Military Wiki
Shivaji's portrait (1680–7), housed in the British Museum
Succeeded by Sambhaji
Personal details
Born c. April 1627 / 19 February 1630[1]
Shivneri Fort, near Pune, India
Died April 3, 1680(1680-04-03)
Raigad Fort, Pune, India
Spouse(s) Saibai (Nimbalkar)
Religion Hinduism

Shivaji Bhosale (Marathi [ʃiʋaˑɟiˑ bʱoˑs(ə)leˑ]; c. 1627/1630[1] – 3 April 1680), was an Indian warrior king from the 17th century. An aristocrat of the Bhosle Maratha clan, Shivaji, in 1674, carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of an independent Maratha kingdom with Raigad as its capital.

Shivaji established a competent and progressive civil rule with the help of a disciplined military and well-structured administrative organisations. He innovated military tactics, pioneering the guerilla warfare methods (Shiva sutra or ganimi kava), which leveraged strategic factors like geography, speed, and surprise and focused pinpoint attacks to defeat his larger and more powerful enemies. From a small contingent of 2,000 soldiers inherited from his father, Shivaji created a force of 100,000 soldiers; he built and restored strategically located forts both inland and coastal to safeguard his territory. 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 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 Hindu people. 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's birthplace on Shivneri Fort.

Shivaji was born in the hill-fort of Shivneri, near the city of Junnar in Pune district around the year 1630. The Government of Maharashtra accepts 19 February 1630 as his birthdate; other suggested dates include 6 April 1627 or other dates near this day.[2][3][4] Per legend, his mother named him Shivaji in honour of the goddess Shivai, to whom she had prayed for a healthy child.[citation needed]

Shivaji's father Shahaji Bhosale was Maratha general who served the Deccan Sultanates.[5] His mother was Jijabai, the daughter of Lakhujirao Jadhav of Sindkhed. At the time of Shivaji's birth, the power in Deccan was shared by three Islamic sultanates: Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golconda. 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.[5]

Shivaji with Jijabai.


Shivaji was extremely devoted to his mother Jijabai, who was deeply religious. This religious environment had a great impact on Shivaji, and he carefully studied the two great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata; these were to influence his lifelong defence of Hindu values.[6] Throughout his life he was deeply interested in religious teachings, and regularly sought the company of Hindu and Sufi saints.[3]

Shahaji, meanwhile had married a second wife, Tuka Bai Mohite, and moved to take an assignment in Karnataka, leaving Shivaji and his mother in Pune. Shahaji entrusted the two to his friend Dadoji Kondadev Kulkarni, who provided them a mansion to live in, profitably administered the Pune jagir, and mentored the young Shivaji. The boy was a keen outdoorsman, but had little formal education, and was likely illiterate.[7] Shivaji drew his earliest trusted comrades and a large number of his soldiers from the Maval region,[when?] including Yesaji Kank, Suryaji Kakade, Baji Pasalkar, Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Tanaji Malusare.[8] In the company of his Maval comrades, Shivaji wandered over the hills and forests of the Sahyadri range, hardening himself and acquiring first-hand knowledge of the land, which was to later prove applicable to his military endeavours.[6]:128

At the age of 12, Shivaji was taken to Bangalore where he, his elder brother Sambhaji and his stepbrother Ekoji I were further formally trained. He married Saibai, a member of the prominent Nimbalkar family in 1640.[9]:60 Around 1645-6, the teenage Shivaji first expressed his concept for Hindavi swarajya, in a letter to Dadaji Naras Prabhu.[10][11][12][13]

Conflict with Adilshahi sultanate

In 1645, the 16 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.[3]:26[9]:61[14]:268 Firangoji Narsala, who held the Chakan fort professed his loyalty to Shivaji and the fort of Kondana was acquired by bribing the Adilshahi governor.[3]:26 On 25 July 1648, Shahaji was imprisoned by Baji Ghorpade under the orders of the current Adilshah, Mohammed Adil Shah, in a bid to contain Shivaji.[15] Accounts vary, with some saying Shahaji was conditionally released in 1649 after Shivaji and Sambhaji surrendered the forts of Kondhana, Bangalore and Kandarpi,[3] others saying he was imprisoned until 1653 or 1655; during this period Shivaji maintained a low profile.[16] After his release, Shahaji retired from public life, and died around 1664–1665 during a hunting accident. Following his father's death, Shivaji resumed raiding, seizing the kingdom of Javali from a neighbouring Maratha chieftain in 1656.[17]

