Childhood & Early Life
Shivaji Bhonsale was born on 19 February 1630, at Shivneri, a hill fort near Junnar, Pune, into a family of Maratha bureaucrats, to Shahji Bhonsale, a Maratha general in the army of the Bijapur Sultanate, and Jijabai.
His mother’s extremely religious nature made a great impact on his upbringing as he grew up studying Ramayana and Mahabharata and showed great interest in religious teachings, especially those of Hindu and Sufi saints.
He was brought up by his mother and his administrator, Dadoji Konddeo, who taught him horse riding, archery, marksmanship, patta and other fighting techniques after his father left for Karnataka with his second wife, Tukabai.
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Accession & Reign
He made his first military conquest at the age of 16 in 1645 by attacking and capturing Torna Fort in the Bijapur Sultanate, followed by conquest of other forts – Chakan, Kondana, and Rajgad.
Fearing his rising power, the Bijapur Sutlan, Mohammed Adil Shah imprisoned his father, following which he halted his conquests and built a stronger army until his father’s release in 1653 or 1655.
The Bijapur Sultan sent his general, Afzal Khan, to supress Shivaji in November 1659, who, fearing Afzal’s deceitful plans, came armed with bagh nakh (tiger claw) in one hand and a dagger in the other, and slayed him at the Pratapgar Fort.
He was attacked by the army of Adilshah’s general, Siddi Jauhar, while camping at Panhala Fort, near present-day Kolhapur, in 1660, but Shivaji escape to Vishalgad fort to regroup his large army for a battle. Backed by his Maratha sardar Baji Prabhu Deshpande, who wounded himself while holding back the army at the Battle of Pavan Khind, he reached Vishalgad safely, resulting in a truce between him and Adilshah in July 1660.
He resumed his raids after his father’s death in 1664-65 and seized the northern parts of Konkon and forts of Purandar and Javali.
His peaceful relations with the Mughals saw conflicts in 1657 when he raided the Mughal territories in Ahmednagar and Junnar, following which Aurangzeb sent a 150,000-force under Shaista Khan, in 1660, to chastise him.
The Mughal army captured Pune. When they encamped there, Shivaji made a surprise attack killing Mughal soldiers and guards, with Shaista Khan narrowly escaping. Soon after in 1664, he raided Surat and looted its treasure.
He made a visit to Agra, along with his nine-year old son Sambhaji, upon Aurangzeb’s invitation in 1666, who planned to send him to Kandahar (now in Afghanistan) to handle the Mughal empire’s northwestern frontier.
He was ill-treated by Aurangzeb at his court and offended. He was taken into custody and put under house arrest. However, he managed to escape with his son and spent the next three years strengthening his administration.
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With the end of the Treaty of Purandar in 1670, he attacked the Mughal forces in Maharashtra and re-captured the forts he had surrendered to them.
In 1670, he launched an expedition under Tanaji Malusare to capture Kondana For, which was under Mughal possession, in the Battle of Sinhagad. While the fort was seized, Malusare died and hence, the fort was renamed Sinhagad.
He raided Surat for a second time in 1670 and defeated the Mughal army under Daud Khan in the Battle of Vani-Dindori (close to present-day Nasik) while returning back.
After spending the early 1670s in capturing land and expanding his domain, he crowned himself as the king of the Marathas at Raigad in 1674, earning the title Kshatriya Kulavantas Sinhasanadheeshwar Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
He went on an extensive campaign of raiding more territories in the later half of 1674, capturing Khandesh, followed by Bijapuri Ponda, Karwar, Kolhapur and Janjira in 1675, and Ramnagar, Athani, Belgaum and Vayem Rayim in 1676.
He moved southwards at the end of 1676, seizing the forts at Vellore and Gingee (in present-day Tamil Nadu), once ruled by the Adilshahi Dynasty.
Despite being a devoted Hindu, he showed great respect to all religions, including Islam and Christianity, and was unbiased towards other castes and communities.
His army attacked the Bijapur Sultanate’s forces at the Battle of Pratapgarh killing over 3,000 soldiers and imprisoning two sons of Afzal Khan, besides seizing weapons, war-materials, horses and armor to further strengthen his army.
To curb down the emerging power of Shivaji, the Bijapur Sultan sent an army of 10,000 forces under Rustam Zaman in December 1659 but was defeated at the hands of the Maratha army at the Battle of Kolhapur.
Aurangzeb sent Rajput Raja Jai Singh to suppress Shivaji and succeeded in capturing various Maratha forts, thereby forcing him to surrender and sign the Treaty of Purandar in 1665, ceding 23 forts and 400,000 rupees to the Mughals.
He built a strong and powerful army, comprising of infantry and cavalry, getting them adapted to the techniques of swift flanking attacks, hill campaigns and commando actions, apart from pioneering in the guerrilla warfare method.
He organized a commanding and disciplined navy, including 200 warships, to keep the coastline of his empire secured from the Portuguese, British, Dutch, Siddis and Mughals, thereby earning the title ‘Father of Indian Navy’.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1640, he got married to Saibai, from the renowned Nimbalkar family, with whom he had four children – daughter Sakhubai (1651), daughter Ranubai (1653), daughter Ambikabai (1655) and son Sambhaji (1657).
His second marriage to Soyarabai was forcefully arranged by his stepmother, Tukabai, despite Jijabai’s consistent refusal. The couple had two children – daughter Balibai and son Rajaram.
He had several other wives, including Putalabai, Sakvarbai and Kashibai.
He died in April 1680 at Raigad Fort, after suffering from fever and dysentery for three weeks.
Though Soyarabai initially succeeded in crowning her son, Rajaram, as the next king, but Sambhaji captured Raigad Fort and ascended the throne in July 1680. Thereafter, he imprisoned Rajaram and Soyarabai and executed the latter.