Shivaji and the rise of the Marathas
Introduction: Chhatrapati Shivaji (also Shivaji Bhonsle, Shivaji Maharaj) was the founder of Maratha Empire. He belonged to the Bhonsle Maratha Clan. His father Shahaji Raje Bhonsle was at first in the service of Ahmadnagar and when the Kingdom was in the process of dissolution.
Birth date of Shivaji Maharaj: There is difference in opinion among historians and scholars regarding the birth date of Shivaji. Many scholars suggest 19th February, 1630 as the birth date of Shivaji. Other scholars suggest that Shivaji was born in 1627.
Early days: While at Poona, Shivaji was born of Shahaji’s first wife Jijabai in the Shivneri fort. During the early days of Shivaji, Dadoji Konddeo played the role of his mentor and guardian.
Shivaji’s mother was a religious and pious lady. Shivaji’s love for his mother became akin to veneration for a deity and the forlorn lady poured all her love and affect, and all that she had thought best to train up the boy’s mind. The exploits of the heroes of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as he heard from him other kept him spell bound and generated in him an ambition to emulate those heroes.
Dadoji Konddev gave him training in the art of military exercises and horse riding and the boy grew into a fearless, intolerant of subordination to authority and with a rare sense of dignity and power of organization. The rugged nature of the hilly country of Maval in Maharashtra studded with forts made Shivaji strong in physique, capable of enduring inhuman strain and made him a leader of the naturally sturdy Marathas who was destined to play so important a part in the history of India.
Early Conquests and Expansions: The decay of Ahmadnagar and Bijapur gave Shivaji an opportunity to carve out for himself a kingdom in full sovereignty.
The first acquisition of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj after having raised an army of the local Mavalis was the fort of Torna from is commandant under the Bijapur Sultan was in 1646. He found immense treasure in the fort that he utilized in building the fort of Raigarh five miles away from Torna which was to be his capital in future. He also used a part of the treasure in further strengthening his army.
In 1648, Shivaji acquired the forts of Chakan, Kondana, Bangalore, etc. from their hereditary owners or local officers of Bijapur Sultan. Bijapur Sultan suspecting Shahaji Bhonsle having a secret hand in his son’s proceedings put him under arrest and this for a time induced Shivaji to stop his aggressive activities. Shivaji restored the forts of Bangalore and Kondana to the Sultan in 1649 whereupon Shahaji was released by the Bijapur Sultan. Meanwhile Shivaji had captured the fort of Purandar from Nilkanth whose father had made himself independent from the Bijapur Sultanate and this was not altogether unwelcome to Bijapur Sultan.
In 1656, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj annexed the small Maratha principality of Javli which lay at the north-western corner of Satara district. Javli was in possession of Chandra Rao More who was a semi-independent prince. Chandra Rao had entered into an anti-Shivaji coalition with the Mughal Governor of that region in order to check the progress of Shivaji.
The conquest of Javli was important to Shivaji in more than one way. It added to his military strength due to the inclusion of the troops of Chandra Rao to his army; it opened the gateway to further conquest of territories towards the south and west of his kingdom; and placed the immense treasures of Chandra Rao to Shivaji’s disposal.
First Clash with Mughals: In 1657 Shivaji came in direct clash with the Mughals for the first time. In that year when Aurangzeb as the viceroy of the Deccan invaded Bijapur. Shivaji’s troops raided that Mughal districts of Ahmadnagar. Aurangzeb promptly reinforced the Mughal contingent fighting against Shivaji which was defeated. When Adil Shah of Bijapur had made peace with the Mughals. Meanwhile, the news of Shah Jahan’s illness had reached Aurangzeb and his presence in the north was necessary. A peace was patched up between Shivaji and Aurganzeb.
Aurangzeb’s departure for the north, offered both a respite and an opportunity to Shivaji to prepare and begin fight for the extension of his dominions. Shivaji conquered Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Mahuli, and proceeded as far as Mahad.
Shivaji and Afzal Khan episode: The absence of Aurangzeb from the Deccan gave the Sultan of Bijapur an opportunity to strike at the power of Shivaji. In 1659 he sent Afzal Khan, one of the noted and capable generals of the kingdom, to deal with Shivaji. However, Afzal Khan was killed by Shivaji.
Shivaji followed up his victory over Afzal Khan by entering south Konkan and Kohlapur district. He also captured the fort of Panhala and defeated another Bijapur contingent under Rustam Zaman and Fazl Khan. The forts of Khelna, Vasantgarh, Pangua and some others in the surrounding areas also fell into the hands of Shivaji. Early in 1660, Shivaji returned in triumph to his capital at Raigarh with immense booty.
