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Shivaji Bhonsle (Marathi [ʃiʋaˑɟiˑ bʱoˑs(ə)leˑ]; c. 1627/1630 – 3 April 1680) was an Indian warrior king 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 as the chhatrapati (monarch) of his realm at Raigad.

Shivaji Rijksmuseum.jpg
Shivaji's portrait (1680s) in the Rijksmuseum
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg 1st Sovereign (Chhatrapati) of the Maratha Realm
Reign 1674–1680 CE
Coronation 6 June 1674
Successor Sambhaji
Born c. April 1627 / 19 February 1630
Shivneri Fort (presently in Maharashtra, India)
Died 3 April 1680 (aged 50–53)
Raigad Fort, Raigad, Maratha Empire (presently in Maharashtra)
Spouse Saibai Nimbalkar
Soyarabai Mohite
Putalabai Palkar
Sakvarbai Gaikwad
Kashibai Jadhav[1]:260
Issue Sakhubai Nimbalkar[2]
Ranubai Jadhav
Ambikabai Mahadik
Rajkumaribai Shirke
Father Shahaji Bhonsle
Mother Jijabai
Religion Hinduism

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 Maratha sphere of influence, capturing and building forts, and forming a Maratha navy. Shivaji established a competent and progressive civil rule with the help of a disciplined military and 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 administration.

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.[3]: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.


Early life

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 1630.[a][6] Shivaji was named after a local deity, the goddess Shivai.[1] Shivaji's father Shahaji Bhonsle was a Maratha general who served the Deccan Sultanates.[7] His mother was Jijabai, the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhavrao of Sindhkhed, a Mughal-aligned sardar claiming descent from a Yadav royal family of Devagiri.[8][9]

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 with him.[7]

A statue of young Shivaji with 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.[10]:128 Throughout his life he was deeply interested in religious teachings, and regularly sought the company of Hindu and Sufi saints.[1]:26 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 (estate) administrator, Dadoji Konddeo. Dadoji has been credited with overseeing the education and training of young Shivaji.[11][12][1]:20–25

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.[13]:441[14] Shivaji drew his earliest trusted comrades and later a large number of his soldiers from the Maval region, including Yesaji Kank, Suryaji Kakade, Baji Pasalkar, Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Tanaji Malusare.[15] 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.[10]: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 compliant.[16]:22–24

In 1638, Shahaji took Bangalore from the Mughals, and was permantently posted there by Bijapur.[17] 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.[18]:60 Around 1645–46, the teenage Shivaji first expressed his concept for Hindavi Swarajya (Hindu self-rule), in a letter to Dadaji Naras Prabhu.[19][14][20]

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.[1]:32[18]:61[21]:268 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.[1]: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.[22]

Accounts vary, with some saying Shahaji was conditionally released in 1649 after the capture of Gingee secured the Bijapuri's position in Karnataka,[1]:41 others saying he was imprisoned until 1653 or 1655; during this period Shivaji maintained a low profile.[23]:134 Since his father's release was conditional, from 1649–1655 Shivaji paused in his conquests and quietly consolidated his gains.[1]:42 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 Raja Chandrarao More, a fellow Maratha feudatory of Bijapur, and seized from him the valley of Javali.[24]:317[25]

Combat with Afzal Khan

Death of 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 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.[26]

Pursued by Bijapuri forces, Shivaji retreated to Pratapgad fort, where many of his colleagues pressed him to surrender, his position being untenable.[27] 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 parley.[28][29]:17–

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[1]:70[30] or secretly planning to attack,[21]:294 wore armour beneath his clothes, concealed a bagh nakh (metal "tiger claw") on his left arm, and had a dagger in his right hand.[21]:22

Accounts vary on whether Shivaji or Afzal Khan struck the first blow:[30] the Maratha chronicles accuse Afzal Khan of treachery, while the Persian-language chronicles attribute the treachery to Shivaji.[31]:29[32] 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 launch the assault on the Bijapuris.[21] In the ensuing Battle of Pratapgarh fought on 10 November 1659, Shivaji's forces decisively defeated the Bijapur Sultanate's forces.[23]:135 More than 3,000 soldiers of the Bijapur army were killed and two sons of Afzal Khan and two Maratha chiefs were taken as prisoners.[1]: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.[1]: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 mid-1663.[1]:266