Combat with Afzal Khan

Death of Afzal Khan

In 1659, Adilshah sent Afzal Khan, an experienced and veteran general to destroy Shivaji in an effort to put down what he saw as a regional revolt. Afzal Khan desecrated Hindu temples at Tuljapur and Pandharpur, hoping to draw Shivaji to the plains where the superior Bijapuri army could destroy him. Shivaji, however, sent a letter to Afzal Khan requesting a meeting to negotiate.[citation needed]

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 a follower. Shivaji, either suspecting Afzal Khan would attack him[3]:47–52[18] or secretly planning to attack,[19] wore armour beneath his clothes, concealed a bagh nakh (metal "tiger claw") on his left arm, and had a dagger in his right hand.[14]:22 Accounts vary on whether Shivaji or Afzal Khan struck the first blow:[18] the Maratha chronicles accuse Afzal Khan of treachery, while the Persian-language chronicles attribute the treachery to Shivaji.[20][21] 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 signalled his hidden troops to launch the assault on the Bijapuris.[19]

Battle of Pratapgarh

Pratapgad fort

In the ensuing Battle of Pratapgarh fought on 10 November 1659, Shivaji's forces decisively defeated the Bijapur Sultanate's forces.[22] The agile Maratha infantry and cavalry inflicted rapid strikes on Bijapuri units, attacked the Bijapuri cavalry before it was prepared for battle, and pursued retreating troops toward Wai. More than 3,000 soldiers of the Bijapur army were killed and two sons of Afzal Khan were taken as prisoners.[3]:53

This unexpected and unlikely victory made Shivaji a hero of Maratha folklore and a legendary figure among his people. The large quantities of captured weapons, horses, armour and other materials helped to strengthen the nascent and emerging Maratha army. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb now identified Shivaji as a major threat to the mighty Mughal Empire. Soon thereafter Shivaji, Shahaji and Netaji Palkar (the chief of the Maratha cavalry) decided to attack and defeat the Adilshahi kingdom at Bijapur. However, Shahaji's health deteriorated and they were forced to postpone the planned attack, while Netaji Palkar undertook smaller scale harassing attacks on the Adilshahi kingdom.[citation needed]

Battle of Kolhapur

To counter the loss at Pratapgad and to defeat the newly emerging Maratha power, another army, this time numbering over 10,000, was sent against Shivaji, commanded by Bijapur's Abyssinian general Rustamjaman. With a cavalry force of 5,000 Marathas, Shivaji attacked them near Kolhapur on 28 December 1659. In a swift movement, Shivaji led a full frontal attack at the center of the enemy forces while two other portions of his cavalry attacked the flanks. This battle lasted for several hours and at the end Bijapuri forces were soundly defeated and Rustamjaman fled the battlefield. Adilshahi forces lost about 2,000 horses and 12 elephants to the Marathas.[citation needed] This victory alarmed Aurangazeb, who now derisively referred to Shivaji as the "Mountain Rat", and prepared to address this rising Maratha threat.[23]

Siege of Panhala and Battle of Pavan Khind

Plaque to commemorate the entrance to Paavankhind

In 1660, Adilshah sent the 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 near present-day Kolhapur with his forces. Siddi Jauhar's army besieged Panhala in mid-1660, cutting off supply routes to the fort. During the bombardment of Panhala, Siddhi Jahuar had 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.[24]

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 Ali Adil Shah personally came to take charge of the siege, capturing the fort after four months besiegement.[25] Other accounts state that after months of siege, Shivaji negotiated with Siddhi Jahuar and handed over the fort on 22 September 1600, withdrawing to Vishalgad;[26] Shivaji would later re-take Panhala in 1673.[25]

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.[27] Per these accounts, Shivaji withdrew from Panhala by cover of night, and as he was pursued by the enemy cavalry, so 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.[28] 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,[29] signalling Shivaji had safely reached the fort, on the evening of 13 July 1660.[30] 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.[30]

Clash with the Mughals

Up until 1657, Shivaji maintained peaceful relations with the Mughal Empire. Shivaji offered his assistance to Aurangzeb in conquering Bijapur and in return, he was assured of the formal recognition of his right to the Bijapuri forts and villages under his possession.[3]:37 Shivaji's confrontations with the Mughals began in March 1657, when two of Shivaji's officers raided the Mughal territory near Ahmednagar.[31] This was followed by raids in Junnar, with Shivaji carrying off 300,000 hun in cash and 200 horses.[3]:38 Aurangzeb responded to the raids by sending Nasiri Khan, who defeated the forces of Shivaji at Ahmednagar. However, the countermeasures were interrupted by the rainy season and the battle of succession for the Mughal throne following the illness of Shah Jahan.

