounts state that
after months of siege,
Shivaji negotiated with
Siddi Jahuar and handed
over the fort on 22 September 1660, withdrawing to
Shivaji would later re-take Panhala in 1673.
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. Per these
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
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, signalling
Shivaji had safely
reached the fort, on the evening of 13 July 1660. 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.
Conflict with the Mughals
Shivaji maintained peaceful relations with the Mughal
Shivaji offered his assistance to Aurangzeb, 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. Disatisfied with the Mughal
response, and receiving a better offer from Bijapur, he launched a
raid into the Mughal Decccan.:55–56 Shivaji's confrontations with
the Mughals began in March 1657, when two of Shivaji's officers raided
the Mughal territory near Ahmednagar. This was followed by raids
in Junnar, with
Shivaji carrying off 300,000 hun in cash and 200
Aurangzeb responded to the raids by sending Nasiri Khan,
who defeated the forces of
Shivaji at Ahmednagar. However, Aurangzeb's
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.:60
Shaista Khan and Surat
Battle of Chakan and Battle of 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
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 and the nearby fort of Chakan, besieging it for
a month and a half until breaching the walls.
Shaista Khan pressed
his advantage of having a larger, better provisioned and heavily armed
Mughal army and made inroads into some of the
seizing the city of
Pune and establishing his residence at Shivaji's
palace of Lal Mahal.
In April 1663,
Shivaji launched a surprise attack on
Shaista Khan in
Pune; accounts of the story differ in the popular imagination, but
there is some agreement that
Shivaji and band of some 200 followers
infiltrated Pune, using a wedding procession as cover. They overcame
the palace guards, breached the wall, and entered Shaista Khan's
quarters, killing those they found there.
Shaista Khan escaped, losing
his thumb in the melee, but one of his sons and other members of his
household were killed. The Khan took refuge with the Mughal forces
outside of Pune, and
Aurangzeb punished him for this embarrassment
with a transfer to Bengal.:543
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.:491
Treaty of Purandar
Raja Jai Singh of Amber receiving
Shivaji a day before concluding the
Treaty of Purandar
Main article: Treaty of Purandar (1665)
The attack on
Shaista Khan and Surat enraged Aurangzeb. In response he
Rajput Mirza Raja
Jai Singh I
Jai Singh I with an army numbering around
15,000 to defeat Shivaji. 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.
In the Treaty of Purandar, signed between
Shivaji and Jai Singh on 11
Shivaji agreed to give up 23 of his forts, keeping 12 for
himself, and pay compensation of 400,000 gold hun to the
Shivaji agreed to become a vassal of the Mughal
empire, and to send his son Sambhaji, along with 5,000 horsemen, as a
mansabdar to fight for the Mughals in the Deccan.:77
Agra and escape
A depiction of
Shivaji in Aurangzeb's court in
Agra in 1666
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,
Shivaji stand behind
mansabdārs (military commanders) of his court.
Shivaji took offence
and stormed out of court,:78 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.:78–79 Popular legend, however, ascribes
Shivaji's escape to a clever ruse, in which he smuggled himself and
his son out of the house in large baskets claimed to be sweets to be
gifted to religious figures in the town.:138–139
Peace with the Mughals
After Shivaji's escape, hostilities with the Mughals ebbed, with
Mughal sardar Jaswant Singh acting as intermediary between
Aurangzeb for new peace proposals.:98 During the period between
1666 and 1668,
Aurangzeb conferred the title of raja on Shivaji.
Sambhaji was also restored as a Mughal mansabdar with 5000
Shivaji at that time sent
Sambhaji with general
Prataprao Gujar to serve with the Mughal viceroy in Aurangabad, Prince
Sambhaji was also granted territory in Berar for revenue
Aurangzeb also permitted
Shivaji to attack the decaying
Adil Shahi; the weakened Sultan
Ali Adil Shah II
Ali Adil Shah II sued for peace and
granted the rights of sardeshmukhi and chauthai to Shivaji.