Accounts vary as to the end of the siege, with some accounts stating that 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.[33] Other accounts state that after months of siege, Shivaji negotiated with Siddi Jahuar and handed over the fort on 22 September 1660, withdrawing to Vishalgad;[34][35]:99 Shivaji would later re-take Panhala in 1673.[33]

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.[36] 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.[37]

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,[38] signalling Shivaji had safely reached the fort, on the evening of 13 July 1660.[39] 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.[39]

Conflict with the Mughals

Until 1657, Shivaji maintained peaceful relations with the Mughal Empire. 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.[1]:55–56 Shivaji's confrontations with the Mughals began in March 1657, when two of Shivaji's officers raided the Mughal territory near Ahmednagar.[40] This was followed by raids in Junnar, with Shivaji carrying off 300,000 hun in cash and 200 horses.[1]:57 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.[1]:60

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 and the nearby fort of Chakan, besieging it for a month and a half until breaching the walls.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43]: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.[43][44]:491

Treaty of Purandar

Raja Jai Singh of Amber receiving Shivaji a day before concluding the Treaty of Purandar

The attack 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.[45] 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.[45]

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.[21]:258 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.[16]:77[21][18]

Arrest in Agra and escape

A depiction of Shivaji in Aurangzeb's court in Agra in 1666

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,[18]: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.[18]: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.[23]:138–139

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.[16]: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 horses.[10]:139 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.[1] 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.[46]


Statue of Shivaji opposite Gateway of India in South Mumbai

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.[47][13]: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.[13]:461 The Mughals also took away the jagir of Berar from Shivaji to recover the money lent to him a few years earlier.[16]:173–174 In response to this situation, Shivaji launched an offensive against the Mughals and recovered a major portion of the territories surrendered to them in a span of four months.[16]: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.[10]: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 present-day Nashik.[16]:189

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, 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.[1]: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 invasion.[16]:230–233

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.[14]


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 equal.[b]

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.[48] Shivaji was descended from a line of headmen of farming villages, and the Brahmins accordingly categorised him as being of the shudra (cultivator) varna.[18]:88[49] They noted that Shivaji had never had a sacred thread ceremony, and did not wear the thread, which a kshatriya would.[18]:88 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.[50]:7– To enforce this status, Shivaji was given a sacred thread ceremony, and re-married his spouses under the Vedic rites expected of a kshatriya.[24]:321[51]

Shivaji was crowned king of the Marathas in a lavish ceremony at Raigad on 6 June 1674.[19][14][52] In the Hindu calendar it was on the 13th day (trayodashi) of the first fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha in the year 1596.[53] 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.[1][54] Shivaji was entitled Shakakarta ("founder of an era")[37]:222 and Chhatrapati ("paramount sovereign"). He also took the title of Haindava Dharmodhhaarak (protector of the Hindu faith).[55]

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.[56][57][58]

Conquest in Southern India

Beginning in 1674, the Marathas undertook an aggressive campaign, raiding Khandesh (October), capturing Bijapuri Ponda (April 1675), Karwar (mid-year), and Kolhapur (July).[1]:17 In November the Maratha navy skirmished with the Siddis of Janjira, but failed to dislodge them.[59] Having recovered from an illness, and taking advantage of a conflict between the Afghans and Bijapur, Shivaji raided Athani in April 1676.[1]:258

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.[60][61] 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.[21]:276 Proceeding south, Shivaji seized the forts of Vellore and Gingee;[62] the latter would later serve as a capital of the Marathas during the reign of his son Rajaram I.[21]: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, 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).[63][37]:251[64]

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, 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.[44]:551

In late March 1680, Shivaji fell ill with fever and dysentery,[1]:382 dying around 3–5 April 1680 at the age of 52,[21]:278 on the eve of Hanuman Jayanti. Putalabai, the childless eldest of the surviving wives of Shivaji committed sati by jumping into his funeral pyre. The other surviving spouse, Sakwarbai, was not allowed to follow suit because she had a young daughter.[44]: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.[29]:18– 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.[65]:53[66]

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.[44]:48 Rajaram, his wife Janki Bai, and mother Soyrabai were imprisoned, and Soyrabai executed on charges of conspiracy that October.[67]

The Marathas after Shivaji

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 Marathas, 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 1707.