Attack on Shaista Khan

Upon the request of Badi Begum of Bijapur, Aurangzeb 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 300,000 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 Maratha territory, seizing the city of Pune and establishing his residence at Shivaji's palace of Lal Mahal.[citation needed]

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 Moghul forces outside of Pune, and Aurangzeb punished him for this embarrassment with a transfer to Bengal.[32]

An Uzbek general, Kartalab Khan, was sent by Shaista Khan to attack and reduce the number of forts under Shivaji's control in the Konkan region on 3 February 1661. The 30,000 Mughal troops left Pune, marching through the back-country in an attempt to surprise the Marathas. In the Battle of Umberkhind, Shivaji's forces ambushed and enveloped them with infantry and light cavalry in the dense forests of Umber Khind pass near present-day Pen. With defeat inevitable, the Mughal commander, a Maratha woman named Raibagan, advised Kartalab to parley with Shivaji, who allowed the Mughals to surrender all their supplies and arms, and depart with safe passage.[citation needed] In retaliation for Shaista Khan's attacks, and to replenish his now-depleted treasury, in 1664 Shivaji sacked the city of Surat, a wealthy Mughal trading centre.[32]

Treaty of Purandar

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

Aurangzeb was enraged and sent Mirza Raja Jai Singh I with an army numbering around 150,000[33] to defeat Shivaji. Jai Singh's forces made significant gains and captured many Maratha forts, forcing Shivaji to come to terms with Aurangzeb rather than lose more forts and men.

In the Treaty of Purandar, signed between Shivaji and Jai Singh on 11 June 1665, Shivaji agreed to give up 23 of his forts and pay compensation of 400,000 rupees to the Mughals. He also agreed to let his son Sambhaji become a Mughal sardar, serve the Mughal court of Aurangzeb and fight alongside the Mughals against Bijapur.[citation needed] He actually fought alongside Jai Singh's against Bijapur's for a few months. His commander Netaji Palkar joined the Mughals, was rewarded very well for his bravery, converted to Islam, changed his name to Quli Mohammed Khan in 1666 and was sent to the Afghan frontier to fight the restive tribes. He returned to Shivaji's service in 1676 after ten years with the Mughals, and was accepted back as a Hindu on Shivaji's advice.[citation needed]

Arrest in Agra and escape

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

In 1666, Aurangzeb invited Shivaji to Agra, 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,[9]:78 and was promptly placed under house arrest under the watch of Faulad Khan, Kotwal of Agra. Shivaji's spies informed him that Aurangzeb planned to move Shivaji to Raja Vitthaldas' haveli and then to possibly kill him or send him to fight in the Afghan frontier, so Shivaji planned his escape.[citation needed]

Shivaji feigned severe illness and requested to send most of his contingent back to the Deccan, thereby ensuring the safety of his army and deceiving Aurangzeb. Thereafter, on his request, he was allowed to send daily shipments of sweets and gifts to saints, fakirs, and temples in Agra as offerings for his health.[citation needed] After several days and weeks of sending out boxes containing sweets, Sambhaji, being a child had no restrictions and was sent out of the prison camp and Shivaji, disguised as labourer carrying sweet basket escaped on 17 August 1666, according to the Mughal documents.[Clarification needed][34] Shivaji and his son fled to the Deccan disguised as sadhus (holy men). After the escape, rumours of Sambhaji's death were intentionally spread by Shivaji himself in order to deceive the Mughals and to protect Sambhaji.[citation needed] Recent research has proposed that Shivaji simply disguised himself as a Brahmin priest after performance of religious rites at the haveli grounds on 22 July 1666, and escaped by mingling within the departing priestly entourage of Pandit Kavindra Paramananda. Sambhaji was removed from Agra and taken to Mathura later by Shivaji's trusted men.[35]