Shivaji opposite Gateway of
India in South Mumbai
The peace between
Shivaji and the Mughals lasted until 1670. At that
Aurangzeb became suspicious of the close ties between
Mu'azzam, who he thought might usurp his throne, and may even have
been receiving bribes from Shivaji.:460 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.:461 The Mughals also took away the jagir of Berar from
Shivaji to recover the money lent to him a few years
earlier.:173–174 In response to this situation,
an offensive against the Mughals and recovered a major portion of the
territories surrendered to them in a span of four months.:175
Shivaji sacked Surat for second time in 1670; the British 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.:139 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
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 Bombay's woodcutting parties. In September 1671,
an ambassador to Bombay, again seeking materiel, this time for the
fight against Danda-Rajpuri. The English had misgivings of the
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.:393
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
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
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
Raigad Fort was
newly built by Hiroji Indulkar as a capital of nascent Maratha
The coronation of Shivaji
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 an 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
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.
Shivaji was descended from a line of headmen of farming villages, and
the Brahmins accordingly categorised him as being of the shudra
(cultivator) varna.:88 They noted that
Shivaji had never had a
sacred thread ceremony, and did not wear the thread, which a kshatriya
Shivaji summoned Gaga Bhatt, a pandit of Varanasi, who
stated that he had found a genealogy proving that
descended from the
Sisodia Rajputs, and thus indeed a kshatriya,
albeit one in need of the ceremonies befitting his rank.:7– To
enforce this status,
Shivaji was given a sacred thread ceremony, and
re-married his spouses under the Vedic rites expected of a
Shivaji was crowned king of the Marathas in a lavish ceremony at
Raigad on 6 June 1674. In the
Hindu calendar it was on the
13th day (trayodashi) of the first fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha
in the year 1596.
Gaga Bhatt officiated, holding a gold vessel
filled with the seven sacred waters of the rivers Yamuna, Indus,
Ganges, Godavari, 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.
Shivaji was entitled Shakakarta
("founder of an era"):222 and
Chhatrapati ("paramount sovereign").
He also took the title of Haindava Dharmodhhaarak (protector of the
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.
Conquest in Southern India
Beginning in 1674, the Marathas undertook an aggressive campaign,
Khandesh (October), capturing Bijapuri Ponda (April 1675),
Karwar (mid-year), and
Kolhapur (July).:17 In November the Maratha
navy skirmished with the Siddis of Janjira, but failed to dislodge
them. Having recovered from an illness, and taking advantage of a
conflict between the Afghans and Bijapur,
Shivaji raided Athani in
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. 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
Shivaji invaded Karnataka with 30,000 cavalry and 40,000
infantry, backed by Golkonda artillery and funding.:276 Proceeding
Shivaji seized the forts of Vellore and Gingee; the latter
would later serve as a capital of the Marathas during the reign of his
son Rajaram I.:290
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,
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
Death and succession
Sambhaji, Shivaji's elder son who succeeded him
The question of Shivaji's heir-apparent was complicated by the
misbehaviour of his eldest son, Sambhaji, who was irresponsible and
"addicted to sensual pleasures." Unable to curb this,
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.:551
In late March 1680,
Shivaji fell ill with fever and dysentery,:382
dying around 3–5 April 1680 at the age of 52,:278 on the eve of
Hanuman Jayanti. Putalabai, the childless eldest of the surviving
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.:47 Rumours followed Shivaji's
death, with some Muslims opining he had died of a curse from Jan
Muhammad of Jalna, as punishment for Shivaji's troops attacking
merchants who had taken refuge in his hermitage.:18– There were
also allegations, though doubted by later scholars, that his second
Soyarabai had poisoned him in order to put her 10-year old son
Rajaram on the throne.:53
After Shivaji's death,
Soyarabai made plans with various ministers of
the administration to crown her son Rajaram rather than her prodigal
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.:48 Rajaram, his wife
Janki Bai, and mother Soyrabai were imprisoned, and Soyrabai executed
on charges of conspiracy that October.