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[44]:204[68] 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, young Madhavrao Peshwa reinstated 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.[35]: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-Maratha War. The Marathas remained the preeminent power in India until their defeat by the British East India Company in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha wars (1805–1818), which left the Company in control of most of India.[69][70]


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.[13] The house of Shivaji was well acquainted with Sanskrit and promoted the language; his father Shahaji had supported scholars such as Jayram Pindye, who prepared Shivaji's seal. 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 himself a Sanskrit scholar and poet.[71]

Religious policy

Sajjangad, where 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 ruler, Shivaji not only allowed Muslims to practice without harassment, but supported their ministries with endowments,[1]:421 and had many prominent Muslims in his military service.[72] While some accounts of 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 their position.[73][74]:158–

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.[72]

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 circumcised".[75]

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.[76] 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 mission untouched, saying "the Frankish Padrys are good men."[77]


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.[78]:9[79]


Suvela Machi, view of southern sub-plateaux, as seen from Ballekilla, Rajgad

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.[31]: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".[80] Sarkar assessed that Shivaji owned some 240–280 forts at the time of his death.[1]: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 and balance.[16]:414


Sindudurg Fort provided anchorages for Shivaji's Navy

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.[81] 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.[16]: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.[16]: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.[82]

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.[83] 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.[84]


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",[85] to modern near-deification as a hero of India.

Early depictions

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").[65] Muslim writers of the day generally described him as a plunderer and marauder.[10]:141 English and Portuguese contemporary writers likewise described him as a brigand and robber.[86]


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.[87] 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.[87] 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.[88] 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.[88]

In 1895, Indian nationalist leader, Lokmanya Tilak organised an annual festival to mark the birthday celebrations of Shivaji.[3]:79–81 Tilak portrayed Shivaji as the opponent of the oppressor, opening loaded implications for the British Raj.[89] Tilak denied any suggestion that his festival was anti-Muslim or disloyal to the government, but simply a celebration of a hero.[50]: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 ...?"[90]

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 English historians."[91]:121

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.[92] 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.[93]


Statue of 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 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.[94]

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 Maratha-centric party.[95]

In modern times, Shivaji is considered as a national hero in India,[91]: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.[91]:137 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.[96] Past Congress party leaders in the state such as Yashwantrao Chavan were considered political descendants of Shivaji.[97]

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").[98][99] However, Purandare, a Brahmin, was also accused of over-emphasizing the influence of Brahmin gurus on Shivaji,[74]:164 and his Maharashtra Bhushan award ceremony in 2015 was protested by those claiming he had defamed Shivaji.[100] Purandare has, on the other end, been opposed of a communal and anti-Muslim portrayal of Shivaji at odds with the king's own actions.[101]


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 expression.[102][103]

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.[104] 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.[105] 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.[106][107] This lifting was followed by public demonstrations against the author and the decision of the Supreme Court.[108][109]


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.[110][111][112] Other commemorations include the Indian Navy's ship the INS Shivaji,[113] numerous postage stamps,[114] and the main airport and railway headquarters in Mumbai.[115][116]. 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.[117]

See also


  1. ^ The Government of Maharashtra accepts 19 February 1630 as his birthdate; other suggested dates include 6 April 1627 or other dates near this day.[4][5]
  2. ^ 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[35]:68 it would also provide the Hindu Marathas with a fellow Hindu sovereign in a region otherwise ruled by Muslims.[1]:239–240


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  2. ^ James Laine (1996). Anne Feldhaus, ed. Images of women in Maharashtrian literature and religion. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 183. ISBN 9780791428375. 
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Further reading

External links

Preceded by
new state
Chhatrapati of the
Maratha Empire

Succeeded by