Statue of Shivaji near Torna Fort

After Shivaji's escape, hostilities ebbed and a treaty lasted until the end of 1670, when Shivaji launched a major offensive against Mughals, and in a span of four months recovered a major portion of the territories surrendered to Mughals. During this phase, Tanaji Malusare won the fort of Sinhgad in the Battle of Sinhagad on 4 Feb 1670, dying in the process.[citation needed] Shivaji sacked Surat for second time in 1670; while he was returning from Surat, Mughals under Daud Khan tried to intercept him, but were defeated in the Battle of Vani-Dindori near present-day Nashik.[citation needed]

Dealings with the English

In October 1670, Shivaji sent his forces to harass the British at Bombay; as they had refused to sell him war material, his forces blocked Bombay's woodcutting parties. In September 1671, Shivaji sent an ambassador to Bombay, again seeking material, this time for the fight against Danda-Rajpuri; the British 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 British 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 Rajpur indemnity before his death, and the factory there dissolved at the end of 1682.[36]

Battle of Nesari

In 1674, Prataprao Gujar, the then commander-in chief of the Maratha forces, was sent to push back the invading force led by the Adilshahi 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.[citation needed]

Towers of the Raigad Fort.

Shivaji sent a displeased letter to Prataprao, refusing him audience until Bahlol Khan was re-captured. In the ensuing days, Shivaji learnt of Bahlol Khan having camped with 15,000 force at Nesari near Kolhapur. Not wanting to risk losing his much smaller Maratha force entirely, Prataprao and six of his sardars attacked in a suicide mission, buying time for Anandrao Mohite to withdraw the remainder of the army to safety.[37][verification needed] The Marathas avenged the death of Prataprao by defeating Bahlol Khan and capturing his jagir (fiefdom) under the leadership of Anaji and Hambirao Mohite. Shivaji was deeply grieved on hearing of Prataprao's death; he 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[when?] by Hiroji Indulkar as a capital of nascent Maratha kingdom.[12]


The coronation of Shivaji

Image of Shivaji released by VS Bendrey in 1933

Shivaji had acquired extensive lands and wealth through his campaigns, but lacking a formal title was still technically a Mughal zamindar or the son of an Adilshahi 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; it would also would provide the Hindu Marathas with a fellow Hindu sovereign in a region otherwise ruled by Muslims.[3]:238

Shivaji was crowned king of the Marathas in a lavish ceremony at Raigad on 6 June 1674.[11][12][38] In the Hindu calendar it was on the 13th day (trayodashi) of the first fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha in the year 1596.[39] Pandit 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 coronation mantras. After the ablution, Shivaji bowed before Jijabai and touched her feet. Nearly fifty thousand people gathered at Raigad for the ceremonies.[citation needed] Shivaji was bestowed with the sacred thread jaanva, with the Vedas and was bathed in an abhisheka. Shivaji was entitled Shakakarta ("founder of an era")[28] and Kshatriya Kulavantas ("head of Kshatriyas"),[40] and Chhatrapati ("paramount sovereign").

His mother Jijabai died on 18 June 1674, within a few days of the coronation. Considering this a bad omen, a second coronation was carried out 24 September 1674, this time according to the Bengali school of Tantricism and presided over by Nischal Puri.[41]

The state as Shivaji founded it was a Maratha kingdom comprising about 4.1% of the subcontinent at the time he died,[11] but over time it was to increase in size and heterogeneity,[42] and by the time of the Peshwas in the early 18th century the Marathas were dominant across the northern and central regions of the Indian subcontinent.[43]

Conquest in Southern India

Beginning in 1674, the Marathas undertook an aggressive campaign, raiding Khandesh (October), capturing Bijapuri Phonda (April 1675), Karwar (mid-year), and Kolhapur (July).[citation needed] In November the Maratha navy skirmished with the Siddis of Janjira, and in early 1676 Peshwa Pingale, en route to Surat, engaged the Raja of Ramnagar in battle.[citation needed] Shivaji raided Athani in March 1676, and by years-end besieged Belgaum and Vayem Rayim in modern-day northern Karnataka. At the end of 1676, Shivaji launched a wave of conquests in southern India, with a massive force of 30,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry.[citation needed] He captured the Adilshahi forts at Vellore and Gingee, in modern-day Tamil Nadu.