Shivaji and Shaista Khan: Shaista Khan, the new Mughal governor of the Deccan, was commissioned by Aurangzeb to deal with Shivaji. Shaista Khan occupied Poona, Chakan and drove the Marathas from the Kalyan districts. In the critical juncture Shivaji compounded his hostilities with the Bijapur Sultan through the good offices of his father Shahaji and thus made him free to turn his full attention towards the Mughals. For about two years he fought indecisively with the Mughals when one day he entered Shaista Khan’s camp. Shaista Khan, however, made good his escape losing his thumb.
Surat: Next year Shivaji marched on Surat, the richest port in the country. He kept his plan of his march on Surat a closely guarded secret and declared he was moving to the south; while he was moving to the north. After reaching Nasik he made a sudden dash for Surat. The governor of Surat, Inayat Khan, fled the town and took shelter in the fort and sent his agent to negotiate with Shivaji who kept the envoy detained and plundered the city for four days. Inayat Khan engaged an assassin to murder Shivaji but he failed and lost his own right hand by the sword of one of Shivaji’s body-guards. The booty from Surat amounted to more than a crore of rupees.
Fight with Jai Singh and the treaty of Purandar: Failure of Shaista Khan annoyed Aurangzeb very much. He sent Raja Jai Singh of Amber and Dilir Khan with whom was associated in command Prince Muazzam to deal with Shivaji. Jai Singh had seen action both in India and Central Asia and had an unbroken record of victories. He was a brave general, tactful, and calculating with political cunning, military foresight besides diplomatic skill and power of cautious maneuvering. He was the fittest person to deal with the clever Maratha hero Shivaji. He formed a ring of enemies round Shivaji, then laid siege of the fort of Purandar. The fort offered a heroic resistance during which there were considerable casualties on Shivaji’s side. Meanwhile Jai Singh had sent columns of his army to ravage the villages around Raigarh, Singhgarh and Rohira and to strike an economic blow to Shivaji’s state by destroying the cultivation there. The Mughal troops divested the villages to the complete satisfaction of Jai Singh. The siege of Purandar continued in the meantime. Considering the cost of further resistance Shivaji decided to make peace by offering to submit. After some negotiations through envoys Shivaji agreed to come to Jai Singh in person on the latter’s promising him safe conduct. A treaty was concluded between the two on June 22, 1665 known as treaty of Purandar by which Shivaji was compelled:
- To cede twenty-three of his forts to the Mughals. However, it was agreed that Shivaji would have authority over several other forts.
- He also promised to assist the Mughals with 5,000 cavalry in their Deccan campaign,
- But he was permitted to compensate himself for his territorial losses by collecting chauth and sardeshmukhi from certain districts of Bijapur.
Jai Singh succeeded in prevailing upon Shivaji to visit the Emperor at Agra with a view to removing him temporarily from the Deccan lest he would again turn against the Mughals. Shivaji accepted Jai Singh’s offer after long hesitation and started for Agra with his son Sambhaji.
Shivaji at Agra: To avoid imperial wrath the nobles reported to the Mughal Emperor that Shivaji had fallen sick due to the heat of the hall to which he was unaccustomed. Aurangzeb ordered Ram Singh to take Shivaji back to his residence. Even next day Shivaji refused to go to the imperial Durbar and after prolonged persuasion his son Sambhaji was sent to attend the Durbar. Jai Singh and his son Ram Singh were pledged to the safety of Shivaji.
Aurangzeb, therefore, decided to keep Shivaji confined in a fortress. At first Shivaji was kept closely guarded in his residence, but Aurangzeb next ordered him to be kept confined in the house of Radandaz Khan. It was due to strong protest of Ram Singh that Aurangzeb had to ultimately relent and Shivaji was allowed to remain in Jaipur house on Ram Singh’s signing a bond regarding the Maratha chief’s conduct at Agra. Now Shivaji was a prisoner under strict surveillance. He hit upon a plan and possibly with the connivance of some of the guards he managed to escape and reach Raigarh on September 22, 1666 after twenty five days of his escape from Agra.
The flight of Shivaji was known at Agra two days after it had actually it taken place i.e. on August 30, 1666. Faulad Khan in reporting the matter to the Emperor said that Shivaji had suddenly vanished in the sky. Aurangzeb, naturally, did not believe this story and ordered a through search for the Maratha chief and suspecting Ram Singh in having complicity in the matter dismissed him.
Appointment of Jaswant Singh: Jaswant Singh now succeeded Jai Singh in the Deccan. He was friendly towards Shivaji who had meanwhile been keeping indifferent health due to his imprisonment at Agra and strenuous journey from Agra to Raigarh. Prince Muazzam being a peace-loving man and Jaswant Singh friendly towards Shivaji were not, naturally, in any mood to wage any war of aggression in the south.
Focus on organization and internal administration: Shivaji preferred a respite and three years that followed was utilized in organization of his internal administration. Aurangzeb with his hands full due to the revolt of the Afghan tribes in the north-west and the fear of Persian invasion did not have any time to turn his attention to the south. Aurangzeb granted Shivaji the title of Raja and a Jagir in Berar and raised his son Sambhaji to the rank of a mansab of 5,000.
