Shivaji (also Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Shivaji Raje Bhosale) was the Founder of Maratha Empire in India.
Birth and Early Life: Shivaji Maharaj was born in 1627 A.D. (or 1630 A.D.) at Shivneri, a hill fort near Puna. Shivaji’s father Shahaji Raje Bhosale was employed as an officer in the army of the Sultan of Bijapur. Shivaji was brought up under the care of his mother Jijabai and guardian Dadoji Kondadev.
Shivaji’s mother Jijabai and his guru Ramdas inspired him with the noble and patriotic ideas and infused in him love for the religion and the motherland. Shivaji got military training and learnt the art of government from Kondadev. He organized a number of Marathi hill-folk into a fighting force and began to raid neighboring territories.
In 1640, he was married to Saibai.
Shivaji started his conquests: Chhatrapati Shivaji began his early career of conquests at the age of nineteen by capturing the fort of Torna, about twenty miles from Puna. After this he conquered other forts like Chakan, Singhagarh and Purandar, situated within the territories of the Sultanate of Bijapur. In order to put pressure on Shivaji the Sultan of Bijapur imprisoned Shahaji Raje Bhosale, Shivaji’s father. After that Shivaji kept quiet for a few years. Shahaji Raje Bhosale was released by the Sultan. But Shivaji again started his activities of conquest. By 1655 Shivaji had occupied the northern part of Konkon and the fort of Javali.
These acquisitions provoked the Sultan of Bijapur who sent against Shivaji in 1659 a large army under a senior general named Afzal Khan, with instructions to bring Shivaji to the court dead or alive. In a clash between Afzal Khan and Shivaji, Afzal Khan was killed by Shivaji.
The army of Shivaji defeated the Bijapuri Sultanate in the Battle of Pratapgarh (November 10, 1659). Huge quantity of weapons and war-materials were collected, which further strengthened the Maratha army. This success gained him much reputation among the Marathas. He became a Hero.
The Sultan of Bijapur again sent a large army, under the leadership of Rustam Zaman, which also failed to curb the power of Shivaji. The battle took place on December 28, 1659. The Maratha army of Shivaji defeated the Bijapuri army in the Battle of Kolhapur. A large number of horses, elephants and warfare materials were gained by the Marathas.
Shivaji and the Mughals: Emboldened by his success Chhatrapati Shivaji began raiding Mughal territories in 1657. Aurangzeb felt the necessity of chastising him and sent a big army under Shaista Khan. He occupied Puna and encamped there. One night Shivaji made a surprise attack on Puna. A large number of Mughal soldiers were killed and Shaista Khan had a narrow escape.
Thereafter, in 1661, Kartalab Khan was sent to counter Shivaji. In the Battle of Umberkhind, the large Mughal forces were defeated by relatively smaller forces of the Marathas.
After this incident in 1664, Shivaji sacked Surat and carried off a huge booty.
Treaty of Purandar: Aurangzeb then sent Raja Jai Singh of Amber and Dilir Khan to subdue Shivaji. Jai Singh captured a number of forts held by Shivaji and compelled Shivaji to close the treaty of Purandar (1665 A.D.). By the terms of the treaty Shivaji had to cede 23 forts to the Mughals, acknowledge the supremacy of the Mughal emperor and agreed to help the Mughals in their fight against Bijapur. Jai Singh also persuaded Shivaji to pay a visit to the imperial court at Agra.
Escape of Shivaji: Aurangzeb did not treat him well and kept Shivaji and his son Shambhaji, imprisoned under careful watch. But Shivaji managed to escape from Agra with his son. Reaching home he started war against the Mughals with renewed vigor. At last Aurangzeb was obliged to recognize him as a Raja (king).
In 1674 Shivaji declared himself an independent ruler of Maharashtra and amid great pomp and grandeur celebrated his Rajyabhishek (coronation ceremony). He assumed the title of Chhatrapati. Then he conquered Jinji, Vellore and a large part of Tanjore. Shivaji died in 1680 A.D.
Estimate of Shivaji: Shivaji was a born leader and a great administrator. He had a successful military career. He is known for establishing a well-managed administrative and military system. His charisma drew people around him. In him they found the leader who never hesitated to risk his own life in times of danger. Shivaji had a constructive genius of a high order. The army of Shivaji was well organized. The most significant achievement of Shivaji was the welding of the Marathas into a nation. He infused a new spirit of unity and dignity into the Maratha people consisting of 96 clans.
In recruitment to services Shivaji showed no partiality to any community. There was no discrimination, no casteism, and no communalism. He, however, laid emphasis on the recruitment of the son of the soil. Though a champion of Hinduism, he extended his liberality to the people professing other religions.
Art and Culture: Shivaji was a patron of art and culture, piety and letters. Prominent among the saintly persons whom Shivaji admired were Ramdas, Tukaram, Baba Yakub, Mauni Baba, etc. Sanskrit poets like Jairam, Paramananda, Gaga Bhatt, and some Hindi poets received his patronage.
Administrative system of Shivaji: The administrative system of Shivaji was largely borrowed from the administrative practices of the Deccan states. It was also influenced by the principles laid down in Kautilya’s Arthasastra and the Dharmasastras. In the discharge of his duties he was assisted by a council of ministers.
Provincial administration: Shivaji divided the territory under his direct rule (which he called the Swaraj territory) into a number of provinces. The ancient institution of the Panchyat was preserved in the rural areas. The head of the village, administered the village with the help of the panchyat.
Revenue system: Shivaji laid down an excellent revenue system based on the principles adopted by Todar Mal and Malik Ambar. His officers made an elaborate survey of the land and fixed the rent at 33 per cent of the gross produce. Shivaji afterwards demanded a consolidated rent of 40 per cent. It is however, wrong to assume that Shivaji abolished the jagirdari system.
Chauth and Sardeshmukhi: Chauth and Sardeshmukhi were also the main sources of income of the state. They were levied on the territories which were not under the direct control of Shivaji. The inhabitants of these areas paid the Chauth or one fourth of the standard revenue as protection money against the plundering raids of Shivaji. The territories and principalities which paid chauth were also required to pay an additional tax called Sardeshmukhi. This was one tenth of the revenue of those areas. Those who paid Sardeshmukhi received Marathi protection against other invaders. Both the taxes together made a sizeable income for the Maratha kings.
Military system: Shivaji created and maintained an organized and disciplined army consisting of infantry, cavalry and navy. Shivaji recruited only able persons in his army. He had the skills to manage a huge army. His army mostly composed of light infantry and light cavalry was admirably well-adapted to guerilla warfare and hill campaign. The army movements were extremely quick.
Forts played an important role in Shivaji’s military system. Every fort was kept under three officers of equal status. They acted together but served as a check on one another.
Shivaji recognized the necessity of a strong navy. He had a navy of about 200 warships. The creation of a navy shows the foresight of Shivaji. A number of coastal fortresses kept guard over the sea. The Portuguese, the British, the Siddis and the Mughals were thus effectively kept in check.
Nor were Shivaji’s intelligence service neglected. The espionage system formed a well-paid and efficient wing of the Maratha army.
Death of Shivaji: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj died on April 3, 1680. After the death of Shivaji, his son Sambhaji Maharaj(1680-1689) succeeded him. After the death of Sambhaji , his brother, Rajaram Maharaj, assumed the leadership of Maratha Empire and continued the struggle.