The Marathas after Shivaji
Maratha War of Independence
Shivaji died in 1680, leaving behind a state always at odds with the
Mughals. Soon after his death, in 1681, the Mughals under Aurangzeb
launched an offensive in the South to capture territories held by the
Bijapur and Golkonda. 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 repeated between the Mughals
and the Marathas; the conflict ended in defeat for the Mughals in
Shahu, a grandson of
Shivaji and son of Sambhaji, was kept prisoner by
Aurangzeb during a 27-year period. 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 Bhat and
later his descendants, as the Peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha
Empire. The empire expanded greatly under the rule of the Peshwas. The
empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu:204 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
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, young
Maratha authority over North India.
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.:110 They became known as Gaekwads of Baroda,
the Holkars of
Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of
Gwalior and Bhonsales
of Nagpur. In 1775, the British East
India Company intervened in a
succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-
The Marathas remained the preeminent power in
India until their defeat
by the British East
India Company in the Second and Third
Maratha wars (1805–1818), which left the Company in control of
most of India.
Promotion of Marathi and Sanskrit
Though Persian was a common courtly language in the region, Shivaji
replaced it with Marathi in his own court, and emphasised Hindu
political and courtly traditions. The house of
Shivaji was well
Sanskrit and promoted the language; his father Shahaji
had supported scholars such as Jayram Pindye, who prepared Shivaji's
Shivaji continued this
Sanskrit promotion, giving his forts
names such as Sindhudurg, Prachandgarh, and Suvarndurg. He named the
Ashta Pradhan (council of ministers) as per
Sanskrit nomenclature with
terms such as nyayadhish, and senapat, and commissioned the political
treatise Rajyavyavahar Kosh. His Rajpurohit, Keshav Pandit, was
Sanskrit scholar and poet.
Samarth Ramdas was invited by
Shivaji to reside, now
a place of pilgrimage
Shivaji was known for his liberal and tolerant religious policy; while
Hindus were relieved to practice their religion freely under a Hindu
Shivaji not only allowed Muslims to practice without
harassment, but supported their ministries with endowments,:421 and
had many prominent Muslims in his military service. While some
Shivaji state that he was greatly influenced by the
Brahmin guru Samarth Ramdas, others have rebutted that Ramdas' role
has been over-emphasized by later Brahmin commentators to enhance
Though many of Shivaji's enemy states were Muslim, he treated Muslims
under his rule with tolerance for their religion. Shivaji's sentiments
of inclusivity and tolerance of other religions can be seen in an
admonishing letter to Aurangzeb, in which he wrote:
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.
Noting however that
Shivaji had stemmed the spread of the neighboring
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
There is less evidence of Shivaji's attitude towards the Christians.
To one side, in 1667 several Portuguese Catholic priests were killed
during Shivaji's raid on Bardes. However, during the sack of Surat
Shivaji was approached by Ambrose, a Capuchin monk who asked
him to spare the city's Christians.
Shivaji left the mission
untouched, saying "the Frankish Padrys are good men."
Sivaji and Army
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 however was
relatively underdeveloped and reliant on European suppliers, further
inclining him to a very mobile form of warfare.:9
Suvela Machi, view of southern sub-plateaux, as seen from Ballekilla,
Main article: Shivaji's forts
Forts played a key role in Shivaji's strategy, and he captured
strategically important forts at Murambdev (Rajgad), Torna, Kondhana
(Sinhagad) and Purandar. He also rebuilt or repaired many forts in
advantageous locations.:21 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". Sarkar assessed that
Shivaji owned some 240–280 forts at the time of his death.:408
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
(sabnis, havaldar, sarnobat) acted jointly and provided mutual checks
Sindudurg Fort provided anchorages for Shivaji's Navy
Aware of the need for naval power to maintain control along the Konkan
Shivaji began to build his navy in 1657 or 1659, with the
purchase of twenty galivats from the Portuguese shipyards of
Bassein. Marathi chronicles state that at its height his fleet
counted some 400 military ships, though British chronicles counter
that the number never exceeded 160 ships.:59
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.:59 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.
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. 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.
Shivaji's role in the research and the popular conception has
developed over time and place, ranging from early British and Mughal
depiction of him as a bandit or a "mountain mouse", to modern
near-deification as a hero of India.