Conflict between Shivaji and Mughal empire started again: The rupture between Shivaji and Aurangzeb occurred because the former appointed the disbanded troops from the Mughal army in the Deccan for financial reasons. This apart, Aurangzeb in dire financial distress tried to recover rupees one lakh advanced to Shivaji in 1666 to meet the expenses of his journey to Delhi and to this end he attached a portion of Berar which was granted to Shivaji as jagir. Shivaji began hostilities in 1670 and recovered several forts that had been surrendered by him according to the terms of the treaty of Purandar. This was facilitated by the bitter quarrel between the Prince and Dilir Khan which had weakened the imperialists. In the same year (1670) Shivaji attacked Surat for a second time and carried away immense booty. Purandar was next to fall. One by one Kalyan, Bhiwandi, Mahali and other forts fell into in to the hands of Shivaji.
Shivaji suddenly irrupted into Berar, Bengal and Khandesh and captured some of the forts. By 1671, a few more forts fell into Shivaji’s hands. He then carried on daring raids into Mughal provinces and defeated the Mughal generals in several engagements. In 1672 he demanded chauth from Surat. From 1672 to 1678 the Mughal commandants had no success against the Maratha chief and Shivaji was in full-tide of power.
Coronation ceremony of Shivaji: On June 6, 1674 Shivaji held his coronation ceremony (Rajyabhishek) with great pomp any and grandeur at Raigarh, his capital, and assumed the title of Chhatrapati.
Further expansion and consolidation of power: Shivaji continued his aggressive war and captured Kolhapur. Mughal attempt to recover Kalyan was beaten back by the Marathas although Shivaji was lying ill at that time. Shivaji secured the friendship of the Sultan of Golconda and in 1677 captured Jinji, Vellore and the neighboring districts. In the same year he took possession of Bijapur, Karnataka. All this greatly enhanced the prestige of Shivaji and gave him possession of a vast territory in the Madras, Carnatic and the Mysore plateau which yielded revenue of 70 lakh of hurls and contained 100 forts.
Death: Shivaji died in 1680 (April ) leaving a kingdom extending from Ramnagar in the north of Karwar in the south excluding of course the European trade settlements, and on the east from Baglana in the north covering Nasik, Poona, whole of Satara to Kohlapaur in the south, western Carnatic: a large part of present Mysore were also within his kingdom.
Shivaji’s administration: Shivaji’s administration was a “centralized despotism, all authority of the state was concentrated in the hands of Shivaji himself. Yet he used his authority for the benefit of his subjects, as such, he may be regarded as a benevolent despot. Shivaji developed a bureaucratic administration with eight Pradhans or ministers collectively called Astapradhans who did not form any cabinet but simply an advisory body insofar as the formulation of state policy was concerned. They were, however, given specific duties for which they were responsible to the Chhatrapati alone. Shivaji did not normally interfere in the function of each of the Pradhans:
- The Prime Minister who was better known as Peshwa enjoyed a higher status than that of other Pradhans but had no supervisory power over others. The Peshwa was a man of royal confidence.
- The Majumdar or Amatya was the auditor whose duty was to check all accounts of income and expenditure and countersign all statements of accounts of the state.
- The Mantri compiled daily records of royal activities and keep a watch over plots and conspiracies, maintain lists of invitees in times of important occasions, meals to be served, etc.
- Sachiv was in charge of all correspondences. He drafted letters to be sent out and revise letters written by others. He had the additional duty of checking the accounts of parganas.
- Sumant was the foreign Secretary and dealt with matters relating to foreign states and peace and war. He would receive envoys and ambassadors from foreign countries.
- Senapati was the Commander-in-chief. Recruitment of troops, their training, discipline, deployment of soldiers in battles was his responsibilities.
- Pandit Rao was the head of religion. Fixing the dates of religious ceremonies, disbursement of gifts to Brahmanas, to set apart adequate fund for royal charity and to punish heresy were among his duties.
- Nyayadhish or the chief justice of the kingdom was responsible for meeting out civil, criminal and military justice of the kingdom.
All the Asthapradhans except the Pandit Rao and the Nyayadhish were required to command troops and lead expedition whenever required. All letters, charters, treaties etc. would require the seals of the Chhatrapati and Peshwa and the endorsements of ministers, other than the Commander-in-chief, Head of religion and the Chief Justice.
For administrative convenience Shivaji divided the kingdom into a number of provinces or prants each under a viceroy who held office during the pleasure of the king. The viceroy of Karnataka enjoyed a little higher status than that held by those of other provinces. Recently occupied provinces were kept under army control.
The viceroy had a supply of subordinate Staff to assist him in administering the province. The Provinces were subdivided into Parganas each of which had a collector and a contingent of troops.
Besides the provinces there were territories which were conquered and were under Shivaji’s suzerainty and paid him tributes.
Each pargana was subdivided into tarafs and village was the lowest administrative unit.