In the run-up to this expedition Shivaji appealed to a sense of Deccani patriotism, that the "Deccan" or Southern India was a homeland that should be protected from outsiders.[44] His appeal was somewhat successful and he entered into a treaty with the Qutubshah of the Golconda sultanate that covered the eastern Deccan. Shivají's conquests in the south proved quite crucial during future wars; Gingee served as Maratha capital for nine years during the Maratha War of Independence.

Shivaji intended to reconcile with his stepbrother Venkoji (Ekoji I), Shahji's son by his second wife, Tukabai of the Mohite clan which ruled Thanjavur (Tanjore) after Shahaji. The initially promising negotiations were unsuccessful,[citation needed] so whilst returning to Raigad Shivaji defeated his stepbrother'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 tomb.[45][46][47]

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.[48]:551

In late March 1680, Shivaji fell ill with fever and dysentery,[3]:383 dying around 3–5 April 1680 at the age of 52,[14]:278 on the eve of Hanuman Jayanti. Rumours followed his death, with Muslims opining he had died of a curse from Jan Muhammad of Jalna, and some Marathas whispering that his second wife, Soyarabai, had poisoned him so that his crown might pass to her 10-year old son Rajaram.[3]:383

After Shivaji's death, the widowed 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 the Raigad Fort after killing the commander, and on 18 June acquired control of Raigad, and formally ascended the throne on 20 July.[48][49] Rajaram, his wife Janki Bai, and mother Soyrabai were imprisoned, and Soyrabai executed on charges of conspiracy that October.[50]

The Marathas after Shivaji

Aurangzeb's son Muhammad Akbar had a falling-out with his father and joined forces with Sambhaji, thereafter Aurangzeb personally led his army to attack the Maratha forces. Sambhaji was captured, tortured and executed at Tulapur in 1689 by the Mughals. Leadership of the disarrayed Marathas then returned to Rajaram, who served as regent during the minority of his stepbrother's son Shahu,[51] and was forced to move his capital from Raigad to Gingee.[citation needed]

Thereafter the Maratha forces stabilised and began to undertake raids on the Mughal columns. Able generals such as Dhanaji Jadhav and Santaji Ghorpade took the initiative and effectively bogged down the powerful but slow-moving Mughal army during the Deccan wars. In 1697 Aurangzeb, in poor health, withdrew from the Deccan for the last time, and recalled his full army a few years later, opening up the Deccan to Maratha domination.[citation needed]

In 1752, the Maratha Peshwa signed a treaty with Mughal emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur, giving the Marathas significant control and revenues within the remaining Mughal territories, in exchange for their protecting the Mughals from their enemies. This treaty brought the Maratha into conflict with the Mughal's opponent, Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of an Afghan empire. The Durrani forces defeated the Maratha at the 1761 Battle of Panipat checking the Maratha's northward expansion.[citation needed] The Third Anglo-Maratha War of 1818 ended the role of the Marathas in the Indian subcontinent.


File:Shivaji and the Marathas.JPG

Shivaji along with his ministers in the courtyard.

Shivaji was an able administrator who established a government that included modern concepts such as cabinet (Ashtapradhan mandal composed of eight ministers), foreign affairs (Dabir) and internal intelligence.[citation needed]

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.[52] 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.[53]

Religious policy

Sajjangad where Swami Ramadasa was invited by Shivaji to reside, now a pilgrimage.

Shivaji was a devout Hindu, but respected all religions within the region. Shivaji had great respect for other contemporary saints, especially Samarth Ramdas, to whom he gave the fort of Parali, later renamed as 'Sajjangad'. Among the various poems written on Shivaji, Ramdas' Shivastuti ("Praise of King Shivaji") is the most famous.[54] Shivaji's son Sambhaji later built a samadhi for Ramdas Swami on Sajjangad upon the latter's death. Samarth Ramdas had also written a letter to Sambhaji guiding him on what to do and what not to do after death of Shivaji.[55]

Shivaji allowed his subjects freedom of religion and opposed forced conversion.[6][page needed] Shivaji also promulgated other enlightened values, prohibiting slavery in his kingdom,[citation needed] and applying a humane and liberal policy to the women of his state.[56][page needed] Kafi Khan, the Mughal historian and Francois Bernier, a French traveller, spoke highly of his religious policy. He also brought converts like Netaji Palkar and Bajaji back into Hinduism.