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
("the infidel went to Hell"). Muslim writers of the day generally
described him as a plunderer and marauder.:141 English and
Portuguese contemporary writers likewise described him as a brigand
In the mid-19th century, Maharashtrian social reformer Jyotirao Phule
wrote his own interpretation of the
Shivaji legend, portraying Shivaji
as a hero of the shudras and Dalits. Phule sought to use the
Shivaji mythos 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 Brahim-dominated
media. 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 Maratha's utility to
the Indian independence movement, and endorsed this kshatriya legacy
and the significance of Shivaji.
In 1895, Indian nationalist leader,
Lokmanya Tilak organised an annual
festival to mark the birthday celebrations of Shivaji.:79–81
Shivaji as the opponent of the oppressor, opening
loaded implications for the British Raj. Tilak denied any
suggestion that his festival was anti-Muslim or disloyal to the
government, but simply a celebration of a hero.:106– 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 ...?"
One of the early commentators who challenged the negative British view
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
In 1919, Sir
Jadunath 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. 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.
Shivaji at Raigad Fort
As political tensions rose in
India in the early 20th century, some
Indian leaders came to re-work their earlier stances on Shivaji's
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
Congress leader T. R. Deogirikar noted that Nehru had admitted he was
wrong regarding Shivaji, and now endorsed
Shivaji as great
In 1966, the
Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji) party formed to promote the
interests of Maharashtrians in the face of migration to the region
from other parts of India, and the accompanying loss of power for
locals. His image adorns literature, propaganda and icons of the
In modern times,
Shivaji is considered as a national hero in
India,:137 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.:137
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. Past Congress party leaders in the state such as
Yashwantrao Chavan were considered political descendants of
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").
However, Purandare, a Brahmin, was also accused of over-emphasizing
the influence of Brahmin gurus on Shivaji,:164 and his Maharashtra
Bhushan award ceremony in 2015 was protested by those claiming he had
defamed Shivaji. Purandare has, on the other end, been accused of
a communalist and anti-Muslim portrayal of
Shivaji at odds with the
king's own actions.
In 1993, the Illustrated Weekly published an article by a young
scholar suggesting that
Shivaji was not opposed to Muslims per so, and
was influenced by their form of governance. Congress Party members
called for legal actions against the publisher and writer, Maharathi
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
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. As a result of this publication, the
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in
Pune where Laine had
researched was attacked by a group of
Maratha activists calling itself
Sambhaji Brigade. The book was banned in
January 2004, but the ban was lifted by the
Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court in 2007,
and in July 2010 the Supreme Court of
India upheld the lifting of
ban. This lifting was followed by public demonstrations
against the author and the decision of the Supreme Court.
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. Other commemorations include the Indian Navy's
ship the INS Shivaji, numerous postage stamps, and the main
airport and railway headquarters in Mumbai.. In Maharashtra,
there has been a long tradition of children building a replica fort
with toy soldiers and other figures during the festival of
memory of Shivaji.
Shivaji in popular culture
Early life of Shivaji
^ The Government of
Maharashtra accepts 19 February 1630 as his
birthdate; other suggested dates include 6 April 1627 or other dates
near this day.
^ Most of the great
Maratha Jahagirdar families in the service of
Adilshahi strongly opposed
Shivaji in his early years. These included
families such as the Ghadge, More, Mohite, Ghorpade, Shirke, and
Nimbalkar:68 it would also provide the Hindu Marathas with a
fellow Hindu sovereign in a region otherwise ruled by
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suggestion of a well-known Tantrik priest, named Nishchal Puri
Goswami, who said that Gaga Bhatta had performed the ceremony at an
inauspicious hour and neglected to propitiate the spirits adored in
the Tantra. That was why, he said, the queen mother Jija Bai had died
within twelve days of the ceremony and similar other mishaps had
^ Indian Institute of Public Administration.
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Shivaji belonged to the
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Shivaji was anxious to satisfy all sections of his
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Kshatriya origin (see note at
the end of this chapter). This was of more than academic interest to
his contemporaries, especially Brahmans. Traditionally considered the
highest caste in the Hindu social heirarchy. the Brahmans would submit
to Shivaji, and officiate at his coronation, only if his
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