Shivaji's 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”.[57]


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 Him. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for Him alone.[56]

Shivaji had many Muslims in his military and ministries, and his most trusted general in all his campaigns was Haider Ali Kohari; Darya Sarang was chief of armoury; Ibrahim Khan and Daulat Khan were prominent in the navy; and Siddi Ibrahim was chief of artillery.[56] Shivaji had particular respect for the Sufi tradition of Islam, and used to pray at the mausoleum of the Sufi Muslim saint Baba Sharifuddin. He also visited the abode of another Sufi saint, Shaikh Yacub of the Konkan, and took his blessings. He called Hazrat Baba of Ratnagiri as bahut thorwale bhau, "great elder brother".[56]


The French traveller Francois Bernier wrote in his Travels in Mughal India:

"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."


Sivaji and Army

Shivaji demonstrated great skill in creating his military organisation, which lasted till the demise of the Maratha empire. He also built a powerful navy. Maynak Bhandari was one of the first chiefs of the Maratha Navy under Shivaji, and helped in both building the Maratha Navy and safeguarding the coastline of the emerging Maratha Empire. He built new forts like Sindhudurg and strengthened old ones like Vijaydurg on the west coast.[citation needed] The Maratha navy held its own against the British, Portuguese and Dutch.[58] He was one of the pioneers of commando actions, then known as ganimi kava[59] (Marathi language: "enemy trickery"[60]) His Mavala army's war cry was Har Har Mahadev ( Har and Mahadev being common names of Hindu God Shiva).[citation needed] Shivaji was responsible for many significant changes in military organisation:

  • A standing army belonging to the state, called paga.
  • All war horses belonged to the state; responsibility for their upkeep rested on the Sovereign.
  • Creation of part-time soldiers from peasants who worked for eight months in their fields and supported four months in war for which they were paid.
  • Highly mobile and light infantry and cavalry excelling in commando tactics.
  • The introduction of a centralized intelligence department; Bahirjee Naik was the foremost spy who provided Shivaji with enemy information in all of Shivaji's campaigns.
  • A potent and effective navy.
  • Introduction of field craft, such as guerrilla warfare, commando actions, and swift flanking attacks. Field-Marshal Montgomery, in his "History of Warfare",[61] while generally dismissive of the quality of generalship in the military history of the Indian subcontinent, makes an exception for Shivaji and Baji Rao I. Summarizing Shivaji's mastery of guerilla tactics, Montgomery describes him as a military genius.
  • Innovation of weapons and firepower, innovative use of traditional weapons like the tiger claw (vaghnakh) and vita.
  • Militarisation of large swathes of society, across all classes, with the entire peasant population of settlements and villages near forts actively involved in their defence.[citation needed]

Shivaji realised the importance of having a secure coastline and protecting the western Konkan coastline from the attacks of Siddi's fleet.[citation needed][3] His strategy was to build a strong navy to protect and bolster his kingdom. He was also concerned about the growing dominance of British Indian naval forces in regional waters and actively sought to resist it. For this reason he is also referred to as the "Father of Indian Navy".[62]


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

Shivaji captured strategically important forts at Murambdev (Rajgad), Torana, Kondana (Sinhagad) and Purandar and laid the foundation of swaraj or self-rule. Toward the end of his career, he had a control of 360 forts to secure his growing kingdom. Shivaji himself constructed about 15–20 totally new forts (including key sea forts like Sindhudurg), but he also rebuilt or repaired many strategically placed forts[63] to create a chain of 300 or more, stretched over a thousand kilometres across the rugged crest of the Western Ghats. Each were placed under three officers of equal status lest a single traitor be bribed or tempted to deliver it to the enemy. The officers (sabnis, havladar, sarnobhat) acted jointly and provided mutual checks and balance.[citation needed]


File:Sindhudurg watchtower.JPG

Sindudurg Fort provided anchorages for Shivaji's Navy.

Shivaji built a strong naval presence across long coast of Konkan and Goa to protect sea trade, to protect the lands from sack of prosperity of subjects from coastal raids, plunder and destruction by Arabs, Portuguese, British, Abyssinians and pirates. Shivaji built ships in towns such as Kalyan, Bhivandi, and Goa for building fighting navy as well as trade. He also built a number of sea forts and bases for repair, storage and shelter. Shivaji fought many lengthy battles with Siddis of Janjira on coastline. The fleet grew to reportedly 160 to 700 merchant, support and fighting vessels. He started trading with foreigners on his own after possession of eight or nine ports in the Deccan. Shivaji's admiral Kanauji Angre is often said to be the "Father of Indian Navy".[3][64]


Shivaji's role in the research and the popular conception has developed over time and place, ranging from early British and Moghul depiction of him as a bandit or a Mountain Mouse,[65] to modern near-deification as a hero of all Indians.

One of the early commentators who challenged the negative British view was M. G. Ranade, whose Rises 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."[66]

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 role in the Indian independence movement, and endorsed this Kshatriya legacy and the significance of Shivaji.[67]

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 genearl, lower him greatly in our estimation." Following public outcry from Pune intellectuals, Congress leader Deogirikar noted that Nehru had admitted he was wrong regarding Shivaji, and now endorsed Shivaji as great nationalist.[68]

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.[69] 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.[70] 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.[71][72] This lifting was followed by public demonstrations against the author and the decision of the Supreme Court.[73][74]


Statue of Shivaji at Raigad Fort.

Today, Shivaji is considered as a national hero in India,[75] 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.[75]

Nineteenth century Hindu revivalist Swami Vivekanada considered Shivaji a hero and paid glowing tributes to his wisdom.[76] When Indian Nationalist leader, Lokmanya Tilak organised a festival to mark the birthday celebrations of Shivaji, Vivekananda agreed to preside over the festival in Bengal in 1901.[77] He wrote about Shivaji :[76]

Shivaji is one of the greatest national saviours who emancipated our society and our Hindu dharma when they were faced with the threat of total destruction. He was a peerless hero, a pious and God-fearing king and verily a manifestation of all the virtues of a born leader of men described in our ancient scriptures. He also embodied the deathless spirit of our land and stood as the light of hope for our future.

Political legacy

Shivaji remains a political icon in modern India, and particularly in the state of Maharashtra. His image adorns literature, propaganda and icons of the Maratha-centric Shiv Sena ("Army of Shivaji"[78]) party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and also of the Maratha caste dominated Congress parties (namely, NCP and Indira) in Maharashtra.[79] Past Congress party leaders in the state such as Yashwantrao Chavan were considered political descendants of Shivaji.[80]


Also known as "Shivaji Maharaj", his Statues and monuments are found in almost every town and city in Maharashtra, and across different Indian cities outside Maharashtra, such as a statue in Bangalore, Vadodara, Surat,[81] a monument in Agra,[82] a memorial in Delhi[83] a statue inside the premises of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune,[84] and an equestrian statue inside the Parliament House complex in Delhi.[85] In deference to his pioneering contributions to naval warfare in India, the Indian Navy has named one of its bases after Shivaji, christening it as INS Shivaji.[86] The Government of India has issued a postage stamp commemorating Shivaji,[87] and the The Reserve Bank of India has considered issuing currency notes having his picture.[88] Mumbai's international airport at Sahar was renamed the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in 1996, and the Victoria Terminus railway station was similarly renamed as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute was renamed after Shivaji's mother, to the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute.

Depiction in popular culture


  • Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy (Marathi)


  • Sadhan Chikitsa by Vasudeo Sitaram Bendrey
  • Shivaji, a biography by Setu Madhavrao Pagdi
  • Shriman yogi, a historical novel by Ranjit Desai
  • Raja Shivchhatrapati by Babasaheb Purandare

Poetry and music

  • Shivraj Bhushan by Kavi Bhushan (Hindi)


  • Raigadala Jevha Jaag Yete (When Raigad Awakens), by Marathi playwright Vasant Kanetkar
  • Jaanta Raja (The Knowing King), by Babasaheb Purandare


  • Veer Shivaji, a Hindi television series on Colors TV channel
  • Raja ShivChhatrapati, a Marathi television serial by Nitin Chandrakant Desai

See also

Preceded by
new state
Chhatrapati of the
Maratha Empire

Succeeded by


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Further reading

External links

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